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Affordable Family Vacations

Lake Pat Cleburne
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In the city of Cleburne, a quaint Texas town 30 miles south of Fort Worth, summer holds a special meaning to the locals who call this beautiful city home. With the hot, humid weather, some of the best things to do in Cleburne in the summer involves cooling down. From the free splash pads at Carver Park to taking a dip in Lake Pat Cleburne, the family has multiple ways to get outside and play in Cleburne. Plus, with all the affordable museums in town, the area has plenty of opportunities for you to spend the day inside when you need a break from the heat.

So, pack up the car, grab the family members (even the furry ones are welcome here!) and come on down to discover the charm exuding from Cleburne.

Things to Do Outdoors on a Budget

Cleburne’s Carver Park is the perfect place to head when temperatures heat up thanks to its splash pads. That’s right, the park—which is also home to baseball and softball fields, walking trails, a basketball court, a playground, picnic tables and pavilions—has a splash pad area that’s perfect for the whole family. From water sprays to dumping buckets and fountains that squirt water up from the ground, the splash pads are a great place to escape the heat.

Lake Pat Cleburne is another local—and visitor—favorite in town for obvious reasons. The municipal water reservoir is owned by the city and is formed by a dam stopping an overflow of water from the Nolan River. The serenity of the lake is great for fishing (largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, white crappie, white bass are stocked in the lake) and free day use areas, where you can swim and have a picnic. The lake also has boat ramps that are accessible if you’d rather spend your day out on the water with friends and family.

Approximately 10 miles from Lake Pat Cleburne and 12 miles west of the city center is Cleburne State Park. The 528-acre park has a 116-acre spring-fed lake, 5.5 miles of mountain bike trails, campsites, a dining hall, two barracks and the new Cedar Lodge group hall. This fun park offers another chance for you to make the most of Cleburne’s beautiful summer weather. For a small fee, you can even rent kayaks and standup-paddleboards and explore the lake at your own leisure. And don’t worry if you forget any of the essentials when you go, you can find ice, firewood, charcoal, ice cream and souvenirs in the park’s store.

Affordable Family-Friendly Museums

Housed in the 1905 Carnegie Library Building, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places (and one of only 12 Carnegie buildings left in Texas), the Layland Museum of History is a great local museum that gives you a sense of place as soon as you step foot inside. The museum has family-friendly exhibitions and activity stations that center around the preservation of home and family life in Texas, so this is a perfect museum to spend a day with the kids creating new memories. It’s open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. And the best part? Admission is free for everyone!

Another interesting and free-to-visit museum a few doors down from the Layland Museum of History is the Cleburne Railroad Museum. The museum opened in 2016 (so if you haven’t been to Cleburne in a few years—add this to your list of places to visit when you make your way here) and it’s been capturing locals’ and visitors’ hearts ever since. The museum is, you guessed it, dedicated to the history of the railroad system that once boomed in Cleburne, showcasing artifacts, including a miniature train and more, each explaining the history and significance of the railroad system in this area. Tours are even led by conductors!

At the Johnson County Courthouse Museum, you’ll find collections and preservations of historical and natural history artifacts and materials relating to Johnson County, Texas. You can find information on all of Johnson County’s favorite cities, including Alvarado, Burleson, Cleburne, Godley, Grandview, Joshua, Keene and Venus. This is a place for Texans who want to dig deeper into their Texas roots.

Last but not least, and one of the most popular museums in town, the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum is an outdoor museum partially housed in the original Wardville courthouse and the oldest log courthouse in Texas. Beyond the courthouse, you’ll also find a one-room schoolhouse, a jail with remnants from the original Wardville jail, a working blacksmith shop, an original mule barn and a magnificently restored stagecoach from two early John Wayne movies that were filmed here. The museum, which gives an in-depth look into the Chisholm trail and what it was like to drive cattle over these lands in the 19th century—is often referred to as one of the top 10 open-air museums in the state.

While the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum is free to visit, the Big Bear Native American Museum, which is also found here, has a small entrance fee of $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children. The museum is home to a rare collection of Native American artifacts providing an insightful look into the history of the Native Americans in North America.

Affordable Deals for the Family

In the summer months, it’s impossible to head to Cleburne and not hear about Splash Station. While this year-round waterpark is certainly popular in the winter months, it’s the summer months that are best enjoyed here. With a leisure pool, two 120-foot winding slides, an interactive spray pad, water sprayers, a lazy river and concessions area, there are plenty of reasons the entire family will love spending the day here. And with an admission price of only $6 for everyone over the age of two, bringing everyone here won’t break the bank on your family vacation.

Get into the spirit and catch a Cleburne Railroaders Game at The Depot at Cleburne Station, the city’s beloved 1,750-seat baseball stadium and home to the Cleburne Railroaders, the local American Association of Independent Professional Baseball team. Check the Railroaders calendar to see the team’s schedule and catch a game when you’re in town. Friday Fireworks is a sight to see—all Friday night games have a special firework show the whole family will love.

One more museum you can’t miss is Texas Children's Museum. Known for its hands-on activities in its 21,000 square feet of space, which houses a larger-than-life sandbox, an arts and craft room, a water table, a music room, a vet's office, a construction room and more, there’s a little bit of everything to peak everyone’s interests. While there is an admission to enter the museum—$4 for adults, $8 for children and $2 for seniors—the museum is a nonprofit and admission fees help support the museum’s different programs.

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