Hands-on experiences are one of the best ways to learn more, make great memories and gather new information. This is a list of free activities and field trip locations in Texas, from great works of art to the great outdoors! If you’re a teacher, tutor or a parent looking for free educational opportunities for your curious crew, check out one of these free field trip destinations around Texas.
Please note that large groups sometimes require advance reservations; be sure to contact the organization you’re interested in directly for more information.
Select the City
Visit a real steam locomotive engine built in 1930 for the Santa Fe Railway. During her reign in the Pecos Division, the Madam Queen logged 1,750,000 miles! She was retired from service in 1953 and donated to the City of Amarillo in 1957.
Operating Hours: Daily
Notes: Please check online before planning a visit to make sure it is still in operation and accessible to the public.
Phone: 800-692-1338 (Amarillo Convention and Visitor Council number)
Texas Air and Space Museum
Take flight, little aviators! The Texas Air and Space Museum honors the Texas Panhandle’s history of flight. From photos and newspaper articles dating back to the beginning of English Field Airport to exhibits of aircraft including biplanes and a historic DC-3.
The exhibits displayed in this Museum will attract established aviation fans and create new ones. It is a premier aviation museum to honor servicemen and servicewomen, aviators, and astronauts from pre-World War II to today.
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-4:00pm
Fulton Schoolhouse Museum
School’s in session at the Fulton Schoolhouse Museum! Learn about the history of Fulton, Texas, 35 miles outside Corpus Christi, by visiting this one-room schoolhouse rebuilt in the 1940s after being damaged by a hurricane. The schoolhouse is set up as it would have been during its use in the early 20th century. The Museum also includes a replica of the Fulton Mansion for visitors to enjoy.
Operating Hours: Saturday and Sunday afternoons
Notes: Tours for large groups or schools are available upon request. Contact Town Hall for more information.
Texas Surf Museum
Go hang 10 at the Texas Surf Museum, the ONLY surf museum in the state of Texas! Explore the history of surfing and learn about Texas’ unique role in that history. Enjoy the photographs that capture the evolution of surf culture and catch a film highlighting the sport. Exhibits underscoring the importance of water conservation and the preservation of beaches, bays, and waterways are also on display.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00am-7:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Monday, closed
Notes: Closed Mondays.
Port Aransas Ferry
Catch one of the free ferry rides running between Mustang Island and Port Aransas and the mainland. During the short 10 minute ride, watch for boats in the shipping channel and wildlife, including dolphins and pelicans.
Operating Hours: Daily, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Notes: There may be wait times during peak travel periods. Check the website for details and current conditions.
Walking Tour of Heritage Park
Get some exercise and a lesson in history with a self-guided walking tour of Heritage Park. A collection of 12 historic homes from some of the most important names in Corpus Christi development. From the second oldest structure in existence in Corpus Christi (the Merriman-Bobys House of 1851) to the Guggenheim House (one of the few Victorian homes to survive the Hurricane of 1919 in Corpus Christi), visitors can tour the premises of these homes and read the historic marker in front of each to learn about its role in Corpus Christi history.
Operating Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk for the walking tour. For tours of inside some of the homes themselves, please visit the website.
Notes: Most of the houses do not offer official tours or entry inside the home, but some are open to the public on specific days and times. Please see the website for more information, including hours and possible fees.
Phone: 361-561-2000 (Corpus Christi Visitor Information Center, located in the Merriman-Bobys house in Heritage Park)
African American Museum, Dallas
Located on the grounds of Fair Park, the African American Museum is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of African American art, artefacts, and historical documents. The Museum’s collection includes examples of fine art, folk art, and African art and rotating exhibits are offered throughout the year. Visitors can view art representing and relating to the African American community and gain perspective on the African American experience, especially in Dallas and the Southwestern United States.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11:00am-5:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays; there is a fee for groups of 10 or more – please see the website for details.
Dallas Museum of Art (DMA)
The Dallas Museum of Art extends art lovers the opportunity to experience both permanent collections of more than 24,000 pieces of art spanning 5,00 years and visiting exhibitions that rotate regularly. The Museum offers a variety of programs and community workshops and teachers can schedule student visits, teacher workshops, and request a Framework for Engaging with Art materials packet before a planned visit to the Museum.
