When most people think about Texas, cowboys, the wild west, and the rodeo spring to mind. While there’s no doubt you can find each of these in every corner of the state, Texas has much more to offer vacationers. Its art, music, history, and natural attractions rival any other region in the U.S.
Texas is known worldwide for its southern hospitality. It’s a beautiful place to visit with the entire family, offering everything from beach vacations to short city breaks. As a bonus, Lone Star State provides tremendous value for money, even in its major cities.
Vacation Spots In Texas For Families
If you’re looking for family vacation ideas, Texas should rank highly on your list. They say that “everything is bigger in Texas.” But we say that everything is in Texas. From world-class cuisine to amusement parks and from luxury resorts to budget beach holidays, your choices are endless.
The hardest part of planning your vacation is deciding what type of trip you’re after. So, to help you with your decision, we’ve outlined a wide range of ideas, including unique Texas getaways, budget holidays, and weekend breaks. Whatever your budget, we’ve got some excellent suggestions.
Unique Texas Getaways For Families
Texas is a unique place filled with proud people. It’s loud yet kind, traditional yet authentic, and has to be seen to be truly appreciated. If you’re after a Texas family vacation experience you won’t get elsewhere, consider one of the following unique getaways.
Big-Bend National Park
Big-Bend National Park is one of the state’s finest treasures. Located near the Chihuahuan Desert at the Mexican border, the park is highly isolated. Because of this, it’s kept in pristine condition year-round, offering simply breathtaking nature and scenery.
Big-Bend is a fantastic family vacation destination if your kids are old enough to enjoy the various outdoor activities the region offers. The park spans 800,000 acres and combines rivers, deserts, and mountainous terrain.
Experienced outdoors families can enjoy exploring the Rio Grande Canyon, the Boquillas Canyons, the Colorado Canyon, and Santa Elana, the deepest shaded valleys in the park. At night, the clear skies are filled with countless stars. If hiking and camping are your things, Big-Bend is a no-brainer.
That said, Big-Bend is also a fun destination for younger families. While you may not be able to explore the depths of the park, your kids can learn all about nature at the Visitor Center, with its interpretive exhibits, 3D maps, and auditorium. Or you can spend an afternoon soaking in the hot springs.
Some other highlights for kids include kayaking, Junior Ranger programs, black bear spotting, and nature walks. If you’re all tuckered out from the outdoors, take the family along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for an afternoon of sightseeing landmarks and natural habitats.
South Padre Island
South Padre Island is a 34-mile-long haven located on the border of Mexico. It’s one of the best beach vacation destinations (if not the best) in the state and caters perfectly to families. Although, it’s generally best to avoid it during spring break when it’s filled with party-goers.
Aside from the magical sand, clean ocean waves, and relaxing sunshine, there are plenty more reasons to love South Padre. It’s got a waterpark and adventure park, which will keep your kids entertained for days. There’s also a sea turtle rescue center where children can learn about and interact with turtles.
Older families may get more enjoyment from a fishing trip or a dolphin-watching boat tour. One of our favorite activities is walking along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. Keep an eye out for fascinating wildlife, including exotic birds, turtles, butterflies, and sometimes, alligators.
You’ll be glad to learn that South Padre has a lot of accommodations to choose from, whether you’re on the hunt for a fancy hotel or a cheap RV campground. A beach vacation here is possible across a range of budgets.
All-Inclusive Family Resorts In Texas
All-inclusive family resorts aren’t unique to Texas. However, all-inclusive family resorts in Texas are most certainly amazing. The phrase we alluded to earlier about Texas and things being bigger certainly applies here, but the alternatives don’t come cheap.
As a state with multiple world-class cities, it’s no surprise that Texas is home to a range of luxury resorts. If your ideal family vacation involves eating, drinking, and lounging by the pool, an all-inclusive hotel is a perfect place to stay. They require a hefty upfront payment, but you won’t spend a penny once you arrive.
