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, guests can see the lifespan of an alligator and get up close and personal with nature's wild. With hands-on activities like holding the baby gators, to helping feed them, the whole family will find something to enjoy. There's even a gift shop to bring home a souvenir from the visit. Gator Country has over 585 alligators and 4 species of crocodiles along with caimans, alligator snapping turtles, snakes, and other reptiles. It is also home to two of the largest alligators in captivity in Texas, Big Tex, and Big Al. Both guys weigh in at over 1,000 pounds and are almost 14 feet in length making them the park's main attractions. Admission prices 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, the 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
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