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Top Things to Do with Kids in Bandera

This year, instead of taking the usual family vacation and visiting a theme park or beach, visit the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” otherwise known as Bandera, where parents and kids can experience what it’s like to be a bona fide cowboy. Enjoy a slice of the Old West with Bandera’s dude ranches, unspoiled wilderness and farms. So giddy up and put on your best cowboy boots; here are the top things to do with kids in Bandera.


Bandera is well known for its kid-friendly rodeo events, scheduled throughout the year. One of the most popular is the PRCA ProRodeo, held over Memorial Day weekend at the city’s biggest rodeo arena, Mansfield Park. This iconic outdoor arena provides all spectators seats close enough to the action to see the dust fly when the bulls buck. And the little cowboys and cowgirls can test their skills at the ever-popular mutton bustin’.

Need a safe way for your children to get a taste of what it’s like to be in the ring? Enter them to join the Wild Hog Explosion, a March event where children ages 3-9 can compete to chase after piglets. Enjoy a fun filled day complete with BBQ Cook-Off, Bacon Bingo, arts and craft booths, and more.

The Great Outdoors

A trip to Bandera with kids means they will be outside—period. And they’re going to like it, and not just because you told them to. Bandera is where a kid can be a kid at area parks and nature spots. They can go camping, hiking by the river, fishing, swimming or boating. Lost Maples State Natural Area, for example, has 2,100 acres of protected wilderness and more than 10 miles of trails and overnight campsites.

Looking for a more complete cowboy experience? Stay at one of Bandera’s many dude ranches, with amenities like horseback riding through the hill country, outings to secluded fishing spots, a cowboy breakfast cooked outdoors, nightly bonfires and digging for fossils. Horseback riding is easily one of the most popular outdoor activities here in Bandera County, available at dude ranches but also at one of the many stables in the area. Most of the stables and ranches in the area offer basic horse-riding lessons for first timers and have their own private trails through the countryside. And for those who dream of the ultimate riding horseback experience—riding into Bandera’s historic downtown district on one of the oldest modes of transportation—there’s Bandera Historical Rides offering a range of private, customized tours.

Saturday Gunfights

OK, here’s a thing you can’t do many places in the country: Attend a live gunfight. Most Saturday afternoons at noon and 2 p.m., the Bandera Cattle Company brings the Wild West back to life in downtown Bandera, as gunslingers in authentic cowboy attire create their own storylines, culminating in a staged gunfight in the back yard of the Bandera Visitors Center. After the show the kids are deputized an even get their own badge and a special treat too. And best of all, the performances are free. No two performances are exactly alike.

Hill Country Alpacas

A short drive outside of Bandera will take you to the small town of Medina, where you’ll find Hill Country Alpacas, home to champion huacaya alpacas brought in from South America), which are raised for their fiber coats that can be made into comfy blankets, sweaters, socks, hats and more. You can visit these gorgeous, fuzzy creatures at the farm, take a farm tours and learn some fun facts about alpacas and their temperaments. Alpaca fiber-made items are available for purchase at the ranch store.

Summertime Apple Picking

Most of the time, apple picking is reserved for late summer and fall, but not in Bandera County. Love Creek Orchards in Medina is a fun, summertime destination here in Texas where you can pick tree-ripened apples, as well as blackberries, peaches and figs—then persimmons are available in the fall. The orchard also has a Patio Cafe, where hamburgers are grilled to perfection and can be topped with tasty ingredients like pimento cheese. For freshly made pies and jams, visit the Apple Store at the farm—a hot spot once featured on the Food Network.

Dinosaur Digs

There’s more to the “Cowboy Capital of the World” than cowboys. Bandera Natural History Museum is the place to satisfy a child’s every dinosaur curiosity with more than 100 life-sized replicas of extinct dinosaurs and creatures from the Ice Age, positioned around the museum as if they were in their natural habitat from 70 million years ago. Kids can enjoy hands-on experience at the museum’s various play stations, as well. For more serious dinosaur explorers, a stay at the 2E Twin Elm Guest Ranch includes a fossil hunting program in the nearby wilderness.
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