With a state as large as Texas, there are so many different destinations to choose from. We’ve compiled a list of travel-worthy places to visit in Texas great for the whole family. Whether you’re curious to see what makes Austin weird or you want to embrace your inner cowboy at the stockyards in Ft. Worth, we’ll help you plan the ultimate vacation! Our Texas vacations for families guide is a great place to start!
The Ultimate Guide to Texas Vacations for Families
How large is Texas? Larger than any country in Europe! That means there are a lot of places to see in the state. The question is, which places are worth visiting and best suit your family’s vacation style? I’ve lived in Texas all my life and because I’m also a travel addict, I spend a lot of time exploring my home state. We’ve conquered the big cities and traveled the long highways to nowhere. Seriously, what could be better than visiting the birthplace of Dr Pepper and Frozen Margaritas?
Whether you live in Texas or you’re looking for getaway inspiration when visiting Texas for the first time, we hope this ultimate guide will jump-start your next family vacation!
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1. Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park always finds its way on the list of most underrated National Parks in the US. For that reason, I think it deserves to be the first destination on this list. It’s located in the southwest, sitting between Texas and Mexico. You’ll travel a long distance from the big cities to visit this hidden gem but we’re sure that you’ll be rewarded with adventurous hikes and a stellar night sky. Why not rent an RV and make a road trip out of it?
Yes, this park is ready to embrace the entire family. You’ll find several trails that are easy to hike and the scenic drives alone make it worth a visit. Our TravelingMom Nasreen Stump says “Breathtaking, stunning and awe-inspiring. Three words that come to mind when thinking about the Big Bend area of Texas.”
When planning a visit, avoid traveling to Big Bend during the hot summer months unless you want to see an egg scramble on the hot pavement in under 60 seconds!
Read More About Big Bend National Park: Things to Do Near Big Bend National Park, Texas
2. San Antonio
If you’ve never visited the Texas Hill County, then a visit to San Antonio should be at the top of your list! This city, rich with history and culture, is ideal for families. We’ve been road tripping to San Antonio with our three girls since they were babies. Thirteen million people a year visit the San Antonio Riverwalk and the iconic Alamo that’s located nearby. Many families chose to stay in one of the many hotels located on the Riverwalk so they’re within walking distance of all the fun shopping and dining options that line the river.
When visiting San Antonio there are two experiences you don’t want to miss: First, take a boat ride on the river. You’ll learn so much about the city’s history. Second, take a stroll on the Riverwalk at night for a spectacular walk under the stars!
We’ve discovered some pretty incredible hidden gems in and around San Antonio we think you’re family will love.I highly recommend booking a stay at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. This is easily one of the best resorts in the area. Not only are they welcoming to families with kids, they also have an outstanding waterpark, spa and golf course that kept our whole family entertained all weekend long. We could have easily spent a week as this resort which is located about 25 miles from the Riverwalk and downtown.
When you’re in San Antonio with kids, plan to go explore the Natural Bridge Caverns. When we planned this activity we had no idea what to expect but we’re so glad we decided to make the trip to the largest commercial caverns in Texas…Natural Bridge is located just a short drive from downtown San Antonio. Not only is the history of how these caverns were discovered fascinating but the caverns themselves were pretty unbelievable. I recommend a visit for families with children over the age of five. Younger kids may be a bit apprehensive about the dark tours underground.
More things to do in and near San Antonio:
Get ready to visit the “weirdest” place you’ve ever been to. Austin is proud of their slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and it won’t take you long to experience the awkwardness first hand if you’re hanging out downtown near 6th street. However, there is more to Austin than being the state capitol and a great place to party. Austin is home to the best food and music scene in all of Texas. If you don’t believe me then perhaps you’ll believe Guy Fieri who has featured 15 Austin restaurants on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
If you’re visiting Austin sometime during March- October take the kids down to The Congress Avenue bridge at sunset to see the largest urban bat colony in North America! The bats come out right at sunset and it’s an unforgettable sight!
