If you are looking for a wide variety of options for kid-friendly things to do, Texas is a great family vacation choice. You can jump from a rural cowboy experience to a big city museum to rugged wilderness in one trip. With major airports in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth, budget-friendly airfare is available year-round. We’re going to share some of our favorite things to do in Texas with kids with one caveat. There’s no way to include everything in one post. Texas covers more than 261,000 square miles!
Things to Do in Texas with Kids: Austin
Austin, the Texas state capital, borders an area of Texas known as the Hill Country. It’s located centrally in Texas. Before we dive in there are a few things you need to know about Austin. First, the traffic is epic. If you are visiting Austin for specific attractions try to book a hotel near your most important stops. Second, the weather in Austin veers towards humid year-round. Plan accordingly. Third, the airport is east of the city. Always allow extra time if you have to drop a rental car and during holidays or SXSW. You’ll need it.
1. Spend a day at Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd Austin, TX
This 351-acre park in the center of Austin is home to the Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming hole, the Zilker Botanical Garden and the Austin Nature and Science Center. You can easily spend an entire day at Zilker Municipal Park exploring and playing. With a water playscape, boat rentals, a dinosaur habitat and more there is something for everyone.
Definitely check for seasonal activities and live music around the time of your visit. The Zilker Kite Festival, Austin City Limits Music Festival and the Trail of Lights during the holidays.
2. Explore the Umlauf Sculpture Garden
605 Azie Morton Rd Austin, TX
Located across from Zilker Park, this outdoor garden features sculptures by Charles Umlauf. Offering educational programs, special offerings and events for kids you can time your visit to experience a fun activity. Walking gravel trails at Umlauf Sculpture Garden are wheelchair accessible.
Looking to keep the party going? There’s an awesome mini-golf spot nearby with a giant T-rex and some super unique photo ops. Peter Pan mini-golf course has been around since 1948.
3. Explore the Thinkery
1830 Simond Avenue Austin, TX
The Thinkery is the children’s museum that we all dreamed about as kids. Filled with hands-on activities and interactive exhibits, it inspires creativity and sparks imagination. On Tuesday and Saturday night Central Texas residents are able to visit for free as part of the museum’s dedication to STEM education.
If you are traveling with very young kiddos (under 2) or individuals with autism be sure to check out special hours available for your family. Ticket prices and hours are listed on the Thinkery’s website.
You can easily spend a whole day here. Our favorite exhibits are the Innovators’ Workshop, Train Station and the Our Backyard outdoor area.
4. Go on a tour of the Texas State Capitol
1100 Congress Avenue Austin, TX
Kids can learn about Texas history and government by taking a guided tour of the state capitol building. The Texas State Capitol is actually taller than the US Capitol Building!
The Capitol is open for self-touring Monday through Friday from 7a to 6p and Saturday and Sunday from 9a to 6p. You can grab a brochure outside Capitol Room 1S.2. Free guided tours are available from Monday-Friday from 9:30a-3:30p and Saturday and Sunday from 12:30p-3:30p.
5. Visit the Austin Zoo
10808 Rawhide Trail Austin, TX
This nonprofit rescue zoo features a wide variety of animals, including lions, tigers, and bears, as well as educational programs and events.
Kids will love the train ride (an additional $5 fee). Parents will love the free parking (it may be the only time you see it in Austin!) and tickets under $20. If you’re looking for unique lodging you can stay at the Austin Zoo House which sleeps up to 6.
6. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Ave Austin, TX
Stop and smell the flowers. You can tour the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a 279-acre botanical garden featuring native Texas plants and flowers. Older kids will enjoy exploring habitat-based gardens. If your kids are little though, don’t worry! There is a family garden spanning 4.5 acres with things to climb on, explore and interactive water play.
We recommend packing a lunch and enjoying one of the picnic areas.
