Exploring Things to do in Central Texas with Wonder Wherever We Wander

Travel Inspiration

Even as a full time traveling family that’s been all over the country, we often find ourselves in certain spots over and over again. For us, one of these places is central Texas. I think this happens because we have family in Oklahoma and this area is relatively nearby. Whatever the reason, we always end up finding fun things to do in central Texas, and I highly recommend making a trip down there if you ever have a chance. 

Boy playing in sand at Texas Children’s Museum
Brendon playing in the sand at Texas Children’s Museum in Cleburne

Fun in Cleburne

I’ll start by talking about our time in the little town of Cleburne. This town might actually be a little bit far north to be considered “central” Texas, but we often end up there when staying in central Texas, so I think it’s close enough. 

Things to Do

We absolutely love the adorable historic downtown area in Cleburne, and find that wandering the cute Main Street is a fun way to pass a little time. In fact, this is how we stumbled across the Layland Museum of History. This museum is small but well put together, and it’s 100% free to visit. We enjoyed learning a bit about the history of the area, and I was fascinated by the old theater that you can see upstairs. 

We also really enjoyed the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum while in Clerburne. During our visit to this place, we were actually treated to a private tour of the historic buildings because we visited during a slow time. That said, I highly recommend timing your visit to coincide with a living history event, as the events sound incredible. 

Lastly, I must mention the Texas Children’s Museum. We visited this attraction before our daughter was born, but our son was only 6 or 7 at the time and absolutely adored it. The place has a ton of different rooms and every room boasts something different to do. There’s a sand pit room, a LEGO room, a music room, a large climbing structure, and so much more!

Other things to do in Cleburne include: 

  • Cleburne Railroad Museum
  • Gone With the Wind Museum
  • JN Long Cultural Arts Center
  • Lowell Smith History Center
  • Dinosaur Science Museum 
  • Antique shopping
  • Cleburne State Park

Where to Eat

We ate at Grumps Burgers in Cleburne and enjoyed our experience very much. We especially loved that the soda dispenser included locally made soda options!

Where We Stayed

Thousand Trails Lake Whitney is our homebase for visiting Cleburne. Being Thousand Trails members, this makes sense for us, and we do enjoy the park despite the horribly rutted roads. If you are a Thousand Trails member, this park is a good pick. Otherwise, you might consider camping at Cleburne State Park

Girl looking at a display at the Dr. Pepper Museum, one of the many things to do in Central Texas
Matilda checking out a display at the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco

Wandering Waco

On our last visit to central Texas, we decided to check out the town of Waco. I didn’t expect much really, but ended up finding lots of fun things to see and do.

What to Do

We drove into Waco two times. The first day, we visited the Waco Mammoth National Monument, something we’d visited years before but didn’t remember well. Guys, this place is so cool. It’s an NPS site that protects the mammoth fossils that were found in Waco. The park is also still an active dig site, meaning you see fossils still in the ground! Attend the ranger talk during your visit. It is well worthwhile. 

The second day we visited Waco was spent at the Dr. Pepper Museum. I love niche little museums so this was right up my alley, and I wasn’t disappointed. The museum detailed the history of soda as a whole (with a special focus on Dr. Pepper of course). I honestly believe even someone who doesn’t drink soda would enjoy this museum if they are interested in history, and those who do enjoy soda will appreciate the complimentary beverage at the end of the tour. 

Other things to do in Waco include:

  • Cameron Park Zoo
  • Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Magnolia Market
  • Mayborn Museum Complex

Where to Eat

Waco is where we discovered the Texas chain, Tejun – The Texas Cajun. I am a huge fan of Cajun food so we had to try it, and we were quite happy with our choice. The prices are fair and the food is flavorful, and it curbed my Cajun craving nicely. We also appreciated the back deck where you could sit out over the water in nice weather.

Where We Stayed

We drove to Waco from Thousand Trails Lake Whitney. Like I said before, this is a good option for Thousand Trails members. Those who aren’t a part of Thousand Trails might want to look into staying at Mother Neff State Park.

Boy running from dinosaur statue
Brendon running from a dinosaur at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Checking Out Glen Rose

We actually didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Glen Rose itself; we only visited for a day. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed what we saw and will absolutely be back!

