The melodic clopping of hooves hitting the dirt is a familiar one to Chisholm Trail Rides' instructors, who command their noble animals over the surrounding network of trails during rides and lessons. Under the watchful eye of a guide, students lead their steeds into bouts of walking, trotting, or cantering. As instructors tailor instruction to the skills of each rider, the stable's assortment of breeds includes arabians, half arabians, and quarter horses that accommodate all styles. Though rides and lessons are designed for the trails, riders may remain inside the arena or horse's belly pouch until they feel comfortable emerging into the open expanse.
There are few places left in the world where humans and hippopotamuses can swim peacefully side by side. In fact, Wet Zone may be the last. Haley, the loveable mascot, wanders around the water park in a floral-print dress with pink eye shadow accentuating her smile while she high-fives birthday boys and girls at on-site parties. Like a queen in her castle, sculptures of her speckle the park's various splash pools, look out over the geysers and showering pipes, and welcome aquatic adventurers to Turtle Cove and the colorful Kiddie Playground. And Haley also lends inspiration, fortifying wee ones with the gusto necessary to tackle the park's two giant water slides or age-specific swim lessons.
While kiddies splash on multi-level playhouses, adults can sneak away from the large lap pool to gear up for aquatic battle at the Water Wars game. Then families can reunite on land for a game of volleyball, or head over to Haley's Hunger Hut for some nachos or hot dogs. Private, grass-roofed cabanas give sun-shunners a place to dodge the heat as they chow down, and free Wi-Fi allows furtive check-ins with work or information transmissions with the mother ship. Yet no one has an excuse to stay dry for long?an on-site gift shop is stocked with bathing suits and towels to equip the ill-prepared for a day spent swimming.
The aquatic playland at Surf and Swim aims to bring the quintessential beach experience to a controlled water park. Inner tubes and their passengers float atop a wave pool's sprawling waters, splashing as the sun lovingly stares deep into their eyes. Pipes, plastic animals, and fountains pepper the kids area, and the aptly named Chill and Grill Cafe serves up burgers and fries. On select nights, the park transforms into an outdoor movie theater, where groups can swim and bob for their ticket stubs while watching a full-size screen.
Westlake Skate Center’s expansive indoor rink twinkles under a hanging canopy of lights as four-wheeled feet soar across the sleek floor. Music and black lights crank up the energy as guests lace up traditional skates or rollerblades and blast off after friends. The rink hosts birthday parties complete with drinks and ice cream, and provides lessons that introduce students to quick stops, graceful turns, and Vlad, the talking roller skate.
At Texas Skatium, roller skaters roam the rink as a disco ball spins from the center of the ceiling, with dozens of flags hanging above them and speakers pumping out Top 40 jams. Originally opened in 1989, the recently remodeled building houses both a roller rink and a play area complete with brand-new bounce houses and arcade games. The upgrades from the renovation also brought in a state-of-the-art A/V system and projection screen. The 33,000-square-foot space is ideal for private or public events, which range from kids' birthday parties to after-hours adult soirees with alcohol, a DJ, and screenings of uncut episodes of Murder, She Wrote.
At The Gentle Zoo, youngsters feed pigs, pat ducklings, and interact with the other fuzzy residents. Elsewhere on the zoo’s 10 acres, guests can leap about on the bounce house, blast corn from the corn cannon, navigate the maze, or enjoy a leisurely ride on the tractor train. Such attractions enthrall kids at onsite birthday parties, while the mobile petting zoo’s 12–15 staff-supervised animals offer nuzzles and create memories in children's minds. The creatures also hit the road for the animal-encounters program, which combines hands-on animal contact with educational 45-minute presentations. The Gentle Zoo donates its proceeds from the program to its Creature Connection, Inc. nonprofit, which rehabilitates rescue animals before they participate in outreach programs for foster children and at-risk youth.