Texas’ nickname is The Lone Star State. The state flag is red, white and blue with the emblazoned white star on it. Texas is the second-largest state in area, only behind Alaska. With so much territory it’s no wonder there are so many places to visit. Come along and discover some great attractions Texas has to offer families.
Description from Kristi of Way Beyond The Norm
Something Fun for Everyone in the Big D
Are you thinking of road tripping through the great state of Texas? Take it from a local and be sure to add the Big D to your itinerary. No matter your age, gender, or personality, everyone will find something fun to do when visiting Dallas, TX.
For the Sports Enthusiasts –
There’s no shortage of sports teams here. If you want to see football or baseball, head to Arlington. You can catch a football game and America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, at AT&T Stadium, or root for the home team, the Texas Rangers, at the new Globe Life Field. If you’re a basketball or hockey fan, hit the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas to cheer on the Dallas Mavs or Dallas Stars. And don’t forget about Soccer! Head a bit north to Frisco and catch an FC Dallas game at Toyota Stadium.
For the History Buffs –
Dallas is home to some of our country’s most important historical events. Drive downtown and take a walk around Dealey Plaza where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Then head to the Sixth Floor Museum to check out the exhibits. You can also visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to learn more about the September 11, 2001 attacks that occurred during his administration.
For the Art Lovers –
Dallas has an amazing Art District. There are a wide variety of museums and performance halls to choose from. Tickle your senses with a few great art collections at the Dallas Museum of Art or Nasher Sculpture Center. Or if you’re in the mood for music or ballet, grab a ticket to a Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert or a performance at Winspear Opera House.
For the Kids –
Dallas does everything big, and activities for kids are certainly done big! Children of all ages will have tons of fun at Klyde Warren Park. This is a 5.2-acre deck park built over a freeway. At the park, you will find life-size building blocks, yard games, and even a reading room. Or if the kids are thrill-seekers, head over to Arlington for some fun at Six Flags Over Texas. If you want to sneak in a bit of education, be sure to plan a day at the 5 floor Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
For the Romantics –
Let’s not forget about all the great spots for couples. Take in good food and good views while dining atop the famous Dallas “ball” at Reunion Tower. Then head down to West End and take a romantic carriage ride through downtown. Ask your driver to stop at Fountain Place, for a stroll through 1.7 acres of dancing fountains. If a guy needs to pop the question to the love of his life, this is one of the most romantic spots to do it.
Whether you’re heading to Big D for a weekend, a week, or an entire month, you’ll find plenty of things to fill up your schedule. And no matter who you’re bringing with you, you can bet there will be something for everyone.
For more info on Dallas activities check out Kristi’s post on Unique Dallas Attractions
Waco has certainly had a resurgence since Joanna and Chip Gaines came onto the scene in 2013. Since then Waco has had a great boom in building and tourism. If you are a fan of the show you can certainly spend your whole visit based on all things Magnolia. However, if you would like to experience more of Waco, here are a few attractions I think are noteworthy.
Waco Tours offers a few tours around Waco but the river cruise certain puts a new spin on it. Learning about the history of Waco and seeing the suspension bridge from the water is certainly wonderful on this relaxing cruise. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the Dr. Pepper soda float you receive halfway through the trip.
Dr. Pepper Museum
Dr. Pepper was invented in a drugstore here in Waco in 1885. It’s actually older than coca-cola! After your tour of the bottling facility and museum, you can enjoy a soda-float in their old-time shop.
Cameron Park & Zoo
Relax and enjoy the great outdoors in this park just outside the city center. There are hiking, biking, and even equestrian trails to explore. With over 400 acres to enjoy there is something for everyone. The Cameron Zoo within the park is home to over 1,000 animals for you to meet and see.
Waco Suspension Bridge
For a fun photo opt, head over to the Waco suspension bridge and cattle sculpture. The bridge lights up at night for a more dramatic look. This bridge was built in 1870 was used as a cattle drive crossing for many years. Hence, the cattle sculpture at the bridge.
Waco Mammoth National Park
This site became a national park in 2015 and sits along the Bosque River. It’s here where the first fossil was discovered in 1978. Tours run every 30 minutes and last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. The park has 108 acres to explore as well. You can also join a ranger hike and find out some interesting facts. Who knows you might even spot a roadrunner. For the kids, the park offers its Junior Ranger Program.
As you can see Waco has a lot of offer families and is an enjoyable city to visit.
Austin, The Capital of Texas
Description from Lisa of Planning Away
Don’t miss the capital of Texas! Austin is by far the prettiest part of the whole state! Once you visit you may just want to live here. Actually, Austin has been ranked the #1 place to live by US News, World Report, and Forbes magazine for three years in a row!
