It can be difficult to find inexpensive events and activities to keep your children occupied during school breaks or even on the weekends.You want to give them great experiences, but it’s not always feasible to spend money on theme parks and big attractions.
Here is a list of FREE things to do with kids in Central Texas that will build lasting memories and keep you from going broke.
1. Hewitt Public Library (Hewitt, TX)
This state-of-the-art public library has children’s programs, free events and activities for kids in Hewitt and the surrounding areas, book clubs and thousands of books to check out.
2. Waco Family Fun Fest (Waco, TX)
This annual event is filled with games, inflatables, a princess tea party, a petting zoo, and special appearances from your child’s favorite characters. The Waco Family Fun Fest, that is hosted by Hooray for Family every April, was created to educate, support and partner with local families and the businesses that serve them. It also part festival-part food drive, benefitting the Caritas food pantry. Guests can get into the fun fest free with the donation of a canned good.
3. Mayborn Museum Complex (Waco, TX)
This museum, located on Baylor University’s campus, is a great place for children and adults to explore, learn more about history and discover new exhibits. While it normally costs to get into the museum, the Mayborn offers several options to visit the museum for free or at a reduced price. Every couple of months, the museum hosts a Community Day, which offers free admission to patrons. If you have a library card for any of the Waco or Hewitt libraries, you can check out a one-time pass to use at the museum for you and your family. And if you or your children receive SNAP benefits, you can get into the museum for just $1 per person.
4. Carleen Bright Arboretum (Woodway, TX)
If your kids love nature, they will love the blooming oasis that is the Carleen Bright Arboretum. Not only does it have nature trails, a place for picnics, and gardens cultivated by McLennan County Master Gardeners, but the arboretum is also a certified Monarch butterfly waystation.
5. Dr. Pepper Museum (Waco, TX)
While this Waco landmark usually costs a nominal fee to get in, the museum hosts “First Friday” events where you and your children can get into the museum for free from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. You can explore the museum, engage in hands-on activities, and learn about one of the most famous beverages in Texas.
6. Waco Mammoth National Monument (Waco, TX)
The Waco Mammoth site became a national park in 2015 and is now a kid-friendly place to inspire the next generation of explorers and scientists. While it does normally cost to get into the park, each March, the monument hosts the Mammoths on the March Festival that is free to area kids. It includes egg hunts, spring flower planting, fossil identification, games and crafts, and more!
7. Bear Habitat (Waco, TX)
Whether you’re a Baylor fan or just an animal lover, your family will love getting the chance to see real North American black bears up close at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat on Baylor University’s campus. You can learn a little about these powerful animals and get a great picture next to these living mascots.
8. Magnolia Market at the Silos (Waco, TX)
While there are several places at the market to spend a pretty penny, there are also some free options when it comes to visiting the home of the Fixer Upper empire. The two-block complex offers lots of places to take photos with your family, a green space for outdoor games, and a pristinely tended garden to explore.
9. 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 for outdoor adventures.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. History of West Museum (West, TX)Just outside of Waco is the charming town of West, TX, that is full of Czech heritage. Now, you can explore all of the contributions of these proud people inside the History of West Museum. Exhibits include early ancestors, businesses, farming, military, and the impact the Czech culture had on the town. (This museum is only open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays)
15. Homestead Craft Village (Waco, TX)
Visiting this self-sustained homestead is like going back to simpler times. You and your children can explore all aspects of the farming experience and get to know where their food comes from. While it is free to visit the homestead, tours, crafts and dining do come with a fee.
16. The Red Men Museum and Library (Waco, TX)
Discovering the native peoples of the Waco area is important to future generations. So, why not take your kids to The Red Men Museum and find out more about the Native Americans who impacted Waco. Some of the artifacts include a desk owned by Aaron Burr, a bugle found at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pocahontas artifacts and much more.
17. Waco Hispanic Museum (Waco, TX)
This museum contains photos, news articles, and clothing from residents of the Waco Hispanic community. It’s a great place to explore these artifacts and celebrate what the Hispanic community has done for the city.
Free Things to Do in Killeen, TX
18. Junior Service League Spray Pad at Long Branch Park (Killeen, TX)
This zero-entry splash pad is special needs-friendly and has a variety of equipment to create hours of fun for those who are looking to cool off without the price tag of a water park. (Only open spring and summer)
19. Killeen Parks & Recreation Concerts in the Park (Killeen, TX)
Throughout the year, the city’s parks and recreation department hosts free concerts in their parks. All you have to do is show up with your picnic blanket or your folding chairs, and you get the chance to attend a musical performance for free.
20. 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.
Even though Central Texas doesn’t have mountain ranges to speak of, hikers and mountain bikers can get a taste of rocky, mountainous terrain when they hit the Dana Peak Park Trail near Harker Heights. You can even bring your dog or horse along for the trek.
22. Stewart C. Meyer Public Library (Harker Heights, TX)
Along with hundreds of volumes of best-selling books, this public library hosts programs and events for children, teens and adults. These events activities for kids are free to the public and occur on a regular basis.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26.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.
27. 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.
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 these FREE opportunities in the spring. But, because this time of year is full of sports, school and holiday expenses, it’s difficult to spend money on family outings.Back To Top
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.