Kids arrive for an overnight adventure at Rancho Cortez.

Kids of all ages will love playing cowboy at Rancho Cortez or another dude ranch. Photo by Cynthia J. Drake.

Most Texas schools have been out for a few weeks, which means kids are likely already bored and parents are looking for something—anything—to keep them entertained and off electronic devices.

While pools, playdates, and camps are great, this summer, consider making some lasting memories by taking the kiddos on one of our state’s unique overnight adventures. From rooming with a giraffe to bunking on an aircraft carrier, here are eight overnight adventures your kids will still be talking about when school starts again.

Spend the night aboard a historic aircraft carrier

Though you may already be familiar with the USS Lexington, a World War II era aircraft carrier in Corpus Christi, you might not know that people can stay the night on board the massive vessel. One- and two-night options are available for groups of up to 15 people, such as scouts, homeschoolers, or youth groups. Fun-filled itineraries include a tour of the ship, scavenger hunts, ghost stories, a flag ceremony, and even the chance to sleep in the actual crew quarters just like the sailors aboard the “Blue Ghost.”

Cost: $75 per night per person for a minimum of 15 people. Dinner and breakfast included.

Restrictions: Ages 5 and up, and you must have one adult chaperone per every five kids.

How to book: Visit USS Lexington.


Have a sleepover with lions, tigers, bears—oh my!

Zoo visits are quintessential summer activities, but staying overnight takes the experience to a whole new level. Many of the largest zoos across Texas host overnight programs, including Roars & Snores at the San Antonio Zoo; Safari Overnight at the Fort Worth Zoo; Zoo Snooze at Cameron Park Zoo in Waco; and Zoo Overnights at the Houston Zoo.

Your experience varies depending on the zoo. At the Houston Zoo, you will pitch your own tent and enjoy an animal presentation and night tour. The Fort Worth Zoo includes a morning and evening guided hike, as well as breakfast. At the Cameron Park Zoo, groups can sleep in the saltwater or freshwater aquarium spaces, or pitch tents at the zoo’s Meadows area.

Cost: $55 to $75 per person

Restrictions: Check individual zoo websites for details on minimum group numbers and age requirements.

How to book: Check out the zoo websites for more info: For San Antonio, Roars & Snores; for Fort Worth, Safari Overnight; for Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Zoo Snooze; and Zoo Overnights for the Houston Zoo.

Sleep under the stars

Calling all budding astronomers! Texas Parks & Wildlife presents star parties throughout the summer at parks all over the state to showcase the Dark Skies initiative, which educates the public on the importance of reducing light pollution so that people can gaze at the celestial beauty overhead. Local astronomy enthusiasts pair with park rangers to share telescopes and answer questions about what’s visible in the night sky. After the late-night programs, settle into your campsite under the stars.

Cost: Star parties are free, but park entry fees apply (as well as camping reservations and fees if you’re staying overnight).

Restrictions: Check park listings for cancellations; visitors are advised not to use light sources and to let their eyes adjust to the dark.

How to book: No registration is needed for star parties; visit Texas Parks & Wildlife for information and to book a campsite.

Child feeds giraffe at Longneck Manor.

Snacktime takes on a whole new meaning while feeding giraffes at Longneck Manor. Photo by Cynthia J. Drake.

Have a PJ party with giraffes or gazelles

After it was revealed on TikTok that people can book a suite that allows you to “sleep with giraffes” at Longneck Manor in Fredericksburg, travelers snapped up reservations for the $1,300-per-night luxury suite for the next two years.

It’s true that you can sleep in the same building as these giraffes, with windows from your suite overlooking the animals (which have all been brought to Fredericksburg from zoos around the country) and a keeper available to assist you with feeding them from a personal feeding slot.

Longneck Manor has four new villas expected to open by the end of this summer that will showcase the animals, though in a less intimate environment—you won’t be sleeping in the same building.

These overnights are for ages 12 and up. If you have younger kids and still want to experience the giraffes, book a 75-minute day tour, and you can feed the giraffes and pet a rhino.

