Kid-Friendly Attractions When You’re Visiting Tyler
If you visit Tyler to see family, thinking about a job transfer or just passing through, there are tons of things to do with kids. From outdoor adventure to fun learning activities, Tyler has something for every interest and age group. Here are some of the best things to do with kids when you visit Tyler.
The Discovery Science Place
It’s a museum, but there’s no way your kids will say it’s boring. When you visit Tyler, check out the Discovery Science Place where kids can run around, learn and have fun all at the same time. Parents say they stay for hours and never once have to say, “Don’t touch that.”
When you walk in the door to this science museum for children, to the right of the front desk you’ll see the facility’s gigantic live iguana. Once you’ve paid your entry fee you have unlimited access to several large rooms of exhibits.
Discovery Landing Exhibits
The Discovery Landing area of the museum focuses mainly on earth science and physics with these displays:
- The Bat Cave – This large, man-made exhibit looks like a mountain. The slope is gentle enough for younger children to travel with a parent, and children eight and older can explore by themselves. Some of the things they’ll find inside include an earthquake simulator and rock sediment exhibits.
- Dino Dig Pit – Encourage your budding archaeologist to dig for fossils and match them to the chart.
- Buford Kinetics Gallery – Children use balls of different sizes and weights to explore motion and force.
There’s also a pirate ship, a rock climbing wall, a giant Lego collection and more. Your mini broadcast journalist will enjoy the mock television news station with the working camera and control board, and there’s even an enclosure for your toddler to play with soft foam blocks.
Hometown USA Exhibits
A Smithsonian Magazine researcher says children who engage in pretend play are better able to think up counterfactuals, another word for pretend possibilities. They are better able to generate theories to test, predict data patterns and learn based on their results. This is true even for toddlers.
Schools have less time for this type of exploration than ever before. One way parents can provide it is through Discovery Science Place’s Hometown USA Exhibits.
Encourage children to use their imagination with replicas of all the places grown-ups go. You and your child will both be amazed at the detail offered at the Brookshire’s grocery store, the Southside Bank, the neonatal nursery and the vet clinic. Let your child serve you lunch at the One World Bistro or sit on one of the central benches and watch while they explore exhibits on their own.
Admission costs $8.00 for adults and $6.00 for children between the ages of two and 12. The museum is closed Monday and open Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm. It also opens Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.
When you visit Tyler continue the exploration, movement and hands-on learning at the zoo. For a town the size of Tyler, you’ll be amazed at the exhibit quality and animal diversity.
Whatever your child’s favorite animal you’ll find it there, but the zoo isn’t so large you’ll be exhausted by the time you do. Here are some of the top exhibits:
- The giraffes – These stately animals are irresistible, and the exhibit is designed to get viewers up close. Walk through their feeding area to see how tall they really are. For an additional fee, your children can feed them.
- The Savannah – Observe zebra, kudu, warthog, and impala on grasslands that resemble their natural habitat. You’ll glimpse African lions in the distance and wonder if they’re craving zebra for lunch, but they’re actually separated from the herd. In 2014 the male and female lion had four cubs, the first lions born in captivity at the zoo in 20 years.
- Cheetahs – The world’s fastest mammal is usually lounging lazily on a tree.
- White tigers – The two tigers Meka and Willieking came from the Alexandria Zoo in Louisiana in 2007 and were supposed to be there for only a few months. They never left, and now consider themselves proud East Texans.
- Elephants – The African elephants at the zoo are some of the largest on the continent.
For Younger Children
Your toddler gets cranky when he or she has to stay in the stroller while older siblings explore. The zoo has a solution. At the petting pen, toddlers can feed and touch goats, and nearby there’s a picnic area and playground. The Caldwell Cub Club has classes for preschoolers that meet for activities and touchable small animals.
Hours and Cost
One-time entry is $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for children between three and 12 and $10.95 for seniors. Membership starts at $49.95 and gets you unlimited admission and additional discounts. The zoo is open March through Labor Day from 9am to 5pm. Other months it still opens at 9am, but closes at 4pm.