Operating Hours: Monday: Closed; Tuesday-Wednesday: 11:00am-5:00pm; Thursday: 11:00am-9:00pm; Friday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day; some exhibitions require ticket purchase.
Dallas’ Fair Park is a sprawling 277-acres of cultural, educational, and sports facilities accommodating more than 1,200 activities annually. Opened in 1886 to host the Dallas State Fair, the facility has grown over the years and is the only intact and unaltered pre-1950s world fair site in the US.
Explore the Park’s 3 million+ historic documents and objects on display at the Hall of State and gaze at the exemplary examples of 1930s art and architecture. The Park hosts a multitude of free events, including a free summer movie series, the Esplanade Walking Tour, and a Lagoon Walking Tour.
Operating Hours: Depends on an event. Visit the website to plan a trip and check the daily operating times.
Notes: Some areas of Fair Park require paid tickets. Check the website for a calendar of events and free activities.
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Who doesn’t love money? But who really understands it? The Economy in Action exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas offers visitors a self-guided tour to learn about American currency from the Colonial period through the 20th century. Learn about the development of the Federal Reserve banking system and find out how money moves around the country. Understanding the regional economy and the role it plays in the global economy helps visitors understand the role of energy, exports, services, and manufacturing.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm
Notes: Closed on Bank Holidays; groups of 15-40 can schedule one of the guided tours, offered Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00am and 1:00pm, but they must be scheduled in advance – contact the Bank for more information or to schedule a tour; all adult guests must present a valid government-issued photo ID.
John Neely Bryan Cabin and Founder’s Plaza
Hard to believe that the sprawling modern city of Dallas started with one man’s camp by the Trinity River. Visit Founder’s Plaza and see a replica of John Neely Bryan’s log cabin. The Old Dallas Courthouse, in all its Romanesque Revival style glory, stands on the site of the county’s original log courthouse and serves as a museum of Dallas County history and culture. The John F. Kennedy Memorial is open to visitors and Dealey Plaza and the infamous Texas School Book Depository building are a short walk away.
Operating Hours: The Dallas Visitor’s Center is open 7 days a week, including most major holidays, from 9:00am-5:00pm
Notes: An audio tour is available for download. Visit the website for more details.
Phone: Tourist info: 214-571-1316; Events hotline: 214-571-1301
Juanita J. Craft’s Civil Rights House
Honoring civil rights activist Juanita J. Craft, this museum is one of only three house museums in the country honoring major female figures in the modern civil rights movement. The home is a 1920 Craftsman bungalow where Ms Craft lived for 35 years, organizing NAACP events, leading efforts to desegregate Texas universities, and serving as a Dallas city councilwoman.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:30pm
Notes: Tours available by appointment only.
Klyde Warren Park
Klyde Warren Park is a 5.2-acre deck park and has quickly become an active space, serving as a central gathering place for the downtown Dallas community. The Park offers daily free programming for the public in its Performance Pavilion and throughout the Park grounds. Educators and families are encouraged to visit the website to learn more about learning opportunities and kid-friendly events.
Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-11:00pm
Notes: Teachers can download a free TEKS-aligned curriculum guide to help plan a learning-filled visit – see website for pdf link.
If a round-up is what you are looking for, head to Pioneer Plaza and see the life-sized bronze sculpture recreation of a cattle drive, complete with three cowboys on horseback and some big longhorn steers. The Plaza also has a variety of native plants and trees and a flowing stream that includes a waterfall. Historic details on the sculptures help bring Dallas’ cowboy history to life.
Operating Hours: Daily
The Samurai Collection at The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum
Immerse yourself in Japanese culture and experience beautifully crafted masterpieces of battle with a visit to the Samurai Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller. The collection includes over 1,000 samurai objects including armor, weapons, helmets, masks, and horse armor and equipment.
The museum is located on the second floor of the historic Saint Ann Building. Self-guided tours allow visitors to learn about samurai culture and history.
Operating Hours: Tuesday, 11:00am-8:00pm; Wednesday-Saturday, 11:00am-6:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Closed on Mondays.
