10 unique, family-friendly ideas for Texas spring break fun

By: Kristin Finan
February, 2024

Even though it may feel as though the holidays just ended, spring break is just around the corner. If you’re looking for some unique, family-friendly ideas for spring break fun, don’t miss this carefully curated list, which spotlights everything from two-stepping your way across Gruene Hall (yes, kids are welcome!) to participating in an active art installation by spray-painting the cars that jut from the ground at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch.

Amarillo: Make your mark at Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch is an interactive art exhibit in Amaraillo, Texas.

The sight of 10 brightly painted Cadillacs spiking out of the ground is fascinating enough, but you can also grab a spray paint can and leave your own mark on this Amarillo art installation, which has been stopping traffic since 1974. While you’re in town – even if you’re just pitstopping on the way to Colorado – see if you can complete the 72-ounce steak challenge at Big Texan Steak Ranch. If you can eat the whole 72-ounce steak, you get it free. https://www.visitamarillo.com

Corpus Christi: Salute the flagship Whataburger

Yes, there’s a flagship Whataburger located in Corpus Christi. Yes, it has an elevator. And yes, it has oceanfront views. This two-story tribute to Texas’ favorite burger chain – and its founder, Harmon Dobson – sits right along the water in downtown Corpus Christi, not far from another must-see attraction: the Mirador de la Flor statue, which honors Tejano music queen Selena Quintanilla-Perez. https://www.visitcorpuschristitx.org

RELATED: 7 family-friendly musts in the Gulf Coast capital

Dallas: Go swimming on the edge at The Joule

The Joule is a stunning, art-filled hotel on Dallas’ Main Street. Contributed by The Joule

It’s easy to feel right at home at The Joule, a stunning downtown Dallas hotel that proves it’s possible to be both chic and family-friendly. Walking through the lobby and hallways feels like visiting an approachable yet beautiful museum thanks to the prized pieces from proprietor Tim Headington that are showcased throughout the building. Perhaps no piece is more spectacular, however, than Tony Tasset’s 30-foot-tall sculpture, “Eye,” which is made out of fiberglass, resin, and steel, and crafted to look like, well, the artist’s own eye. One excellent place to view “Eye,” which sits along Dallas’ Main Street on Joule property, is the hotel’s pool, which functions as a piece of art in its own right. Located on the 10th floor, the 8-foot cantilevered pool juts out over Main Street below, giving visitors the sensation of swimming over the hotel’s edge. https://www.thejouledallas.com/

Galveston: Take a tree sculpture tour

From the tranquil beaches to the bustling Pleasure Pier, Galveston is a no-brainer when it comes to spring break fun. And for a free activity that seamlessly blends history and art, look no further than a self-guided tree sculpture tour. You see, Galveston has seen its share of devastation thanks to hurricanes that frequently ravage its shores, but rather than lamenting their losses, a group of homeowners joined together to create incredible tree sculptures out of that devastation. You can view the sculptures, which incorporate themes including mermaids, dolphins, and even SpongeBob SquarePants, across the island, with many being centered in the city’s East End Historic District. https://www.Galveston.com/treesculpturetour

Gruene: Hit the dancefloor at Gruene Hall

Gruene Hall is a can’t-miss destination between Austin and San Antonio. Contributed

Little Gruene, located between Austin and San Antonio, has become a tourist darling in recent years thanks to its penchant for “gently resisting change,” and the heartbeat of this town is Gruene Hall. Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is the state’s oldest continually operating dancehall and features live music every day. Upcoming performers include Dale Watson, Eli Young Band, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. https://gruenehall.com/

Houston: Wander through the Beer Can House

When people talk about Houston’s art scene, that talk isn’t just limited to museums – there’s also a quirky, experimental, and unexpected vibe here that surprises you when you least expect it. Case in point: the Beer Can House. Started one drink at a time in 1968 by John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Beer Can House is now adorned with an estimated 50,000 beer cans and stands as a monument to recycling. It’s open for tours from 1-5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; reservations are required and admission is $5. Children under 12 are free. https://www.orangeshow.org/beer-can-house

