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As a young couple, my husband and I would power through long drives to see family in Texas. During our road trips, we made a game out of stopping as little as possible, pushing ourselves to the limits of our gas tank. And then something earth-shattering happened. We had kids.

Surviving road trips with kids meant mapping out extra bathroom breaks and food stops. However, these tiny people also pushed us to fill our days with adventure. Soon our boring travel itineraries became epic family road trips, and we found the perfect places to stop and play along the way. If you’re eyeing a Texas family vacation after quarantine, load up the family car or RV and check out these 7 essential locations for awesome family fun.

 

 

 

Dinosaur Valley State Park is one of our favorite photo spots, thanks to the vintage dinosaur statues from the 1964 World’s Fair. Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnich/">Paul Nicholson</a>.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is one of our favorite photo spots, thanks to the vintage dinosaur statues from the 1964 World’s Fair. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Just an hour south of Fort Worth, we found a stop that made our kitschy road trip dreams come true: Dinosaur Valley State Park. (Three words. Giant dinosaur statues.) However, this state park provides much more than a quick photo opportunity. Take a short walk from the dino statues to the nearby river bed to see real, fossilized dinosaur tracks. Tackle more adventures by hiking the park’s trails, splashing in the shallow part of the river, or even saddling up a horse for a trail ride. There are campsites available for tent camping and sites with water and electricity hookups for recreational vehicles.


Recommended Ages: 6 and up

Food options: Bring a picnic from home or grab a snack in the gift shop

Crowd Level: Low

Know Before You Go: Advance reservations may be needed for day passes as well as overnight camping. River levels fluctuate with rainfall. Recent rain might put some of the visible dinosaur tracks out of reach.

 

 

 

The Dallas Children’s Museum on the lower level of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a carefree place for little hands to play.

The Dallas Children’s Museum on the lower level of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a carefree place for little hands to play.

 

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Nestled in the middle of busy, downtown Dallas is a world-class science center, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. From giant dinosaur skeletons to an earthquake simulator, this museum has enough exhibits to keep families with kiddos happy all day. The Dallas Children’s Museum, on the lower level, is a vibrant, safe place to let little ones explore, but there are many hands-on activities throughout the building that are sure to keep tiny hands busy. When I visited with my 8-year-old and 6-year-old plus their 3-year-old cousin, we spent an entire day at the museum with no complaints. On nice weather days, families can explore the playgrounds, splash areas, and food trucks at nearby Klyde Warren Park.

Recommended Ages: All ages
Food options: The museum cafe offers snacks and meals. Baby food and formula may be brought by guests.
Crowd Level: High
Know Before You Go: Admission is free if you have a membership to a museum participating in the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Passport Program

 

Cool treats from Jordan Pharmacy's retro soda fountain are the perfect remedy for a hot summer day.

Cool treats from Jordan Pharmacy’s retro soda fountain are the perfect remedy for a hot summer day.

 

Jordan Pharmacy

During one of our road trips on popular U.S. Route 281, we stumbled across the small town of Hamilton, complete with a historic stone courthouse and a town square. A sign advertising Blue Bell Ice Cream caught our attention and drew us into Jordan Pharmacy. To our delight, we discovered an old-fashioned soda parlor in the back of the store. It proved to be the perfect spot to stretch our legs, grab a snack, and restock on supplies. On long drives across the country, some members of my family can get pretty cranky (yes, me), but there’s nothing a little ice cream won’t fix.


Recommended Ages: All ages
Food options: Ice cream, floats, and other snacks
Crowd Level: Low
Know Before You Go: A tiny public bathroom is available, but reaching it requires climbing stairs. 

 

 

Our kids love fishing, kayaking, and riding jet skis when our family gathers at Lake LBJ.

Our kids love fishing, kayaking, and riding jet skis when our family gathers at Lake LBJ.

 

The Highland Lakes

When our dozens of Texas cousins gather together, we often meet up at Lake LBJ, one of the Highland Lakes in the Texas Hill Country. We play Scrabble, go kayaking, and water ski (or spend the weekend trying to water ski, in my case). While the lakes get crowded with boaters and skiers on weekends and holidays, our family stays tucked away in a private house with a dock. The lakes’ idyllic settings provide the perfect place to relax and unwind.