Another must-see is located about 45-minutes outside of Austin. Hamilton Pool is one of the coolest places to get your feet wet in Texas. You have to see this natural pool with your own eyes. Pack a swimsuit and make a day of it! You do need to call ahead and make reservations before visiting.
Other family-friendly places to visit in Austin:
4. New Braunfels
Deep in the heart of hill country, you’ll find the city of New Braunfels which is best known for its 70-acre water paradise Schlitterbahn. New Braufels also a great place to spot our beloved state flower, the bluebonnet, in the spring.
Schlitterbahn (means slippery road in German) is our favorite outdoor waterpark in the state. It’s truly one-of-a-kind and you can spend several days here and never run out of new places to explore in the park. Schlitterbahn waterpark is home to some of the best water rides in the world! You can bring your own food into the park (limited restrictions) which makes it so much easier when planning a visit with kids. The entire experience from the time you walk through the front gate is one that caters to the entire family–from toddlers to teenagers. Your entire group will have a blast!
Another experience in New Braunfels that shouldn’t be missed is floating the Comal River. There are several places in New Braunfels that will rent out floats and transport you down to the river. We always tie several floats together so that our entire family can spend time floating under the blue sky. Tell the kids to keep an eye out for rope swings along the riverbanks!
After a long day of playing in the water, take the family to the Stars & Stripes Drive-In Theater. With very few drive-in theaters still in existence this is a treat for most visitors. The entire city of New Braunfels is very welcoming to families and that applies even to the Dry Comal Creek Vineyards where kids can play in the beautiful outdoor space while their parents try some of the best Texas-style wines.
TravelingMom Tip: You must try Blue Bell ice cream when you’re visiting Texas. It was founded in 1907 in Brenham, Texas. As many places as I’ve traveled, I can assure you that no other ice cream comes close to the taste of Blue Bell!
While Dallas isn’t my first choice as a destination for a family vacation, there are plenty of things to do in Dallas to keep families entertained. The hustle and bustle of this city is why I’d much prefer to take our family elsewhere. However, the 9th largest city in the US does have some famous attractions that landed it on our list.
- Six Flags Over Texas
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- Epic Waters
- Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
- 15 Dallas Museums Just Right for Families
If you’re looking to fly into Dallas and want to stay close to the airport then I highly recommend checking out these fun Dallas day trip ideas. We also have a whole list of free things to do in Dallas with kids if you’re looking for budget-friendly options.
TravelingMom Tip: Fort Worth is an awesome city that is sometimes mistaken as being similar to Dallas. Their location in Texas is the only thing they have in common with Dallas! Take the kids to the Fort Worth Stockyards and explore one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.
Yes, the city of Grapevine is a suburb of Dallas but it has so much to offer families that it gets a a subheading of its own! I’m looking for a place to spend the weekend away in the Lone Star State, Grapevine will always be on our list.
If you have younger kids, plan to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge. This resort with its HUGE indoor waterpark is one of our favorite places to take our little girls. We love visiting during the winter months when the outdoor waterparks are closed. Every night the kids get in their PJs and head down for the nightly story time with the other guests. The Great Wolf Lodge has always been popular among families visiting the Dallas area.
Right across the street from the Great Wolf Lodge is The Gaylord Hotel which is my personal favorite place to stay in all of Dallas. The Gaylord is perfect for romantic getaways, a girl’s weekend or even a family trip. There are certain seasonal events throughout the year that attract families so be sure to check their calendar before booking so you don’t miss out on any of those special events.
The Grapevine Mills mall is home to both Legoland and the SEA LIFE Aquarium. We tend to stay at either the Great Wolf Lodge or Gaylord and then we visit the mall and spend a fun afternoon at these fun places with the kids.
The 4th largest city in the U.S is no stranger to family fun. Like I mentioned previously about Dallas, I’m not a fan of planning family vacation inside of our major cities but that doesn’t mean that Houston isn’t a fun place to be. First of all, be sure to purchase the Houston CityPASS if you’re planning to spend time at some of the top attractions. The city pass includes admission into these attractions and will save you 47% on admissions!
