(Family Features) A family vacation is the perfect time to unwind, but it can be even more relaxing with time spent outdoors enjoying nature in all its beauty. Whether you plan your entire trip around a specific activity or just build in a day or two along the way, you can create some unforgettable memories.
Choosing your destination is the first big decision in planning a vacation, and selecting a location that offers plenty of attractions for the whole family is a smart bet. For example, Texas offers a variety of state parks with unexpected terrain, such as the second largest canyon in the United States at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, or Pedernales Falls State Park with its distinctive river banks where visitors can swim, tube and kayak.
Once you have your general destination selected, it’s time to consider exactly how you’ll fill your days.
Outdoor sporting. Fishing is a fun and affordable activity the whole family can enjoy. After all, there’s no age limit on the thrill of a catch. Lakes, streams, rivers and creeks are all potential fishing sites and each offers a unique experience, from the scenery to the types of fish you’re likely to catch. Before you head out, be sure to research what permits and gear you’ll need. Some destinations even allow you to rent necessities, so you may be able to save the hassle and expense of buying new.
Wildlife watching. You can see hundreds of species of animals in their natural habitats by visiting a state park or natural area, and bird-watching is chief among those activities for many visitors. State natural areas, prairies and lakes are all good places to catch sights of different bird species, and many of these locations offer hiking paths and trails that make it easy to enjoy some fresh air and exercise along with the scenery.
Search the skies. You’ve probably heard the old adage that even the stars are bigger in Texas, and there’s no time like a family vacation to discover whether it’s true. Get away from the city lights and take in some of the best night sky views around at a dark sky park like the state’s largest state park, Big Bend Ranch State Park in the Big Bend Country region. Some parks offer special stargazing programs, events and observatories, or simply bring a blanket, some binoculars and your camera to discover the new world that awaits above.
Honor history. There are glimpses into the past virtually anywhere you go, that appeal to practically any interest. Compare foot sizes with a dinosaur. Wonder at rock art that is thousands of years old. Trace the steps of Native Americans and Spanish missionaries. Churn butter on a farm. Participate in festivals and battle reenactments that pay homage to momentous events of yesteryear.
Digital discovery. If you’re skeptical of getting the kids to put down their devices long enough to enjoy some outdoor exploration, geocaching may be just the answer. Geocaching is essentially a modern-day treasure hunt, and there are geocaches to be found throughout Texas, including at Pedernales Falls State Park in the Hill Country region. Use a GPS unit or smartphone app to find the exact location of a geocache nearby. Be sure to make note of the terrain and difficulty levels to ensure the site is appropriate for your group then set out on your adventure, enjoying the sights along the way.
For more ideas and inspiration to start planning your next family vacation, explore TravelTexas.com.
Texas Tourism Board