Austin is a college town and home to the University of Texas, Austin. Being a college town, there is a great nightlife. Austin is known as the live music capital of the world and offers fine entertainment throughout the year. Sixth Street is where you will find entertainment, restaurants, and clubs. Some of the best restaurants can be found in Austin, especially if you love barbecue and Tex-Mex.
In fact, Rudy’s Barbeque is some of the best in all of Texas. The place started as a gas station and country store then started making barbeque and they haven’t looked back since. Be sure to check them while in town. Rudy’s barbeque uses only oak wood which gives his food a special flavor. Another great option is The Country Line especially the location on Bull Creek. The atmosphere is really great, you can feed turtles on a deck overlooking a lake. A sure win for any kid.
No visit to Austin would be complete without a visit to Amy’s Ice Cream. Since 1984 Amy’s has grown and is now also in Houston and San Antonio. Amy’s has over 350 flavors they rotate so you can certainly try a new flavor every time you visit. They also offer Mexican vanilla ice cream which is world-famous.
If the nightlife isn’t your scene, don’t worry because Austin is also known for being family-friendly. Check out my post, https://planningaway.com/family-fun-things-to-do-in-austin-texas/. There are many wonderful parks and hikes that your family will love. One of our favorite things to do is take pictures in front of all the murals that are downtown.
If you are planning a trip to Texas, make sure that you put Austin on your list!
Description from Brandi of Loving Living Green
If you are looking for a family vacation destination, San Antonio, Texas, will not disappoint. On a recent trip, our family realized that the culture-rich city gave each of us a magnificent experience, although for different reasons.
If you are one who appreciates history, the city’s missions will leave you in awe. Mission San Jose, Mission Espada, Mission Concepcion, and Mission San Juan will take you back in time to an era heavily influenced by Mexico. Visit the places of worship on a self-guided tour or attend a religious service. Open daily, the missions are part of the National Park Service.
If you are looking for kid-friendly days of adventure, visit San Antonio’s adventure parks such as Six Flags Fiesta, SeaWorld San Antonio, and SeaWorld Aquatica. Six Flags Fiesta may be my favorite of the nine Six Flags parks that we have visited across the United States. SeaWorld San Antonio and Aquatica will keep you on the edge of your seat and cool with splashes from the shows and the waterpark.
The Downtown District
The downtown district will please those seeking relaxation and fantastic nightlife experiences. Partake in a famous gondola rides and refresh at one of the many restaurants along the Riverwalk. Located in the area is the Alamo, where Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie held enemy lines until their famous demise during the War of Texas Independence. While wandering the city, stop by and dine at one of my top three restaurants of all time, Pollos Asados Los Nortenos. The food is authentic and will melt in your mouth. Choose from Pollos Asados’ famous chicken, fajitas, and their many authentic Mexican dishes, sides, and desserts. You might have to take your slice of Tres Leches cake to go.
Whether you are an adventurer, a historian, a relaxer, or a foodie, San Antonio is the perfect vacation destination for the entire family! For more info on these and other attractions check out my entire post on San Antonio.
Description from Chris of State by State
The Houston, Texas, area is such a great place to visit, especially for families. You can enjoy a wide variety of activities from museums and restaurants to parks and historical sites. There are many must-see locations, but one place in particular that often gets overlooked is the site of the San Jacinto Monument. This is a place you don’t want to miss.
The San Jacinto Monument
The monument is located not far from the city and is quite a sight to behold. It is the tallest monument in the United States, it reaches even higher than the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.! You can explore the area outside the monument, but getting a good picture might be tricky because it’s so big. The outside is decorated with images and the story of its significance is carved into it as well. On top, you’ll see the Texas star, of course.
Inside the monument is a great museum where you can learn about the major battle that took place here. You’ll see many artifacts from some of the early settlers, Spanish explorers, and more. Find out more about the history and reason for this monument’s existence. It makes for a fun way to learn about this important location. Families with younger kids will like that it isn’t too big, and those with older kids will enjoy that it has plenty to see.
The Battleship Texas
From the San Jacinto Monument you can see another must-see site in the Houston area, the Battleship Texas. Kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring this very fun and educational ship. There is a small fee charged to board the battleship, but it is definitely worth it. You’ll make memories together that you won’t soon forget.
