Once you enter the Tropical Storm, everything goes dark. You blindly whip around inside the watery tunnel before being unexpectedly plunged into a pool of water—and you probably want to do it again. The Tropical Storm is one of eight water slides at Splashway Waterpark, a seasonal outdoor playground that boasts water-fueled attractions for toddlers, older kids, and adults. Sometimes the rides relax, as when visitors drift down the lazy river on waterproof water beds, but sometimes they raise pulses instead, as on the nearly straight drop of Pirate's Plunge.
From May to September visitors can enjoy the park's attractions, which were designed to entertain families with kids of any age. When energy wanes, an onsite café piles plates with all-American fare such as burgers and hot dogs. The truly exhausted can turn in for the night at the park's RV and tent camp.
What was once a jumbled catch-all for the hunting trophies of Dr. E. A. Weinheimer, and a generous donation from Steve McManus, has been streamlined into a collection of well-organized exhibits at the El Campo Museum of Natural History. They feature these trophies along with others in realistic replicas of their original habitats.
It's easy to picture what life was like in centuries past at Matagorda County Museum. That's because the museum highlights the county's most memorable events with both detailed recreations and actual artifacts. Guests can absorb the county's nautical history by viewing a cannon and other artifacts recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of Matagorda Bay. They can also learn about indigenous family life or discover the charms and hardships of life in a covered wagon thanks to exhibits on those topics.
For an even more immersive experience, families need only step in to the award-winning children's section of the museum. There, kids can discover what life was really like more than 100 years ago in a recreation of a late 19th-century town. Newly minted citizens can swing by the town's O.K. Corral to drop off their horses, stop into the barber shop for a shave and a haircut, or head to the one-room schoolhouse to look over education primers. Other places of interest include an opera house, a post office, and, in case anyone at the post office gets caught opening letters not addressed to them, a jail.
If it weren’t for the railroad, there would be no Rosenberg. In 1880 the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Company extended their tracks across those of another railway, creating a junction that they named after the railway’s president, Henry von Rosenberg. All that remains of this junction’s original depot, from which the town of Rosenberg grew, is the signal tower, which is now the centerpiece of Rosenberg Railroad Museum’s collection of historic railcars and other railway paraphernalia.
Representing the full spectrum of passenger railcars, the collection includes a caboose—the living quarters of a train conductor—and a Canadian government business car, which in the 1920s had been appointed to transport dignitaries and prime ministers in comfort. At the museum’s education center, an HO-gauge model train gives visitors a macro view of a rail network, and, up in the signal tower, an interlocking machine lets visitors play at train traffic control, using the same switches the towerman flipped back in 1903 to make sure only one train was routed through a junction at a time and no trains were routed down the tracks that just led straight off the edge of the world.
Not too many people get to make a career out of their childhood dreams. Needville Horseback Riding's head instructor Jacqueline, however, is one person who can say she did. After riding and showing as a little girl, she decided to pursue horsemanship further in college and into adulthood, earning herself a certification from the American Riding Instructors Association and the right to fulfill her equestrian dream each day.
Today, she empowers others to pursue similar dreams by conducting horseback riding lessons in the disciplines of hunter, jumper, and dressage for riders of all ages. Lessons take place year-round rain or shine, and can be tailored to each rider regardless of whether their goals include competing in shows, riding for pleasure, or taking over the carpool lane with horse traffic. Jacqueline also welcomes casual horseback riders to participate in equine action through birthday parties and youth camps.
George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history—it’s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park’s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm—a cattle operation circa 1830—where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park’s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.