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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/" data-lazy-src=

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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/" data-lazy-src=

 

 

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/" data-lazy-src=

 

 

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. 

 

Many of these expe­ri­ences could be booked in advance through Via­tor and if you want to stay near any of these attrac­tions, be sure to find the best deal and read what oth­er fam­i­lies thought of the hotels in the area through Tri­pAd­vi­sor.

 

  • 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!