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Because the weather in Texas only stays balmy for a few weeks before it turns into the surface of the sun, it’s nice to get out and take advantage of the spring temperatures. But, because this time of year is full of sports, school and holiday expenses, it’s difficult to spend money on family outings.
Well, here are some FREE places you can take your kids that will build lasting memories and keep you from going broke.
1. Live Oak Ridge Park (Belton, TX)
While it does cost money to camp or use electricity, if you’re just coming for the day, you can enjoy the park for free. The park has 136 miles of shoreline that includes picnic areas and nature trails. It is also a natural habitat for hawks, great blue herons, ducks, geese, the Rio Grande turkey and an occasional bald eagle.
2. Bell County Museum (Belton, TX)
The museum is a great place to teach your kids about the history of the area. Many of the exhibits are kid-friendly and give children the chance to do everything from brush cotton to pump water from a real, old-fashioned water pump. And if you go to “Charley’s Page” before you go, you can print out a scavenger hunt for kids to complete during their visit.
3. Central Texas Bark Park (Temple, TX)
If you want a place to take your two and four-legged children to run off some steam, then the Central Texas Bark Park might just be the perfect place. It’s located inside of Lions Park in Temple, TX and offers fenced-in areas for large and small dogs.
4. West Temple Park (Temple, TX)
Even if it’s not warm enough to use the elaborate splash pad at this park, you can still enjoy the basketball and volleyball courts, playground and duck pond. It’s a great place to fly a kite or have a picnic lunch.
5. Whistle-Stop Park (Temple, TX)
If you have a train-loving kid, this the place for you. Not only can they play on a train-themed playground, but they will also get the chance to see and hear real trains that chug through town. And if you’re willing to spend a few dollars, you can get into the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum nearby.
6. Barnes & Noble Bookstore (Harker Heights, TX)
While you will have to purchase any book you take home, Barnes & Noble hosts several free kids’ events a month, including free story times. There’s even a train table that will help keep your little ones entertained while you catch up on your reading.
7. Cameron Park (Waco, TX)
This park contains miles of trails that twist and turn into 100-foot bluffs that overlook the river. Whether you bike, hike or play a game of disc golf, there are endless possibilities four outdoor adventures.
8. Mother Neff Park (Moody, TX)
Mother Neff Park is named for Isabella Neff, who donated the original six acres of the park in 1921. Since then, it has grown exponentially, and is considered one of the earliest state parks in Texas. You can hike, picnic, camp and observe nature. The entrance fee is free for kids 12 and under, but adults do have to pay $2 a person. But for $2, it’s a pretty good deal. There is so much to explore in this Central Texas treasure.
9. Waco Suspension Bridge (Waco, TX)
This historic Waco landmark was built in 1870 and is still one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. It is flanked by two parks – Indian Spring Park and Martin Luther King, Jr.—and is the site of many festivals and events during the year. One of the best things about the bridge is the sculpture that is near its entrance. It’s called “Branding the Brazos,” and it looks as if a heard of longhorns is coming your way. It’s one of my kids’ favorite places to visit and take pictures.
10. Lake Waco Wetlands (Waco, TX)
The wetlands is a one-of-a-kind attraction in Central Texas, and offers many activities for nature lovers. There’s hiking, bird watching, and water quality education workshops. The wetlands is home to many animal and plant species including fox, deer, and over 185 species of birds.
11. Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market (Waco, TX)
The Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. near the McLennan County Courthouse and the iconic ALICO building. It features local agricultural producers and artisan vendors that provide the freshest produce and the most unique items in the area. Not only is it a fun experience, but it is also a great way to teach your children about where their food comes from and the benefits to eating healthy and local.
Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.