The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art
Travel to the Orient without leaving Dallas. Trammell and Margaret Crow have been collecting Asian art since the 1960s and their collection is now housed in the Crow Collection Museum. From Korean ceramics to Buddhist and Hindu art, the collection is extensive and covers the regions of China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. While there, escape to the serenity of the sculpture garden, complete with 15 contemporary and historical pieces nestled among the bamboo, maples, azaleas, and pine.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Mondays, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day; the galleries may be closed due to special events or inclement weather – call or check the museum’s Facebook page or Twitter account for up-to-date information; Admission is free, though donations are always appreciated.
Centennial Museum and Gardens
There’s a lot of life in the desert! The El Paso Centennial Museum, the oldest museum in El Paso, features exhibits focusing on the natural and cultural history of the Chihuahuan Desert region and its settlement by people through the centuries. The Museum hosts a variety of collaborative exhibits for the community – check the website for an updated calendar of events. The friendship that exists between the University of Texas, El Paso, and the country of Bhutan can be seen in the Lhakhang exhibit, a hand-carved, hand-painted gift from the people of Bhutan to the people of the United States and residing currently at the UTEP campus. The Museum Gardens display the wide variety of flora found in the Chihuahuan Desert and adjacent desert regions in the US and Mexico.
Operating Hours: Centennial Museum: Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-4:30pm (closed Sundays, holidays, and during UTEP football games); Chihuahuan Desert Gardens: Open daily from dawn to dusk; The Lhakhang: Wednesday 11:00am-1:00pm, first Sunday of each month, 1:00pm-3:00pm
Chamizal National Memorial
The United States and Mexico found themselves embroiled in border disputes for many years. Chamizal, managed by the National Park Service, serves as a reminder of the harmonious settlement of a 100-year border dispute between the two nations caused by a change in course of the Rio Grande.
Here, the cultures of the two countries are presented and celebrated in a Cultural Center located on Park grounds. The Franklin G. Smith Gallery is also open to visitors. Hike and explore this desert gem. Events and festivals open to the public, some fees may apply – check the website.
Operating Hours: Park Hours: Daily, 7:00am-10:00pm; Visitor’s Center Hours: Daily, 10:00am-5:00pm
Notes: Periodic weather events may lead to the closure of the Park – please check the website for alerts and closures.
El Paso County Historical Society
The El Paso County Historical Society was established in 1954 to preserve and share the history of El Paso with the public. With headquarters housed in the historic Burges House, built in 1912, the Historical Society has amassed a large collection of photographs and documents from El Paso’s early days and shows the development of the area from a small village of adobe buildings to a full-scale modern city.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00am-2:00pm
Notes: Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center
The world must never forget. As the memories of World War II fade into history, the only fully bilingual Holocaust museum in the United States, the El Paso Holocaust Museum, works to keep alive the memories of the millions of people murdered by the Nazi regime from 1933-1945. Several multimedia galleries provide a timeline of the events of the Holocaust and present information to visitors in both English and Spanish.
Operating Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 1:00pm-5:00pm; Monday, closed; Tuesday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm
Notes: All self-guided tours must begin 30 minutes prior to scheduled closing times; check the website for holidays when the Museum will be closed; trained volunteers can be scheduled to visit schools or groups unable to visit the Museum; curriculum trunks available by reservation for groups planning a trip to the Museum.
El Paso Museum of Archaeology Wilderness Park
Step back in time with a visit to the El Paso Museum of Archaeology. The North Gallery houses exhibits of artefacts from Southwest and Mexican culture, both ancient and modern. In the South Gallery, visitors can marvel at dioramas depicting the everyday lives of Native Americans in the El Paso region of the US from the Ice Age to the 20th Century.
Hike the nature trails on the grounds of the Museum and see if you can count the over 250 varieties of Chihuahuan Desert native plants that call the area home. Lectures and demonstrations of Native American games and culture are also given – check the website’s calendar of events.
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; Closed Mondays and major holidays
Notes: Free tours are offered Tuesday-Saturday – 2 weeks’ advance reservation required.