Although you can explore the ship on your own. There are guides located onboard to answer questions or talk about interesting details you might not have noticed. Visit the dormitory where the soldiers slept. It will give you a feel of what it would be like to live on the ship. It will make you think twice about joining the Navy. Check out the kitchen area to see what mealtimes aboard a real battleship were like. There is so much to explore, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Another thing that the kids will really enjoy is getting to sit in the gun turrets. They still move around, both side to side and up and down. You can take aim and pretend to shoot down enemy ships. Standing next to the huge ropes and chains used on a ship this size is quite the experience. Just like getting up close to those big guns is something you won’t forget.
Visiting the San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship Texas is one of the must-dos in the Houston area. It’s not just a fun and unique experience, it’s educational too. If you’d like to know even more read my full post.
Additional Houston attractions are the Children’s Museum, National Science Museum, Rodeo & Livestock Show, the Zoo, Butterfly Center, Lone Star Flight Museum, Space Center, Arboretum, and various sporting arenas and parks.
Description from Jenna of Alpha Omega Family Adventures
Just over an hour drive South of Houston is Galveston Island which offers something for nearly everyone! To get to the island from Port Bolivar, there is a ferry that takes you onto Galveston Island. Going on I-45 to the island, there is a huge bridge overpass that my kids always get excited to drive over.
Once on the island, if you keep driving straight the road ends at one of the best public beaches on the island – Stewart Beach. This is a great beach for families and includes showers, umbrellas for rent, and a food counter. It does cost to park here. The other area to explore would be Galveston Island State Park. This park offers kayaking areas, bird watching, beaches to play on, and boardwalks to explore. You can also camp in this park.
If beachgoing isn’t on your plans for the day, there are plenty of other activities on the island! Moody Gardens is a great place to visit. It has so many different things to see between the aquarium pyramid to the rainforest pyramid. As well as 3D/4D shows and a ropes course/zipline! There is also a small waterpark called Palm Beach within Moody Gardens. You could easily spend a couple of days just at Moody Gardens.
Waterparks and Amusement Rides
Schlitterbahn waterpark also has a location on Galveston Island. It is known for having the most thrilling water rides. Parking is free and outside coolers are allowed in! Galveston Island Pleasure Pier is another great place to visit, especially with kids! There are plenty of fun rides and midway games to keep everyone happy!
If you want to avoid water altogether, there is an area known as The Strand. This area has higher-end retail shops set in a cute, old-time downtown area. Galveston also has many historic buildings that you can tour.
Visiting around Christmas
Visiting Galveston at Christmas time? Don’t miss Moody Gardens. They have a neat ice sculpture exhibit and a Festival of Lights path. The Galveston Railroad Museum just started this Christmas season offering a Polar Express train ride that is worth checking out.
Pro Tip for Visiting
Keep in mind that during the summer, the weather is very hot and humid, so water activities are the best! One of our favorite parts of a Galveston beach is that the waves aren’t very strong and it doesn’t get deep too close to shore. While Galveston beaches do not compare to these beaches we experienced this summer in Hawaii (https://alphaomegafamilyadventures.com/7-best-beaches-on-oahu-with-kids/), it is the best we have close by! Each time we visit, my kids have such a great time!
Description from Jamie of Just Simply Wander
Generally speaking, El Paso isn’t one of those destination cities. However, there is plenty of history and culture to absorb in this border town.
The Historic District
The Downtown Historic District is filled with beautiful architecture and plenty of stories, here are a few locations worth a visit:
The Plaza Theater was constructed in 1929 and is one of the oldest buildings in El Paso. The ornate details of the elaborate interior earned it the name, “The Showplace of the Southwest”. Today you can experience a concert, Symphony Orchestra performance, Broadway show or film festival in the beautiful 10-story stage house.
The Camino Real Hotel is a national historic landmark built-in 1912. During the Mexican revolution, guests would gather on the rooftop to watch the chaos in the streets below. The hotel was built to be one of the finest hotels in the Southwest, the place to see and be seen.
San Jacinto Historic Plaza is a small manicured city plaza that has had many uses over the years. However, the most interesting use for this land was when an alligator pond was installed. At one point there were 7 alligators living in the pond that attracted visitors from all over.
Just down the street from the plaza, you’ll find the Mexican Markets lining the block. These shops are fun to browse and pick up some inexpensive souvenirs and toys.
El Segundo Barrio is a historic Hispanic neighborhood located about 1.5 miles from the Plaza Theater. It is also one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso. Dozens of artistic murals have been painted on buildings to embrace the rich culture of the neighborhood.
