Planning to head to the Texas Gulf Coast with the family? You are not alone. Texas beaches are popular destinations for family vacations. While spending hours jumping waves, soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean are the main attractions, the Gulf Coast offers more than just great beaches. From roller coasters to sea turtles, here are the top ten family-friendly attractions to help you create lasting memories.
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
For some good old-fashioned fun, take your family on a stroll along the historic Pleasure Pier. The nostalgically-themed oceanside amusement park provides hours of entertainment. Try your hand along the Midway with games like Ring Toss, Lucky Duck and Balloon Pop or ride the 100-foot tall Galaxy Wheel. For thrill-seekers don’t miss the 40-foot drop on Pirate’s Plunge and the 52-mile-per-hour Iron Shark Roller Coaster. The classic bumper cars, teacup ride and a carousel are also available for younger children.
Artist Boat Kayak Excursion in Galveston
Did you know there are more shades of green than any other color? That is one of the many fun facts families learn during an outing with Artist Boat, a nonprofit combining outdoor adventure, art and science to promote environmental awareness and preservation, with the purpose of protecting the Gulf Coast. A three-hour kayak adventure through the Coastal Heritage Preserve includes a lesson on coastal prairies and a stop for a watercolor lesson. They also offer Habitat Restoration Adventures designed to promote through restoring coastal habitats, birding tours and more.
Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi
Immerse yourself in lush tropical jungles, touch the underbelly of a stingray, come face-to-face with flamingos and walk through an underground tunnel as thousands of fish swim overhead at the Texas State Aquarium. With many exhibits, visitors can spend the day exploring jungles, swamps, coral reefs, shark habitats, shipwrecks and more. The aquarium’s Caribbean Journey exhibit is double the size of the original facility and offers visitors a full-immersion experience into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the Western Caribbean Sea.
The Red Dragon Pirate Cruises and Black Dragon Cruises
Grab your favorite first mates for a swashbuckling good time. The Red and Black Dragon Pirate Cruises are one of Port Aransas and Port Isabel’s favorite attractions. Visitors take sail on a 70-foot replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon reaching a top speed of 12 knots for a variety of adventurous cruises. The pirate crew are proclaimed to be the “scurviest lot of scallywags and hooligans you’ll find in the waters.” When not keeping land dwellers entertained with exciting sword fighting, water pistol battles and treasure hunts, they are keeping the local authorities on their toes. All ages are welcome on the two-and-a-half-hour Pirate Adventure Experience with additional packages available to celebrate birthdays. Insider tip: book ahead online and arrive early to catch the Dockside Show!
Take a Sandcastle Building Lesson in South Padre Island
Want to improve your sandcastle building game? If so, take some lessons from the professionals. Experts aren’t hard to come by on the Sandcastle Capital of the World – sandcastles are celebrated year-round due to the ideal conditions with the “best sand and weather for building the Sandcastle of your dreams.” After a fun, two-hour lesson you and your family will be sculpting sandcastle masterpieces sure to be the talk of the beach. Don’t want to get down and sandy? Tour the South Padre Island Sand Sculpture Trail where about 30 sculptures are maintained, repaired, added to and re-carved. If you find yourself on the island in October, join locals and visitors alike for the South Padre Island Sandcastle Days for free family fun including live music, art booths and more!
Surf the Day Away
The Gulf Coast waves are perfect for beginner and amateur surfers. The piers, jetties and sandbars along Port Aransas and Mustang Island beaches create peeling waves – that is surfer speak for perfectly breaking waves. Horace Caldwell Pier is the most popular surf spot in Port Aransas because of its easy access and consistent waves. For those who want more powerful waves, head to Fish Pass Jetties on Mustang Island. No need to lug your own board as there are several surf shops happy to rent you and your little ones a board for the day. If you are new to surfing or need a little refresher the instructors at Texas Surf Camps will have you hanging ten in no time.
Go Dolphin Watching
Cruise along the waters of the Texas Gulf Coast searching for dolphins. Port Aransas’ 50-foot Scarlet Lady leaves from Captain Kelly’s Deep Sea Headquarters to cruise the Lydia Ann Channel in search of dolphins, sea birds and natural landmarks. The hour-and-a-half journey gives passengers enough time to enjoy time on the water, a cold drink from the bar and hopefully several dolphin sightings. Enjoy a BYOB Sunset Cruise with South Padre Island’s The Original Dolphin Watch to capture idyllic photos of dolphins frolicking in the day’s last light. Dolphin Connection in Ingleside (near Corpus Christi) takes trips in a smaller boat, meaning the dolphins are more likely to come up and say hi!
Adopt a Sea Turtle in South Padre Island
Nothing brings the family closer together than adopting a pet. Sea Turtle Inc. allows you to adopt a pet that will not require mom and dad to do all the work. Adoptions include hatchling, patient and resident that help fund everything from sea turtle patrols to medical supplies. Depending on your type of adoption you can name your hatchling and receive items such as a Sea Turtle Inc. Backpack and a “Proud Parent” bumper sticker. Sea Turtle Inc. is a sea turtle rehabilitation center that also educates tourists on sea turtles and the environment. Stop by for “Turtle Talk” to learn about the species in the area, watch staff feed turtles or adopt a turtle of your own. For an eco-friendly trip, check out Sea Turtle Inc.’s beach cleanup opportunities.
Go Horseback Riding
Galloping along the shore is one the best ways to experience the Texas Gulf Coast. Perfect for mom and dad to sneak away for a romantic sunset ride or for the whole family to take part in a guided tour. Horses on the Beach in Corpus Christi creates memorable experiences for all ages! It’s subsidiary location in South Padre Island, Island Adventure Park, not only offers horseback riding, but zip lining, a petting barn, go karts and mini golf. Galveston Island Horse and Pony Rides takes visitors through the East Beach sea-turtle and seabird sanctuary and a beautiful natural lagoon.
Try Deep Sea Fishing
Fishing is a popular pastime throughout the state’s freshwater lakes and rivers- but saltwater fishing is whole new ball game. With saltwater fishing in the Texas Gulf Coast, you can find a variety of fish such as speckled trout, redfish, flounder and king mackerel. The excitement of a boat trip out to sea and learning the different types of tackle and hooks make deep sea fishing a great activity for kids! Many guided tours are available in Port Aransas, South Padre Island and Galveston to help visitors find the best catches.