El Paso Museum of History
Come explore El Paso’s bright and colorful history and culture by visiting the Museum’s five galleries representing over 400 years of US and Mexico border history. Travelling exhibits and the Heritage Hallway provide insight into local culture and regional interests. The Neighborhoods and Shared Memories exhibit shares the history of El Paso’s first annexed neighborhoods and features photographs and oral histories of early El Paso residents. Come discover El Paso’s history!
Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 9:00am-9:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; closed Mondays
Notes: Closed Mondays and City Holidays; admission is free, though some exhibits may require ticket purchase – see website for details.
The TecH2O Center
Water in the desert is a scarce resource. Learn all about water education and water management in the desert with a visit to the TecH2O Center, built and maintained by El Paso Water. The interactive Water Museum is filled with exhibits dedicated to teaching about water conservation and management, in addition to exposure to ecological and environmental systems.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm (appointment preferred)
Notes: Appointments preferred; check the website for holiday closures; tours must be scheduled in advance.
Walk some of the historic Mission Trail and visit the oldest Mission on it, Ysleta Mission, built in 1682. Spanish missionaries spread the Christian word through the building of Missions to serve as religious and social centers of the community.
Combining the heritage and culture of Hispanics and Native Americans, the missions along Mission Trail continue to serve as working examples of faith in the community and the Ysleta Mission remains an active parish.
Operating Hours: Daily; please check the website or call Diocese for exact hours
Phone: 915-872-8411 (Catholic Diocese of El Paso)
Galveston County Historical Museum
Explore Galveston’s past with a visit to The Galveston County Historical Museum, located in the City National Bank Building. The building itself was erected in 1919 and has been converted into a museum space housing exhibits on The Great Storm of 1900, a hurricane with wind speeds upwards of 145 mph that made landfall near Galveston and caused massive devastation to the area. Also on display are artefact exhibits of Native American art and culture and examples of noteworthy Galveston architecture. A lighthouse lens from a 19th-century lighthouse and actual footage from the 1900 Storm are also part of the Museum’s exhibit.
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day; check the website for ticket costs for some exhibits.
Galveston Island Ferry
Ahoy, Captain! Head out to sea (or at least to the waters between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula) with a ride on the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry. Watch playful dolphins “race” the boat, marvel at the size of ocean-going ships entering or leaving Galveston or Houston wharves, and look for the remains of the Selma, an experimental concrete ship built during World War I that sank off the coast in 1922 as you enjoy the 13-minute crossing.
Operating Hours: Daily, 24 hours a day, weather permitting
Notes: Check website for ferry schedule!
Galveston Island State Park
Spend a day at the bay with a trip to Galveston Island State Park. The 2,000 acres of surf, sand, coastal prairie, freshwater ponds, wetlands, and bayous is home to hundreds of species of wildlife. The Friends of Galveston Island State Park offer free field trips to the Park; to set up a field trip, contact the Park Ranger at 409-737-1222. Community events include Beach and Bay Day, Camp Wild, and Bird Sit are open to the public as well.
Operating Hours: Daily, 7:00am-10:00pm, but field trips are scheduled by appointment only
Notes: Call Park Ranger to schedule free field trips and to have entry fee waived.
Galveston Tree Sculpture Tour
From destruction can rise beauty. In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike ravaged the Gulf Coast and covered most of Galveston in a tidal surge. As a result, thousands of trees were uprooted or destroyed by the salty water. Considering this an opportunity to create beauty out of destruction, sculpture artists began to transform the debris of dead trees into whimsical sculptures. You can find most of the tree sculptures in the East End Historic District. Visit the website and download the map for a listing of where to find these hidden beauties and go on walking tour to search for these treasures.
Operating Hours: Daily, dawn to dusk
Notes: Sculptures are located throughout the city, usually in public places, so there are no operating hours
Phone: 409-797-5144 (Galveston Island Information Center)
Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Research Center
Part of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, the Galveston Laboratory and Research Center is renowned for its work with the beautiful Kemp Ridley sea turtles found off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico. The Center is the only federal facility in the U.S. dedicated to the captive rearing of these creatures and their research on husbandry techniques, feeding, pathology, tagging, and rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles has helped give marine biologists insight into these magnificent turtles.
