One place that our family has found ourselves returning to time after time throughout our travels is central Texas. I imagine this has something to do with us having family in nearby Oklahoma and the availability of Thousand Trails campgrounds in the area. No matter the reason, we always end up having a fun time finding new things to do in central Texas.

Planning a trip to this area of the Lone Star State? Here are my top picks of things to do in central Texas. Pick and choose from this list and you’re sure to have a great time!

Things to do in Central Texas in Cleburne

So Cleburne is actually a bit north of what many people consider central Texas, but I think it’s close enough to count, and it’s actually a super cute little town with some fun things to do.

Chisholm Trail Museum and Big Bear Native American Museum

We accidentally stumbled on the Chisholm Trail Museum one day while we were in town running some errands, and I immediately knew we needed to visit when they were open. This is an open-air living history museum with a focus on the Chisholm Trail, meaning it is right up my alley.

The museum sometimes hosts special events, but nothing was going on while we were there. Instead, a staff member graciously took us from building to building, explaining what was what and unlocking doors so we could explore inside each structure.

Located on the grounds of the Chisholm Trail Museum, you will find the Big Bear Native American Museum. Unlike the outdoor museum, this one does charge a small admission fee, but it features some lovely Native American artifacts and is well worth the price.

Leyland Museum

We found the Leyland Museum while walking around the adorable historic downtown area. This free museum is actually set inside one of the historic buildings, making it an extra charming little place. I absolutely adored the fact that the upstairs was the town’s old theater, and had a great time looking at the posters for productions done long ago.

We also loved checking out the artifacts inside of this museum and learning all about the history of Cleburne and the surrounding area. Our family found it especially nice that there were hands-on stations set up for the kids, each one featuring a craft or some other sort of activity.

Texas Children’s Museum

If you’re looking for something that the kids are sure to absolutely adore, the Texas Children’s Museum is it! This unusual little museum isn’t the most polished thing on earth, but the enormous variety of hands-on activities offered in each of the many rooms more than make up for the eclectic feel of the place.

We played with LEGO blocks, made some music, painted pictures, dug around in a room full of sand, played with toy dinos, created amazing marble runs that filled an entire room, and built a life-size playhouse out of giant blocks. On top of all that, my kids absolutely adored climbing on the indoor playground.

If you decide to visit Texas Children’s Museum, be sure to check their Facebook page for discounts, which are offered fairly regularly.

Old bottles of Dr. Pepper at the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, on of the best things to do in central Texas

Things to do in Central Texas in Waco

To be honest, I didn’t think Waco was going to be all that interesting. Boy was I wrong. This little town plays host to two totally different and totally unique attractions, and I am so happy we took the time to check them both out.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

My family adores visiting any site run by the National Parks Service, and Waco National Monument was no exception. In fact, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in central Texas.

This site is actually a covered active mammoth dig site, which was absolutely incredible to see up close. Inside the dig building, a ranger gives talks throughout the day and visitors can view dozens of fossilized bones, most of which belonged to mammoths.

The park also has exhibits, a sand pit where kids can practice their own fossil digging skills, and a pretty robust gift shop.

Dr. Pepper Museum

I am a fan of Dr. Pepper. That said, I think anyone would enjoy a visit to the Dr. Pepper Museum, whether or not they enjoyed the beverage. That’s because this museum was full of super interesting history—mostly the history of Dr. Pepper, to be sure, but also the history of soda in general and plenty of local history.

I really enjoy these niche kinds of museums, and this one really did not disappoint. I loved learning about the evolution of soda as a beverage, and my 12-year-old found the old ads quite amusing. We all thought the old 7-Up bottling machinery was pretty cool too, and of course, the free small soda at the end of our self-guided tour was appreciated.

Things to do in Central Texas in Glen Rose

We really didn’t spend all that much time in Glen Rose. That said, we did make a point of heading to a certain state park that calls this town home, and we had an amazing time exploring it.

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Did you know it’s possible to see actual dinosaur footprints? In fact, this is one of the best things to do in central Texas, if you ask me.

To find these prehistoric footprints, you’ll need to head to Dinosaur Valley State Park when the water level in the river is low. If you do this, you can hike down to the river and right up to the fossilized footprints in the riverbed. Putting our feet where dinosaurs once tread was a pretty incredible experience, especially for our then-dino-obsessed kiddo.

In addition to fossilized footprints, this park also features a great ranger program, many hiking trails, and a campground.

Terry Blacks BBQ, one of the bets places to eat in Austin

Things to do in Central Texas in Austin

Austin is without a doubt my favorite Texas city. I love the arts scene found here, and the food and coffee are phenomenal. Of course, it also plays host to some pretty awesome attractions. My favorites are listed below.


There’s nothing quite like a good children’s museum to keep the kids busy, happy, and learning, and the Thinkery is one of the best we’ve seen.

This museum is very well put together, with a room for playing with water, a room for playing with light, and a room for playing make-believe. There is an amazing outdoor climbing structure that is perfect for burning off excess energy and a lovely story room that is filled with cozy nooks and good picture books.

This museum is part of the ASTC reciprocal program

Congress Bridge Bats

There are certain things that are so unique that they stick out in your memory even after you’ve traveled dozens of new places. The Congress Bridge bats are one of those things for me and checking them out is easily one of the best things to do in central Texas.

To see the bats, we set up camp along with dozens of other folks on the southeast corner of Congress Bridge just before sunset. When the sun went down, we were greeted by an enormous cloud of hundreds of bats flying out from under the bridge in order to go hunting.

Unfortunately the Congress Bridge bats only nest under the Congress Bridge during the summer months, so in order to see this phenomenon, you will need to visit during the hot Texas summer.

McKinney Falls State Park

During our time in Austin, we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park. Initially I chose it simply because it was relatively inexpensive and just a tiny bit outside of the city. However, as soon as we arrived, I realized the park was much more than that.

This gorgeous state park is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It offers gorgeous green hiking trails, lovely waterfalls, and even some historic buildings. We explored much of the park during our time there and I would love to go back and see the rest sometime. I highly recommend camping in McKinney Falls State Park during your visit to Austin!

There you go, 9 totally cool things to do in central Texas as a family! Add these things to your bucket list and you’ll be thoroughly entertained the entire time you’re in the area.