7. Visit the Austin Central Library
710 W Cesar Chavez Street Austin, TX
It feels like a disservice to just use the word library. The Austin Central Library is a library but also so much more! With a rooftop patio (complete with coffee service cart), reading porches looking over the lake, Cookbook Bar & Cafe, art galleries, a gift shop, and a seed library it functions more like a community center. Your kids will love it. It was one of my favorite things to do in Texas with my kids. The rooftop garden is a great spot to take in Austin City views (and sunsets).
Definitely check ahead of your visit for special events like story hours! The library is open 7 days a week but the hours vary from day to day.
8. Dinosaur Park
893 Union Chapel Road Cedar Creek, TX
Technically this one is outside of Austin. It’s located in Cedar Creek near Bastrop, but if you have young dino lovers it is definitely worth the drive! This outdoor dino museum started as a labor of love. The owner started building it for his kiddo. Now it’s open Wednesday to Saturday for all to enjoy. You’ll take the paved hiking trails around the property and view a variety of dinosaurs along with informational plaques. Admission is $11 for adults, $10 for kids 2-12 and free for those under 2. There are a ton of photo opportunities and some hands-on activities as well.
Read More: 15+ Great Texas Road Trips
Things to To Do in Texas with Kids: San Antonio
San Antonio is such a fun city for families. Having lived there for several years I can assure you that we never ran out of fun things to do! From hiking to theme parks to water parks, family fun is all around you.
9. Ride Roller Coasters at Six Flags Fiesta Texas
7000 IH-10 West San Antonio, TX
Six Flags Fiesta Texas isn’t just for grown-ups. There is a full kids’ area with rides and a playscape as well. On larger rides, adults can rider swap so that someone can stay with the littles. If it’s a hotter day head over to the water park to cool down!
Heads up if you’re staying in downtown San Antonio this is pretty far out on Loop 1604. They say on their website that it’s 15 minutes. It’s 15 miles and that can be closer to 30 minutes a lot of times. Plan accordingly.
10. Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road San Antonio, TX
You might be surprised to learn that some of the largest caverns in the US are in San Antonio. The best thing about Natural Bridge Caverns? In the heart of hot Texas the cavern temps maintain 70 degrees year-round. You can tour the caverns through a variety of themed tours with tickets ranging from $20-$30. There are also activities like a maze and zip line on site.
11. Explore the River Walk
849 E. Riverwalk San Antonio, TX
San Antonio’s downtown River Walk is one of its best-known tourist sites. With 5 miles of it right in the heart of downtown, photo opportunities on the stone bridges are a favorite with visitors. The River Walk is located one level below street level and is packed with shops and restaurants. Kids will love the boat tour. General admission tickets for the boat tour are $14.50. Kids 1-5 are $8.50. Looking to boat on your own? Further down the River Walk, you can go kayaking.
A word of advice, take the hand of little ones. There’s no edging along the river and you don’t want them to end up in it. Leave that to the folks who’ve had too many margaritas. That leads to another hint, in the evening the Riverwalk becomes more about the grown-ups than the kids.
12. Schlitterbahn Waterpark
4000 N. Liberty Avenue New Braunfels, TX
Schlitterbahn isn’t just a water park, it’s THE waterpark. Located just outside of San Antonio in New Braunfels, the park covers 70 acres and boasts 55 rides. You can easily spend the entire day here. It’s not just slides. There are surfing areas, pools, lazy rivers and more. We have an entire post on how to maximize your Schlitterbahn experience.
13. San Antonio Zoo
3903 N St. Mary’s Street San Antonio, TX
The San Antonio Zoo is home to over 700 species on over 50 acres. It’s a great and manageable zoo, especially if you don’t want to lose a full day of exploring to one activity. I consider it doable in a half day. Head there in the morning before it gets too hot. The giraffes, hippos and cranes are some of the most impressive exhibits.
Once you’re done with your zoo visit head over to the San Antonio Zoo Eagle train throughout Brackenridge Park. It stops at the Witte Museum, Kiddie Park and the Japanese Tea Gardens. The train and the nearby carousel have a fee of a few dollars each.