Your first decision is the budget, quickly followed by your accommodation preference. You can opt for a well-known luxury hotels option, like the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa or the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio. Or, be more selective and go with a boutique or rustic hotel.
The Woodlands, outside Houston, is a family-friendly 4-star resort with multiple pools, kids’ entertainment, a poolside movie theater, two championship golf courses, tennis courts, waterslides, a spa, and several fantastic restaurants. Choose from an array of rooms according to your budget.
For a unique Texas feel, check out Doves Rest Cabins in Canyon, TX. The compound consists of several private cabins that cater to families of all sizes, and you can choose between regular or all-inclusive lodgings. Guests may also schedule spa services at their cabins.
The standout attractions of the Doves Cabins are the views of Palo Duro Canyon. Fun activities for the kids include horseback riding, trail hiking, ziplining, and live musical performances with a backdrop of the Canyon. Prepare to have your breath taken away.
Family Vacations In Texas On A Budget
Family vacations can get pricey quickly, especially if you have multiple kids. But no need to worry. There are plenty of budget-friendly holiday options in Texas. In fact, several of Texas’s major cities are regarded as some of the best value-for-money towns in the country.
So, forget about luxury, all-inclusive resorts for now. Below, I’ve outlined several ways to enjoy Texas on a budget. Moreover, each of these options is a city so you won’t run out of fun things to do.
Waco may not be the first place you think of when planning a Texas trip, but it’s fast becoming one of the most popular getaway spots. One of the main reasons for its spike in tourism is the availability of quality free attractions and low-cost activities.
Cameron Park is a green and picturesque 416-acre site to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. There is always an energetic atmosphere on the grounds; occasionally, it’s a venue for music festivals.
The park has playgrounds, nature trails, paddleboarding, angling spots, and several river viewing points. There are endless green areas for playing sports, with many locals participating in disc golf. Cameron Park Zoo is a must-visit for young families.
Baylor University is another accessible and interesting place to visit in Waco. The magnificent campus is open for self-guided tours. You can even check out specific libraries and departments, like The Texas Collection, an assembly of data and records of the state.
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum is another fun and exciting place to stop by. An added bonus: cheap admission for adults and free entry for children under six. Here, your family can learn all about the history of the Texas Rangers, and your children may even leave as official Junior Texas Rangers.
Our final suggestion in Waco is the Armstrong Browning Library, which features the largest collection of Robert and Elizabeth Browning artwork in the world. Even if you’re not an art fan, the Italian-Renaissance-inspired building with its 63 stained glass windows makes it worthy of a visit.
Houston has been making its way onto must-visit travel lists for several years now. The main reasons are that it has endless things to see and do, top-quality food, and it’s more affordable than other major U.S. cities.
One of our favorite and somewhat unknown things about Houston is its abundance of amazing museums. The cherry on top is that many of these museums are free to enter all year round. In truth, you can make a whole trip around museum visits.
Here are our top picks for free entry museums in Houston:
- The Menil Collection
- Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
- Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University
- Houston Center for Photography
- Holocaust Museum
- Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Several other popular museums are free during certain hours on Thursdays, including:
- Children’s Museum of Houston
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- The Health Museum
You may also get good value from buying CityPASS tickets for your family. These coupons cost less than $65 per person and include prepaid entry to some of the city’s most popular attractions, including the Space Center Houston, the Downtown Aquarium, the Houston Zoo, the Children’s Museum of Houston, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Different sections of Houston are also quite walkable. You can spend several hours strolling through different districts, sampling street food and admiring the work of local street artists and musicians.
Beach vacations are among the best family getaways you can choose from. To boot, you can easily plan a beach holiday on a budget. Corpus Christi is one of our favorite beach cities in Texas, and a family trip to the coast doesn’t have to break the bank.
Although South Padre Island has more of a name for seaside getaways, Corpus Christi’s beaches are just as good. Moreover, it’s a much quieter city, creating a more family-friendly atmosphere. The calm beaches are perfect for relaxing and working on your tan.
