13 Family Fun Vacations in Texas You May Not Have Known About

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Written by Zack Davisson, travel expert over at AllTheRooms. Edited by Jeff Campbell

Looking for family fun vacations in Texas?

Everyone knows about the big family fun vacations in Texas:

  • The Alamo and The Riverwalk in San Antonio
  • NASA in Houston
  • Amusement parks like SeaWorld, Schlitterbahn, and Six Flags

They’re some of the most popular tourist destinations in Texas.

While all are fun in their own way, many families may want to venture off the beaten path and explore a little bit more of the Lone Star State.

Texas, because of its imposing size, can at times seem like an intimidating travel destination in terms of getting around. So the travel experts at AllTheRooms have decided to help out and create a list of exciting, lesser-known family fun vacations in Texas.

And sure, there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts that would make for an easy vacation, but why not add a little adventure at the same time?

Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!

So here is the . . . 

13 Family Fun Vacations in Texas You May Not Have Known About

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1. Big Bend National Park

Even Texas’ national parks adhere to the “Everything is Bigger in Texas” moniker.

This is most evident in Big Bend National Park. Big Bend likes to brag about being about the size of Rhode Island.

family fun vacations in Texas Big Bend National Park Chisos Mountains in the background with the Chihuahua dessert in the foreground Middle Class Dad

In the main tourist destination, the Chisos Mountains, families can embark on a number of hikes of varying difficulties and visit a fossil discovery exhibit.

The hike known as the Window Trail leads to an especially breathtaking view!

2. Caverns of Sonora

The Natural Bridge Caverns may be slightly busier because of their vicinity to San Antonio.

However, many will argue that the Caverns of Sonora are the real underground gem of Texas. The names of the stalactites and stalagmites, like Popcorn and Bacon, are silly and accurate enough to get some laughs from the younger crowd.

Money a little tight this year? Remember, it’s easy to still have a great time when you vacation on a budget. If that’s the boat you’re in (been there, done that), check out that post on the Middle Class Dad site which walks you through just how to do that.

3. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

family fun vacations in Texas giraffes roaming the plains Middle Class Dad

Outside of San Antonio, on the road from Austin, is the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, a long time favorite for local and visiting families.

Travelers are able to drive their car through the ranch that harbors a number of wild animals. So don’t be surprised to get paid a visit by wildebeest, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches.

The Natural Bridge Caverns listed above are right next-door, and both attractions are easily completed in a single afternoon. Both are well-worth being on anyone’s family fun vacations in Texas list.

4. Float the Rivers around Austin

For the really young ones, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a good option as the waters are still and create a number of shallow swimming holes.

For those with slightly older children, consider floating a bigger river.

The San Marcos River just outside of the city is probably the most family-friendly option, although the Guadalupe & Comal rivers are closer and more popular. The day of splashing, relaxation, and soaking up the sun is sure to make the whole family bronzed and happy.

5. Cockrell Butterfly Center

This is a beautiful tropical atrium adjacent to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

The inside of the Cockrell Butterfly Center is a lush rainforest complete with a fifty-foot waterfall. The main attraction — the butterflies — fly freely throughout the exhibit, and with many hundreds of colorful species, as well as other insects, visitors will be hard pressed not to be wowed by the display.

For the butterfly-obsessed kid who doesn’t get their fill in Houston, head down south to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, near the Mexican border.

6. Sea Turtle, Inc.

An incredible project on South Padre Island, Sea Turtle Inc is a center that focuses on the rehabilitation and conservation of the world’s sea turtles.

Take a casual trip to see the resident turtles or plan to stop during one of their many releases. The most amazing visitors see either a reintroduction of a rehabilitated adult or an early morning hatchling “frenzy” where newborn sea turtles make their run to the sea.

7. Zero Gravity Thrill Park

Calling themselves “the most extreme theme park in the world”, this Dallas destination is definitely for families with a collective adrenaline addiction.

While a couple of rides do have height requirements, most of the attractions only require a parent signature for kids to participate. This eliminates the often dream-crushing minimum age requirement.

