Whether you’re raising a crew of cowboys or a pair of city slickers, there are plenty of Lone Star State destinations that appeal to the 12 and under set. Little hipsters will feel at home in Austin, where some of the coolest restaurants have massive outdoor playgrounds. In the Hill Country, you’ll find wildlife camps where buffalo (and more) roam. And in small towns like Jefferson, you can tour the East Texas bayou. Tell the kiddos to pack their cowboy boots and hit the road.
Cool Kid Stops
The Texas Capital is loaded with entertainment for kids. Along with the capitol building and state history museum, there are natural swimming holes, activity centers filled with trampolines—and don’t forget those famous bats. There’s also Barton Springs Pool, a three-acre watering hole with 68-degree waters are fed by underground springs. After a dip, grab a bite at Phil’s Icehouse known for its burgers, shakes, outdoor seating, and expansive playground.
Fredericksburg and the Hill Country is best known for its romantic B&Bs and independent boutiques, but it’s also a great destination for adventure-craving families. Hike or climb Enchanted Rock, a pink granite boulder known for its unbeatable Hill Country views. Kids can also play historic house at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park’s Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm where pretend pioneers can cook, dress, and make toys, like cornhusk dolls and pigskin footballs.
This town of 23,000 is home to the Lone Star State’s best summer camps, and is also kid-friendly year round. Overnight at the Y.O. Ranch which has 190 guestrooms and 13 cabins on a 40,000 acre farm where a lot more than the buffalo roam; you can see over 55 animal species such as wildebeests, rhea, and even giraffes on a tour, followed by a chuck wagon lunch. The animals are more domestic at Crider’s Rodeo which is open weekend nights from May through September. Before the main event—a rodeo and live country music—kids can try their hand at mutton bustin’, or sheep riding. Grab a bathing suit and fishing pole for a trip to Ingram Dam, a local swimming hole that’s also a great spot to people watch on weekends.
New Braunfels is located on the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, and there’s arguably no better way than to spend a hot summer Saturday than floating on the water. Families can rent inner tubes from companies such as Comal Tubes, and pack a cooler—we suggest juice boxes, cold beer, and fried chicken—to munch on en route. Travelers can also make a trip to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch a 400-acre property with over 500 animal breeds, including 40 exotics. If you’re catching the town on a rainy day, stop by the McKenna Children’s Museum where hands-on exhibits (Lend-a-Hand Ranch, Destination Space) provide hours of indoor entertainment.
Start your weekend with a trip to Wichita Falls. The oil and gas story is also on full display at the Museum of North Texas History, as well as exhibits on the city’s cowboy roots. (Don’t miss the collection of 500-plus cowboy hats.) If you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, head to the River Bend Nature Center, where kiddos can hunt for animal tracks on nature trails, and explore the 7,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed butterfly conservatory, also home to native creatures such as white quails and box turtles.
Out on the Lake
PK Lake—as it’s known among locals—is well loved for its 300 miles of scenic coastline, limestone cliffs, and quiet inlets. It’s long been a popular family getaway spot for city folk for its lake activities such as fishing, waterskiing, and even SCUBA diving. If you prefer to stay on land, the 1,528-acres Possum Kingdom State Park has camping spots and rustic cabins available for rent. Also keep an eye on the park’s calendar for ranger-led events such as native plant or geology-focused walks.
Explore Texas’s Canyon Land
Palo Duro, which cuts through Texas’ high plains, is the second largest canyon in the U.S. (We’ll let you guess which canyon takes home the gold medal.) It’s over 100 miles long and can be over 1,000 feet deep, and while travelers can happily hike along endless trails, you might want to consider exploring the landscape by horseback. You’ll travel even faster at the Palo Duro Canyon Zipline Adventure Park, where zip lines afford you a bird’s eye view of the iconic red rocks.
Slip, Slide, and Ride
This historic town of 50,000, named for the mustang grapes that were found in abundance throughout the area, was founded in 1843, and still maintains historic charm thanks to a bustling Main Street and gazebo-anchored parks. Thomas the Tank Engine fans will delight in the Grapevine Vintage Railroad; you can jump on the Tarantual Train, made up of two Victorian-style locomotives, for a 21-mile trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards. The hotels here also keep the kiddos in mind: stay at the Great Wolf Lodge—home to an 80,000-square-foot indoor waterpark—or the Gaylord Texan itself a mini-city with rivers, bridges, restaurants and shops. Kids can jump into the lazy river or take cooking classes, while parents head to wine and cheese socials.
Looking for more family fun things to do in the Lone Star state? Then visit their official website at: www.TravelTex.com.