The Downtown Seawall is a beautifully built, two-mile promenade overlooking the bay. It’s an inspiring place to stroll, gaze at the water, and capture photos. On either end, you’ll find the Art Museum of South Texas and McGee Beach, which are well worth visiting.
During summer, Corpus Christi gets very hot. If you need a break from the scorching sun, take the family to the Texas State Aquarium, where you can see much sea life, from rare fish to turtles. If you’re brave enough, you can even snorkel with sharks (although this is quite expensive).
Finally, surfing is one of the best ways to enjoy your vacation in Corpus Christie. Board rentals and lessons are relatively cheap and easy to find. We recommend Whitecap Beach, North Beach, and J.P. Luby Surf Park to catch some waves.
Kid-Friendly Weekend Getaways In Texas
Mini Vacations in Texas are often the best idea for families. Weekend getaways mean you can enjoy your trip without worrying about having to stretch every dollar. Many of the ideas outlined above work as the weekend escapes, but here are three more to think about.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park is another remote wonderland just outside the tiny town of Glen Rose, TX. However, it’s just a short drive from Fort Worth, so it’s totally accessible.
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land within and surrounding the park. Today, you and your kids can learn all about this old place and the creatures that lived there. In fact, you can even see real, authentic dinosaur footprints that were uncovered 113 million years after they were laid.
The prints lie below the river bed and belong to an acrocanthosaurus, a prehistoric bipedal predator. Depending on the weather and recent rainfall, you may or may not get to see the prints. However, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center offers plenty of fascinating exhibitions for kids and adults.
Other fun activities in the area include hiking, Ranger programs, park guides, horseback riding, and Barnard’s Mill and Art Museum. There are several excellent campsites available so you can find one that suits your family’s needs.
Austin is undoubtedly Texas’s hottest city right now. Once deemed the state’s hidden gem, there’s no longer any secrecy surrounding this fantastic place. From live music to barbecue and from art exhibitions to outdoor activities, the city has something for everyone.
The beauty of Austin is that it’s very accessible, and you can see a lot in a short visit. Zilker Park, Barton Springs, and the Botanical Gardens are stunning natural pockets within the city limits. Zilker Park is a world of its own, and your kids won’t want to leave.
Before your weekend getaway is up, get to Congress Avenue Bridge before sundown. Millions of bats live underneath the bridge and flee their nests after dark. The sky becomes blackened by the sheer number of bats in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
For a more educational experience, check out the Texas State Capital, the Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the Texas Military Forces Museum. Each of these is located downtown and can be seen daily.
Finally, we can’t recommend visiting Austin without sampling the finest barbecue in the world. The best restaurants are up for debate, but our go-to BBQ joints are Franklin Barbecue and Terry Black’s BBQ. But be warned. You may have to wait in line.
Galveston, TX, is a perfect blend of culture and beach. Located under an hour’s drive from Houston, it’s easy to get to whether you’re flying or driving. Once a highly wealthy city, locals and tourists can now enjoy the magnificent architecture from its heyday.
Galveston is one of the most picturesque cities in the state. The 19th-century buildings are still in place and serve as facades for current restaurants, cafés, and storefronts. You won’t find more pleasant streets to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or even coffee as a family. Make sure to check out the Strand Historic District.
The city is filled with historic neighborhoods and iconic local landmarks. In keeping with the rest of Texas, Galveston also boasts several top museums, such as the Naval Museum. Here, you can see a WWII submarine (USS Cavalla) and a WWII warship (USS Steward).
Aside from historical landmarks, Galveston has many fun activities, including the Aquarium Pyramid, the Moody Gardens, the Freedom Walk, and the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.
Galveston beaches are renowned for their soft sand and calming breeze. All of the city’s beaches have something to offer. However, our picks are East Beach and Stewart Beach. East Beach is lively and fun, with food, drinks, and activities everywhere, while Stewart is a better option for a low-key break.