The Alamo represents 250 years of Texas history and is visited by more than 2.5 million people each year.

Family Vacations in Texas Overview

From the mountains of West Texas to the sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast, families will find it easy to locate the perfect park to explore, scenic trails to hike, and the warmest waters to wade. In a state that spans nearly 270,000 square miles, lists more than 250 counties, and has a population of 22.8 million people, hundreds of other exciting attractions, festivals, and special events are yours to choose from on just about any day of the week.

In the following article, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s major attractions, activities, festivals, museums, and special events. Included is contact information to help you plan your trip as well as photos of each destination. Here’s a preview:

Space Center Houston

Located in the Johnson Space Center complex, Space Center Houston was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering with both entertainment and education in mind.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Considered the biggest and best rodeo in Texas, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has star-quality bull riders, barrel racers, ropers, steer wrestlers, and bucking bronco riders competing for big cash prizes.

Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival

The outlandish Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival features creative and outright crazy-looking vehicles parading through the city streets.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort

Nestled on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resorts’ innovative water rides make use of the river and its fresh spring water.

Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge

1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats blast out of their daytime home beneath Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge every evening.

San Antonio

The Alamo and theme parks, restaurants and riverboat tours -- experience this and more in San Antonio -- one of Texas’ most scenic cities.

Fiesta San Antonio

Fiesta San Antonio is a ten-day event that celebrates San Antonio's diverse culture and recognizes the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto.

SeaWorld

SeaWorld, the world's largest marine life adventure park, is 250 acres of fun in San Antonio, featuring an amusement park, a water park, animal attractions, and live entertainment.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore is the longest span of undeveloped beach in the United States and the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world.

AIA Sandcastle Competition

Every June, about 80 teams of architects, engineers, and students of these two professions each go to work in their own 22325-foot section of beach for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) sand castle-building competition in Galveston.

Austin

In Austin, politics dominate and size really does matter. A collegiate bohemian paradise and the capital city of Texas, Austin also boasts the largest capitol building in the country. Find out why more than half a million people call Austin home, and why they pride themselves on keeping "Austin Weird."

Presidio County Courthouse

The Presidio County Courthouse in the small west Texas town of Marfa is the state's crown jewel. Dominating the horizon for miles, the 1887 Victorian courthouse, clad in pink stucco and capped with an ornate gray dome, is a work of art inside and out.

Texas Gulf Coast

The Texas Gulf Coast offers numerous assets that run the gamut from remote islands to charming Victorian ports. Some of the world’s best beaches, excellent restaurants, unique shopping opportunities, and delightful architecture attract millions of visitors to the region each year.

Lake Amistad

Lake Amistad is an oasis in the Texas badlands. This confluence of the Rio Grande, Devils, and Pecos rivers on the United States-Mexico border has been alive with human activity for thousands of years.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Austin: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit The Un-Texas.
  • Family Vacations in Dallas: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit America's Favorite City.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy Another Off the Wall Production, Inc. Launching a ball, launching a space shuttle -- at Space Center Houston, kids will learn it’s all a matter of physics.

Family Vacations in Texas: Space Center Houston

Where on Earth -- or any other planet, for that matter -- can you dock a space shuttle, touch an authentic moon rock, and watch an astronaut train for a space mission all in the same day? Space Center Houston, that's where.

Located in the Johnson Space Center complex, Space Center Houston was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering with both entertainment and education in mind. It's a perfect place for space buffs to get a close-up look at the country's space program. Younger children enjoy its expansive play areas.

Space Center Houston's interactive exhibits show what life in space is like. Did you ever wonder how astronauts perform simple daily tasks such as eating and bathing in zero gravity? The live demonstrations in the Living in Space module address those questions and many more. The hands-on exhibits demonstrate some of the daily chores that space exploration involves. Kids can attempt tricky tasks such as trying to land a space shuttle and maneuvering a robotic arm to pick up a minute object.

In Kids Space Place, would-be astronauts can take a simulated ride across the moon in a Lunar Rover and test their skills in a re-created Apollo command module. Starship Gallery offers the real deal: The evolution of crewed space flight in the United States is revealed with authentic artifacts from different space missions. You'll see the actual Faith 7 Mercury space capsule and the Gemini 5 spacecraft, as well as an assortment of memorabilia from other space missions. The Astronaut Gallery exhibit displays the largest collection of authentic spacesuits in the world.

