Within the McKenna Children's Museum, the laughter of parents and children bounces through the corridors of hands-on educational exhibits. The ever-changing features and activities foster creativity in youngsters while stimulating their interest in science, health, and nature. In a realistic grocery store, shelves full of goods let kids practice nutritional shopping and arguing over the expiration dates of coupons. Further along, the Destination Space exhibit hosts a simulated space shuttle where children can take the helm of important-looking controls. Outside the museum, a colorful maze snakes up a 30-foot climbing structure, and cushy blue building pieces are scattered across the outdoor playground.
A large gift shop packs shelves with interactive toys. A fresh salad bar stretches across the dining room of the onsite bistro, complementing a menu of healthy snacks that fuel wee ones for their day of play and night of blackmailing the boogeyman.
For three days in November, the Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas Market brings Olde World Christmas spirit to New Braunfels. Vendors set up cheery red and green booths in the German-style holiday market, where they sell homemade wares such as aromatic roasted nuts, unique toys, vintage cameos, and homemade toffee. Nearby, authors sit ready to discuss their novels or sing their favorite Christmas carols at the on-site book fair and a jolly Santa eats breakfast with kids of all ages. To keep guests warm during the event, Sophie's Cafe serves up warm mugs of soup paired with sandwiches or tempting desserts.
Proceeds from the event benefit The Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which serves as the hub for immigration ship logs, photos, and documents of the first German Americans who found their way to Texas.
The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country connects visitors of all ages with the area's natural and cultural history through elaborate displays and well-preserved artifacts that live on as bridges to the past. Both self-guided and guided tours explore the museum's expansive collection, which includes a cache of Native American relics, as well as an expansive outdoor display of farming equipment used and autographed by celebrity pioneers. Museum-goers can also weave through the collage of native plants lining the heritage garden, or investigate dinosaur tracks that have endured roughly 100 million years of changing seasons. After their journeys through time, visitors can retire to the outdoor picnic area or stroll through the onsite gift shop.
Artworks seeks to strengthen creative children's artistic instincts and inspire self-expression through classes and events that focus on experimentation and imagination. Art classes ($100–$150/10 classes) introduce children ages 2–10 to past artists and techniques through open-ended exploratory projects. Instructors encourage budding apprentices to creatively craft with media and materials rather than demanding exact likenesses of older siblings in papier-mâché. Classes are offered throughout the school year and into the summer at both the Nacogdoches and Mainland locations.
Awestrike yourself by strolling through current exhibitions such as An Impressionist Sensibility: The Halff Collection, a rare private collection of period works from artists including John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and Theodore Robinson; or scratch your beard in the presence of TruthBeauty, an exposition of the pictorialism movement that blended photography with painting and drawing. McNay also preserves a large permanent collection, including local Southwest art and the expansive, unusual, 9,500-piece Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts. After even one visit, you'll become so art knowledgeable that children will run up to you on the street and beg you to join the art history club they started with money they won on TV game shows.
The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo bustles with a variety of vendors, bovine-inspired showcases, and activities for the whole family. Legally eavesdrop on live music, which wafts from five separate areas on the spacious grounds, or draw the fashionable wedge between man and livestock by accessorizing at the three shopping areas and the Texas Experience Pavilion, which comes stuffed with shopping, free samples, and exhibits on beekeeping, winemaking, and dairy farming. Meanwhile, the Family Fair lassos tykes with a petting zoo, pig races, and pony rides. The all-day event runs from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. or midnight (depending on weather conditions), though some exhibit hours may vary. Proceeds from the event go toward the community and raising scholarship and grant money to support agriculturally inclined Texan youth.