If you have your heart set on a safari-style overnight and can’t get a reservation (or can’t swing the price), try booking a stay at the Lodge at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, where your accommodations overlook fields of deer, gazelles, and other animals grazing while you drink your morning coffee. Though currently under renovation, Fossil Rim is expected to reopen later this summer.

Cost: $300 and up per night at Fossil Rim and up to $1,300 per night (minimum two nights) for a Giraffe Suite at Longneck Manor.

Restrictions: Longneck Manor is restricted to ages 12 and up.

How to book: Visit Fossil Rim or Longneck Manor.


Dream in a treehouse

If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping in a treehouse, there are plenty of opportunities for you to do just that in Texas. For some truly up-in-the-air options, head to Cypress Valley in Spicewood, with accommodations that are situated in ancient cypress trees with kitchens, private sleeping lofts, and even soaking tubs.

Schlitterbahn also has treehouse-style suites that are suitable for large groups. If you have a family waterpark tradition every summer, consider splurging on an overnight stay for after-hours access to resort pools.

Cost: Cypress Valley starts at $550 per night. During the summer season, rates for luxury Treehaus Suites including waterpark access start around $1,000 per night for a family of four at Schlitterbahn, while room-only rates in the off-season start at $159 per night

Restrictions: Children must be 8 years and older to stay at Cypress Valley, with a two-night minimum stay.

How to book: Book online at Cypress Valley and Schlitterbahn.


Catch Zzzs like a cowboy

If screen time has become a constant battle and your family has a hitch in its giddy-up, head to Bandera, Texas—the Cowboy Capital of the World—for a night or two in beautiful ranch country. Booking a stay at a dude ranch might just be the thing to get you back on your horse.

There are a plethora to choose from, including Mayan Ranch, Rancho Cortez, Dixie Dude Ranch, and Flying L Ranch Resort. Each ranch typically offers trail rides, chuck wagon-style meals, swimming, fishing, storytelling, and s’mores. With any luck, your kids just might forget about Roblox for a few hours.

Cost: Varies, but starts around $200 per person per night, less for children, including meals and activities.

Restrictions: Most ranches require a two-night minimum; children must be 6 to ride a horse alone (some ranches allow parents to ride double).

How to book: Book your stay directly through the ranch website: Mayan Ranch, Rancho Cortez, Dixie Dude Ranch, and Flying L Ranch Resort.

Set your alarm to celebrate turtles

Learn more about the Texas ecosystem by attending a sea turtle hatchling release at Padre Island National Seashore. Each year, more than 1,000 people arrive at the beach before 7 a.m. on designated days to witness thousands of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle babies hatch and climb their way across the sand into the welcoming waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

Cost: Free (except the cost of park admission)

Rules & restrictions: Don’t wear white; don’t bring food or pets; no flash photography; stay behind barriers; and keep your feet planted to avoid stepping on hatchlings.

How to book: Park entrance fees are required, and you should purchase these online in advance. You don’t need tickets for this event, but you should make sure that the hatchling release is on schedule by calling the Hatchling Hotline at (361) 949-7163 before you go.


A rides the rollercoaster at Camp Fimfo.

Add some excitement to your summer with a rollercoaster ride at Camp Fimfo. Photos by Cynthia Drake.

Wake up next to a roller coaster

Camp Fimfo, a campground with locations in New Braunfels and Waco, announced it had the first and only alpine roller coaster in Texas this year in its New Braunfels location. The Cliff Carver packs up to 25-miles-per-hour of hair-whipping excitement as single or double riders zip down the track.

Stay overnight at Camp Fimfo in one of 250 RV sites or 40 cabins that offers an elevated take on the traditional camping experience. An on-site tavern, swim-up pool bar, hot tub, waterslides, and planned activities like tie-dying, henna tattoos, and candle making are part of the itinerary.

Cost: Tent sites start at $56 per night; the Cliff Carver and other activities are additional charges. Day passes are available to use the campground amenities.

Restrictions: You must be 9 years old to ride the Cliff Carver solo, and 3 years old to ride with a parent or guardian

How to book: Visit Camp Fimfo.

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