The Martian Matrix is a five-story play structure that provides plenty of mazes, tunnels, and passageways that are just perfect for burning off that extra astronaut energy.

The Center's new Robotics exhibit is very popular with young engineering buffs. It allows children to design, build, and program their own robots. Families will also enjoy the virtual reality stations that transport visitors to a space station for a tour, including a simulated space walk. On the exciting Blast Off ride, visitors will experience the thrill of launching into space like a real astronaut.

Space Center Houston boasts the largest IMAX movie theater in Texas. The five-story screen takes you right into the experience of an astronaut undergoing training. For the true space aficionado, check out the Level 9 tour of the space center. Only 12 people per day are admitted on the escorted tour, which takes you right into NASA's control center and onto the observation decks of the neutral buoyancy lab. The tours are available for those 14 and older and include lunch with astronauts who are in training.

Tram tours to Johnson Space Center depart from Space Center Houston every half hour. Some popular attractions include a tour of Rocket Park, which holds a number of the massive NASA rockets that were used in the early days of the space program, and a visit to the Mission Control Center.

Space Center Houston isn't the only attraction in Houston to enthrall kids. In the next article, check out the biggest rodeo in Texas at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The bull riders and fine examples of livestock are sure to entertain.

Space Center Houston Information

Address: 1601 NASA Pkwy

Houston, TX

Telephone: 281/244-2100

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. weekends

Admission: $18.95 adults; $14.95 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo attracts nearly two million annually.

Family Vacations in Texas: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The biggest and best rodeo in Texas has star-quality bull riders, barrel racers, ropers, steer wrestlers, and bucking bronco riders competing for big cash prizes. The livestock show attracts the top stars of the animal world and features some of the finest examples of cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, rabbits, and llamas.The rodeo and parade, complete with marching bands, giant helium balloons, wagons, clowns, and horseback riders, were incorporated into the livestock show in 1938. The finest popular entertainers perform every evening after the conclusion of the arena events.

Several events are particularly popular with children. The calf scramble is exactly as it sounds: Picture 28 kids running around after 14 calves. Fledgling bronco riders can try their skills on a mechanical bull, or go on pony rides. Kids can also watch pig races and see newborn animals as they attempt their first steps. At Rodeo University, children can meet rodeo athletes who give roping demonstrations and share their experiences.

If denim and cowboy boots doesn't excite you, try visiting the Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival in which people creatively decorate their cars as if they were giant pieces of artwork.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Information

Address: 1 Reliant Park

Houston, TX

Information: 832/667-1000

Hours of Operation: First to third week in March.

Admission: Cost varies

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy Jackie Harris (artist), and Harrod Blank (photographer). More than 200,000 people line Allen Parkway through western downtown to watch Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival.

Family Vacations in Texas: Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival

Pictu­re a car completely covered in singing fish -- that's the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir car -- and it's one of more than 250 outlandishly decorated automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, and other contraptions that are featured in Houston's Everyone's Art Car Parade. This outlandish event features creative and outright crazy-looking vehicles parading through the city streets.

The event, held the second weekend in May, starts on Friday, when art car caravans travel to schools and hospitals. Saturday is parade day, and by 9:00 a.m. the cars are parked in ready position at a tailgater carnival. This part of the festivities allows families to view the cars while enjoying entertainment and food. In the early afternoon, the zany parade winds its way through the streets of Houston, followed by a big street party.

Some entries from previous years may give you an idea of how crazy these cars can get. You might see a car that looks like a giant dolphin, or "R U Game," a car completely covered in game boards and pieces and spouting bubbles from a bubble machine. Other jaw-dropping favorites include a car covered bumper-to-bumper in buttons, a racecar transformed into a sleek metallic lizard, and a car completely covered in grass from a recently mowed yard. Prizes in all types of categories are awarded to the cars on Sunday.