14. The Alamo
300 Alamo Plaza San Antonio, TX
This historic site was where the Battle of the Alamo occurred. It’s better for kids 8 and up in my opinion. There are a lot of plaques and reading involved. Younger kids will enjoy the outdoor grounds but may not be patient in the indoor sections.
2800 Broadway San Antonio, TX
Located in the heart of San Antonio this children’s museum is filled with hands-on experiences and family fun. It’s also a great indoor (translation: air-conditioned) option during the hotter months (hint: all of them).
Kids will love themed areas featuring robotics, a play area, a Spy Academy and a tree house. Many exhibits focus on STEM concepts. Also, it’s not for kids but the DoSeum has added ReDo nights which are adult nights out, which we love!
Read More: Things to Do in San Antonio With Kids
Houston: Family-Friendly Things to Do
A lot of folks end up in Houston on business trips but it also has a ton of fun things to do for families. Having lived outside of Houston for several years we would make the drive in to check out kid-friendly attractions.
16. CityPASS for Museums
Yes, it’s not a specific place but it’s a must-do if you’ll be visiting multiple spots in Houston. I’ll outline some below but the CityPASS covers the Space Center and the choice of 4 of the following; Downtown Aquarium, Houston Museum of Natural Science (planetarium extra), Houston Zoo, Kemah Boardwalk, Children’s Museum Houston and Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
17. Space Center Houston
1601 E NASA Parkway Houston, TX
If you are looking for a space museum that is the real deal do not leave this off your list! The entire family will enjoy the Space Center Houston. Hours can change seasonally so be sure to look ahead of your visit.
Included in your ticket is the NASA tram ride. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at human space exploration. You can also view and walk under a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster. Our kids loved seeing how spacesuits had changed over the years and the interactive Artemis exhibit.
For those looking to get the real feeling of being an astronaut, there are simulator rides available for an additional fee.
18. Houston Zoo
6200 Hermann Park Drive Houston, TX
Visit over 6,000 animals and enjoy family-friendly attractions at this popular zoo. There’s a strategy to a fun visit with kids here though. The entrance area of the zoo has a lot of popular exhibits and can get crowded. Your kids will see the penguins and want to check them out. Resist. Head all the way into the zoo, especially if you’re there early in the day. Most folks start from the front. Take a right at the primates and head to the back of the zoo.
You’ll be able to either go left at the back of the zoo to view giraffes, rhinos, gorillas and more or go right for the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. FYI, the Children’s Zoo is closed for lunch daily from 12p-1p so plan accordingly.
Between those two sections is the Wildlife Carousel. Tickets to ride are $5 and go to benefit the zoo. Do yourself a favor and buy the unlimited ride option for only $5.95.
You can grab lunch at the Cypress Circle Cafe. Mobile ordering is available. There are also several other dining options available.
Get the kids excited about their visit ahead of time by pulling up one of the Zoo’s webcams to check out their favorite animals.
19. Children’s Museum of Houston
1500 Binz St, Houston, TX
This 90,000-square-foot museum is a hit with kids of all ages. During the warmer months FlowWorks, the outdoor water power exhibit is a welcome distraction. Inside a giant climbing structure spans multiple floors and kids can try their hand at different occupations in the mini-town of Kidtropolis, USA.
20. Visit the Houston Police Horses
5005 Little York Road Houston,TX
This is one of the coolest (free) underrated things to do with kids in Houston. The Houston PD has a mounted unit. Visitors can feed the horses carrots, apples, and peppermints. Call ahead to check on hours. Our kids loved this. It was on our way out of Houston to head home and it never got old. The horses are sweet and friendly.
Things to Do in Texas with Kids: Galveston
Galveston is located on the Gulf Coast of Texas. It’s an island city and is just about an hour south of Houston. Personally, I like to visit in the off season but it’s still doable during the summer, if you’re aware it will be crowded.
21. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
2501 Seawall Boulevard Galveston, TX
Enjoy amusement park rides, games, and attractions on this historic pier. Kids eyes go wide when they see all the options. One thing visitors need to be aware of is that you can’t just walk around on the pier deciding what to do. Just to walk on the pier you have to buy a walk-on pass. You can buy rides individually but it’s not really worth it if you plan to do more than 3 rides after you pay for the walk-on pass. The All-Day ride pass runs about $29. Families can buy a 4 pack of passes for $99.
FYI, if you’ve never been afraid of Ferris wheels you might unlock a new fear here. Something about being up high in a rocking basket on a ride attached to a pier over water scared the crap out of 4 grownups. Only my then 5-year-old was unphased.
Not into rides? Come at night to take photos from the beach of the lit-up pier.
22. Moody Gardens
1 Hope Boulevard Galveston, TX
Explore various attractions, including an aquarium, rainforest, and discovery museum, at this popular family destination. You can either pay individually to enter specific areas or buy an all-access pass to go to all Moody Gardens attractions.
Personally, my daughter loved the Rainforest Pyramid the most. As we watched tamarins run along railings feet away I had to ask about something. Do any of the animals ever get eaten by other animals in the exhibit since some have free reign? The employee very diplomatically tried to answer it but the answer is yes, it has happened.
Definitely plan to catch a movie in the IMAX theatre!
Many families choose to stay in the nearby Moody Gardens Hotel Spa and Convention Center.
Read More: 5 Exciting Reasons to Visit Moody Gardens
Don’t Sleep on Family Fun in Beaumont
If you’ve ever driven in Texas you know how HUGE it is. Many families end up passing through Beaumont as they’re leaving Texas. I know we went through annually as we headed to New Orleans or Florida. Beaumont is definitely more than a snack and fuel stop though. Plan a little bit of extra time to hit some fun spots for littles.
23. Beaumont Children’s Museum
701 Main Street Beaumont, TX
Engage in hands-on learning and play at this interactive museum. This low-cost ($6) children’s museum is a great way to get some wiggles out on a road trip. Exhibits are aimed at younger kids and are highly interactive. Make sure you check hours before your visit because they do change seasonally.
24. Gator Country Adventure Park
21159 FM 365 Beaumont, TX
You can’t miss Gator Country if you’re driving on I-10. A giant green alligator on the side of the highway will grab everyone’s attention. Open daily they offer educational shows, alligator feeding, a petting zoo, tortoise feeding and a splash pad.
More importantly Gator Country is home to Big Al. If you’re still listening to the groundhog to see how many more weeks of winter we can expect you’re behind the times. According to locals his weather predictions based on chicken sausage eating are more accurate than Phil’s shadow. Big Al will turn 92 in 2023, he measures 13’4” long and has a slightly bigger friend Big Tex. He is a whopping 13’11” long. They must really like Gator Country because although they’ve gone missing occasionally after hurricanes they end up back on-site.
Family Fun in Dallas
When looking for things to do in Texas with kids Dallas will pop up. We’ve written extensively about things to do in Dallas with kids, It’s filled with museums and opportunities for day trips. It is also a popular destination for business travelers, some of whom decide to bring their families along for a getaway. We’re going to run through a few of the highlights to get you started.
25. CityPASS Dallas
If you’re going to visit multiple attractions in Dallas you may want to look at a CityPASS to save money. Each city’s pass is slightly different. With the Dallas one, you can visit both the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck and two out of the following three attractions; Dallas Zoo, George W. Bush Presidential Museum or Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
26. Dallas Zoo
650 S R.L. Thornton Freeway Dallas, TX
The Dallas Zoo has been open for over 125 years. It covers 106 acres and is home to over 2000 animals from over 400 species. You can take public transportation to the Dallas Zoo stop on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Red Line. If driving, parking is $10. Admission tickets must be reserved online ahead of time.
This zoo is large and could definitely be an all-day event. Figure out which animals your kiddos are most excited about. Texas gets hot, especially later in the day. As the temps rise the animals can be a little less active. Plan to see the favorites earlier in the day to have the best interaction.