Operating Hours: Free tours are given Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 2:00pm
Notes: Call for tour appointments.
La King’s Confectionery
If you have a sweet tooth, this is the destination for you. La King’s Confectionery has been making old-fashioned candies since 1927. In their Galveston shop, a 1920s style candy store, complete with soda fountain and cases of handmade candy, has been recreated and they use machines and equipment from the era to recreate authentic candy recipes. Stop in and enjoy an hour-long taffy-making demonstration, complete with a free sample.
Operating Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 10:00am-8:30pm; Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-9:30pm
Notes: No taffy demonstrations on Thursdays during summer – check the website for updated taffy demonstration information
Seawall Urban Park
Have a picnic on the beach! With 32 miles of beaches, Galveston has lots of places to go on sunny days to cool down in the water. Seawall Urban Park is comprised of 10 miles of beach and boasts the nation’s longest continuous sidewalk. From the Seawall Urban Park, it is an easy walk to the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier amusement park (ticket purchase required). Splash in the Gulf of Mexico and relax on the sandy beach.
Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00am-11:00pm
Notes: Check website for Park rules.
Art Car Museum
Vroom! Vroom! Rev up the engines and visit the Art Car Museum, a museum dedicated to the fine art – of cars. This contemporary art museum is an exhibition forum for a variety of local, national, and international artists who work to create a new image of the automobile. Rotating exhibitions also include art from other media as well. Visit the “Garage Mahal” and be amazed by automotive art!
Operating Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00am-6:00pm
Notes: Closed Monday-Tuesday; call ahead to accommodate large groups.
Buffalo Soldiers Museum
Not a squadron of buffaloes, but the name given to African-American soldiers who served with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army following the Civil War. This group of former slaves, freedmen, and Civil War soldiers were the first African-Americans to serve during peacetime. Learn about these brave men and their role in Westward expansion with a visit to the Buffalo Soldiers Museum. Thursday afternoons offer free admission to the Museum.
Operating Hours: Monday-Friday, 10:00am-5:00pm, Saturday, 10:00am-4:00pm
Notes: Free Admission on Thursdays, 1:00pm-5:00pm; closed Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
The Health Museum
Learn all about all different aspects of health in this interactive, hands-on museum. From cell activity to the systems that keep a body running, The Health Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate. Find out what you’re made of in the Amazing Body Gallery and walk through a 10-foot tall brain, a 12-foot tall beating heart, and try out the Jump, Stretch and Hang Activity to test your vertical hanging endurance. Free family admission Thursday afternoons, 2:00pm-7:00pm.
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Thursday, 9:00am-7:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; Free Family Day: Thursdays 2:00pm-7:00pm
Notes: Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day; Free Family Day: Thursdays 2:00pm-7:00pm.
The Holocaust Museum Houston
Lest the world forget the atrocities brought by prejudice and hatred in society, the Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to remembering the impact of violence and intolerance. With a permanent exhibit of a look at life before the Holocaust to Hitler’s rise to power to the implementation of concentration camps and the extermination carried out within them, this museum explains through artefacts, letters, photographs, and film the roles of collaborators, bystanders, rescuers, liberators, and victims. See a 1942 World War II railcar, the type used to carry millions of Jews to their deaths, a Danish rescue boat like those used to save thousands of fleeing Jews, and two changing galleries for art and photography exhibits. The Garden of Hope is dedicated to children everywhere in memory of the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust.
Operating Hours: Open 7 days a week; Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Free admission Sundays; Free to students with valid ID 7 days a week; closed major holidays including Easter Sunday, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day; please check the website for holiday closures or alternate hours of operation; the Museum has moved to 9220 Kirby Drive with a new museum campus opening in the Spring of 2019.
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
Head outdoors and escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a visit to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. A 155-acre sanctuary for wildlife and local native plants, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center offers visitors five miles of trails to explore and open access to the Nature Center building with Discovery Room where students of all ages can engage with interactive exhibits and activities. The Wildlife Garden teaches visitors about the best plantings to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other wildlife using native plants.