There's an award for Best Classic Car; Best Contraption (which can be just about anything that moves, including couches, lawnmowers, wheelchairs, and even a touring bathtub); Best Lowrider; Best Political Statement; and many others. Parade-goers get to vote for their favorite to decide Everyone's Choice.

For a rollicking good time outdoors, visit Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, featured on the next page, and enjoy tube rides and water rollercoasters.

Everyone's Art Car Parade and Festival Information

Address: State Routes

Taft St. and Allen Pkwy

Houston, TX

Hours of Operation: Second weekend in May

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Schlitterbahn Waterparks The Master Blaster uses a patented systemof water jets to propel its riders throughthe looping and swooping course.

Family Vacations in Texas: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort

Schlitterbahn is nestled on the banks of the spring-fed Comal River in New Braunfels, about 175 miles west of Houston, near San Antonio. Its natural setting amid towering trees gives it a unique character among water parks. Several of the rides make use of the river and its fresh spring water.

The Ragin' River Tube Chute transports riders through a tube and into twisting turns, then spills them out into another ride called the Congo River. Three of the park's water coasters actually shoot riders uphill, including the six-story Master Blaster. Many water park enthusiasts believe that this ride is the best of its kind.

There are six shallow-water playgrounds for younger children, some featuring activities such as padded tube slides, pirate ships with play features, and a five-story water funhouse. Older kids have plenty of thrill rides to sample, including the surfing simulation Boogie Bahn and a tidal wave river. Visitors can stay in lodgings in the park that overlook the river and rides.

If glimpses of nature in an urban environment fascinate you, learn more about bat watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge, featured on the next page.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort Information

Address: 305 W. Austin St

New Braunfels, TX

Telephone: 830/625-2351

Hours of Operation: Hours vary

Admission: $38.43 adults; $31.33 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Mexican free-tailed bats take flight off Congress Avenue Bridge during bat watching season.

Family Vacations in Texas: Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge

Bat-viewing veterans debate the best place to see the 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that blast out of their daytime home beneath Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge every evening. Some think it's best to stand or even lie down on the riverbank and look up as the sky darkens with the largest urban bat colony in North America. Others like to stand on the bridge for the panoramic view. Many tourists take to the water on Town Lake and reserve a place on a bat-viewing boat tour to watch the event, which can take as long as 45 minutes.

The bats began congregating in Austin in the 1980s after the bridge underwent structural changes. The construction provided just the right kind of crevices for them to hang out in (literally) during the day. Austinites reacted with fear and loathing until they learned that the bats consume between 10 and 15 tons of insects -- including mosquitoes -- each night. The bats begin their migration to Austin in early March and give birth to their pups in June. They spend the summer in Austin and head south again in November.

Best known for being the home of the Alamo, San Antonio hosts several family-friendly attractions. Learn more about activities for the whole family in San Antonio on the next page.

Bat Watching at the Congress Avenue Bridge Information

Address: Congress Ave. Bridge

100 Congress Ave

Austin, TX

Telephone: 512/327-9721

Hours of Operation: June to September evenings

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Austin: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit The Un-Texas.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

San Antonio’s lively downtown area is known for its Riverwalk, a tree-lined, flower-filled oasis of cool walkways, shops, and cafes located along the river.

Family Vacations in Texas: San Antonio

This Texas city has been shaped by many cultures. Its Wild West roots are evident, but you'll find a wonderful blend of Native American, Spanish, German, African-American, Asian, French, Polish, Irish, Mexican, and Czech diversity throughout San Antonio. This mix of nationalities results in a busy calendar of ethnic festivals, a wonderful selection of restaurants, and a down-home friendliness that says "Howdy" to its visitors.

For the sake of convenience, plan to find lodgings in the downtown area, where everything is a short walk or trolley ride away. You'll be near the famous Paseo del Rio, or Riverwalk, where giant cypress trees shade 2.5 miles of meandering pathways, shops, and sidewalk café’s along the San Antonio River. Kids enjoy seeing the city from a river's view. Riverboats with narrated tours travel back and forth throughout the day and evening.

One of San Antonio's most famous landmarks is the Alamo, immortalized by the rallying cry "Remember the Alamo!" as Texas fought for independence from Mexico. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were among the brave defenders of the mission who died during the battle. Before touring the fort, stop at the IMAX theater across the street see the docudrama Alamo...The Price of Freedom to understand the events that unfolded there.

