Visitors will find no shortage of kid-friendly activities in Beaumont, where families can pose for photos at the world's largest working fire hydrant, cradle a baby gator, experience the wonders of nature on a leisurely boat ride, experience life in an oil boomtown or engage in friendly competition on the mini-golf course or go-kart track.
Gator Country Adventure Park
At this alligator theme park, kids can meet the famous "Big Al," Texas' largest gator in captivity at more than 13 feet long and 1,000 pounds. The park doubles as an alligator rescue and is home to more than 300 gators, crocodiles, turtles, snakes and nonstop excitement. New in 2013, Gator Country has installed "Big Beau," a 135-foot roadside alligator along I-10, exit 838, greeting visitors on their way into the park.
Admission is $14 for adults, and $11 for children ages 2 to 12 and seniors. Children under age 2 are free. With the price of admission, visitors can swim with alligators (weather permitting) and take the ultimate souvenir photo holding a live baby gator. More information can be found at www.gatorrescue.com or by calling 409-794-9453.
Fire Museum of Texas
Also the headquarters for the Beaumont Fire Department, this vintage firehouse and museum was designated by the Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas as "The Official Fire Museum of Texas." Kids can dress up like firefighters and take a photo with a life-size Smokey the Bear, while families can practice fire drills and learn fire safety skills.
Outside the museum, a 24-foot, Dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant - originally used as a prop for Disney's "101 Dalmatians" video release party - provides a great photo opportunity. The working hydrant weighs 4,500 pounds and can blast 1,500 gallons of water per minute, and its Dalmatian spots are copyrighted by Walt Disney.
Admission to the museum is free, and more information can be found at www.firemuseumoftexas.orgor by calling 409-880-3927.
Neches River Adventures
Sailing on a Neches River Adventures boat tour, families can learn about the unique ecosystems along the Neches, home to more than 200 tree species, 47 mammals, 300 birds, and many reptiles and amphibians. This leisurely two-hour pontoon cruise provides stellar wildlife views along the "last wild river" in East Texas.
Regular weekly tours occur March through November on Saturdays, leaving from Beaumont's Riverfront Park. Reservations are required. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for seniors and children under 12. Children 3 and under are free. Proceeds from public tours benefit the Big Thicket Association, a nonprofit organization. More information can be found at www.nechesriveradventures.org or by calling 409-651-5326.
Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum
At this re-created Gladys City boomtown, families can experience life in Beaumont as it was when the Spindletop gusher blew in 1901. Through a guided or self-guided tour, visitors can explore 15 replica buildings that capture life in the 17th and 18th centuries, including a general store, dry goods store, log-cabin saloon, barbershop and more. Also at the museum is a working replica gusher, which blows water hundreds of feet into the sky for special occasions and anniversaries.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children ages 6 to 12. Ages 5 and under are free. More information can be found at www.spindletop.org or by calling 409-880-1750.
Texas Energy Museum
The Texas Energy Museum tells the story of oil through colorful, state-of-the-art exhibits. The exhibits depict petroleum geology, formation of oil and gas, history and technology of oil production, and refining and petrochemicals. Talking robotic characters relate their stories of early Texas oil drilling amid historical surroundings and working artifacts. The Museum depicts the unique story of the early Spindletop oil discovery in 1901 with a complete rotary rig from the Spindletop era. Talking manikins of historical characters relive the adventure for visitors.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $3 for children ages 6 to 12. Ages 5 and under are free. More information can be found at www.texasenergymuseum.org or by calling 409-833-5100.
Other Family Activities in Beaumont:
Colorado Canyon - This Beaumont fun park features two 18-hole miniature golf courses, gemstone and fossil mining, laser maze, arcade and Canyon Critters (similar to Build-a-Bear). www.coloradocanyonfun.com
Sports Connection - Featuring go karts, bumper boats, miniature golf, batting cages, an arcade and Phazer Zone (paintless paintball), this facility offers a variety of activities for families. www.sportsconnection4fun.com
The Rotary Centennial Playground - Specifically designed for children and adults of all ages and abilities, this new barrier-free playground was built in 2013 and is adjacent to the Beaumont Event Centre lake.
Free Family Arts Days - Offered quarterly by the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Free Family Arts Days provide an opportunity for children and their families to explore art through creative, hands-on art activities. www.amset.org