Just off a straight stretch of the Trinity River, the sounds of laughter and victorious whooping grow louder. A curious look toward the hubbub yields a vision rarely seen in the city—helmet-clad athletes of all ages splash along the water's surface, launching their bodies in what looks like the offspring of water-skiing and snowboarding onto ramps, jumps, and railings that protrude from the water's surface like geometric islands. It's all part of a regular afternoon at Cowtown Wakepark, the watery brainchild of 20-year wakeboarding enthusiast Tommy Fambrough. During the course of three years, Tommy slowly formed the labyrinth of water-bound obstacles that visitors enjoy today, earning acclaim from the Trinity River Vision Authority's revitalization project for his riverside paradise's part in keeping the area an accessible and productive part of the community.
Each wakeboarding run begins when visitors strapped into their Liquid Force boards grab a cable and are pulled from the shore-side wooden platform across the water, cutting through the river's calm surface and pausing only to heckle passing fish. Spectators stick to the shore under covered tents and at picnic tables, or recline on the water's surface inside tented rafts. Onsite instructors can show first-timers the ropes, and also lead summer day camps to instill children aged 7–16 with wakeboarding, kneedboarding, and wakeskating basics.
At Rockwood Gokart Track, drivers 4'8" and taller buckle up and burn rubber around the outdoor course's tight twists and serpentine turns. There's 12 colorful, single-seat go-karts to choose from, and parents can ferry their little ones (3'4" or taller) alongside them in one of four double-seat mini speed machines. Serious go-karters can also purchase parts or whole new go-karts at Rockwood Gokart Track, or get their current one running again with repairs and promises of oil sandwiches.
Cowtown Bowling Palace's newly remodeled facility bestows families and friends with kid-friendly recreation amid bright green walls and neon-printed carpets. After strapping on pairs of rental shoes, bowlers launch orbs down any of 32 slick lanes, many of which can be equipped with bumpers for children or balls preparing to hatch ostriches. In between frames, famished opponents or teammates can scarf down abundant treats at Cowtown Bowling Palace's snack bar. The alley's schedule permits smoke-free entertainment for families, and on select days 24-hour accessibility indulges night owls and Santas finishing their shifts early.
Can plants help save the planet? That's a question the researchers at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas ask themselves every day. The institute has been around since 1987, and since that time it has become a center that uses conservation ideas and plant research for the greater good. Whether researchers are discovering new plant species or coming up with solutions to pollution using botanics, they stay curious about the plant world and then share their findings with the public. Visitors to the campus can also tour the super-efficient facility—built in 2011—and explore its herbarium, libraries, and expansive grounds.
Owners Maarten and Hanna Vanderstoel created Van Grow Studio of the Arts to promote creative thinking and problem solving in children through artistic crafts. Boasting degrees in fine arts and studio arts, respectively, Maarten and Hanna teach most of the classes and prepare the curricula for all of the studio's camps. TCU graduate Alma Worrell manages the open studio and paint-your-own-pottery rooms, which are also accessible to adults. Van Grow's upbeat instructors nurture creativity and confidence across three age groups, offering classes, parties, and workshops to pique a wide range of interests. Courses foster each student's individual vision, rather than a mastery of technique, and help to develop motor skills, self-esteem, and the ability to sculpt gummy-bear replicas of Rodin's The Thinker.
Since opening in 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art has built up a world-class collection of more than 200,000 pieces, including 19th- and 20th-century canvases from Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Those masterworks share space with works by artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, among others, a collection of American photographs, and one of the country's earliest daguerreotypes. Special exhibitions delve more deeply into such styles as American modernism, abstract art, and landscape photography. The museum also strives to educate visitors through children's programs, book clubs, and lectures by artists and scholars on topics such as why it is unsafe to eat the fruit painted in still lifes.