There's plenty more to do in this scenic city. Billed as the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico, bustling Market Square is filled with mariachi bands; restaurants featuring fresh fajitas, tamales, and gorditos; and shops selling everything from pottery to pinatas. Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a theme park with thrilling rides, country-western music shows, and a water park.

San Antonio's SeaWorld has an aquarium with animal shows, an amusement park and a water park. The 750-foot-high Tower of the Americas at HemisFair Park, site of the 1968 World's Fair, offers rides to its top. There you'll find a wonderful view of the city and a restaurant. Another family favorite is Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort.

San Antonio offers one of the best city-wide parties in all of Texas. To learn more about this celebration, which showcases music from around the world and parades, check out the next page.

San Antonio Information

Address: Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau

203 S. St. Mary's St., 2nd floor

San Antonio, TX San

Telephone: 800/447-3372

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Austin: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit The Un-Texas.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy Fiesta San Antonio Commission. Beautiful bows and twirling taffeta add to the colorful Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade.

Family Vacations in Texas: Fiesta San Antonio

This big ol' Texas house party is held every April. It's a ten-day event that celebrates San Antonio's diverse culture and recognizes the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Numerous ethnic groups have contributed to the rich culture and history of Texas, and just about every one of them is honored during the fiesta. More than 100 events are held throughout the city, including three distinctly different parades, each one worth seeing.

The first Battle of Flowers Parade took place in the late 19th century when a group of women in decorated horse-drawn carriages paraded in front of the Alamo and pelted each other with flower blossoms. That event was the beginning of the Fiesta, which continues today. You can still see costumed ladies tossing petals during the parade, which also features flower-covered floats, horse-drawn carriages, and high school and military bands from all over the United States.

The floats in the Texas Cavaliers River Parade really do float -- down the San Antonio River -- in this unusual water parade. The Famous Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade is a glowing splendor that features illuminated floats and marching bands performing precision drills. Vendors sell a variety of foods along each parade route -- be sure to try the famous San Antonio "raspas" (snow cones) and delicious roasted sweet corn.

Music is a big part of the celebration, and mariachi, nortea, and German polka bands play throughout the festival. During four nights of the fiesta mariachi groups perform on the river as they drift along the Paseo Del Rio on colorful floats.

Children's events are seamlessly woven into the fiesta: A Taste of New Orleans features food and music from the Big Easy along with a children's play area. One day is devoted to a Children's Festival with live entertainment, interactive games, face painting, clowns, storytelling, miniature golf, and wildlife exhibits. Another family favorite, the Fiesta Pooch Parade, features canines of all types decked out in fiesta garb.

Fiesta Fantasies is a staple of the festival. It takes place in Market Square and continues through all ten days of the event. People come to dine on local specialties and watch dancers and music performances of many different genres, including tejano, jazz, and country-western, on any one of the six stages. The final event of the night features nonstop live entertainment, a children's carnival, aerial acrobatics, and military pageantry. The fiesta's grand finale is a fireworks display.

If marine animals pique your interest, check out Sea World in San Antonio, featured on the next page. It's the world's largest water park and is home to Shamu, the killer whale.

Fiesta San Antonio Information

Address: Market Square

514 W. Commerce

San Antonio, TX

Telephone: 210/227-5191, 877/723-4378

Hours of Operation: Starts the third Friday in April and continues through the fourth week

Admission: Cost varies

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Austin: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit The Un-Texas.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo coutesy of Dreamstime Dolphin shows are just a fraction of the enjoyment you’ll experience at SeaWorld.

Family Vacations in Texas: SeaWorld

It's a four-in-one experience at the world's largest marine life adventure park. SeaWorld is 250 acres of fun in San Antonio, featuring an amusement park, a water park, animal attractions, and live entertainment.World-famous killer whale Shamu shows off surprisingly graceful jumping skills, performing in a special stadium that has an overhead camera and plenty of splashing. In the comical sea lion show, The Cannery Row Caper, pinniped stars Clyde and Seamore reveal a great appetite for solving a disappearing fish mystery.

