With its spectacular natural beauty and rich culture, Texas offers endless fun for the whole family. There are hands-on kids' museums galore, with popular options including the the Children’s Museum of Houston and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, but you can also bring the whole family to the Fire Museum of Texas or the International Museum of Art and Science. If your kids are animal lovers, you might prefer to visit the Franklin Drive Thru Safari, stop by the petting zoo at Green Meadows Farm, or head to one of the state's many excellent zoos. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
Established in 1955, the Amarillo Zoo sits on a 15-acre property inside Thompson Park. More than 80 species of animals live here, including lions, kangaroos, and Burmese pythons, and live animal shows and zookeeper talks are often held on weekends and during the summer. The best time to visit in is the morning, when the animals are at their most active, but you'll be able to spot plenty of animals no matter what the time of day. If you still have time after visiting the zoo, you can enjoy the trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds in the surrounding park.
700 Comanchero, Amarillo, TX 79107, Phone: 806-381-7911
2.National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
© National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature was created to share and celebrate the best original artwork published in children's books, and it's a wonderful place for you and your kids to indulge in the world of fantasy and imagination. Each exhibit features a different artist, and they're rotated on a regular basis. During exhibit opening events, visitors can sometimes even meet the artists themselves and pick up a signed copy of their favorite book. Family art activities are held every Saturday afternoon, and a special Art Adventure is offered for preschoolers once a both. All art activities are free of charge.
102 Cedar St, Abilene, TX 79601, Phone: 325-673-4586
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3.Grapevine Vintage Railroad
© Grapevine Vintage Railroad
Operating out of the Main Street Station in the city of Texas, the Grapevine Vintage Railroad offers scenic passenger train rides on historic 1920s Victorian coaches. There are several train ride options to choose from; the Cotton Belt Route takes visitors on a 21-mile ride to the Fort Worth Stockyards and returns to Grapevine approximately two hours later, and from the Stockyards, there's an optional 45-minute loop that crosses over the Trinity River and through Trinity Park. On Saturdays, there's a one-hour loop train, and the railroad also offers a special Polar Bear Express ride during the Christmas season.
707 S Main St, Grapevine, TX 76051, Phone: 817-410-3185
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Home to more than 450 alligators and crocodiles, Gator Country is the biggest alligator sanctuary and adventure park in the southeast part of the state. Many of the animals have been rescued by the sanctuary's team of experts, and all visitors will have the opportunity for a unique hands-on experience and photo opportunity. Between March and September, there's also a special Adventure package that includes wading with the gators. If you book in advance, you can also take a boat tour through the swamp, where you'll spot a wide variety of birds and perhaps even a few alligators.
21159 FM 365 Rd Beaumont, Texas 77705, Phone: 409-794-9453
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5.Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
© Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Formerly known as the Fort Worth Children's Museum, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is an interactive museum geared primarily towards younger children. Some of the old museum has been preserved in a playful exhibit designed for kids 8 and younger, but there are plenty of other exhibits as well, including a dinosaur dig site and an exhibition hall dedicated to the cattle industry. The museum also boasts a planetarium and an eight-story IMAX theater, and tickets for these attractions can be purchased either on their own or as add-ons to the main museum exhibits.
1600 Gendy St, Fort Worth, TX 76107, Phone: 817-255-9300
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6.Franklin Drive Thru Safari
© Franklin Drive Thru Safari
One of the most unique petting zoos in Texas, the Franklin Drive Thru Safari is a 100-acre property filled with exotic animals like zebras, giraffes, and monkeys. Visitors are welcome to drive their own cars through the property, but if you want to learn more about the animals and how they're cared for, you can also book a private guided tour. Kids will also love hand feeding the animals, and feed can be purchased from the gift shop. For an extra-special experience, you can also pay to enter the baby animal room, where you can interact one-on-one with a variety of adorable animals.
