Your Family-Friendly Guide to the Lone Star State
The Lone Star State has something to offer everyone in the family, but it can be an awfully vast and varied place to conquer in a single vacation. To ensure you get the most out of your visit to Texas, it’s helpful to do some planning ahead of time. Here are three destinations, organized by kid-friendly interests, to help guide you in planning a memorable, Texas-sized vacation.
Soak up Some Rays and Water Fun in Galveston
Less than an hour south of Houston, the island of Galveston, TX is lined with plenty of public and private beaches, hotels, condos and rental beach houses. It’s also home to a number of kid-friendly water attractions sure to delight families seeking even more aquatic adventures. Moody Gardens Theme Park (1 Hope Blvd., Galveston, TX) offers an aquarium, plenty of thrilling water rides and the city’s only private, white sand beach. Or visit South Padre Island Equestrian Center (South Padre Island, TX), which offers zip lines, a petting zoo and horse rides along the beach. And definitely don’t miss Schlitterbahn Waterpark Galveston (2026 Lockheed Rd., Galveston, TX), which has been voted one of the country’s best indoor water parks by a number of leading travel sites, including Amusement Today, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post Travel and the Travel Channel.
Act Like an Animal in Dallas
If major tourist attractions are more your family’s thing, there’s no shortage of things to do in the city of Dallas. The Dallas Zoo (650 R.L. Thornton Fwy., Dallas, TX), which is home to more than 8,000 animals on 97 acres, also features a children's area with interactive exhibits, a petting farm, pony rides and a water play zone. The Children's Aquarium at Fair Park (1462 First Ave., Dallas, TX) features thousands of aquatic species, plus plenty of kid-friendly interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and interaction with a slew of marine wildlife. Trinity Forest Adventure Park (1820 Dowdry Ferry Rd., Dallas, TX) sports more than seven acres of adventure, including more than 20 zip lines and 70 fun obstacles of varying levels and elevations. And if those thrills aren’t enough, take a 20-minute drive to the city of Arlington, where you’ll find two additional major amusement parks: Six Flags Over Texas (2201 Road to Six Flags, Arlington, TX) and its water-themed counterpart, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (1800 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, TX).
Corral ‘em in Bandera
Whether you’re seeking the peace and seclusion of the open range or a rootin’, tootin’, boot-shakin’ adventure, head on out to Bandera, TX, for a dude ranch vacation that’s sure to deliver the quintessential cowboy experience. Touted as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera is about an hour from San Antonio, TX in the heart of Texas Hill Country and home to a number of family-friendly dude ranches, including the Mayan Dude Ranch (350 Mayan Ranch Rd., Bandera, TX), Rancho Cortez Dude Ranch (872 Hay Hollar Rd., Bandera, TX) and Flying L Guest Ranch (566 Flying L Dr., Bandera, TX). Budget-friendly and well-suited for beginners, dude ranches offer horseback riding, cattle roundups, trail- and hayrides, campfires, plenty of “standard” amenities like fishing, swimming and tubing … and yes, lots and lots of Lone Star-sized eating. While you’re there, be sure not to miss the Frontier Times Museum (510 13th St., Bandera, TX), which is home to a large collection of artifacts from the early days of the Bandera’s early days.
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Based in Tampa, Fla., Danielle Fernandez been writing, editing and illustrating all things technology, lifestyle and education since 1999. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Working Mother magazine, and a variety of technical publications, including BICSI's "Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual." Fernandez holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.