Bayou Wildlife Park
5050 FM 517
Alvin • 855-443-4762
About 25 miles southeast of Houston, Alvin is home to an 80-acre wildlife preserve where visitors can take individual and guided tours and participate in a variety of activities. The Bayou Wildlife Preserve offers tram ride tours, pony rides and a petting zoo, featuring more than 500 animals and birds.
10 a.m.–4 p.m. (March 1–Aug. 1), 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (Aug. 1–Feb. 28)
3122 County Road 237
Alvin • 281-331-4395
Run by Nell and Harvey Shimek, the award-winning Shimek Gardens is a National Display Garden with hundreds of daylilies from breeders all over the country. Located one mile west of Alvin’s city limits, the garden features more than 850 different types of daylilies, hundreds of roses and a wide variety of other flowers. Free admission.
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
24907 FM 2004
Angleton • 979-922-1037
The 44,000-acre park features salt and freshwater marshes and is home to more than 300 species of bird. Salt Lake, Nicks Lake and Lost Lake are ideal for nature watching and fishing. Visitors can find geese, ducks and sandhill cranes or fish for speckled trout, red drum, flounder and croaker.
Open from dawn until dusk. Free admission.
Baytown Historical Museum
220 W. Defee St.
Baytown • 281-427-8768
The Baytown Historical Museum is in the old Baytown Post Office. The origin of the museum dates back to May 14, 1970, when the city of Baytown formed a historical committee to look into establishing a historical museum in Baytown. The museum features artifacts pertaining to local and pioneer history.
Tue.–Sat. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Free admission.
Pirate’s Bay Water Park
5300 E. Road
Baytown • 281-422-1150
The city of Baytown kicks off the summer in May with Pirate’s Bay Water Park’s 2014 season. The park features a series of water tube and body slides, along with a nearly 700-foot lazy river. New features for 2014 include “dive in movies,” beach parties for children 5 and under and swim lessons. The season is scheduled to end Aug. 24.
Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Fri.–Sun. 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Costs vary.
Royal Purple Raceway
2525 S. FM 565
Baytown • 281-383-7223
The park is situated on 500 acres and features seating for 30,000. The three-story tower building incorporates 23 VIP suites, media center, and race control facilities equipped with state-of-the-art timing and scoring equipment. Regular events include street racing on Fridays and dirt racing on Saturdays. The ASCS Sprint Car Nationals takes place June 15.
Times and costs vary by event.
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
4700 Ave. U, Bldg. 216
Galveston • 409-621-5151
This premier diving destination provides divers with the chance to view the northernmost coral reefs in the continental U.S. Star and Brain coral, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and loggerhead sea turtles are all on display. Whale sharks can also be seen around July, August and September. This experience is best suited for intermediate or advanced divers.
A trip can be scheduled in advance with a charter operator. A list can be found on the sanctuary website. Costs vary.
One Hope Blvd.
Galveston • 800-582-4673
From the ocean to the rainforest, visitors can learn about wildlife and natural ecosystems while participating in a range of activities at Moody Gardens. The location also offers an 18-hole golf course, an IMAX theater and paddle wheel boat rides. The Palm Beach water park is open on the weekends in May and opens full time in June.
10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily. Costs vary.
Texas Seaport Museum
2100 Harborside Drive
Galveston • 409-763-1877
Elissa, a historic ship built for commerce in 1877, is docked at this museum where travelers can take a tour. The museum also has an exhibit about shrimping in Galveston and a database of more than 130,000 immigrants who entered the U.S. through the island.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. $10 (adult), $8 (student ages 6–18), free (children under 5 and Galveston Historical Foundation members).
Huntsville State Park
40 Park Road
Huntsville • 936-295-5644
This heavily wooded park adjoins the Sam Houston National Forest and encloses the 210-acre Lake Raven. The park offers camping, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, swimming and guided horseback trail rides with horses provided by 2E Stables. Canoe and paddle boat rentals are also available.
Gates open 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily. $5 (adult), free (children 12 and under).
Sam Houston Memorial Museum
1402 19th St.
Huntsville • 936-294-1832
The museum features photographs and other historic and educational memorabilia relevant to the life of Sam Houston. Patrons can go on guided tours of the museum grounds to see the Steamboat House, where the Houstons lived when Sam was governor, and his Woodland home.
Tue.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Sun. noon–4:30 p.m., closed Mondays. $4 (adults), $3 (seniors over 65), $2 (ages 6–18), free (members, SHSU students with ID).
Lake Jackson, TX
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
103 W. Hwy. 332
Lake Jackson • 979-480-0999
Travelers can embark on self-guided nature trails across the 34 acres of Columbia Bottomland forest in Lake Jackson. This research and education facility coordinates data on migrating and resident avifauna. The GCBO hosts free bird-banding programs on the third Saturday of each month to help track bird migratory patterns.
Mon.–Fri. 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Free admission (donations appreciated).
Sea Center Texas
300 Medical Drive
Lake Jackson • 979-292-0100
A marine development, aquarium and education center in Lake Jackson, Sea Center can produce 20 million fingerlings annually—primarily red drum and spotted sea trout—for release into Texas coastal waters. In addition to aquariums, displays and a 24-foot touch-tank, the complex also has a saltwater marsh demonstration boardwalk and a freshwater marsh that is ideal for birding.
Tue.–Sat. 9 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–4 p.m, closed Mondays. Free admission (donations appreciated).
La Porte, TX
San Jacinto Monument and Battlegrounds
One Monument Circle
La Porte • 281-479-2421
The San Jacinto Monument is dedicated to the heroes of the Battle of San Jacinto and all others who contributed to the independence of Texas. The monument is a 570-foot shaft topped by a 34-foot star symbolizing the Lone Star Republic. The building incorporates a number of innovative engineering features not common during the period of its construction. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the monument as a State and National Historic Structure. The monument is listed as the tallest stone column memorial structure in the world, 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily (battleground, monument and museum), 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily (monument observation floor). Free admission.
3527 Independence Parkway
La Porte • 281-542-0684
This 1,200-acre property is the historic site of the San Jacinto Battleground. The park is also home to the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. Visitors can partake in self-guided tours of the historic ship and learn about an important piece of Texas history. Guided tours and student discounts are also available.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. $12 (adults). Free (under 13).
New Braunfels, TX
Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort
400 N. Liberty Ave.
New Braunfels • 830-625-2351
Whether going for an extended trip or just the day, the well-known Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort offers a range of rides, activities and other attractions for all ages. The park offers season passes and group discounts. Private cabana rentals are also available. The park is open on the weekends through May 15. The entire park opens June 2.
Times and costs vary.
Washington on the Brazos
Washington • 936-878-2214
The 293-acre state historic site is on the Brazos River. Visitors are encouraged to begin at the Visitors Center, where the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff can help plan the visit. Tour options take patrons to Independence Hall to learn about the founding of the Republic of Texas, Barrington Living History Farm to experience life in early Texas and the Star of the Republic Museum for a historic overview. 8 a.m.–sundown (park hours), 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (Visitor’s Center). Costs vary by tour package.