4324 W Hwy 79, Franklin, TX 77856, Phone: 979-828-5256
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7.Fire Museum of Texas
© Fire Museum of Texas
Housed inside an old fire station that was built in 1927, the Fire Museum of Texas is the state's official fire museum. The building is a beautiful example of Renaissance Revival architecture, but perhaps a more recognizable feature is the World's Largest Fire Hydrant standing outside. The exhibits trace the history of firefighting from the mid-1800s to the present day, and for many, the highlights of the collection are the 1856 firetrucks. Kids can kids can dress up like firefighters and sit behind the wheel of a real fire engine, and there's also a two-story playhouse designed for practicing fire escape plans.
400 Walnut St, Beaumont, TX 77701, Phone: 409-880-3927
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Conveniently located only three miles outside the city, the Dallas Zoo boasts more than 100 acres for visitors to explore. There are approximately 2,000 individual animals representing more than 400 species, and whether you're interested in the wildlife of Africa, South America, or the Australian Outback, you'll find something here to tickle your fancy. Aside from spotting animals in the exhibits, all of which are designed to resemble natural habitats, visitors can feed giraffes and learn about animals from zoologists. When school isn't in session, the zoo also offers day camps for kids between Kindergarten and Grade 5.
650 S R L Thornton Fwy, Dallas, TX 75203, Phone: 469-554-7500
9.Children’s Museum of Houston
© Children’s Museum of Houston
Widely recognized as one of the country's best museums for kids, the Children’s Museum of Houston offers an excellent collection of fascinating exhibits and hands-on activities. Among other things, kids are invited to step inside a futuristic factory, explore an exciting child-sized town where kids call the shots, and tinker around in an inventor's workshop. A challenging obstacle course allows kids to exercise their bodies as well as their brains, and there's a special tots play area for kids up to 3 years of age. The museum is usually open Tuesday through Sunday, and free admission is offered for families on Thursday evenings.
1500 Binz St, Houston, TX 77004, Phone: 713-522-1138
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10.Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
© Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
Dedicated to educating children about the natural and cultural history of the world we live in, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History can be found right on the waterfront in Corpus Christi. The exhibits have a special focus on the history of South Texas, and highlights include artifacts from a 1686 Spanish shipwreck, an exhibit about the geology of Texas, and a 5,000-square-foot science center filled with interactive exhibits. Day programs for homeschooled kids are offered on a monthly basis, and every second Sunday, the museum hosts an afternoon of hands-on activities designed for families.
1900 N Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, TX 78401, Phone: 361-826-4667
11.Cave Without a Name
Hidden away in the hills of Central Texas, the Cave Without a Name is a majestic limestone cave that has been open for tours since 1939. Tours last approximately one hour and take guests through six major rooms, all of which are filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and other beautiful rock formations. Once a month, live music concerts are held in the Queen's Throne Room, which boasts incredible natural acoustics. Visitors can also pan for gems, explore the above-ground hiking trails, and cut open geodes. Special rates are offered for groups of 15 or more people, and children under 6 receive free admission.
325 Kreutzberg Rd, Boerne, TX 78006, Phone: 830-537-4212
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12.Blue Bell Creamery Tour
© Blue Bell Creamery Tour
Offered in the city of Brenham, the Blue Bell Creamery Tour gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how everyone's favorite Texan ice cream is made. The Tour Center tells the story of Blue Bell through pictures and videos, and there's even an Observation Deck where guests can watch ice cream being made. Of course, the best visits aren't complete until you've had a scoop of delicious ice cream from the old-fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and perhaps picked up a souvenir from the gift shop. Visitors are welcome Monday through Friday, and the Observation Deck is open most days until 2 p.m.
1101 S Blue Bell Rd, Brenham, TX 77833, Phone: 979-836-7977
13.International Museum of Art and Science
© International Museum of Art and Science
Founded to foster an appreciation of the arts and sciences, the International Museum of Art and Science hosts an excellent selection of rotating exhibits that visitors of all ages can enjoy. It has a particular focus on Mexican and Latin American art, but there are plenty of pieces from other countries and cultures as well, including 16th-century European art, Japanese woodblock prints, and fascinating contemporary art. Outside, visitors will find a science playground and a peaceful sculpture garden. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and extended hours are held on the first Thursday of each month.