Marfa: Take in the mysterious lights

Are they ghost lights or simply the atmospheric reflections of cars and campfires? To visit Marfa and take in the mysterious Marfa Lights is to join an ongoing conversation about what makes blue, red and white orbs appear randomly each night – regardless of the weather – in this West Texas town. https://www.visitmarfa.com/marfa-lights

Port Aransas: Learn how to build the perfect sandcastle

Port Aransas is famous for its sandcastles, and you can learn to build them when you visit, too. Kristin Finan photo

Port Aransas is famous for its sandcastles – there’s even a massive festival called Texas SandFest that draws visitors from all over the world (this year it will be held April 19-21). But you can actually learn to build a sandcastle any time of year thanks to Mark Landrum, aka “the Port Aransas Sandcastle Guy.” With the help of buckets, shovels and carving tools, Landrum will guide adults and kids alike through a 45-minute building lesson that incorporates essential skills such as how to stack the sand at the base of your castle and how to carve a staircase. https://sandrum.com

RELATED: Lessons in life and death on the beach in Port Aransas

Sugar Land: Zip your way across Brazos River Park

Located about a half-hour from downtown Houston, Sugar Land served as the site of major U.S. sugar producer Imperial Sugar’s headquarters from 1843 to 2003, when the refinery shuttered its doors. These days, the city has garnered a sweet reputation for being among the most diverse cities in the nation and frequently finds itself on the top of nationwide rankings. One idyllic way to experience Sugar Land is to see it from the sky during a zipline tour with Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park, a 19-acre tree-top adventure facility complete with zip lines, climbing nets, and a tree canopy rope course that’s located within the beautifully green Brazos River Park. https://www.goape.com/location/texas-houston/

Waco: Float on at the Dr Pepper Museum

Waco has experienced a renaissance in recent years (thanks, Chip and Joanna Gaines!) but it’s also home to many classic attractions that have been courting visitors for decades. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the Dr Pepper Museum, where you can learn all about the state’s beloved soft drink, sample an original Dr Pepper Float, or even make your own soda. http://www.drpeppermuseum.com

Follow Austin Travels


Austin Travels is a women-owned, Austin-based travel magazine committed to highlighting destinations in Texas and beyond through the lenses of diverse and talented writers.

