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Small Town Texas

Summer’s here and wanderlust is setting in. What better place to explore than the Lone Star State itself? Pack up your bags, tighten up your britches and take the family for a tour of some of the best small towns in Texas for curious kids and parents looking to have a little fun of their own.

Canton, population 3,581
How long’s the drive: 1 hour from Dallas
Closest big city: Tyler
Known for: Shopping at First Monday Trade Days
Why kids will love it: Kids become water royalty at the Splash Kingdom Waterpark where they can swim in the Kid’s Castle and speed down slides on Volcano Mountain. Playtime doesn’t have to end at dinner. Help solve a murder mystery or catch a classic movie, while sitting in recliners at the Dodge City Dinner Theater.
Why you’ll love it: Canton is famous for its First Monday Trade Days (on the Thursday-Sunday before the first Monday of every month. Shop over 450 acres of vendors selling antiques, collectibles and home décor and furniture.
visitcantontx.com, cantontx.gov
Dublin, population 3,654
How long’s the drive: 2 hours from Dallas
Closest big city: Fort Worth
Known for: Former home of Dublin Dr Pepper
Why kids will love it: Dublin is the first city to bottle Dr Pepper and, although it’s no longer bottled at Dublin Bottling Works, they still bottle many other tasty sodas that are all made with pure cane sugar, a healthier alternative to the high fructose corn syrup that makes up most soft drinks. Take a tour through the Bottling Works building to see how the sodas are bottled, and end at Old Doc’s Soda Shop to sip on your favorite. Dublin Bottling Works isn’t the only tour in town. Visit the Rodeo Heritage Museum for a rich history of famous cowboys and cowgirls from the area, or the Ben Hogan Museum that shares the inspiring story of a local blacksmith’s son who grew up to be a champion golfer.
Why you’ll love it: Play in the Ben Hogan Legacy Golf Series on June 6 for a chance to golf at the same place where Ben Hogan played his last amateur event, or run in the Dublin Lions Club 10-5-2K to get your early morning workout in while supporting a local organization that helps disadvantaged kids.
ci.dublin.tx.us, dublintxchamber.com
Ennis, population 18,513
How long’s the drive: 37 minutes from Dallas
Closest big city: Dallas
Known for: Fields of bluebonnets
Why kids will love it: Ennis’ biggest event, the Red, White and Bike Parade, takes place on July 4. Kids are encouraged to decorate their bikes as patriotically as they can and ride through the historic district while parents enjoy live music and a barbecue cook-off. If you can’t make it for the parade, check out Make it at the Market, a free children’s art lesson offered at the farmers market every Saturday, or snap photos at Bluebonnet Trail, a 40-mile trail known for its beautiful views of bluebonnet fields.
Why you’ll love it: Celebrate America’s musical heritage by rocking out at the Unity One Summer Music Festival on June 13 to hear blues, jazz, country and hip-hop music. For fast-paced entertainment, check out the drag racing at Texas Motorplex, a place that holds NHRA national events and where many racers gave world record performances.
ennistx.gov, visitennis.org
Glen Rose, population 2,444
How long’s the drive: 1.5 hours from Dallas
Closest big city: Fort Worth
Known for: Dinosaurs, fossils and footprints
Why kids will love it: The Dinosaur Capital of Texas is the perfect place to take little paleontologists-in-training. Start at the Dinosaur Valley State Park, where kids can walk through 1,500 acres of land that dinosaurs walked on, then make your way to Dinosaur World, where you can see over 100 life-size dinosaur statues, a museum with real fossils and a dinosaur dig where kids can find their own fossils. Be sure to drive through the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center to see rhinoceroses, cheetahs, wolves and 1,000 other animals.
Why you’ll love it: Tour the White Buffalo Gallery, which features western-themed art and sculpture from Glen Rose’s famous artist-in-residence Robert Summers, as well as several other artists. Later, relax in Oakdale Park and catch a summer concert every weekend in June or watch the dogs from Texas Lacy Game Dog Association perform tricks on June 27.
Nacogdoches, population, 32,996
How long’s the drive: 2.75 hours from Dallas
Closest big city: Tyler
Known for: Oldest town in Texas (started by the Caddo American Indian tribe in 800 A.D.), blueberries
Why kids will love it: Check out the annual Texas Blueberry Festival on June 13 in the oldest town in Texas. Start your day off with a blueberry pancake breakfast; then make your way to the petting zoo, bounce house park and pie-eating contest. Everyone is encouraged to pick up a paintbrush to add to “The Big Blue” mural painting, participate in the cooking contest and attend the free Blueberry Bluegrass Concert in the Park. And, of course, there are plenty of opportunities for good, old-fashioned blueberry picking.
Why you’ll love it: Smell the fresh scents of beautiful flowers in one of four main gardens that houses hundreds of unique plants, flowers and nature trails on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. If you enjoy down-to-earth soulful music, check out a performance by blues musician Dan Dyer on June 19 at the Liberty Bell, a wine bar that sells wine from all over the world.
visitnacogdoches.org, ci.nacogdoches.tx.us
New Braunfels, population 57,740
How long’s the drive: 4 hours from Dallas
Closest big city: San Antonio
Known for: Texas’ oldest bakery, German history, river activities
Why kids will love it: If your kids are swimmers, take them to Rockin’ R River Rides to tube in the river or splash around at Schlitterbahn’s 65 acres of inland surfing, water roller coasters and other water games. Still not waterlogged? Check out McKenna Children’s Museum’s outdoor water table, boat racing ramp and fishing pond.
Why you’ll love it: Be sure to stop by Naegelin’s Bakery, Texas’ oldest bakery (they’ve been baking since 1868!) to taste one of their delicious strudels or pastries. Class is in session at Winery University; don’t miss this food and wine class at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards on June 13, where you will learn what wines taste best with different meats from the grill.
playinnewbraunfels.com, nbtexas.org
Stonewall, population 505
How long’s the drive: 4 hours from Dallas
Closest big city: San Antonio
Known for: Hometown of President Lyndon B. Johnson
Why kids will love it: Blow the kids’ minds by going back in time (you know, before the iPhone existed) at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site to learn how pioneers dressed, what farm and household chores they did and to join a guided tour. Plan a trip to the town on June 19 and 20 to be part of the 54th Annual Stonewall Peach JAMboree and Rodeo, where there will be peach judging, live music, a rodeo and a crowning of the Peach Queen.
Why you’ll love it: Visit the Texas White House where President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife lived, then head over to the Becker Vineyards to enjoy the sweet taste of Texas wine made from home grown grapes. The Fredericksburg Herb Farm is only 15 minutes away, where you can relax in the peaceful, garden environment with a spa treatment of organic lotions and oils, and enjoy a restaurant that combines fresh foods and herbs for a delicious meal.

Published June 2015