Dolphin shows and beluga whale performances are also popular, as are the daring water-ski stunt shows. A water park keeps young visitors cool during the heat of the day, with daredevil slides and water play areas for little kids.

The fun continues with classic amusement park rides such as an inverted steel roller coaster and a Ferris wheel. Animal exhibits include a 450,000-gallon shark habitat, penguins, lorikeets, and much more.

On the next page, check out a more low-key type of family vacation -- relaxing on the sandy beaches of Padre Island National Seashore.

SeaWorld Information

Address: 10500 SeaWorld Drive

San Antonio, TX

Telephone: 800/700-7786

Hours of Operation: Times vary

Admission: $48.99 adults; $38.99 kids (ages 3-9)

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Austin: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit The Un-Texas.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Padre Island National Seashore is comprised of dunes of fine white sand, grasslands, saltwater marshes, and wildlife.

Family Vacations in Texas: Padre Island National Seashore

The pristine beaches, wind-sculpted dunes, and saltwater marshes of Padre Island National Seashore stretch for 80 miles along the Gulf of Mexico. It's the longest span of undeveloped beach in the United States and the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. A major migratory bird flyway is found here, making this area one of the prime bird-watching regions in the world. A boardwalk stretches over a section of wetlands where kids can observe some of the many bird species that occupy the seashore.

Padre Island National Seashore is a fishing enthusiast's paradise. It offers speckled trout, black drum, redfish, and flounder. The saltwater lagoon between the island and the mainland is a perfect place to learn to windsurf -- it's only three to five feet deep with a soft, sandy bottom. Pack a picnic and watch one of the world-class windsurfing competitions held throughout the year.

On the next page, find out about other beach activities, such as the American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition, hosted in Galveston.

Padre Island National Seashore Information

Address: 20402 Park Rd. 22

Corpus Christi, TX

Telephone: 361/949-9951

Hours of Operation: Dawn to Dusk

Admission: $10 per vehicle or $5 per person

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Photo courtesy AIA Houston. The American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition is the largest event of its kind in the United States.

Family Vacations in Texas: AIA Sandcastle Competition

Every June, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) sponsors a sand castle-building competition in Galveston that puts all others to shame. On the day of the event, about 80 teams of architects, engineers, and students of these two professions each go to work in their own 22325-foot section of beach. They have just five hours to sculpt their creations. Past exhibits have included towers, walls, characters, monuments, and an assortment of innovative surprises.

The designs have become so complicated and detailed that some teams use large molds, scaffolding, tampers, and tiny clay sculpting tools during the creative process. The results of their painstaking efforts are elaborate, often humorous, eccentric creations that frequently reflect current attitudes.

Many contestants bring blueprints to guide them in the construction of their work. Their creations are judged on concept, artistic execution, technical difficulty, carving technique, and utilization of the site. Additional awards, such as Most Hilarious, Most Lifelike, and Public Favorite, are also given out.

AIA Sandcastle Competition Information

Address: East Beach

Seawall Blvd. and E. Beach Dr

Galveston, TX

Telephone: 713/520-0155

Hours of Operation: First Saturday in June, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Family Vacations in Houston: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Space City.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

The Texas State Capitol and Capitol Grounds are the most popular tourist attractions in the capital of Texas.

Family Vacations in Texas: Austin

Austin stands out from most Texan metropolises. With more than 650,000 people, this is no small town (though it's certainly much smaller than Dallas and Houston).

Austin has a Bohemian aura, due in part to the University of Texas campus. And politics prevail here: Austin is Texas's capital city, and its capitol building is the largest in the country. The aroma of barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine hangs in the air, and the nightclub-lined Sixth Street is one of the best spots for live music in the entire world.

Then there are the 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that hang from the downtown Congress Avenue Bridge, which spans the Colorado River. Crowds gather from March through November to watch them emerge en masse at sunset. It's hard to capture the city's laid-back vibe in words. Maybe the city's unofficial slogan, seen on T-shirts and Volkswagen bumpers all over town, says it best: "Keep Austin Weird."

