Texas is a good choice for a family vacation, but because of its sheer size, it's best to pare back the car time from your itinerary. The major cities have plenty of kid-friendly attractions and pursuits, so adjust your time in each place accordingly: Families with budding astronauts will want to dedicate a whole day to Space Center Houston; other families might want to spend more time in the attraction-packed suburb of Arlington.
Day 1: Arrive in Dallas
Dallas is a good starting point for any Texas trip. Rent a car if you don't already have one, and pick lodging accessible to the attractions you want to see in either city and get your bearings. In Dallas, visit the Old City Park and make an excursion to Fair Park. Eat at Fireside Pies or Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse, both family-friendly mainstays in Big D.
Day 2: Explore Arlington & Fort Worth
Arlington is a top Texas family destination, located roughly midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. The suburb is home to such attractions as Six Flags Over Texas and the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum at the home stadium of the Texas Rangers. You can combine the day with some time in Fort Worth, or bypass Arlington altogether if your kids are old enough to appreciate the fantastic art museums in Fort Worth. The Cowtown Cattlepen Maze and the Fort Worth Zoo are good bets for kids of all ages. That night, stay in Fort Worth after dinner at Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Dishes.
Days 3-4: Explore Houston
Get a good start on your drive to Houston, because there is plenty to see and do in the 2 days you'll spend there: Space Center Houston, the Children's Museum of Houston, the Orange Show, the Downtown Aquarium, the Kemah Boardwalk, and the Museum of Health & Medical Science are all worthy destinations. Lupe Tortilla is a reliable kid-friendly restaurant in town.
Days 5-6: Explore the Gulf Coast & Padre Island National Seashore
Drive down the Gulf Coast from Houston to Corpus Christi and spend time at Padre Island National Seashore, a great spot to spend a couple of days and burn off some steam swimming, fishing, flying kites, and otherwise playing in the surf and sun.
Day 7: Explore Austin or San Antonio
To cap off your Texas family vacation, take your pick of the Alamo and HemisFair Park in San Antonio or Zilker Park, the Texas State Capitol, and the Austin Children's Museum in Austin. If you can extend your trip by a few days, you can do both cities better justice.
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