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.
1. Amarillo Zoo
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
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
4. Gator Country
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
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
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
8. Dallas Zoo
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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
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
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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
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
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. 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
15. Ghost City Tours of San Antonio
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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
16. 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
17. 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
18. 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
19. Dinosaur World
© 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
20. Caldwell Zoo
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
21. Austin Aquarium
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
22. 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
23. 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
24. 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
25. Snip-its Kids Haircuts
© Robert Hainer/stock.adobe.com
With locations all over the United States, Snip-its is America’s leading provider of kids haircuts. At this unique hair salon, kids come first. Every location is decorated with bright, fun colors, every staff member wears a friendly smile all day long, and every haircut is so much more fun and enjoyable for little kids than it would be anywhere else.
It’s only natural that kids get bored or frustrated when having to sit around in one spot for a long time without any engagement or entertainment. This is why many parents stress out about taking their kids for a haircut; they worry that their child might get bored and behave badly. At Snip-its, however, you won’t have to worry about a single thing. With the glittering, shimmering walls and mirrors and the fun faces of the Snip-its gang all around, plus the opportunity to play games and watch movies while getting their hair cut, every child will be totally entertained from start to finish. At Snip-its, there’s actually a special ‘parent chair’ just for you, so you can sit right beside your little one and keep them company while they get their hair styled. This really helps every child to feel a lot more at ease for the whole cut and can make the process fly by. snipits.com
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Attraction Spotlight: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is a 166,000 square foot facility that is home to some of Texas’s favorite family attractions like the Children’s Museum and Innovation Studios. This facility welcomes half a million guests annually and provides an exceptional learning environment for the region.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History began as a children’s museum in 1941. The museum was opened in 1945, utilizing empty rooms in De Zavala Elementary School. The museum moved into larger spaces over the next several years including taking up residence in R.E. Harding House and a Montgomery Street when a facility was built for the Museum in 1952. The Museum opened on Montgomery Street in 1954 and added the Charlie May Noble Planetarium the following year. This planetarium was the first in the region to be open to the public.
The Children’s Museum became The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in 1968 to entice adults without families to visit. An Omni Theater was added in 1983 and now half of the museum’s visitors each year are adults. This theater was the first IMAX dome in the Southwestern United States and is still one of the most popular theaters in the world.
In 2006 the museum’s increased attendance, which had gotten close to 1 million visitors annually, lead to plans being drawn for a new building. This new building would create a campus in the Cultural District that would create a unique relationship between the Museum and the neighboring institutions including the Will Rogers Center and National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Construction was completed in 2009 which created a 166,000-square foot facility designed by Legoretta and Legoretta and features some of the best attractions in the Fort Worth Area for adults and families.
The collections at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History span the world with over 150,000 artifacts. The science collections range from botany to paleontology, mineralogy and mammalogy, with several others. The museum has an emphasis on The Southwest United States and Texas history, but also contains many objects from pre-historic times through the 1800s and modern day including ceramics and other artifacts from Central America.
The teaching collection holds 22,400 objects that are replicas of specimens and artifacts from the permanent collection. This collection is used for hands-on learning and in the Museum School Classes. There is also a research library and archives that provides research opportunities to university students and scholars, museum staff and others by appointment. There are several different libraries and archives including:
· The William Green Memorial Library
· The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History Institutional Archives
· The Archives of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show Collection
· The Major General Willian Jenkins Worth Collection
· The Scott and Stuart Gentling Collection
The permanent exhibits at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History include exhibits at 5 distinct facilities within the museum campus, The collection showcase at the Planetarium, and The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Special exhibits are also curated or hosted at the museum throughout the year. Information on Special exhibits is always available on the museum website.
Cattle Raisers Museum- 10,000 square feet of the Science and History museum is dedicated to the Cattle Raisers Museum where visitors can learn the history of the cattle industry in the American southwest.
Energy Blast- This interactive exhibits contains many opportunities for children and adults to be immersed in the world of energy. Visitors will learn about alternative forms of energy, and how energy works in the world.
