Enjoy a Fun Day in the Rose Capital of America

From roses to science, animals to candy, this Tyler tour is good for all ages


A candy wall at Sweet Gourmet in Tyler.

Tyler has a long list of family-friendly things to do that are appropriate for groups with an age span from toddling to doddering. Visitors spending a day or longer in the “Rose Capital of America” have no shortage of activities to add to their agenda. Here are a few of the must-see places.

1. The Tyler Rose Garden and Museum

The gardens are expansive with well-marked beds of rose after rose after rose. There is ample room for a sedate stroll or for the kids to have a wild romp. Inside, the Rose Museum is dedicated to the history of rose growing in the Tyler area with agricultural history in the back halls, but the big displays are a hall of state of former Rose Queens. The portrait parade of rose royalty in their coronation splendor is quite frankly astonishing. Can there be a sequin left in all of Texas after making one of these outrageous confections?

Each of the gowns’ trains depicts some personal story of the wearer with hobbies and affiliations, or just romantic fantasies. Trying to engage the kids in this area? Place a bounty on finding a special image on one of the elaborate trains, that will keep the children entertained — try locating the unicorn for one.

After admiring scores of the queens’ crowns, expect to pony up for a miniature tiara in the gift shop. It’s not hard to find as there is no avoiding the vaporous cloud of rose-scented air that wafts across the lobby.

420 Rose Park Drive, 903.597.3130. Admission: Adults, $3.50, children, 2-11 $2. Hours: Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. (Closed on Sunday and Monday November through Mid-March) www.texasrosefestival.com

2. The Center for Earth & Space Science Education

The planetarium on the campus of Tyler Junior College has a few small exhibits, enough to beguile a child until the film starts. They usually present a variety of science-related films on the planetarium’s 40-foot concave screen. Films showing through March are:  National Parks Adventure; Dream Big: Engineering Our World; and Moons: Worlds of Mystery. For show times and more offerings check out their website.  

Tyler Junior College, 1411 E. Lake Street, 903.510.2312. Admission: Individual shows, $4 - $7; All-day pass, $9 - $12; Exhibit only, $3. Hours: Tue. –  Fri. 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sat. 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. www.sciencecenter.tjc.edu

3. Discovery Science Place

A visit to Discovery Science Place means parents stand around like sentient hall trees holding jackets, water bottles, and bags while their offspring are encouraged to taste the place at their own pace, from dawdling over a single activity board or racing around the museum trying everything in record time.

This is a great museum for pre-school age and young school-age children. The time window for enjoying the sort of interactive experiences offered is limited but while they are in that sweet spot children seem to find something that specifically engages them. The drivers will want to leave long before the kids are ready.

308 N. Broadway Ave. 903.533.8011. Admission: $5 - $8 (Note: Visitors under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult, adults unaccompanied by children will not be allowed museum access.) Hours: Tue. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun. 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Closed: Monday. www.discoveryscienceplace.org

4. Caldwell Zoo

For those looking for a multi-hour stop, one that could entertain a group for an entire day, try the Caldwell Zoo. The grounds are lovely and well shaded with benches available for those who are not capable or willing to hike to every habitat. The recently opened African Overlook allows visitors to watch elephants frolic in their swimming pool. The giraffes’ feeding stations are close to a new café so dining with the giraffes is a novel way to while away the lunch hour. The animals often spend as much time checking out visitors as visitors do admiring the animals.

2203 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 903.593.0120. Admission: Free for members, $7.16 - $10.36 non-members. Hours: March 1 - Labor Day 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Labor Day - February 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. www.caldwellzoo.org

5. Sweet Gourmet

Everyone deserves a treat for the long day of out and abouting. The Sweet Gourmet is the place to go for a reward. There is a wall of candy to entice the kids and for a more sophisticated sweet tooth look toward the glass display shelves of luscious chocolate-dipped fruits, made locally for the shop. Sweet Gourmet is the only official Godiva retailer in East Texas. Then there are the culinary items from LaCreuset and Wusthof, along with European table linens, so many luxury cooking items and accessories it’s easy to forget the sweets were the reason for the trip. It’s a common mistake. Don’t forget to leave with the kids — they are over at the wall of candy.

4554 S. Broadway Ave. 903.534.0840. Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun. 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. www.sweetgourmetonline.com

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