Austin Information

Address: Visitor Center

209 E. Sixth St

Austin, TX

Telephone: 866/GO-AUSTIN

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Austin City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Austin.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

©Brianne Karabetsos. The Presidio County Courthouse regained its original splendor after a 2001 restoration. The gray dome is topped with a statue of Lady Justice.

Family Vacations in Texas: Presidio County Courthouse

Texas is home to some of the United States' most majestic courthouses, and the Presidio County Courthouse in the small west Texas town of Marfa is the state's crown jewel. Dominating the horizon for miles, the 1887 Victorian courthouse, clad in pink stucco and capped with an ornate gray dome, is a work of art inside and out. The observation deck on the fifth floor is open to the public and offers a sublime view of Marfa, which is known for its cattle, minimalist art, and starring role as the setting for the classic film Giant.

Legend has it that in the 1890s a convicted outlaw managed to shake free of his captors and fire off a shot at Lady Justice, perched atop the courthouse's dome. His bullet took out the scales that were in the statue's hands as he cried, "There is no justice in this country!" The Presidio County Courthouse was thoroughly restored in 2001. The price tag for the job: $2.5 million, or about 40 times the original budget of $60,000 to build it. The only thing that wasn't refurbished was Lady Justice's still-missing set of scales.

Presidio County Courthouse Information

Address: 320 N. Highland St

Marfa, TX

Telephone: 432/729-4942

Continue to the next page for details on family vacations in the remote islands of the Texas Gulf Coast.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

©South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. The USS Lexington, a World War II Essex Class aircraft carrier, was decommissioned in 1991 and converted to a naval aviation museum in Corpus Christi.

Family Vacations in Texas: Texas Gulf Coast

The Texas Gulf Coast is in many ways the United States' forgotten coast, lacking the hype of the East and West coasts. However, its numerous assets run the gamut from remote islands to charming Victorian ports. Galveston Island was once the state's commercial center, but after it was devastated by a massive hurricane in 1900, many businesses moved to Houston. While the population boomed inland, Galveston recovered and evolved into a resort area.

The Strand National Historic Landmark District lies at the cultural center of Galveston. Once known as the "Wall Street of the Southwest," it is now chock-full of antique stores, restaurants, and art galleries, and its buildings feature abundantly delightful architecture. To the south, Corpus Christi hosts beautiful beaches and the Texas State Aquarium.

About 43 miles to the southeast, North Padre Island, designated a national seashore in 1962, is said to be the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped barrier island on the planet. Subtropical South Padre Island is more developed and has been called the "Tip of Texas." It is host to many resorts, a thriving sport-fishing industry, and idyllic beaches.

Texas Gulf Coast Information

Address: Galveston Island Visitors Centers

2027 61st St

Galveston, TX

Telephone: 888/425-4753 Ext. 144

Continue to the next page for details on family vacations in popular Lake Amistad.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Houston City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Houston.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

The Pecos Bridge spans the Pecos River near where it feeds into Lake Amistad. An overlook reveals the dazzling Pecos River below.

Family Vacations in Texas: Lake Amistad

Lake Amistad is an oasis in the Texas badlands. This confluence of the Rio Grande, Devils, and Pecos rivers on the United States-Mexico border has been alive with human activity for thousands of years. The limestone canyons of the Lower Pecos region have been trafficked by people for more than 10,000 years. In their travels, these people left behind one of the world's most spectacular collections of rock art. The artifacts are scattered throughout nearly 250 known sites that include some of North America's largest multihued rock paintings.

In 1969, the rivers were dammed here, creating Lake Amistad. The 67,000-acre reservoir extends up the Rio Grande for 74 miles, Devils River for 24 miles, and Pecos for 14 miles. The shoreline wraps around 850 miles, and many people are enticed by the striking blue water, which is extraordinarily clear due to the lack of loose soil. Visitors can traverse the lake on watercraft of all kinds. Many people enjoy fishing for behemoth catfish and bass, swimming, and scuba diving. Atop the six-mile Amistad Dam is a bridge that connects the United States to Mexico. Its center is marked by a pair of eagle statues, one on each side of the official border.

Lake Amistad Information

Address: 9685 W. Hwy. 90

Del Rio, TX

Telephone: 830/775-7491

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: $4 per day

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Houston City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Houston.
  • Texas State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Texas, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.