A favorite is the “Nothing but Net” experience, which is basically bungee jumping without any ropes.

That’s right, participants free-fall 130 feet, or 16 stories, into a landing net without the help of any parachutes or straps or cords. Parents watching may have to be braver than the kids jumping.

8. Mineral Wells Fossil Park

For families who like to get their hands dirty, consider a trip to Mineral Wells Fossil Park.

Mineral Wells (birthplace of Middle Class Dad founder Jeff Campbell) is about an hour outside of Dallas.

The large rocky bowl allows kids and adults to sweep through the gravel for fossils. The park is one of the very few places in the world that allows people to remove and keep their findings.

If you routinely find yourself paying for vacations on a credit card, there a better way! Paying cash for a vacation just takes the right vacation planning steps. Trust me, it’s easy to just reach for the plastic (been there, done that). But eventually the bill comes due and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself heavily in debt.

9. Dallas Cowboys Fan Experience

The Cowboys are nicknamed “America’s Team”.

Nearly everyone in the country has a strong reaction to the Dallas Cowboys — whether it’s admiration or absolute repulsion.

Whatever your feelings may be, it’s a fact that the Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise in the world and have the stadium/sports palace to match. AT&T Stadium is plenty famous for being the biggest domed structure in the world but not everyone realizes they give tours of the behemoth space.

Young sports fans are sure to love taking a look around the locker room and stepping onto the field surrounded by 80,000 seats.

10. The Magicians Agency

Many magic shows are in clubs that feature cheeky, inappropriate comedy in an adult-only atmosphere. However, this San Antonio show is welcoming to everyone aged four and older.

The shows are usually an hour long.  You’ll see magicians wandering around the venue before and after the show to entertain crowds. The show itself is funny and baffling, and sure to inspire young’uns who can later buy a training video with their allowance money to get their tricks started.

11. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Middle Class Dad family fun vacations in Texas Jeff Campbell Palo Duo Canyon State Park outside of Amarillo

This one is up in the panhandle of Texas, somewhat close to Amarillo.

Palo Duro Canyon retains the calling card “The Grand Canyon of Texas” and offers tremendous opportunities to go camping with the family. The heart of winter and summer can bring about extreme weather, so plan accordingly!

12. Cathedral of Junk

More of an oddity worth a visit than a concrete destination, the Cathedral of Junk could be the poster child for the “Keep Austin Weird” movement.

Towering in the backyard of Vince Hannemann, a South Austin resident, this undertaking began in 1989 and has grown from a casual collection to a head-scratching monument of human consumption. In fact, no list of family fun vacations in Texas would be complete with this one.

Now comprised of some 60 tons of trash, the Cathedral is an amazing place for anyone, young and old, to explore for an afternoon.

Since it’s in his backyard, you can’t just show up whenever you want. Call (512) 299-7413 to set a time to visit.

13. Dr. Pepper Museum

The Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco is not just a tribute to a favorite American beverage, it’s also a fun, interactive experience for kids.

While the museum offers a number of traditional tours, kids love the Little Peppers Tour or the Create a Soft Drink Tour, where the little ones work in teams to bottle their own creative take on soda, and then design its logo.

Whatever tour guests choose, everyone will be pleased to know it comes with some free Dr. Pepper.

Did we cover everything you wanted to know about family fun vacations in Texas?

In this post, we walked you through some of the coolest, most amazing & least known gems in Texas.

These family fun vacations in Texas are a little off the beaten path. That means they’ll be less crowded and more enjoyable. Whether you spend 2 weeks in Texas or just a few days, there really are some amazing things to do and see.

These spots will have your family talking about this trip for years to come.

Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!

About the author of this post:
Zack works for AllTheRooms, the world’s first vacation rental search engine and is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for salsa music and a passion for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature, or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.

Want to write for Middle Class Dad too? Check out everything you need to know on my Guest Blog Page.

Middle Class Dad family fun vacations in Texas Jeff Campbell bio
Photo credits which require attribution:
Austin Montage by Andrew Nourse is licensed under CC2.0

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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