Summer break for the little kiddles is coming to a close. Have you taken your obligatory family road trip yet? We all like the idea of a trip in the family swagger wagon to go camping, see the world’s largest ball of string, or even to visit great aunt Edna’s farm. It’s the reality of a family road trip that makes us balk. There’s nothing like spending 10 hours trapped in the car with squabbling kids, a car-sick dog, and miles of road ahead of you that will make you realize a vacation involving a car is no vacation.
If you want memorable, but would prefer to skip the driving cross-country part, check out these one-day excursions. They’ll give you the satisfaction of a road trip without roaming too far from home.
Come shake a tail feather at a street dance and outdoor screening of ‘Hairspray” this Friday night in beautiful, downtown Waxahachie. After you’re done dancing, grab your blankets and lawn chairs and settle in for a free moonlight movie around dusk. Go early in the day and take a tour of the picturesque Ellis County Courthouse on the square. The building is listed as one of the top 100 most photographed structures in the State of Texas and features a Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style. Look for the stone faces that decorate the building’s exterior.
Take a trip to the wilds of Africa without leaving the Lone Star State at the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville. The zoo, which is billed as “the best little zoo in Texas,” is named after native son Frank “Bring Em Back Alive” Buck who collected wild animals from all over the world. It’s perfect for little ones with its loop design. The mile-long path is handicapped/ stroller accessible and features an elevated walkway over the kangaroos, giraffes, and zebras. The itty bitties can get an eye level view of the giraffes and they can also feed them during the public feeding every day. Another attraction near the zoo in Leonard Park is the 1/4 size replica of a steam engine train. The train’s route is only about a mile, but the ride is a nice relaxing end to your day in Gainesville.
If you’re looking for simple pleasures the Gentle Zoo in Forney should definitely be on your summer bucket list. Besides the bumper crop of animals to pet (and feed) there are also pony rides, a bounce house, a playground and a train ride. The “train” is actually several small cars pulled by a John Deere tractor, but kids love bumpity-bumping all around the property. Yes, the place is small but it’s packed with fun. Avoid the heat and go this Friday evening when they’re open late for their Family Nite Out event.
Head to Tyler this Saturday for Hit the Bricks, a daylong street fair right in the middle of the city’s historic town square. Downtown businesses and attractions in and around the square will be bursting with things to do. You can listen to live music, go on a scavenger hunt at the Goodman Museum, or take a self-guided walking tour of the Half Mile of History; a loop around the square that commemorates significant people, places, or events in Tyler. If you don’t feel like walking, no worries. Just hop on the free shuttle and see the sights around downtown.
Instead of a road trip, take a rail trip. Climb aboard a vintage locomotive on the Texas State Railroad and ride the rails on an adventure through the piney woods of East Texas. The 4-hour ride departs from the Palestine depot and heads to Rusk where you’ll have an hour layover to explore gift shops, a vintage movie theater, and a park before you head back. During your ride through the historic route, you’ll pass over 24 bridges–one over 1,000 feet long–and see unusual railroad structures like a locomotive turntable. All the cars are climate-controlled, have restrooms and access a concession car stocked with snacks and kid-friendly and adult beverages.
Get a jump on Halloween (it’s only 84 days away) and explore another historic town at a Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour. On this guided walking tour through Granbury’s Historic Downtown Square, you’ll hear spooky spirit stories, folklore, and legends about the town. You’ll also get to meet some of the cities most famous ghosts, including the Lady in Red, the Faceless Girl, and Indian Joe. The tour meets in front of the cleverly named Nutt House Hotel at 7 and 9:15 p.m. Reservations are recommended.