Texas boasts an impressive number of museums, many of which are geared toward children. These kid-friendly museums offer families a fun and educational experience to add to their Texas vacation itinerary.
Whether you're in Austin and want to check out the exciting newly-redesigned Children's Museum known as The Thinkery or in Houston and want to let your children explore the wonders of space at the Johnson Space Center, no matter where you are in Texas, you're sure to find a great museum you and your kids both will enjoy.
Remember that museums are typically open extended hours on weekends, but most are closed on federal holidays. Be sure to check out the associated websites for each museum before you plan your trip for information on hours of operation, pricing, and holiday closures.
The Austin's Children's Museum is the place to take the kids while visiting the state's capital—perfect for a day of learning while having fun—and recently it's been renamed The Thinkery. With exhibits like "Currents," which features watery science kids can see, feel, and hear; the "Innovators' Workshop" where kids can make stop-motion animations, use microscopes, and even work in a functional chemistry lab (safe for kids); and the "Spark Shop," which lets kids discover the concepts of aerodynamics and flight, this museum is worth a full day of exploration.
Rated the second-best children's museum in the country, the Children's Museum of Houston has more exhibits, displays, and educational resources than you and the kids can possibly get to in one day. Their newest exhibit is called the Special Elite Crime Resolution and Espionage Team (S.E.C.R.E.T.), which allows kids to become detectives to snoop out clues, crack codes, and outsmart villains in an interactive spy museum.
Don't miss an opportunity to tour Johnson Space Center or get "the feel of space" while visiting Houston. The Kids Space Place at the Johnson Space Center is designed to give youngsters a chance to experience what the astronauts do, and with more than 400 things to explore, students can get an up-close look at real science, math, and technology like the astronauts use.
Named in honor of late Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, the Bullock Story of Texas Museum has several interactive displays geared to youngsters, especially those interested in history and culture. Featuring standard Texas history galleries and art collections alongside exciting new exhibits like "Pong to Pokémon: The Evolution of Electronic Gaming," this museum is a great way to spend the day in Austin.
Featuring a planetarium, OMNI IMAX theater, special events like the celebrity lecture series and Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, and a rotating and permanent collection of exhibits, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is a one-stop shop for education in the DFW Metroplex. Check out the new DinoLabs and DinoDig exhibit or catch one of the newest blockbuster releases in the huge IMAX theater—no matter what you do, your kids are sure to enjoy this unique museum.
The San Antonio Children's Museum, now known as the DoSeum, is located in downtown San Antonio and offers a wide array of displays and hands-on, interactive educational exhibits. Highlights include the “Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action" display, where kids are trained to be the next "Action Heroes" and learn to start healthy habits in their lives.
Featuring 11 exhibit halls, state-of-the-art technology and displays, a great series of events and special programs, and 3D films at the Hoglund Foundation Theater (a National Geographic experience), the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas is one of the best museums in the country for innovations in museum displays. Kids can feel an earthquake, build a robot, take part in real science experiments, and even create their own virtual dinosaurs.
Located between San Antonio and Austin, the small town of New Braunfels is home to the McKenna Children's Museum, which features an interactive "Kid's Clinic," a hands-on outdoor water table, an aquarium, a completely-stocked kids' grocery store (with plastic food items), the "Lend-A-Hand Ranch," and many more exhibits. If you're traveling around the state, this special destination is definitely worth a stop!
Since 2002, the Northeast Texas Children's Museum has hosted thousands of kids from around the world as they creatively explore hands-on exhibits and take part in interactive workshops and classes about science, history, art, and living. Throughout the year, the museum also brings out its own 8-foot inflatable, walk-through lung exhibit called the MEGA Lung that allows students to learn more about the lung, its functions, and health problems related to asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism.
You get three-for-one when visiting Ripley's Haunted Adventure, Guinness World Records, and the Tomb Raider 3D Museums and Exhibits located at 329 Alamo Plaza in San Antonio. Inside Ripley's, experience a multi-million dollar haunted house with live actors and special effects—which may not be appropriate for children under 12 years of age. For the younger crowd, head over to the Guinness Book of World Records Museum, where kids can even try to beat a world record on their visit! At the Tomb Raider 3D experience, kids of all ages can enjoy the ride then stay for the arcade games afterward.