Some of our favorite things to do in Houston with kids are:
- Space Center Houston
- Downtown Aquarium
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Houston Zoo – OR Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- Kemah Boardwalk – OR Children’s Museum of Houston
Houston is also a great place to take advantage of some FREE FUN, in fact, Houston has 16 free activities that you can do with the kids–check them out here. And, in the spring, you’ll want to take a side trip to nearby Brenham Texas to see the state’s famous bluebonnet flowers!
This city is best known for being the cruise ship port of Texas! However, there is much more to Galveston than just a stop on your way out. We’ve found that Galveston is a great destination in the state for a fun weekend away with the kids. In fact, last year we planned a last-minute getaway to Galveston with our large extended family and it was one of our best trips yet. While the beaches lack the white sand and pristine water that you’ll find in Florida, they still have tranquil ocean views and a place to have fun in the sun.
Check VRBO for a house near the beach and then check out this list of family-friendly activities in the area. And, if you’re planning to visit several attractions, consider buying the Galveston Island Pass for savings up to 40 percent.
- Moody Gardens
- Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark
- Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re traveling on the George & Cynthia Mitchell Memorial Causeway to Galveston Island, check the GPS ahead of time because the wait times during rush hour can be very long!
Read More: 15 Things to Do in Galveston Before a Cruise
9. South Padre Island
From whale watching to climbing a lighthouse, there are so many reasons why this 34-mile long paradise located on the Gulf Coast of Texas is one of the best Texas beaches and a favorite among travelers.
TravelingMom Editor Cindy Richards said this about her trip to South Padre Island “South Padre Island, Texas, a barrier island off the southern coast of Texas, is the place for an affordable beach vacation. It’s easy to find accommodations for less than $100/night, there are lots of things to do that are free or relatively inexpensive and there’s free public transit to get you from one end of the island to the other and back to the airport when you’re ready to go home.” Read all about the 9 fun things to do on South Padre Island that Cindy discovered during her visit.
TravelingMom Tip: Avoid planning a trip to South Padre Island in March because Texas Spring Breaks are in March and this is a popular destination for college students.
Read More: Places to Explore Near Garner State Park
I’ve lived in Texas my entire life and I can tell you that until Chip and Joanna Gaines put Waco on the map there were few reasons for travelers to visit this area of Texas, however, now it’s one of our favorite weekend getaway destinations. These charming little towns are what makes Texas such a fun state to road trip through.
The entire area around Magnolia Market is simply beautiful. They’ve created an entire outdoor space lined with food trucks and yard games that really encourage a casual and fun day out. Of course, if you’ve followed any of the Gaines house remodels you might love shopping the market for a farmhouse-style souvenir. Don’t forget to grab a famous cupcake at the Silos Baking Co. located next door but be prepared to stand in line, they sell 3,500 cupcakes a day! If you see the Silo Baking Company food truck in the backyard at Magnolia, the wait time will usually be much shorter and they’ll have many of the same items you’ll find in the main bakery.
We’re big fans of Magnolia Market but it’s not the only thing to do in Waco. Texans love their Dr Pepper and we have an entire museum here dedicated to this history of this beverage. Make some time to take the kids to the Cameron Park Zoo and the Waco Mammoth National Monument where they can spend some time interacting with animals and playing in a dig pit!
Spring Texas Vacations? Here’s Where to Find Texas Bluebonnets:
Although bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, bloom everywhere across the state, one of the best places to find them is the Texas Hill Country and the Highland Lake Bluebonnet Trail. You will probably also see them along the side of the highway on any Texas road trip during the spring.
Bluebonnets bloom from late March to early April (varies depending on how cold the winter was). More on where to find bluebonnets here.
If you are planning Texas vacations during spring, why not add on a stop to see and appreciate these beautiful wildflowers?
Read More: 5 Texas Resorts Worth the Splurge
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide for Texas vacations with families. Leave a comment if you have additional destination ideas!