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Still need a great summer vacation idea? Go west!

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 am, Tue Jul 22, 2014.

(BPT) - Summer vacation season is here, and to ensure yours is full of family-friendly fun, you’ll need to move quickly and be creative. You need some out-of-the-box thinking, and a location that’s dependably exciting, affordable and amazingly diverse. One word: Texas.

The phrase “Texas vacation” probably conjures images of rodeos, cowboys, dude ranches, and the Alamo. The Lone Star State has plenty of all those things, but did you know it also boasts beautiful beaches and outstanding regional cuisine?

No single concept completely defines Texas – the state is simply too big and diverse to easily sum up its personality and all it has to offer travelers. Seven distinct regions (each served by a major airport) offer a variety of experiences. Big Bend Country features adventure and scenic vistas in Big Bend National Park. The Texas Hill Country offers exceptional regional wines and the Live Music Capital of the World. The Panhandle Plains, Piney Woods, Prairies and Lakes, and South Texas Plains all boast iconic natural landscapes and rich Western history. But for an iconic summer experience, visitors should consider the hundreds of miles of beaches, water sports and fresh seafood along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Consider one of these five memorable Texas Gulf experiences:

1. Bask on the beach in the Gulf Coast city of Galveston. Its location along the Gulf affords Galveston more than 30 miles of beautiful beaches and delectable seafood, not to mention the city’s gulf port, a prime location for cruise ships. Steps away from the beach are some of the city’s most iconic attractions, including Mood Gardens, a 242-acre theme park and educational facility home to a 10-story rainforest and one of the world’s largest aquariums. Visitors will also enjoy the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, which stretches more than 1,000 feet over the Gulf offering rides, games, food venues and more.

2. South of Galveston, Corpus Christi sits at the heart of the Texas Gulf Coast, offering the perfect combination of city life and beachside relaxation. In addition to sailing and strolling along the Corpus Christi Bay, visitors can tour the USS Lexington – famed WWII vintage aircraft carrier-turned museum on the Bay – as well as the Texas State Aquarium, home to hundreds of species educating visitors on the protection and preservation of the environment. You’ll be hard-pressed to choose between spending time outdoors in the city’s parks and wildlife areas, or in one of the many great museums and shopping venues.

3. Just east of Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas and Mustang Island offer families plenty of fun in the sun.  Visitors will enjoy miles of beautiful open beaches, dolphin tours, and a variety of water activities. Nature tourism is at its best on Mustang Island, which has one of the highest bird counts on the Gulf Coast. Port Aransas has an abundance of birding sites, including the Wetland Park, Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, the Leona Belle Turnbull Birding Center and the South Jetty, all of which are on the Great Texas Birding Trail.

4. Located at the southern tip of Texas is South Padre Island, one of the country’s most popular beach destinations, given its laid-back ambience and beautiful beaches. Encompassing more than 130,000 acres, the island is famous for its fishing, camping and windsurfing opportunities. Visitors will also enjoy a variety of other water activities, from kayaking and beachcombing for shells to kite-surfing, jet skiing, parasailing and surfing.

5. Get outside and get wet! Water parks are a great way to cool down and have some summer fun, and Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks has some great parks along the Gulf Coast. The No. 1 kid-friendly destination in Texas, Schlitterbahn has been named the top waterpark in the world for 16 consecutive years by Amusement Today. Along with locations in New Braunfels, Galveston and South Padre Island, Schlitterbahn will open their newest park in Corpus Christi this summer, offering families across the Lone Star State opportunities to splash their way to a fun summer vacation.

Whatever your requirements for a dream vacation, you can find them in Texas. Plus, ample lodging and transportation opportunities ensure you can find a great deal with a bit of advanced planning. Visit www.traveltex.com to begin planning your Texas beach vacation.

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