Texas Treasures - Can't miss experiences in the Lone Star State
Texas has no shortage of natural wonders, exciting attractions and educational experiences for travelers of any age. From sunny beaches and authentic western experiences to theme parks, zoos and museums, Texas is a year-round destination that offers families a world of fun for Spring Break, summer vacation and beyond. There’s so much to offer, you could spend all 365 days of the year in the Lone Star State and continue to find something new each day!
Families traveling with little cowboys and cowgirls will find saddles just their size across the state. Texas’ many guest ranches offer diverse attractions, including horseback riding, hiking, swimming and western entertainment. From visiting dude ranches across Texas to touring historic working ranches, such as the King Ranch near Corpus Christi or the George Ranch in Houston, families can experience a true taste of the Old West. For adventure-seeking families, cattle drives are a great way to truly embrace the western lifestyle. Saddle up and ride out with trained professionals to round up herds of cattle across vast open ranges, all while learning about the origins and history of the Texas cowboy. Every spring and fall, the Longhorn Cattle Drive is offered in Big Bend Ranch State Park, one of the state’s most scenic areas.
For those who wish to spend quality time in the great outdoors, Texas offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities for every age. Families can enjoy hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and camping adventures everywhere from Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle to Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country. Experience the beautiful landscapes and local wildlife that Texans call their own, snapping photos of the incredible vistas awaiting beyond each turn of the trail.
Take a Swim
Nothing is more enjoyable on a summer day in Texas than diving into one of the many bodies of water the state has to offer. Enjoy a lazy day, floating in an inner tube in the cool waters of one of the 15 major natural rivers such as the Comal, Guadalupe, Frio and San Marcos. Some, being spring fed, remain crystal-clear, refreshing and inviting all year long. In addition to the many rivers, other swimming holes are a main attraction to many locals and visitors alike including Barton Springs in Austin, Krause Springs in Spicewood and San Solomon Spring in Balmorhea State Park located in the Big Bend region. Natural cold springs fill these man-made pools, offering invigorating and refreshing swimming opportunities on summer days.
Lazy rivers in family-friendly, full-service resorts are offered state-wide as well. Well-known favorites include the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, Hyatt Lost Pines, Great Wolf Lodge and La Torretta Lake and Spa on Lake Conroe where beautiful pools connect to slow-moving rivers. Parents and kids indulge in fun by lounging on floats and splashing around in the cool waters. For full-day adventures, visit one of the many exclusive waterparks including Schlitterbahn® Waterpark Resorts in New Braunfels, Galveston and South Padre Island. At the park in New Braunfels, families can experience the world’s longest waterpark ride known as “The Falls.” At 3,600 feet, the ride is filled with raging rapids, careening waterfalls and giant waves.
The warm waters of the Gulf Coast, from Galveston Island to Corpus Christi and South Padre Island, invite families to enjoy scuba diving, parasailing, boating, deep-sea fishing, and dolphin or bird watching in addition to onshore activities like sand castle building and sunbathing. Bask in the sun and enjoy everything the more than 600 miles of coastline has to offer.
Kayaking and canoeing remain a popular attraction and Texas offers myriad opportunities for paddling adventures. The Texas Paddling Trails provide well-mapped, accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience. With 48 trails available, enthusiasts will find just what they are looking for – in an incredibly picturesque setting!
Texas’ world-class theme parks present families with thrilling rides and exotic wildlife. Texas is home to three Six Flags® theme parks: Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio. They feature monster roller coasters, stunt shows, musical productions and land and water rides to entertain excitement-seekers of all ages. Texas is also home to SeaWorld® San Antonio, which features the iconic killer whale Shamu, as well as dolphins, sharks, seals and sea lions. Visitors to the Panhandle Plains can spend the day at Amarillo’s Wonderland Amusement Park, one of Texas’ largest privately-owned theme parks and packed full of log rides, water rides and carnival games. Those heading west should not miss El Paso’s Western Playland, with its El Bandito roller coaster and 37-acre Wet n’ Wild Water World.
Meet the Animals
The Lone Star State’s myriad zoos and aquariums offer families both adventure and educational experiences, perfect for children of all ages. From the Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston Zoos, to wildlife centers such as Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch in New Braunfels, from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose to natural parks such as Cameron Park in Waco, visitors can get an up-close look at their favorite animals from around the globe. Not to be outdone by their land-and-air counterparts, underwater creatures also abound in Texas’ many aquariums. The Dallas World Aquarium, the Downtown Aquarium in Houston and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi all exhibit flora and fauna from even the most remote parts of the world.
Learn and Observe
Texas is home to a wealth of museums, from fine art and interactive history museums, to innovative museums just for children. The Waco Mammoth Site is open to the public, showcasing remains and fossils of prehistoric mammoths from 68,000 years ago, and featuring a shelter and scenic trailway. The remodeled Fort Worth Museum of Science and History also features a planetarium, cowboy culture, dinosaurs, 3-D films and much more. In Austin, kids of all ages can look into the past at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum or visit the Austin Children’s Museum for plenty of creative activities. A trip to Houston means a chance to discover natural treasures like butterflies, gemstones and dinosaur bones at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The new Morian Hall of Paleontology is home to Megalodon, the largest shark to ever swim in the ocean. For an out of this world experience in Houston check out the NASA/Johnson Space Center. Step into a living science lesson at the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Eleven state of the art exhibits allow parents and kids to explore science in an exciting and hands on way. Visitors to the Panhandle Plains can stop at the must-see Frontier Texas! in Abilene, a 14,000 square-foot facility on 6.4 acres, which brings the Old West to life with the help of state-of-the-art technology, and puts visitors in the middle of a buffalo stampede, a prairie thunderstorm and even a card game shoot-out.
Explore the Caves
Texas is renowned for its beautiful landscapes of all kinds, even ones underground. Several natural caverns have been discovered across the state. Tours of these natural formations showcase awe-inspiring details that have been centuries in the making. Natural Bridge Caverns, located north of San Antonio, is one of the most beautiful caving systems in the state. Descend to 180 feet below ground while listening to an experienced and knowledgeable tour guide. Designated as a Natural Landmark of the United States, the Caverns of Sonora in West Texas preserve natural beauty in its highest form. Take an individual or group tour and observe the surreal passages that will leaves visitors in awe. Go back in history and visit the river-formed Longhorn Cavern State Park, learning how native Comanche Indians and Civil War Confederates occupied the hidden space in Texas’ past.
An abundance of fun awaits you in the Lonestar state no matter what your interest or who comes along for the ride. However you choose to experience this southern destination, you’ll take home a lifetime of memories and a strong urge to come back time after time.