8 Kid-Friendly Things to Do in East Texas

kid friendly things to do east texas

Maybe my kids are just more fun than most people’s kids. I mean they are my kids after all. Or maybe I’m just so boring at home that any chance to get out of the house is bound to be a barrel of fun for such poor deprived youths.

But, y’all, there is some really fun stuff to do in East Texas with your kiddos (or without them if you’re just a kid at heart.)

These are our greatest hits, and a few places we’re looking forward to visiting soon.

Map of Our Favorites Kids Activities in East Texas

Caldwell Zoo

The zoo in Tyler is small enough for a small child to walk most of the way themselves and engaging enough to teach Chris Kratt new things. (If you don’t know who Christ Kratt is, you’re probably better suited reading things to do in East Texas for adults and add the zoo to that list, because it’s great for everyone.)

At the zoo entrance, you can see when the zookeepers will be working with various animals that day and you can go ask questions.

Our favorite exhibit is the penguin house where you can watch the penguin couples build nests, swim and just generally be adorable. There’s even a screen that gives you detailed info about each penguin including their name, their mate’s name and a little about their personality.

Check out their website to see the many ways you and your kids can interact with some amazing creatures.

  • Address: 2203 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Tyler, TX 75702
  • Website: Caldwell Zoo

Longview Arboretum

If the zoo is not enough outdoor fun, check out the Longview Arboretum.

Your kids can grab a challenging scavenger hunt at the front desk before you walk through the gardens that makes the experience even more fun.

Not only is there lots of room to run and explore, the arboretum is absolutely beautiful and serene. (The perfect place to regain your sanity after one of those days.)

Make sure there’s space on your phone for photos before you go. There are so many neat spots to take pictures. Or, for a small additional fee, you can bring a professional photographer and take the perfect family portrait.

When you’re done exploring the gardens, there are classrooms were kids can color and look at all sorts of treasures.

In the Arboretum gift shop, they can watch a colony of bees work in a hive attached to the window while you shop.

Longview Public Library

Y’all, I’m a sucker for a good library, and Longview Public Library is one of the best I’ve ever been to.

The librarians in the children’s area are amazing. They always have some new activity or display in the works and the selection of books available is extensive.

All summer they have activity after activity to keep kids engaged.

If your kids are older, they have tons of programs specifically geared toward teens, including a haunted library at Halloween and a midnight laser-tag tournament in the library in the summer. I mean who hasn’t been burning the midnight oil, working on research and daydreaming about what fun it would be to play laser tag in the stacks instead? Just me?

Longview World of Wonders

I love children’s museums and not just because kids learn best through play, so it’s good for their development blah, blah, blah. It’s also not that it’s a play space that I don’t have to organize or manage the clean up for. And it’s not even the joy my children get from playing.

Children’s museums awaken the kid inside me that just gets plain excited about toys.

I mean if a fully miniaturized playhouse can’t get your inner-child leaping for joy, y’all need to grab a brand new can of playdoh and have a meeting?

W.O.W. is in downtown Longview very near the library and arboretum. It’s in the same block as a gourmet ice-cream parlor and really great Italian food place. You can jam-pack your day with fun and drive less than five minutes.

Tyler Discovery Science Place

Tyler Discovery Science Place is another children’s museum in the region, but offers a very different play experience.

The University of Texas in Tyler is a partner with this museum and as a result the play areas are largely centered around real-life play and, as the name suggests, science.

My younger daughter currently hopes to be a doctor (and a mermaid superhero) when she grows up. So I can’t wait to take her to play in the mini-neonatal unit. I know my older daughter will love the miniature grocery store, and I’m hoping they’ll be willing play with me in the little TV News Station. It’s too adorable for words.

Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

If you’ve never done a drive-thru wildlife reserve, it’s a bucket-list worthy experience, especially with kids.

First, the kids are contained so you don’t have to worry about ending up on the news as that mom whose kid got away from her and ended up befriending a lemur by sharing its lunch.

Second, the animals are in larger tracts of land so it feels like you’re seeing them in a more natural setting. Cherokee Trace is 300 acres.

Finally you can often get closer to the animals than you can in a more traditional zoo setting.

Yesterland Farm in Canton

Yesterland is what I imagine the result would be if you combined a southern fall corn maze, a county fair, a carnival, some really indulgent farmer grandpa’s imagination and a toddler’s sugar high. It’s a grandma’s spoiling dream.

I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to do everything that’s there in one day, but I think it’s probably worth it to try.

They change stuff around for the holidays, especially Christmas and Easter. So those are busy, but fun times to visit.


When the doctor said it’s a girl, I didn’t think to add camping gear on my registry, but I should have. My girls love tent camping.

We make smores, hike and usually grab something fun and educational from the ranger’s station at the park entrance.

We glamp of course, with air mattresses and extreme overpacking, but we’re still out there in nature having a blast.

If you want to know all our favorite spots, check out our article about the best campgrounds in East Texas.