Old City Park (Dallas): Modern Dallas gleams with skyscrapers and a love for newness, but its Western heritage lives on museum-like in this facsimile of the Old West, a 13-acre park of historic buildings. Mounted like a late-19th-century village, it has a redbrick Main Street, Victorian homes, train depot, general store, one-room church, schoolhouse, and bank. The "Living Farmstead" re-creates a 19th-century prairie with actors in period garb.
The Stockyards (Fort Worth): Far from a dry old historic district, the Stockyards come alive with the flavor of the Old West. Kids will adore the twice-daily "cattle drive" of the Fort Worth Herd, which rumbles down the cobbled main drag, led by cowhands in 19th-century duds. They'll also love to find their way around the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, a human maze made to look like old cattle pens.
Fort Worth's Children's Museums (Fort Worth): The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is large and multifaceted, with a domed IMAX theater, a planetarium, and great hands-on science displays. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame teaches little cowgirls and cowboys about pioneering women of the American West, but in a way that really brings the culture to life: Jukeboxes pump out country tunes, and kids can ride a simulated bucking bronco, see the film of their adventure on the museum's website, and get their pictures superimposed on Old West film posters. And the Fort Worth Zoo is one of the best in the country.
Arlington: Sandwiched between Dallas and Fort Worth is a kids' suburban dream world: Stumble from the roller coasters at Six Flags Over Texas to the water slides at Hurricane Harbor, visit Ripley's Believe It or Not and the Palace of Wax, and pay your respects to baseball's greats at the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Space Center Houston (Houston): Always the most popular attraction in the city, NASA's Space Center Houston is a joint effort powered by NASA technology and Disney know-how. It is the epitome of interactive display and simulation that manages to fascinate both kids and parents. During your visit, check out what's going on at the Johnson Space Center through a tram ride and video feeds.
The Gulf Side of South Padre Island: Fine white sand and warm water lapping at your toes -- what more do you want? Although the shore is lined with hotels and condos, the beaches are public and open to everyone.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas (San Antonio): Major thrill rides, a huge swimming pool shaped like Texas, and entertainment/food areas with Texas history themes -- there's something for every family member at this theme park, and it's even slightly educational.
The Austin Bats: Most adults and kids tend to finds bats a bit creepy -- until they learn more about them, that is. From March to November, you can watch thousands of bats emerge in smoky clouds from under the Congress Avenue Bridge, and find out why Austinites adore the little critters.
Balmorhea State Park: This is one of the crown jewels of the Texas state parks and also one of the smallest, at 45 acres. The main attraction is the massive, 1 3/4-acre swimming pool -- 3.5 million gallons of water at a fairly constant 74°F (23°C). Not your usual swimming pool, it's teeming with small fish and laden with rocks. Swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are all popular. At a reconstructed cienega (desert wetland) you may spot native wildlife such as a Texas spiny soft-shell turtle, a blotched water snake, or a green heron.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.