Where to Eat in El Paso
You don’t need to cross the border in order to enjoy fresh and flavorful Mexican dishes. Here are some recommendations:
Forti’s Mexican Elder Restaurant: This restaurant has a warm and homey ambiance while serving up traditional Tex-Mex specials. Try the savory Chili Colorado, a traditional Mexican dish of beef simmered in a red chili sauce.
L&J Cafe: This family-owned restaurant has been serving up flavorful dishes since 1927 and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
El Taquito: Serving freshly cooked tortilla chips and hand-made tortillas, this inexpensive and authentic restaurant is also known for its incredible flautas.
Rivas Taco Shop: This modest local shop is home to the California 1/2 pound burrito.
Here are a few more recommended things to do in El Paso:
Scenic Drive: This 2-mile stretch of road climbs along the edge of the Franklin Mountains until reaching the most beautiful lookout. At just over 4,000 feet above sea level, the overlook offers sweeping views across El Paso and into Juarez, Mexico.
Cattleman’s Steakhouse: Cattleman’s is a working ranch that includes a petting zoo. Your kids will also enjoy the Apache playground, Indian maze, buffalo, longhorns and rattlesnake pit! You can also roast s’ mores at your table after enjoying one of the best steaks in all of Texas!
Border Patrol Museum: The Border Patrol Museum is the only museum of its kind in the United States. It is a fascinating place to learn the history of the border patrol. As well as view artifacts and even climb on board some of the vehicles used to secure the border.
El Paso Star: A trip to El Paso isn’t complete without driving by the iconic star. The world’s largest man-made illuminated star lights up the mountainside every night. It was originally made for the soldiers of Fort Bliss. Only lit during the Christmas season, it signified the soldiers were returning home.
Day Trip Recommendations
If you’re looking for a great day trip from El Paso, we have a few recommendations. Try White Sands National Monument, Cloudcroft New Mexico, or Hueco Tanks State Park.
Whether you’re on a road trip through the Southwest, or just looking for a new place to explore, my hope is that you will be inspired to visit El Paso!
To read some more on El Paso continue reading here. https://justsimplywander.com/visiting-el-paso-texas/
Amarillo is a growing city along the iconic Route 66 corridor. This city with its big steaks, expansive views, livestock auction, and theme park has something for everyone. This is a city to really get the feel of Texas, the old ways and the new.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is the largest history museum in Texas. It is located on the campus of West Texas A&M and houses a wonderful history of the area. There are exhibits about art, Indians, cattle, windmills, weapons and even war. The Panhandle Petroleum Story has some wonderful old cars on display. As well as an old petrol station and an ode to Route 66. In Pioneer Town you can step back in time. Putting yourself in the exhibition by weighing out your order that the mercantile. You can also send a telegraph at the depot and even sit on the two-seater outhouse. I can do without the last one though. To avoid any lines buy your tickets ahead of time on their website.
If your kids are into trains then head on over to the Amarillo Railroad Museum. They have many trains you can see up close. These trains include one that carried bombs for our nuclear program and another train with bulletin proof glass. They are working on a model train exhibit that depicts the railroad through the panhandle of Texas. The train is running however they are still working on the scenery. This museum is free but they gladly accept donations. They are open on Thursday evening from 7:30 to 9:30 pm and the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 10 am to 3 pm.
If you like horses you have two options. The American Quarter Horse Museum where you can learn all about this American breed. The bronze statues, paintings, and interactive displaces are informative and wonderful to see. If you’d like to ride a horse make your way to Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West. Here you have the option to take a ride around the Palo Duro Canyon with an experienced guide. Or if you have a group of twenty-five or more you can have a chuck wagon breakfast or dinner. Either option gives you the opportunity to see this beautiful ranch and talk to real cowgirls and cowboys.
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is the Grand Canyon of Texas. If you didn’t take a horse ride with Cowgirls and Cowboys through the canyon then check out their ranger programs. This is a state park with lots of hiking trails, camping, programs, events, and even geocaching. If you haven’t heard of geocaching, read my post, I explain it all. I’m sure you will love it.
The Amarillo Botanical Gardens are a great place to spend an afternoon. For those who homeschool or not the gardens offer some amazing school programs. They have six different programs including the rain forest, butterflies & moth and even trees. The programs are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year. They are an hour and a half long and must be booked ahead of time.
The Cadillac Ranch is a fun stop along Route 66. Bring your own can of spray paint and leave your mark on the 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground nose down. This is free and there is only parking along the road. This is an iconic scene along the highway and worth a stop. In Conway, Texas just east of Amarillo there is the slug bug ranch or bug ranch. There are 5 Volkswagen beetles buried nose down at this art installation with the same concept.
Any way you slice it the panhandle of Texas is worth a visit.