Big Bend National Park
It is well worth the effort to visit this national park in the Southwest corner of Texas. Big Bend is often described as three parks in one, featuring the Chisos Mountains, Chihuahuan Desert and the Rio Grande River ecosystems. Big Bend is a mecca of flora and fauna and boasts more different species of birds (450), bats (20) and cacti (64) than any other national park in the United States. Here you can float or kayak down the Rio Grande, hike the desert or ride horseback or bike in the mountains.
The Alamo is arguably the most important historical site in Texas, being the site of an important battle in the Texan War of Independence from Mexico. While all of the people fighting on the side of Texas died, including legendary Davy Crockett and James Bowie, it did gain sympathy for the Texan cause by the United States. Visit the museum as part of this attraction. The Alamo is located in San Antonio.
Padre Island National Seashore
Located on the Gulf Coast in South Texas, Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest undeveloped stretch of Barrier Island in the world. Enjoy 70 miles of beaches, dunes, grasslands and tidal flats. You can camp, bike, swim and fish here. View the 380 species of birds or take part in the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle release that occurs 15 to 25 times a year. You can also take a day and visit the Schlitterbahn Beach in South Padre Island, which is one of the top water parks in the country.
The River Walk, also known as Paseo del Rio, in San Antonio offers 35-minute boat rides and guided tours of the area. Dine on one of the many river boats. Stroll the 2-mile walk lined with shops, restaurants, galleries, hotels and nightlife lining the shore. Or hop a river taxi to your destination. This may be a nice way to end your visit to the Alamo.
Houston Space Center
The Houston Space Center offers a wide variety of activities to learn about space and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Take the Level 9 tour to see the real world of NASA up close. Only 12 tickets are available a day, so reserve in advance. A free lunch is provided in the Astronauts cafeteria for these individuals. The Space Center Theater provides information about our space program. Visit the Blast Off Theater for a realistic simulation. Enjoy the Kids Space Place. Tour the Astronaut and Starship Galleries. Take a NASA tram tour. See what life would be like in space in the Feel of Space exhibit.
The Forbidden Gardens is located in Katy, approximately 25 miles from Houston. It is a museum of Chinese culture and history as it existed more than 2,000 years ago. It boasts a 1/20 scale model of the Forbidden City. The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang-di, the first emperor, has been replicated in 1/3 scale. This features the 6,000-piece terracotta army. Additionally, it features a scale model of the city of Suzhou as well as replicas of ancient Chinese weaponry, architecture and methods of transportation.
Moody Gardens, located on Galveston Island in Texas, features three pyramids. One pyramid contains a gigantic aquarium with more than 1 million gallons of water. A second holds a rain forest exhibit scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2011. The third, the Discovery Pyramid, is a science center. In addition to the pyramids, there are three theater experiences, an Imax 3D, a 4D special FX and a "ridefilm" experience. Palm beach offers lagoons and waterfalls, spas and beach volleyball. Enjoy the "Splashpad" where you can play with dump buckets, spray arches and fountains.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Dinosaur Valley State Park, located in Glen Rose, southwest of Dallas, offers some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world. This 1524.72-acre park additionally offers camping, picnicking, hiking and mountain biking. You can swim in the river, fish and observe wildlife. Equestrian use is in a separate 100-acre area. You can pick up a bird list at park headquarters.
Cascade Caverns is located in Boerne, near San Antonio. You can take a 1-hour guided tour through this living cavern, which also features a 100-foot underground waterfall. The bones of a mastodon, a saber-toothed tiger, bison, and other more recent animals have been found here. Additionally, they have unearthed Indian artifacts and the remains of guns. The cave is home to some unusual insects and animals. Hike the nature trails above ground in the 105-acre park with a wide variety of plants and animals as well. Stay in the campground, which offers a wide variety of amenities.
Fossil Rim Natural Area
Located near Glen Rose, southwest of Dallas, you can combine a visit here with one to the Dinosaur Valley State Park. Fossil Rim offers a 9.5-mile drive through a 1,700-acre animal preserve. You can take a guided tour or drive on your own. Stop and dine in the middle of the drive, in the Overlook Café offering breathtaking views. Buy the animal-appropriate food at the park and feed the animals right out of your car. Visit the children's animal center. Stay at the lodge or in the Safari camp, where you can observe animals as they come to the watering hole at dusk and dawn.