Recommended Ages: All ages.
Food options: Varies, depending on the area. Plan to stock up on groceries before arrival.
Crowd Level: Low, if renting private lodgings
Know Before You Go: A wide variety of lodgings are available through sites such as Log Country Cove, Heart of Texas Lake Resort, Inks Lake State Park, and Vacasa.

 

Traveling with kids means mapping out extra bathroom breaks and food stops. However, these tiny people also push us to fill our days with adventure.

 

Magical treehouses, a waterworks pavilion, and a splashing creek provide hours of outdoor fun at the DOseum in San Antonio. Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnich/">Paul Nicholson</a>.

Magical treehouses, a waterworks pavilion, and a splashing creek provide hours of outdoor fun at the DOseum in San Antonio. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

The DOseum

When I asked my kids about their favorite stop during our Texas trips, they immediately said The DOseum. This children’s museum in San Antonio features an outdoor area that includes a giant treehouse, a waterworks table, and a huge chess game. Indoors, my kids loved the spy academy, the stop motion animation section, and the Force Course, which allows visitors to design their own ball run with a variety of simple machines. My favorite activity was the two-way video link to a children’s museum in Mexico City that allowed visitors to write messages back and forth.


Recommended Ages: Infant to 12
Food options: A cafe provides snacks and meals. Small snacks and baby food may be brought by guests.
Crowd Level: Medium
Know Before You Go: Discounted tickets are available with ASTC and Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) museum memberships.

 

 

Our family loves to explore downtown San Antonio. The gorgeous River Walk area offers local restaurants as well as familiar chains. Photo by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulnich/">Paul Nicholson</a>.

Our family loves to explore downtown San Antonio. The gorgeous River Walk area offers local restaurants as well as familiar chains. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

 

San Antonio River Walk and the Alamo

Our family always enjoys a walk through downtown San Antonio when we’re in the area. Fans of history will love a visit to the Alamo, the 18th-century Spanish mission that played a critical role in the Texas Revolution. Cross the street to peek at the historic Menger Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders. Then walk a couple of blocks to find the stairs leading down to San Antonio’s famed River Walk, a cool oasis lined with restaurants and a few shops. Ready for even more adventure? Walk back up to street level and go about a mile to Historic Market Square, one of the largest Mexican markets in the United States.


Recommended Ages: 6 and up
Food options: Restaurants along the River Walk; Mexican restaurants and snacks in Market Square (I recommend trying agua fresca from a street vendor or sitting down for a meal at Mi Tierra Cafe).
Crowd Level: High
Know Before You Go: Many of the shops and restaurants around Historic Market Square close at 6 pm. The River Walk has limited elevator access. 

 

 

Our whole family enjoyed Space Center Houston, but my boys especially loved the hands-on activities and games.

Our whole family enjoyed Space Center Houston, but my boys especially loved the hands-on activities and games.

 

Space Center Houston

My family geeks out about space so much that we once bought an annual membership to Space Center Houston, despite living hundreds of miles away (it’s a long story involving Apollo 11). Highlights for our family include touring mission control, walking through the high-security vault housing the world’s largest collection of moon rocks, and listening to an astronaut share about his time on the International Space Station. Even casual fans will enjoy seeing the replica Space Shuttle Independence and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket used in two NASA missions.


Recommended Ages: 5 and up
Food options: A food court offers several meal options. Outside food is not permitted, although guests may use the picnic tables outside the facility.
Crowd Level: High
Know Before You Go: Tram tours of the Apollo-era Mission Control Center require free timed tickets. The last tours depart two hours before the space center closes. Plan ahead.

 

 

Texas road trips have taught me to slow down instead of rushing through life. Adorable towns, fascinating museums, and surprising state parks are just some of what Texas has to offer. When we take the time to stop and explore, amazing family memories may be just around the corner. 

 

  • With any destination, call ahead to learn about COVID-19 restrictions. Some attractions may be temporarily closed.

 

Christy Nicholson is a writer, editor, and recovering perfectionist from Nashville, Tennessee. Despite being an introvert, she has traveled extensively with her extended family, including a memorable overnight train ride with an infant. When at home, she spends her days reading, writing at Any-Worth.com, and wrangling two boys plus a geriatric cat.

 

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If you're taking a family vacation after quarantine, a road trip through Texas will give your family the adventure they've been craving!

 

If you're taking a family vacation after quarantine, a road trip through Texas will give your family the adventure they've been craving!