Operating Hours: Open daily; Grounds and Trails: March-September, 7:00am-7:30pm; October-February, 7:00a,-6:30pm; Discovery Room: 10:00am-4:00pm (closed Mondays)
Notes: All visitors must be off premises by dusk, no exceptions; buildings may be closed on major holidays – check the website; reservations required for group programs; the Discovery Room may occasionally be closed for group events – call to check availability.
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Not your average art museum! Houston’s Center for Contemporary Craft celebrates art made primarily of craft materials, including clay, fibre, glass, metal, wood, or “found” and recycled materials. The Center also includes an Artist Hall where visitors can explore the work of artists-in-residence. Wander through the Craft Garden, which includes plants used in basket-making, textiles, dyes, and papers. Hands-on workshops are available, though fees may apply. Check the website for an updated calendar of events.
Operating Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Closed Mondays and Tuesdays; closed on major holidays; free, docent-led tours available Wednesday-Saturday, 10:30am-3:30pm – contact the Center to reserve and day and time.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Check out fossils and fossil replicas in the Hall of Paleontology, explore the Hall of Ancient Egypt, admire the Hall of Gems and Minerals, and learn about Texas natives in the Hall of Texas Wildlife. The Houston Museum of Natural Science includes thousands of specimens and artefacts spanning the millennia. Check out the Foucault Pendulum, first exhibited at the 1851 World’s Fair in Paris, and be mesmerized as you watch the pendulum swing to the Earth’s rotation.
Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday, 9:00am-6:00pm; Free Thursdays – check the website for hours of free admission
Notes: Free Thursdays – check the website for hours of free admission; some exhibits require ticket purchase – check the website for details.
Port Houston Boat Tour
How do products and goods make their way around the world? Hop on board the M/V Sam Houston and take a tour of the busy Houston Ship Channel to learn more. Port Houston handles over 6 million tons of cargo each year, making it one of the largest ports in the nation. The 90-minute round-trip, educational tour teaches passengers about the port and maritime history.
Operating Hours: Tour hours vary. Call or check availability online.
Notes: Tour is free, but reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance – register online by visiting the website.
Sam Houston Park
Explore the history of the city with a self-guided tour of authentically restored historical buildings representing the area’s growth from before statehood to the early 20th century. Free cell phone tours explain the historical significance of a variety of buildings, including the 1847 Kellum Noble House (the oldest surviving building constructed in Houston with original brick walls made with mud from Nathaniel Kellum’s brickyard on Buffalo Bayou) and the 1905 Staiti House, with examples of “modern” amenities such as electric lights, an intercom system, and built-in icebox.
Operating Hours: The Park itself is open daily, from dawn to dusk; Museum and Tour Office: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-4:00pm, closed Sunday and Monday
Notes: Guided tours of the interiors of the structures available for a fee; cell phone tour is free and can be downloaded from the website.
Waugh Drive Bridge
Nocturnal creatures most commonly associated with Halloween, you can visit an amazing colony of bats right in the city of Houston! Located less than two miles west of Downtown, an estimated 250,000 Mexican Free-Tailed Bats call the underside of Waugh Drive Bridge, home. Viewing is free from the viewing platform, sidewalk, or bridge. Boat tours are also available for a fee. Watch these amazing creatures reach speeds of up to 99mph.
Operating Hours: Open year-round; viewing is best done at sunset when the bats emerge to feed on insects
Notes: Bats don’t like the cold or wet, so rarely emerge if temperatures drop below 50 degrees or it’s raining; “Bat Chats” occur at the bridge on Friday nights from March through October, staffed by the Houston Area Bat Team.
Phone: 832-395-7000 (City of Houston Parks and Recreation Dept.)
Cibolo Nature Center and Farm
Walk the miles of nature trails, get your feet wet in the Cibolo Creek, and consider what things might have looked like millions of years ago when dinosaurs roamed this area. The Center is home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife and includes several different ecosystems, including tallgrass prairie, riparian rainforest, live oak savannah, and spring-fed marsh. Bring plenty of water and your bug spray and enjoy some outdoor exploration!
Operating Hours: Cibolo Nature Center: Daily, dawn to dusk; Herff Farm: Saturday, 9:00am-1:00pm
Notes: Groups of 10 or more need to call ahead to check schedule and discuss payment options; general admission is free.