Faulkner Park Sprayground
Sometimes it’s summer, it’s hot, and you don’t have the energy to chase your brood all over a museum or zoo. Grab a good book and your sunscreen and head to the Faulkner Park Sprayground.
The large bowl-shaped play area has a water play environment with 10 interactive features so kids can spray each other, stand under gentle showers or dodge random ground sprays. Next to the sprayground is a regular playground with climbing equipment and swings. There’s nothing to obstruct your view from multiple picnic tables and no standing water to pose a safety threat, so parents can relax while children run off some of that boundless energy.
Best of all, the Sprayground is free. Faulkner Park also has a fishing pond, nature trails, tennis and baseball facilities and restrooms. The Sprayground opens every year in early June and provides good clean fun from 9am to 9pm. To find it, take 69 South to Cumberland Road and turn west. Once you see Faulkner Park, follow the signs.
Before Pokemon Go, even before smartphones, there was letterboxing. Whether you visit Tyler or anywhere else around the globe, letterboxing can help you get to know the area from a unique perspective. It’s very similar to geocaching.
Kids from five years old into their early teens will think you’re the most awesome parent ever with this free activity that feels like a treasure hunt. Here’s how it works:
- Gather a rubber stamp, a notepad, and a water bottle.
- Wear comfortable shoes and apply bug spray or sunscreen as needed.
- Look up directions for one of the many boxes hidden all over Tyler and East Texas. Go low tech and write clues down in your notebook or download an app to guide you. Clue Tracker is the app for Apple devices and Box Radar works on Android.
- Go find them. Most boxes are a waterproof container somewhere hidden. It takes some sleuthing to find them. Inside you’ll find the box owner’s stamp and notepad. Use their stamp in your book and place your stamp in theirs.
Why Kids Love It
Letterboxing is an adventure. Directions for the Headache Springs box take you through a Natural Park where Confederate doctors made “medicines of desperation” from roots, bark and mineral water. From there, searchers pass through cemetery gates and into the woods to locate the box.
The clue for the Texas Governor Series box contains information on the 16th governor of Texas, buried near the Confederate Monument. Not all clues require hiking or digging through shrubs when you visit Tyler. Zeus Hits the Books is in the Tyler Public Library and the East Texas Brewing Company box is just steps from the parking lot.
The Villages Waterpark
When you visit Tyler on bad weather days, surprise your little ones when you tell them to get their swimsuits. This indoor waterpark in Flint is housed in a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed area with 19,000 square feet of family-friendly fun. Features include the following:
- A lazy river for tubing
- Four water slides for older children and three smaller body slides for younger age groups
- A wave pool with gentle wave action
- A playground with a huge dump bucket, water guns, and other water features
- A Mama Deluca’s Pizza and a Subway
- Changing areas, lockers, showers, and bathrooms
The park is geared toward elementary aged children, with plenty of options for play even if you aren’t a strong swimmer. They offer life jackets and floatation devices, but in most areas, the water is only three feet deep with little current, so school-aged children can touch. There are also lifeguards positioned at every vantage point.
If you visit Tyler during the summer the park gets hot and humid even though it’s climate controlled. It’s often crowded since kids are out of school. However, it’s open year round so it’s available on holiday breaks or even for a school night treat if you want to avoid the crowds.
Most of the time the park is open seven days a week, but it does occasionally close for scheduled maintenance. Check their website before you go to view hours and events. General admission is $19.95 for adults and $16.95 for kids under 48 inches tall.
Tyler Rock Gym
Whether you’re an avid rock climber or you don’t know bouldering from belaying, your kids will love Tyler Rock Gym when you visit Tyler. The facility has more than 10,000 square feet with walls that offer 32 vertical feet of climbing opportunities. It has almost 3,500 square feet of boulders and the floor beneath each climbing area has six thick inches of padding.
If you’re new to climbing, the gym has staff to show you the basics or courses for more formal instruction, and there are areas that provide challenges for even the most seasoned climbers.
Fees and Equipment
Visitors can bring their own equipment or climb without gear, but most people rent a harness for roped areas. The gym also allows visitors to rent chalk bags, shoes and chalk as needed. An adult day pass is $16.95 and children between four and 17 can climb all day for $12.95. If you’re just watching, there’s no charge.
