School’s Out, Now What?


The beginning of summer break brings eager anticipation of backyard barbecues, lounging at the lake and camping under the stars. However, parents often struggle to figure out how to keep kids entertained and engaged during the long, lazy days between June 2 and Aug. 27 without draining their bank accounts.

Avoid getting blindsided by how to fill all those unstructured hours with these energy-burning activities that balance fun, creativity, and learning while strengthening family bonds.

Local Favorite StaycationsWhen funds are tight and schedules are packed, there’s still plenty of exciting adventures awaiting you in West Texas. Slip in a staycation this summer at one of these local favorites: 

Monahans Sandhills State Park
Mosey down I-20 about 35 miles southwest of Odessa, past the windmills and trains and oil derricks, to the ever-changing 4,000 acres of sand dunes. Bring your own buggy or snowboard or rent a toboggan or disk for an epic sand surfing experience. Stop by the Dunagan Visitor Center for hands-on exhibits before heading home or opt for an overnight camping adventure.

I-20 Wildlife Preserve & Jenna Welch Nature Study Center
Spend a serene afternoon exploring the Permian Basin’s abundant diversity of flowers and wildlife at this lush nature preserve just a quarter-mile off I-20 in Midland. Kids will squeal with delight as they traipse along the four miles of wooden walking trails and dash across bridges discovering the rabbits, birds, lizards, turtles and butterflies that nest within the playa marshes. The best time to view the stunning ephemeral lake is right after a rainstorm fills the rare round hollow in the Southern High Plains. The on-site nature center offers kids and adults hands-on fun in the Discovery Zone. Located just across the street is Midland RV Park, which houses 169 full hook-up sites, six cabins and four rental apartments.

Family-Focused Playtime

Cinergy Cinemas and EPIC Arcade
Enjoy the latest new releases at Cinergy Cinemas from your reserved seats while savoring chef-prepared dishes and drinks. Take advantage of the Midland location’s daily early bird matinee or $5 Tuesdays. The fully loaded entertainment center is also equipped with arcade games, laser tag, and elevated Sky Walker ropes courses. Pop into the Midland location on Wednesdays for half-price games and attractions, or spend Monday evenings at the Odessa location for discount games of bowling and billiards as well as food and drink specials.

Midland RockHounds Baseball Game
Minor league baseball is already in full swing at Security Bank Ballpark in Midland, but you can still choose from at least 14 home games each month before the season ends Sept. 1. In addition to special promotion nights, such as half-price hot dogs and a bobblehead giveaway, enjoy $2 Ticket Mondays, 2-for-1 Ticket Tuesdays and $5 Family Sundays.

Escape Rooms: Solve the Secret Plot
Put on your detective hats for a fun-filled hour of family teamwork and communication as you follow clues, solve puzzles and work out riddles to crack the mystery and escape the room. Prices range from $20 per person at the Get Out Escape Rooms in Odessa to $25 per person at Mystery Chamber Escape the Room in Midland.

Susie’s South Forty Confections
Treat the kids to one of Midland’s local treasures as they learn the secrets behind spinning sugar into delectable chocolate confections. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy shop, too, as you taste test a variety of sample candies and then head home with a secret stash of local favorites like Texas Trash, Winners and Kickers and the world-famous pecan toffee. Don’t miss the adorable photo op on the entrance saddles.

Midland County Fair
Close out summer by playing at the Midland Horseshoe Arena between Aug. 24 and 27. From carnival rides and concerts to bull riding and buckaroo boot camp, the annual traditional family fair showcases the unique culture of West Texas. Kids can even invest some summer hours prepping to enter one of the dozens of creative arts contests, which range from Lego art and scrapbooks to digital art and cultural tablescapes.

Dynamic Day CampsLocal community day camps are designed to keep kids busy and entertained while still encouraging them to grow emotionally, physically and creatively. 

Camp Fire, Midland and Odessa
From 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. between June and August, kids ages 5-12 engage in physical fitness, interactive teamwork, and arts activities. They can also opt to attend special field trip adventures each week.

Cost: $75.00 weekly

Double Diamond Equestrian Center, Midland
Kids ages 7-18 join weeklong sessions each morning or afternoon to learn how to care for horses, become proficient riders and develop their creativity through crafts. Older students can sign up for the counselor program to serve as mentors for younger campers.

Cost: $250 per session

Kids College, Midland
From Pipe Cleaner Palooza and Dancin’ Feet to Fun with Geography and Lego STEM Challenge, kids in first through sixth grade will have a blast joining these classes centered on science, sports, performing arts and personal development. The summer enrichment program sponsored by Midland College runs two-week sessions throughout June with three class periods each day at either COM Aquatics, Midland Community Theater or Sibley Nature Center.

Cost: $45 for most classes; some are more

Midland Martial Arts
Focusing on teaching kids ages 5-14 skills in leadership, respect, discipline, and teamwork, this exciting martial arts camp offers weekly sessions from June to mid-August at extended hours of 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Varies

Permian Playhouse, Odessa
Students who have completed first through ninth grade attend camp June 5-30 and then show off their acting chops in this year’s production of “The Lion King Jr.”

Cost: $150 per week

Petroleum Museum, Midland
Interactive education and entertainment blend in these science-focused robotics, space, and STEM art activities. Classes are held throughout July for Kindergarteners through sixth graders. Morning and afternoon movie camps are also offered every Tuesday in June for just $5 per child.

Cost: $80-$100

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