Comanche Lookout Park
Climb the hill and learn about how the Native Americans who first settled here used this hill as a vantage point for hunting or during periods of war. Check out the view from the top of the fourth-highest point in Bexar County where you can see the Cibolo floodplain and imagine what it would have been like to hunt along the waterways of the Cibolo Creek. Learn about the history of the area from its Apache and Comanche occupations to the building of a medieval-style stone tower in the 1920s as you walk the five miles of hiking trails.
Operating Hours: Daily, 5:00am-11:00pm
McNay Art Museum
Find art inside and out at this San Antonio Museum, the first museum of modern art in Texas. Housed in a 24-room Spanish colonial-revival-style mansion on 23 acres of land, the McNay Art Museum began with the donation of Marion Koogler McNay, an American painter, and art teacher, with a vision to create the first museum of modern art in the state. Her collection of more than 700 works of art from artists like Diego Rivera and Paul Gauguin has grown into a collection of more than 20,000 pieces. Sculpture, painting, drawings, prints and the architecture and landscape design of the grounds are sure to inspire visitors.
Operating Hours: Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm; Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am-9:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; closed Monday
Notes: Closed Mondays and major holidays; during Daylight Savings Time, the grounds are open 7:00am-7:00pm; during Standard Time they are open 7:00am-6:00pm; Free admission Thursday nights and the first Sunday of each month – please see website for calendar of free admission days/times and a list of exhibits requiring ticket purchase.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Four in one! This park features four distinct sites, all within a relatively short distance from one another. Mission Concepción is 3 miles south of downtown; Mission San José is home to the Visitor Center; Mission San Juan is where the Spanish colonial demonstration farm is located, and Mission Espada is the farthest south of the four.
Each of these missions served as religious and social centers and safe havens for the people of the surrounding communities and each continues to hold religious services that are open to the public.
Operating Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset; Visitor Center: Daily, 9:00am-5:00pm
Notes: All sites closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
San Antonio Museum of Art
Visit one of the most comprehensive collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Near East art in a public museum in the US. There is a variety of educational programs available to schools and teachers to prepare for a visit to the Museum. Hands-on activities and interactive opportunities make this a fun place for kids to visit and learn.
Operating Hours: Free General Admission Tuesdays, 4:00pm-9:00pm and Sundays, 10:00am-12:00pm; General Hours: Tuesday and Friday, 10:00am-9:00pm; Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday/Sunday, 10:00am-5:00pm; closed Monday
Notes: Closed Mondays and major holidays.
San Antonio Public Library
It’s more than just books! The San Antonio Public Library system offers a wide variety of kid-friendly activities, including puppet shows, arts and crafts, and demonstrations like live animals. Exhibits and activities engage learners of all ages with programs designed to engage imaginations. Check the website for a calendar of events.
Operating Hours: Check the website – hours for branches vary.
“Remember the Alamo!”
This famous battle cry was meant to spur on the forces of Sam Houston in the battle against the Mexican army. Today visitors can tour the mission turned military outpost turned museum and historical landmark. The Church building now serves as a Shrine of Texas Liberty. Lesson plans and History Trunks are available to teachers interested in having their students learn about the Alamo.
Operating Hours: May 26-September 4, 9:00am-7:00pm; September 5-May 25, 9:00am-5:30pm
Notes: Closed Christmas Day; last entry is 15 minutes before closing.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures
This Smithsonian Affiliate invites all learners to come and learn about the cultures that make up the state of Texas. Interactive exhibits, displays of art and culture, help bring Texas history and the cultures of its people to life.
Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:00am-5:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Free admission every second Sunday of the month, except in February and June; check the website for dates of closure.
The Witte Museum has been a community cultural center since its opening in 1926. Come explore the variety of art and artefacts and marvel at exhibitions like “Predators vs. Prey: Dinosaurs on the Land Before Texas” and “Gatherings at the Waters: 12,000 Years of People”. Check the website for a current list of exhibitions and for special program and event offerings.
Operating Hours: Monday, Wednesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm; Tuesday, 10:00am-8:00pm; Sunday, 12:00pm-5:00pm
Notes: Free admission Tuesdays from 3:00pm-8:00pm.