DinoLabs & DinoDig- A favorite attraction for many decades, DinoLab and DinoDig bring the world of dinosaurs front and center with a dig area replicating a Texas field site and skeletons of dinosaurs from North Texas.
Fort Worth Children’s Museum- This facility is specially designed for visitors under 8 years old and encourages play and imagination.
9/11 Tribute Exhibit- This installation was created with a Steel Beam from the World Trade Center floors 100-103. The Tribute is a permanent installation piece in the Urban Lantern on the Museum campus.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame- This museum is on the campus of The Museum of Science and History but requires its own admission fees. This museum contains interactive exhibits, memorabilia, films, and stories of cowgirls in Texas and southwest.
There are a few other attractions at the museum that provide additional learning opportunities for the community. These attractions are located on the campus of the Museum of Science and History and in the museum and are considered part of the experience.
Innovation Studios- The Innovation Studios can be found in the central corridor of the Museum and contains 6,000 square feet of engaging learning spaces for families and educators to explore. The experiences in these studios is designed for children age 9 and older.
Research and Learning Center- Scientists from the museum will be in this space on Saturdays conducting their research and experiments and allow museum patrons to participate, ask questions, watch, and explore the world of science.
OmniMax Theater- This Imax Dome theater can show films up to 2.5 hours long and has both educational and historical films shown. A schedule can be found on the museum website.
Noble Planetarium- The planetarium features 80 seats and an immersive dome experience with a 7,000-star projector. There is also an exhibit area that features astronomy collections from the Science and History Museum. Show times can be found on the museum website.
Shop Too!- The museum gift shop does not require admission to the museum to shop. Free parking is available for shoppers popping in for less than 45 minutes. The gift shop is a retail store that in an extension of the museum, offering many engaging and educational toys and games related to the exhibits found in the museum.
Stars Café- This café offers indoor and outdoor seating for families with many different good options available. Set up similar to a cafeteria, guests can go through the lines and choose which foods they want from sandwiches, soups and salads, to pizza, gourmet burgers, and snacks.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is a vital community educational resource in Texas, offering many programs for children and adults.
Museum School- Since 1948, more than 200,000 children have been educated in Museum School which offer preschool, elementary and summer programs for children in the Fort Worth area. This program is accredited by the National Association of the Education of Young Children and focuses on children age 3-6. The curriculum immerses children in history and science using replicas of artifacts from the museum. Museum School is partnered with Texas Christian University College of Education.
Field Trips- There are several field trip opportunities during the school year for grades k-12 on the Museum Campus. Field trips can include the 9/11 memorial exhibit, Innovation Studios, The Museum exhibits, the Children’s Museum, Planetarium, OmniMax, or a combination of a few different attractions at the museum. Educators can find details about planning and booking field trips on the Museum website.
Lecture Series- Lecture series at the museum bring celebrity historians or scientists to the museum to engage adults with an evening of discussion and learning with the experts. Admission is free although reservations are required. Details on the lectures are available online.
PUBlic Knowledge- This monthly adult group meets at a pub in Fort Worth to lern about current science events and findings, local history and events, and other educational topics.
Outreach Programs- There are a few outreach programs available through the museum that brings science to the community. Astronomy on Wheels creates a mini planetarium on site at your school or community building. Discovery Lab on Wheels, brings the laboratories to students and engages them in science activities in their own classrooms. The Discovery Lab programs can be tailored for age and is available for summer and afterschool programs also. Distance Learning is also available. This is where the museum is brought to the classroom virtually. There are a few dozen different virtual programs offered annually.
There are a few special events that occur at the museum or on the museum campus throughout the year. Many of these events are temporary such as eclipse viewing parties, special film presentations in the Omni or lecture series for adults. A schedule of events is available as they are scheduled on the museum website.
The museum also has facilities available to rent for private events, birthday parties, and conferences. Any special event from weddings to corporate events or fundraisers can be held at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. There are approved caterers and event services established by the museum for patrons to use for their events and all events include guest admission to most exhibits or an IMAX film production.
1600 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, Texas, 76107, Phone: 817-255-9300
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