Hear that? It’s the tick-tock of the countdown to summer vacation, a time of glee for children — and perhaps panic for some parents who suddenly have kids at home full time. No need to fret. It’s the perfect opportunity for a family-friendly getaway, and they’re easy to take thanks to accommodations that cater to kids – and weary parents, too. Forgot the Pack ‘n Play? No sweat. Need wine delivered to your room after baby’s bedtime? Would you like red or white?
Here are five of the best in Dallas-Fort Worth, all just a few hours from Austin — and worth the drive.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway
There’s something about a night spent under the stars with loved ones, where the glow of the moon replaces the glow of a cellphone. Mineral Wells is home to one of the state’s most family-friendly state parks, and it’s less than two hours west of DFW. In addition to boating, fishing, swimming, natural rock climbing, and miles of trails to hike and bike, the park offers fun and educational events in the onsite amphitheater that cater to kids. The programs take place on Saturday nights at dusk and include topics like bird call identification, night sounds, and stargazing. Video games will soon be forgotten — at least for the evening.
Lodging is rustic and includes only campsites and screened shelters, most of which include picnic tables, outdoor grills, a fire ring, water, electrical hookups, and lantern posts. Showers and restrooms are within short walking distance. Fees range from $10-$36 nightly, plus park entrance fees.
Lake Granbury has its own sandy beach — and it doesn't require a drive to the coast. The pretty park offers beach volleyball, kayak rentals, concessions, and picnic pavilions. There’s also a boardwalk, and the beach is within easy walking distance to the historic downtown Granbury square.
On the square itself, kid-friendly restaurants are abundant, from the automotive-themed Fillin’ Station, popular for its burgers, to Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, where the servers frequently break into sing-alongs.
The Hilton Garden Inn makes for an easy family stay — it’s right next to the beach. Rates start at $119. But for more private accommodations, consider the charming Heavenhill Guesthouse. The uniquely restored two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is within walking distance to the square. It offers a fully equipped kitchen, living room, washer and dryer, and massive pecan tree that shades the back patio, which is home to rocking chairs, a picnic table, and grill. Rates start at $155 a night.
North Texas Jellystone Park
It’s hard to miss the colorful campgrounds while traveling along Interstate 35W through Burleson, but booking a stay may not cross one’s mind until kids come along. The RV park and resort can accommodate campers of all kinds — from those who wish to rough it in their own tents to “glampers” who prefer a luxury log cabin with a screened porch, kitchen and living area, and queen-sized beds.
There are more than 120 acres to explore, and popular activities include catch-and-release fishing, laser tag, biking, paintball, train rides, and weekend family dance parties under the stars by the light of a bonfire. At Pirates’ Cove Waterpark, located just next door, guests will find waterfalls, slides, pools, and a winding lazy river. (Entrance fee required.)
Jellystone Park does have an onsite eatery (and there are several in Pirates’ Cove); menu options are fairly limited to casual grub like burgers, hot wings, pizza, hot dogs, and nachos. Those with dietary restrictions should plan to bring their own meals and take note that outside food is not allowed in Jellystone eateries or the water park. Rates vary.
Rough Creek Lodge
There is nothing “rough” about this retreat, located on 11,000 acres about 90 minutes southwest of DFW. While the sprawling ranch is one of the most sought-after venues for weddings and events in the area, it’s also popular for families. Maybe it’s the onsite Kid’s Ranch, where parents can leave their children from 6-10 pm to play games and devour a kid-friendly buffet while they escape for an adult dinner. (Gerard Thompson is the longtime executive chef here, and his rustic American cuisine is worth the trip alone.)
Or it could be the long list of things to do, like swimming, archery, fishing, hiking, paddle boating, and even hunting and shooting sports for the older kiddos. Horseback riding, paintball, guided fishing, ziplining, and mule rentals are also available.
Families can stay in the Main Lodge, where each room has a private balcony with oversized rocking chairs that overlook a small lake, or in one of four small cabins with screened-in porches located about a half-mile away in a wooded area where deer graze.
Rates start at $333 per adult and include a three-course dinner and breakfast. Children under 15 stay and eat free. (There is a $30 fee per child for more than three children.)
Great Wolf Lodge
This kid-friendly lodge in Grapevine has become a favorite among DFW staycationers. But it caters to adults, too. Incredibly important details many parents may not know: the resort is home to multiple cocktail bars, upscale dining, a full-service spa, and “wine down” room service with bottle and charcuterie board delivery after 8 pm. The kids aren’t the only ones in for some fun.
At the 80,000-square-foot indoor water park, the weather forecast is always sunny and warm, so unpredictable Texas weather doesn’t matter here. Little ones will love the countless opportunities to splash and play amid water slides, a wave pool, winding river, and towering water fort tree house. Even babies and toddlers have a pool of their own to sit and splash, where the “deep” end maxes out at 18 inches. Parents can take comfort in knowing trained lifeguards are on constant watch, and there are life jackets of all sizes available at no fee.
Activities on dry land include a busy arcade, 4-D theater, kids-themed spa with ice cream sundaes, daily kids’ fitness classes including yoga and “Wolfercise,” live shows, a breakfast buffet with roaming characters, and a very popular scavenger hunt game that takes participants all over the property seeking clues with a magic wand. (Plan for a restorative night’s rest thanks to tuckered out children.)
Brand new are build-your-own in-room fort kits, which come with two colorful sheets, ties, clothespins, a camp lantern and a tag to personalize, all in a Great Wolf backpack to take home.
The Great Wolf Lodge culinary team can also accommodate all food allergies, and all kitchens are completely nut-free. Rates start at $199 per night.