Explore East Texas’ family-friendly hot spots

Lufkin Daily News

Before the summer comes to a close, take a day trip to these family-friendly hot spots within a two-hour drive of Lufkin:

Splash Kingdom Waterpark

Splash Kingdom opened July 27 in Nacogdoches at 401 N. University Drive. The park features a lazy river, slide tower, sand volleyball, kids’ tree house and body slides. It is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday until Aug. 23. Afterward, the park will be open on weekends only through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

For more information, visit its Facebook page, or call 305-5009.

East Texas Gators and Wildlife Park

The park features alligators from hatchlings to more than 14 feet, aquariums with fish, spiders, snakes, turtles, lizards and parrots, rocked walkways, an air-conditioned welcome center, bounce house, concession/grill and pavilion with picnic tables.

The park is available for educational field trips and parties. It is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, or call (903) 962-5630. The park is located at 9515 FM 1255 in Grand Saline, but it is recommended you call for directions, as GPS information to the location is unreliable.

Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari

At the safari, attendees can enjoy a self-guided drive through a 300-acre preserve and see more than two dozen exotic and endangered species that thrive in an open habitat similar to their native territory. The Safari features a variety of animals including: alligators, Barbary sheep, Canadian wood bison, emu, javelinas, lechwe, llamas, red kangaroos, rheas and much more.

Attendees can observe, feed and photograph the animals. The park has a picnic area and restrooms, along with a gift shop.

The safari is located at 1200 CR 4405 in Jacksonville. For more information, or call (903) 683-3322.

Discovery Science Place

Encouraging student learning, the Discovery Science Place features exhibits including: Buford Kinetics Gallery, 3D Cinesphere, The Cave, Dino Dig Pit, Mesoamerican Rock Climbing Wall and CBS19 Kids TV Station. Each exhibit is interactive and sports different items like an earthquake simulator, lava flow charts and stalagmites. DSP is fully accessible to attendees in wheelchairs or with other physical handicaps. Educational programming and field trips are also available.

Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sunday. DSP is located at 308 N. Broadway St. in Tyler.

For more information, call 903-533-8011 or visit

Grapeland Safari

The Grapeland Drive-Thru Safari has been reopened after three years of closure and features about 140 animals that freely roam about 60 fenced acres.

Attendees may drive through the park and enjoy a variety of animals including: Bennett’s wallaby, kangaroo, Tibetan yak, dromedary camel, llama, sulcata tortoise, Grant’s zebra, a bearded dragon and more. The safari also offers train rides, a petting zoo, gift shop and refreshments.

The Safari’s summer schedule is 9 a.m. -7 p.m. every day and is located at 13440 U.S. Highway 287 north, Grapeland.

For more information about the Grapeland Drive-Thru Safari, visit its Facebook, or call 687-5292.

La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa

This resort sits on Lake Conroe and is ideal for spending time under the sun.

The resort features an Aqua Park, spa, dining, family activities, fitness center, golf and more. Aqua Park hours are 9 a.m.-10 p.m. everyday from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. There is a heated infinity pool that is open year-round for adults only.

Various rooms are available including suites, cottages and villas. Each Friday night during the summer, a firework show is set to popular tunes produced by Celestial Displays.

The resort is located at 600 La Torretta Blvd. in Montgomery. For more information, or call 448-4400.

Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge

This 140-acre preserve is dedicated to more than 35 rescued big cats including tigers, lions, leopards and mountain lions. Learn about the feline species known as Panthera Tigris and find out how you can help to ensure their future in the United States and worldwide.

The refuge is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday (weather permitting). A half-mile guided walking tour is offered to all guests each day and lasts about 30 to 45 minutes. The refuge is located at 17552 FM 14 in Tyler.

For more information, visit or call (903) 858-1008.

Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area

Swimming, fishing, hiking and other family-friendly activities abound at the Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area.

The park surrounds a 45-acre lake and has 56 campsites, 17 family picnicking units for day use, flush toilets, hot and cold shower facilities, fishing piers, a boat ramp, playground area and more for visitors to enjoy. Two picnic shelters and an amphitheater may be reserved. The site is located off state Highway 7 in Kennard and is open year-round.

Visit for more information.

Stephanie Stevens’ email address is

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601 N. Second St. • Lufkin, TX, 75901
Phone: 936.633.0349 • Fax: 936.634.8726
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