1900 W Nolana Ave, McAllen, TX 78504, Phone: 956-681-2800
14.Ghost City Tours of San Antonio
© Jo Ann Snover/stock.adobe.com
San Antonio's spooky side often remains hidden from visitors, but Ghost City Tours of San Antonio introduces visitors to the city's haunted history in a way the whole family can enjoy. The company prides itself on researching the genuine history behind the city's haunted sites, and the Ghosts of Old San Antonio tour brings guests to the spookiest locations in the city's the French Quarter. If your kids are over 16, you can also take the Demonic Doings Tour, which is designed for older participants. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and they're available online or over the phone.
115 Main Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205, Phone: 210-336-7831
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15.Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Set on an 1,800-acre property just outside the city of Glen Rose, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is dedicated to the conservation and research of endangered species. There are more than 1,100 animals representing approximately 50 species, including 16 species that are endangered, and visitors can expect to see giraffes, cheetahs, antelopes, and many more. The most popular way to see the animals is to drive along the scenic 7-mile road in your own car, but guided tours are available for visitors who want a behind-the-scenes look at the park. Animal feed can be purchased from the Visitor Center.
2299 Co Rd 2008, Glen Rose, TX 76043, Phone: 254-897-2960
16.The Dallas World Aquarium
Located in the city's historic West End, the Dallas World Aquarium houses a fascinating array of animals, including a number of threatened and endangered species. The upper level of the aquarium is a replica of the South American rain forest, and in addition to the marine life, visitors will see two-toed and three-toed sloths, vampire bats, and a variety of colorful tropical birds. On the lower level, the exhibits house penguins, frogs, manatees, and tropical fish from all over the world. Several times a day, visitors can watch educational talks or observe certain animals being fed.
1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202, Phone: 214-720-2224
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17.Dragon Lady Airboats
© Dragon Lady Airboats
Owned and operated by a local airboat captain with more than 30 years of experience, Dragon Lady Airboats gives visitors an up-close look at the rivers and swamps of Southeast Texas. The 90-minute ride goes through Blue Elbow Swamp, where alligators, colorful birds, and other wildlife, and there's also a 2-hour sunset cruise for anyone who wants to see how the swamp comes alive after dusk. If you want to fish, you can even book a half-day fishing charter, which will include stops at some of the best fishing spots on the river. All tours are private and can accommodate up to 6 passengers.
102 N Farragut Ave, Orange, TX 77630, Phone: 321-266-1498
© Dinosaur World
If your kids are crazy about dinosaurs, the Dinosaur World family adventure park is the perfect place to spend the day. The grounds are covered with plant species that date back to prehistoric times, but the real highlight is the life-sized dinosaur sculptures that can be found around every turn. Kids can also see real dinosaur fossils in the indoor museum, play on the dino-themed playground, and dig for fossils and shark teeth. There is no food for sale in the park, but visitors are welcome to bring their own and enjoy a picnic lunch in the park.
1058 Park Rd 59, Glen Rose, TX 76043, Phone: 254-898-1526
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Originally a humble menagerie with a collection of birds and squirrels, Caldwell Zoo is now an 85-acre zoo with thousands of animals from Africa and the Americas. Highlights include a two-acre North American Plains exhibit, a children's petting zoo, and an African Savannah home to elephants, giraffes, and lions. Between March and November, there's also an aviary filled with colorful wild birds. For an additional fee, visitors can participate in a penguin encounter or take a guided tour of the reptile exhibition space, which include a one-on-one encounter with one of the animals on display.
2203 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Tyler, TX 75702, Phone: 903-593-0121
Open since 2013, the Austin Aquarium invites kids and their families to marvel at jellyfish, touch sting rays, and hand-feed sharks without having to leave the city. The aquarium is fairly small, but in addition to a diverse collection of fish, it boasts a rain forest habitat home to reptiles and lemurs as well as an aviary full of parakeets and lorikeets. Visitors are free to interact with the birds in the aviary, and for an additional fee, they can feed an octopus, play with a lemur or a kinkajou, and hold a friendly sloth.