The Center for Earth and Space Science Education
Projection domes provide phenomenal acoustics and an immersive experience that makes visitors feel like they’re moving along with spacecraft or floating across the universe. Find them places like the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco or at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. When you visit Tyler, you can also enjoy one at the Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
The Tyler Junior College’s Planetarium has a 40’ Spitz Nano-domed theater that shows an ever-changing collection of science-themed shows. If you visit Tyler, the Center provides viewing options for kids ages pre-K through first grade, kindergarten through third grade and shows for third and up.
Each movie is 20 to 25 minutes long. Afterward, the Center has a museum with earth and space exhibits and real moon rocks.
Saturdays are for Star Parties. Take your kids for a live sky show in the Planetarium to locate constellations and nebulae on the screen, then go outside for a telescope viewing.
Movies in the Park at Bergfeld
Bergfeld Park’s amphitheater was originally built in 1936, when the Tyler Sears-Roebuck and Company was the only store to generate a profit during the Great Depression. It was renovated last year, but the original stone remains. If you’re visiting Tyler and the weather is pleasant, your entire family will enjoy the park’s outdoor films.
Movies are all rated PG and there are soft drinks available for purchase. Typical fare includes movies like “Lego Ninjago” and the “Emoji Movie.” The shows are free, but licensing fees are funded by donations, so sponsorships and donations are always appreciated.
There’s plenty of seating in the amphitheater itself, but the rock benches can get uncomfortable. When you visit Tyler, take folding chairs or blankets so your family can watch the show in comfort. Often movies are accompanied by a concert, dance or other live performance.
Movies typically start at dark. The City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department calendar has showing information or parents can call the Glass Recreation Center at (903)595-7271. This year movies start in April and run until late fall.
Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
Brian Werner started the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in 1997 to rescue tigers and big cats that were being neglected or abandoned. When small zoos or private individuals no longer want their captive cats, often there’s no place for them to go.
The Werner family started clearing land, building facilities and taking in animals in need. Tiger Creek has become a top-rated enclosure that has received national recognition, which makes it a must-see when you visit Tyler with kids. It has plenty of room for cougars, leopards, lions and tigers to climb, roam and lounge.
The facility also has a quarantine area for new additions and an area for cats that need medical treatment. There, the staff works with cats to train them to accept help if they need it. For example, the tiger Gunther who was born at the refuge is trained to offer his paws so interns can examine them for injuries.
When you visit Tyler and drive to their facility, first wander through the internal exhibits at the Tiger Orientation Center. Then take a walking or self-guided tour of the big cats of Tiger Creek. Hours are from 10am to 5pm, with the last tour leaving at 4pm. Facility staff recommends you bring plenty of water and take as many pictures as you like.
If you just need to wear them out, go to iJump where it’s okay to literally bounce off the walls. The huge facility off Capital Drive is a trampoline park with exhilarating, exhausting activities for each age group.
Let your American Ninja Warrior fan test his or her strength and endurance at iJump’s Ninja course. Participants climb, leap and dodge to make it through a timed course at three different skill levels. iJump also offers these attractions:
- A trampoline dodgeball court
- Warped walls for climbing
- Freestyle interconnected trampolines, so kids can bounce from one play area to the next
- An arcade area
- An airbag
- Two long runway trampolines
- Free wi-fi and comfortable seating for non-jumpers
If you have small children and you’re worried they’ll be run over by the big kids hurtling like projectiles, there’s an indoor playground designed for their safety. The area is enclosed with plenty of netting to hold on to, lots of climbing opportunities and two slides.
Hours and rates depend on the day, with specials usually available through their website. Not everyone knows grip socks are required to jump, so bring them from home if you don’t want to have to purchase them when you get there.
East Texas offers a full calendar of seasonal events, festivals, entertainment options and family-friendly dining options. When you visit Tyler, you won’t run out of things to do and if the kidos aren’t coming along you may want to check out our Top 8 Things To Do When Visiting Tyler.
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