What to Do

As mentioned above, we didn’t spend very much time in Glen Rose. We really just visited to check out Dinosaur Valley State Park, and it was well worth the drive. (Totally one of the best things to do in central Texas.)

This park is awesome because it is home to actual fossilized dinosaur footprints. The prints are in the riverbed, meaning you really want to visit when the water level is low in order to ensure you see them. We also recommend checking out the visitor center, attending a ranger talk, and doing some hiking while in the park. 

Other things to do in Glen Rose include:

  • Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
  • Paluxy Heritage Park
  • Dinosaur World
  • Somerville County Museum

Where to Eat

After exploring the state park, we headed into town for a quick treat at Shoo-Fly Soda Shop. We didn’t get any actual food, but did thoroughly enjoy our ice cream as well as the adorable shop and friendly Texas-style service. I hope to one day return to this cute area to explore some more!

Where We Stayed

When we visited Glen Rose, we were staying in one of the Texas Thousand Trails parks (though it’s been a while and I couldn’t tell you exactly which). That said, I really wish we had set up camp in Dinosaur Valley State Park. That’s right, you can camp right by the dinosaur tracks! And the park was such a lovely place, I really wish we had done that. 

The outside of Blacks Barbecue in Austin
We really enjoyed our meal at Black’s Barbecue

Adventuring in Austin

Austin is my favorite city in the entire state of Texas. This city is just full of life and I love it! I adore the arts scene here, and the food isn’t half bad either. 

What to Do

Exploring Austin was memorable for sure and is one of our favorite things to do in central Texas. We absolutely loved hiking around McKinney Falls State Park. During our favorite hike in this park, it rained and the ground became covered in slugs. Our son had a blast befriending the little critters and then moving them off the trail so they wouldn’t be squished. 

In the city itself, our favorite attraction was Thinkery. This might seem odd, but you have to keep in mind the fact that we have kids. Thinkery is the perfect place for kids, and so far we have spent two solid days in this place. The museum offers a super cool make-believe room where kids can pretend to be farmers, chefs, and all sorts of other things. It also plays host to a water play room, a room for playing with light, a reading room, and an outdoor play structure. 

The most exciting and unique thing we did in Austin was see the Congress Bridge Bats. In my opinion, this is a must-see for anyone who visits the city in summer (when the bats call the bridge home). To see the bats, set up camp at the southeast corner of Congress Bridge. (Show up early, because it gets pretty crowded.) When the sun goes down, you will be treated to the fantastic sight of hundreds of bats leaving their roost under the bridge to go out hunting. It’s a surreal and spectacular experience that I will never forget!

Other things to do in Austin include:

  • Barton Springs Municipal Pool
  • Texas State Capitol
  • Zilker Metropolitan Park
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum
  • LBJ Presidential Library 
  • Austin City Limits Music Festival

Where to Eat

No visit to Austin is complete without some barbecue. We tried a few different spots and decided that Terry Black’s Barbecue is our favorite. For dessert, find one of the many Amy’s Ice Creams locations scattered across the city; this is a local chain and the ice cream is wonderful!

Where We Stayed

During our time in Austin, we camped in McKinney Falls State Park. This park is located on the outskirts of the city so it’s easy to reach attractions, and as mentioned above, the hiking here is wonderful!

More Recommendations

Despite visiting the area several times, we have yet to experience all the things to do in central Texas. Below, I’ve listed some of the spots we have on our list for next time.


The adorable town of Fredericksburg has German roots. It plays host to some well-reviewed German eateries as well as some cute coffee shops, small museums, and boutique shops. Their Oktoberfest is said to be one of the best around!

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

NPS sites are always automatically added to my to-do list when visiting a place, and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is no exception. We hope to visit this park and learn more about President Johnson soon. 

Old Tunnel State Park

Supposedly, this Old Tunnel State Park is another great pace to see bats. Because we loved our bat experience in Austin so much, I feel like we really need to make the trek to this park to see the bats there. 

Pedernales Falls State Park

Located just outside of Johnson City, Pedernales Falls State Park looks like a fun place to camp, hike, and swim while enjoying some beautiful views. 

As you can see, there are tons of great things to do in central Texas. I hope our family’s experiences have inspired you to rent an RV and go explore this area for yourself!