13530 US-183 #101, Austin, TX 78750, Phone: 512-222-5586
21.Cypress Lake Ranch Amazing Animal Adventures
© Cypress Lake Ranch Amazing Animal Adventures
Surrounded by the beautiful countryside of northeast Texas, Cypress Lake Ranch Amazing Animal Adventures is a working ranch that invites visitors to come experience life on a farm. Private tours can sometimes be arranged for groups, but the best time to visit is during one of their Farm Days, when you and your kids can interact with the animals, stroll around the lake, and take pony rides. Most of the time, they also sell farm fresh eggs, organic produce, and homemade doggy treats for visitors who want to bring home a little piece of the farm.
661 FM1553, Bonham, TX 75418, Phone: 214-681-1306
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22.El Paso Zoo
© El Paso Zoo
If you want to take your kids to see some exotic animals, the 35-acre El Paso Zoo is a fantastic choice. Despite being smaller than some other zoos in Texas, it's home to well over 200 different species, including the endangered Amur leopard and Mexican gray wolves. The animals are divided into three main areas: Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and sea lion shows, giraffe encounters, and other animal-related events are held all throughout the week. During the Christmas season, there's also a special Santa display complete with live entertainment, fluffy white snow, and holiday-themed craft projects.
4001 E Paisano Dr, El Paso, TX 79905, Phone: 915-212-0966
23.Cameron Park Zoo
© Cameron Park Zoo
Sitting on a 52-acre property right next to the beautiful Brazos River, the Cameron Park Zoo displays more than 300 species of animals in their natural habitat. Many of the lush exhibits feature beautiful waterfalls and picturesque ponds, but the real attraction is the animals, which come from all over the world and include everything from jaguars to Komodo dragons. The exhibits are themed by region, and highlights include an Asian forest filled with orangutans and Sumatran tigers, a large lemur habitat known as Lemur Island, and a massive saltwater aquarium filled with native Texan marine life.
1701 N 4th St, Waco, TX 76707, Phone: 254-750-8400
24.McKenna Children's Museum
© McKenna Children’s Museum
Conveniently tucked in between San Antonio and Austin, the McKenna Children’s Museum is a wonderful place for hands-on learning. Kids are sure to find something to do no matter what interests them; they can pretend to be astronauts in Destination Space, build forts in the outdoor Imagination Playground, or create artistic masterpieces in the Art Studio. The museum also often hosts activities, which are typically included in the price of admission. A small cafe serving kid-friendly food is open at lunchtime, but if you'd rather go out for lunch and come back, admission tickets are valid for the whole day.
5503, 801 W San Antonio St, New Braunfels, TX 78130, Phone: 830-606-9525
23 Fun Things to Do in Texas with Kids of All Ages
- Amarillo Zoo, Photo: porqueno/stock.adobe.com
- National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Photo: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
- Grapevine Vintage Railroad, Photo: Grapevine Vintage Railroad
- Gator Country, Photo: Ints/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Photo: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
- Franklin Drive Thru Safari, Photo: Franklin Drive Thru Safari
- Fire Museum of Texas, Photo: Fire Museum of Texas
- Dallas Zoo, Photo: Rogelio RV/stock.adobe.com
- Children’s Museum of Houston, Photo: Children’s Museum of Houston
- Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, Photo: Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History
- Cave Without a Name, Photo: substancep/stock.adobe.com
- Blue Bell Creamery Tour, Photo: Blue Bell Creamery Tour
- International Museum of Art and Science, Photo: International Museum of Art and Science
- Ghost City Tours of San Antonio, Photo: Jo Ann Snover/stock.adobe.com
- Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Photo: dinhhang/stock.adobe.com
- The Dallas World Aquarium, Photo: Nathan/stock.adobe.com
- Dragon Lady Airboats, Photo: Dragon Lady Airboats
- Dinosaur World, Photo: Dinosaur World
- Caldwell Zoo, Photo: Clinton/stock.adobe.com
- Austin Aquarium, Photo: marinayesina/stock.adobe.com
- Cypress Lake Ranch Amazing Animal Adventures, Photo: Cypress Lake Ranch Amazing Animal Adventures
- El Paso Zoo, Photo: El Paso Zoo
- Cameron Park Zoo, Photo: Cameron Park Zoo
- McKenna Children's Museum, Photo: McKenna Children’s Museum
- Cover Photo: Olesia Bilkei/stock.adobe.com
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