Texas is an awesome state with plenty to do for all ages and all groups and from: family holidays to high school trips to adventure trips; whatever you’re into, Texas has something to suit.
Check out the following day-trip suggestions that will help to get you into a Lone Star state of mind:
Space Cadets: NASA Space Center
It doesn’t matter whether you’re old enough to remember Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon or too young to remember Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story – Space is fascinating for all ages. The NASA Space Center in Houston is the official visitor’s center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the only place in the world where you can see astronauts train for missions. Hands on activities include ‘The Feel of Space’ gallery, which simulates working and living in the zero-gravity environment of space, while the Starship Gallery has an exhaustive collection of artifacts from America’s first forays into space to the present day.
Water Babies: Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark
The waterpark covers 15 acres, so you could spend an entire day here and still not be bored! Adrenalin junkies should check out the Boogie Bahn, the biggest surfing wave in America. Other rides such as Gale Force, Storm Chaser and Sea Blaster offer high speed fun, but there’s also relaxed paddling areas. Sea Trek is an underwater diving experience where guests can view the ocean through a diving helmet without ever leaving the park. Avoid going in July and early August as this is peak season, and avoid Saturdays all summer. The waterpark has a reasonably priced restaurant on site, but those watching the dollars can take a picnic and relax in the sunbathing areas.
Sports Lovers: The Cotton Bowl Stadium
A visit to The Cotton Bowl Stadium in Texas is a worthy day trip at any time of the year- it holds a massive 90,000 people, was built in 1929, and is a local icon. But if you’re visiting Texas around Christmas, you should definitely pencil the Ticket City Bowl, the successor of the Cotton Bowl Classic. It’s a post season college football game, and for travellers seeking the authentic, it doesn’t get more American than that. It also has a jaw-dropping halftime spectacle which includes a marching band show, jazz bands and parades. Schools from all over America come to take part and compete, which means the standard is incredibly high. Go team!
Animal Lovers: Gladys Porter Zoo
Around 375,000 people visit Gladys Porter Zoo annually, to see almost 400 animals species. The zoo is divided geographically- into Africa, Asia, Tropical America and Indo-Australia. Separately, there is also a Bear Grotto, Macaw Canyon and a Komodo Dragon exhibit. As well as the ‘usual’ zoo animals, such as lions, crocodiles, and giraffes, Gladys Porter is also home to a variety of animals you mightn’t have even heard of, such as gaur, bontebok, bongo, kudu and zebu. Especially for the younger members of your travelling party, Small World has a nursery and a park where kids can get close to domestic animals. Plus, you can even feed the giraffes!
Wannabe Cowboys: A Riding Dude Ranch
A dude ranch is a cattle ranch that has been converted to a vacation resort. This being Texas, families have scores to choose from, whether you’re looking for a down’n’dirty experience or a relaxing resort with a little horse riding on the side. At a working dude ranch, you can fully immerse yourself in the daily activities of the ranch, including mucking out stalls and herding cattle. At the other end of the scale, a resort dude ranch has luxurious accommodation and all the mod cons you’d expect in a hotel, with some even offering spa facilities. Most of the dude ranches also have more activities than just horse riding, such as hiking, fishing, rock climbing and even western dancing.
Thrill Seekers: Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park
Over 35 rides are in Six Flags, ranging from the gentle to the bone-rattling. Titan is the pick of the rollercoasters, travelling at 85mph and soaring to 225ft high. The park itself is split into themed regions, including Gotham City, Mexico, France, Old South and Looney Tunes.
Those wanting to take a break from the adrenalin pumping rides can see a show at one of the theatres on site, suitable for all the family. Regular onsite concerts also take place; Brit teen idols The Wanted are playing there this summer, for instance. Entry isn’t cheap, but buying online in advance gives a sizeable discount.
San Antonio has a selection of museums as rich as its very eventful history, so everyone will find one that appeals. The Musea Alameda is the newest museum, and is dedicated to showcasing the Latin American influence of and relationship with the United States through art, cultural and historical exhibitions. Or if the military is more your thing, then the Fort Sam Houston on-base museum tracks the history of the base from 1845 right to the present day, with over 900 historic structures onsite. Or, for a broad look at the history of Texas, visit the Institute of Texan Cultures, which traces the stories of Texas’ 26 ethnic and cultural groups.
If author Laura had gone on some high school trips to Texas, she mightn’t have spent her entire childhood thinking it was exactly like East of Eden.