Subscribe

Three close-to-Austin places to camp

Three close-to-Austin places to camp

48 hours in the Texas Hill Country

48 hours in the Texas Hill Country

10 unique, family-friendly ideas for Texas spring break fun

10 unique, family-friendly ideas for Texas spring break fun

Three holiday-themed staycations to check off your list

Three holiday-themed staycations to check off your list

Get away to Galveston for a tour of Battleship Texas and more

Get away to Galveston for a tour of Battleship Texas and more

Celebrate everything from sausage to barbecue this November

Celebrate everything from sausage to barbecue this November

The perfect long weekend in Sugar Land, Texas

The perfect long weekend in Sugar Land, Texas

Corpus Christi: Savor the Flavors of the Gulf Coast Capital

Corpus Christi: Savor the Flavors of the Gulf Coast Capital

Texas’ Top 10 Sizzling Festivals in August

Texas’ Top 10 Sizzling Festivals in August

Hang your Hat in Hunt, Texas

Hang your Hat in Hunt, Texas

Corpus Christi: 7 Family-Friendly Summertime Musts in the Gulf Coast Capital

Corpus Christi: 7 Family-Friendly Summertime Musts in the Gulf Coast Capital

Slowing down to soak in the beauty of Big Bend

Slowing down to soak in the beauty of Big Bend

Ready to get away? 5 day trip ideas perfect for a summer jaunt

Ready to get away? 5 day trip ideas perfect for a summer jaunt

Reminiscing in Aggieland

Reminiscing in Aggieland

7 Spots to Splash Near Austin

7 Spots to Splash Near Austin

Heading to Dallas? Four fun finds for summer

Heading to Dallas? Four fun finds for summer

Daytripping and sipping in Shiner, Texas

Daytripping and sipping in Shiner, Texas

Camping on Crutches

Camping on Crutches

Heading to Bayou City? 10 fun, uniquely Houston things to do

Heading to Bayou City? 10 fun, uniquely Houston things to do

6 Hill Country Gems Perfect for a Spring Day Trip

6 Hill Country Gems Perfect for a Spring Day Trip

Bluebonnets are back! 10 Spots to See Texas Wildflowers this Spring

Bluebonnets are back! 10 Spots to See Texas Wildflowers this Spring

Discover more than ancient tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Discover more than ancient tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park

When it comes to Austin-area staycations, love in the air

When it comes to Austin-area staycations, love in the air

Best bet for birding? Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Best bet for birding? Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

The Driskill: A Staycation Steeped in History

The Driskill: A Staycation Steeped in History

A Texas-sized cruise aboard the Allure of the Seas

A Texas-sized cruise aboard the Allure of the Seas

Fishing, kayaking and beachcombing on Matagorda Bay

Fishing, kayaking and beachcombing on Matagorda Bay

Gone glamping: Get away, comfortably, this fall near Austin

Gone glamping: Get away, comfortably, this fall near Austin

Relax and unwind in Round Top, Texas

Relax and unwind in Round Top, Texas

Cozy up around a firepit at a Valencia hotel this fall

Cozy up around a firepit at a Valencia hotel this fall

Seeking out adventure and finding respite at Horseshoe Bay Resort

Seeking out adventure and finding respite at Horseshoe Bay Resort

Family friendly fun in San Antonio (even if your kids bail on you)

Family friendly fun in San Antonio (even if your kids bail on you)

Bastrop State Park: A backyard gem, then and now

Bastrop State Park: A backyard gem, then and now

Eight beginner-friendly places to paddle in Central Texas

Eight beginner-friendly places to paddle in Central Texas

Nine Nearby, Natural Spots to Keep Cool this Summer

Nine Nearby, Natural Spots to Keep Cool this Summer

Hiking, horses and history at Hill Country State Natural Area

Hiking, horses and history at Hill Country State Natural Area

Explore the great outdoors in little Castell, Texas

Explore the great outdoors in little Castell, Texas

Camping out at Enchanted Rock

Camping out at Enchanted Rock

Walk in the footsteps of Judge Roy Bean in little Langtry, Texas

Walk in the footsteps of Judge Roy Bean in little Langtry, Texas

Getting back to nature at the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary

Getting back to nature at the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary

Heading to Brenham? You’re in for a treat

Heading to Brenham? You’re in for a treat

5 hotel pools ideal for beating Austin’s summer heat

5 hotel pools ideal for beating Austin’s summer heat

Thirteen things to love about Lubbock

Thirteen things to love about Lubbock

Glamping out at Onera Fredericksburg

Glamping out at Onera Fredericksburg

Six places to park your campervan in Texas this Spring

Six places to park your campervan in Texas this Spring

5 fun family-friendly experiences on the Texas Coast

5 fun family-friendly experiences on the Texas Coast

Go wild: A dozen spots to see Texas bluebonnets and wildflowers

Go wild: A dozen spots to see Texas bluebonnets and wildflowers

A new way to ride: Take an E-bike for a spin

A new way to ride: Take an E-bike for a spin

March Festivals: 10 Texas Celebrations Worth a Trip

March Festivals: 10 Texas Celebrations Worth a Trip

Three Texas sips to warm you up this winter

Three Texas sips to warm you up this winter

Weekend getaway: Carefree in Concan at 7 Bluff Cabins

Weekend getaway: Carefree in Concan at 7 Bluff Cabins

A winter retreat at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines

A winter retreat at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines

Seeking relaxation and uncovering empathy at Miraval Resort

Seeking relaxation and uncovering empathy at Miraval Resort

Soaking in the holidays and Austin’s history at the iconic Driskill Hotel

Soaking in the holidays and Austin’s history at the iconic Driskill Hotel

Martin Dies Jr. State Park is an East Texas treasure

Martin Dies Jr. State Park is an East Texas treasure

Make your way to Matagorda Bay for coast without the crowds

Make your way to Matagorda Bay for coast without the crowds

Fishing up old memories and making new ones at Inks Lake State Park

Fishing up old memories and making new ones at Inks Lake State Park

FIRST LOOK: Inside Chef Tim Love’s new Fort Worth shipping container hotel

FIRST LOOK: Inside Chef Tim Love’s new Fort Worth shipping container hotel

Go to Garner this fall for the Frio, foliage and family fun

Go to Garner this fall for the Frio, foliage and family fun

Discover the diversity of LBJ National Grasslands

Discover the diversity of LBJ National Grasslands

Falling for Fredericksburg: Sample all this Hill Country haven has to offer

Falling for Fredericksburg: Sample all this Hill Country haven has to offer

Central Texas Camping Guide

Central Texas Camping Guide

A fall paddle down the Devils

A fall paddle down the Devils

5 nearby parks perfect for an RVshare road trip

5 nearby parks perfect for an RVshare road trip

Texas Glamping Guide

Texas Glamping Guide

Women, wind and waves: Surfing for adventure

Women, wind and waves: Surfing for adventure

Dive in: 7 swimming holes and natural spots to splash into near Austin

Dive in: 7 swimming holes and natural spots to splash into near Austin

Girls getaway: 24 hours in San Antonio’s Historic Pearl District

Girls getaway: 24 hours in San Antonio’s Historic Pearl District

A downtown Houston hotel reimagined –– plus 5 things to do nearby

A downtown Houston hotel reimagined –– plus 5 things to do nearby

Texas 2021 Beach Guide

Texas 2021 Beach Guide

A true escape: Domovina Ranch in Smithville

A true escape: Domovina Ranch in Smithville

Royal treatment: 24 hours of spa bliss at one of Houston’s poshest hotels

Royal treatment: 24 hours of spa bliss at one of Houston’s poshest hotels

7 magical things to do with kids in Big Bend and West Texas

7 magical things to do with kids in Big Bend and West Texas

Photo Essay: The missions of San Antonio

Photo Essay: The missions of San Antonio

Becoming a birder at Galveston’s FeatherFest

Becoming a birder at Galveston’s FeatherFest

Seminole Canyon’s world-class rock art is a lens to history

Seminole Canyon’s world-class rock art is a lens to history

Discovering Surfside Beach, a Texas Gulf Coast treasure

Discovering Surfside Beach, a Texas Gulf Coast treasure

Nature and nurture: Hill Country wellness retreat offers a salve for the soul

Nature and nurture: Hill Country wellness retreat offers a salve for the soul

Gruene Hall: Daytrip to this timeless Texas treasure

Gruene Hall: Daytrip to this timeless Texas treasure

Everyone’s an artist at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch

Everyone’s an artist at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch

Get away while giving back to foster children at stunning Hill Country glamping spot

Get away while giving back to foster children at stunning Hill Country glamping spot

Plan Your Outdoorsy Adventure

Plan Your Outdoorsy Adventure

Discover history and simple pleasures in Baffin Bay

Discover history and simple pleasures in Baffin Bay

Texas bluebonnets are back! 10 wildflower hotspots

Texas bluebonnets are back! 10 wildflower hotspots

8 Great State Parks for Camping with Kids

8 Great State Parks for Camping with Kids

Fishing and Sea Turtles and Birding, Oh My: A weekend at South Padre Island

Fishing and Sea Turtles and Birding, Oh My: A weekend at South Padre Island

Relax and relish the coastal charms of Rockport

Relax and relish the coastal charms of Rockport

Social distancing in sleepy Sonora: Escape to a luxury ranch resort 3 hours from Austin

Social distancing in sleepy Sonora: Escape to a luxury ranch resort 3 hours from Austin

Lessons in life and death on the beach in Port Aransas

Lessons in life and death on the beach in Port Aransas