FYI: If your kids are anything like mine they’ll see the T-Rex Express Mini-Train ($3) and the Endangered Species Carousel ($4) and want to check them out. Both cost a little extra so just be ready.
27. Medieval Times
2021 N Stemmons Freeway Dallas, TX
My husband grew up going to Medieval Times and he had always wanted to go. He took them all on a trip to Dallas and they had a blast at Medieval Times. One of our daughters caught a flower. They all had fun rooting for their favorite knights and eating with their hands.
28. Dallas Arboretum
8525 Garland Drive Dallas, TX
One of the reasons that we love the Dallas Arboretum is that they just get kids. At most botanical gardens you buy a ticket for the whole attraction. The kids really only want to do the Children’s Garden. At the Dallas Arboretum, the Children’s Adventure Garden has a separate entrance. You can buy a ticket for only that garden for $3/person. It’s also more than just a garden, it has a whole STEM learning center. Kids will enjoy visiting. The Incredible Edible Garden area and Texas SkyWalk are personal favorites.
29. KidZania USA (Frisco)
Let your kids explore various careers and role-play in a kid-sized city. Kidzania Dallas (located in Frisco despite the Dallas name) offers kiddos the opportunity to explore a world at a scale designed for kids from 4-14. One thing to be aware of is that the only adults allowed in the kids area are “Zupervisors.” Kids and parents are given paired RFID bracelets. You will NOT have eyes on your kids at all times.
Read More: Frisco Texas Family-Friendly Fun
It isn’t exactly uncommon for kids to get a bit grumpy on a Waco trip. Many times it’s designed for the adults in the group with stops at Magnolia Market and other HGTV sites. Let’s face it trying to catch a glimpse of Chip and Joana isn’t going to thrill your tween. Work in some kid-friendly stops on your Waco trip that the whole family can enjoy!
30. Waco Mammoth National Monument
6220 Steinbeck Bend Drive Waco, TX
Visit the first Columbian mammoth nursery herd discovered in the world and learn about these fascinating creatures. This park falls under the National Park Service. You can pick up a Junior Ranger packet while you’re visiting. It’s also still an active dig site so new discoveries can still be made!
31. Dr. Pepper Museum
300 S. 5th Street Waco, TX
Explore the history of the iconic Texas soft drink and enjoy interactive exhibits. With nostalgic displays and the history of manufacturing, plan to be a little hungry when you visit. The museum doesn’t take a ton of time. At the end, you’ll be able to visit the soda fountain where you can grab a soft drink or your favorite ice cream treat.
32. Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
100 Texas Ranger Trail Waco, TX
This stop is a uniquely Texan experience. Not to be confused with the baseball team, this museum tells the history of the law enforcement Texas Rangers.
Kid-Friendly Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo, located in West Texas, is in the part of Texas that sticks up. It’s pretty much in between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. There’s a good mix of outdoor fun and indoor fun for families in this area. It’s a good place to stop for a day or two if you’re road tripping.
33. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
11450 Park Road 5, Canyon, TX
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the country after the Grand Canyon. It can make a fantastic family destination, located 25 miles outside of Amarillo. When we went the kids loved horseback riding in the canyon. There is also a zipline adventure available and a whole dinner-theater experience.
For unique lodging you can check out their Cowcamp Cabins- there are several on the canyon rim and several on the canyon floor.
34. Cadillac Ranch
13651 I-40 Frontage Rd Amarillo, TX
The kids will not forget about their trip to Cadillac Ranch. How could you forget a bunch of cars sticking out of the ground that you can spray paint?! The tweens and teens will love this both for the photo ops and the ability to graffiti things. Bring your own spray paint. The smell is strong so it may be too much for little ones.
Read More: Tips for Visiting Cadillac Ranch
More Kid-Friendly Fun in Texas
There you have it, some family fun in Texas. There are of course so many more options- exploring all of Texas would take years. We’ve got so many other Texas resources for families. If you’d like to learn more here are more Texas articles to check out.
Fun Things to Do in El Paso with Kids