Whether you’re a fan of Cowboys & Indians or the Dallas Cowboys, you’ll have fun with the family in Dallas. And since they do everything big in Texas, there’s way too much to see on just one trip to the state’s largest city. That’s why we’re sharing our top picks among Dallas attractions and activities; most are open daily except for major holidays.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
Perot Museum of Science and Nature
2201 N. Field Street
Dallas, TX 75202
Although once separate entities, the Dallas Children’s Museum, Science Place and the Dallas Museum of Natural History have joined forces at this location. Many exhibits in the Perot will delight preschoolers but the Moody Family Children’s Museum takes this task to heart, with special interactive play areas designed for ages 5 and under, and casual seating for parents and minders. The museum offers free parent-child activities such as the Arts Lab, digging for dinosaurs, and an indoor nature hike. Drop-off Discovery day camps are designed for ages 3-5 and focus on sciences, arts and crafts.
Klyde Warren Park
2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway
Dallas, TX 75201
Named for the son of the principal donor, this 5.2-acre urban space covers the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets in downtown Dallas. It is now a public park with fountains, yoga classes, concerts, seating areas and our favorite — an outdoor reading room. Shelves are stocked with kids books that park visitors can leaf through when they’re done climbing, strolling, sunning or dining at a food truck. If you’re in the Arts District, make time to stop by and enjoy successful urban planning. Open daily 6am to 11pm.
Dallas Firefighters Museum
3801 Parry Avenue (across from Fair Park)
Dallas, TX 75226
This little, old-fashioned museum constructed from a vintage fire station features rare firefighting memorabilia that will appeal to little firefighters. Keep in mind that the museum is closed from Sunday to Tuesday.
Dallas Puppet Theater
Entertaining tots and their parents for over 30 years, this delightful little puppet theater has lost its long-time home in Fair Park. Until they get resettled, visit their site to find free preformances at local area libraries and schools. The talented performers most often reenact classic versions of popular children’s fairy tales such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, making their shows appropriate for all preschoolers.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
2201 N. Field Street
Dallas, TX 75202
Within a striking cubed facade topped with native slate and desert shrubs that collect rain, the Perot family’s monument to learning highlights how space, land, the sea and all living things coexist and thrive together in 11 major exhibits. Examples include the “Being Human Hall” the “Expanding Universe Hall” and the “Lamar Hunt Family Sports Hall.” Kids who like dinosaurs will be glued to the “T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall” for hours while parents study the “slices” of human torsos that have been donated to science and preserved in plastic for study. Sleep overs available with advance booking for adults with ages 6-12.
Dallas World Aquarium
1801 North Griffin Street
Dallas, TX 75202
This aquarium and environmental learning center displays flora and fauna from five continents, 14 countries, three oceans, numerous seas and rivers. The excellent exhibits of marine wildlife add up to much more than your average aquarium. Special added attractions include the 400,000-gallon “Mundo Maya” tank that resembles an actual Mayan cenote (underground spring) and the South American rain forest exhibit featuring plant life and wildlife indigenous to the largest river in Venezuela. Take your family into the heart of the jungle to observe a tree boa, crocodiles, a three-toed sloth and a waxy monkey frog. Chilldren 2 and under free.
Galleria Ice Skating Center
13350 Dallas Parkway #200
Dallas, TX 75240
A fun, active diversion for the whole family can be found at this ice rink in a very upscale shopping mall. The pretty sky lit space attracts skaters of all ages throughout the year and skate rentals are available. For nervous little skaters, there are also private and group lessons, though the sometimes mushy ice quality can make skating tough. When you tire of skating, Galleria has many family-friendly restaurants like Mi Cocina, as well as a forest-themed children’s play area on Level 3 which welcomes guests 42″ or shorter.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
8525 Garland Road
Dallas, TX 75218
These beautiful gardens, with many shaded benches designed for leisurely visitors or weary grandparents, include 66 acres of lush flora, fountains, sculpture, and a historic mansion with restaurant. The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is an 8-acre “museum without walls” that aims to set the gold standard in life, earth and environmental science education. Children of all ages can learn about nature and concepts such as photosynthesis, pollination and the solar system in a highly interactive, age-appropriate and just plain fun manner. Engaging features include a 240-foot Texas Treetop Skywalk, Puppet Theatre in the Glade and The Amazon’s Secret Garden. Rainy Day passes are issued in case there’s actually inclement weather during your visit, and admission is free to children ages 2 and under.
Dallas Heritage Village
1515 South Harwood
Dallas, TX 75215
Not far from downtown Dallas in Old City Park, dating from 1840-1910 and set on 13 acres, is this collection of restored homes and historic businesses. A great Living History destination, kids can visit a doctor’s office, railroad depot and farm. Guided tours are available once daily (audio guides are always there) except Monday when the area is closed to the public; the museum is also closed all of January and August.
Fun for the Whole Family
650 South R.L. Thornton Freeway
Dallas, TX 75203
An influx of funds and the latest in wildlife display techniques have turned this 106-acre zoo into a showpiece that will thrill all ages. Animal Ambassadors like penguins and birds greet guests as keepers explain their habitats and habits. Kids will enjoy the “Wilds of Africa” exhibit, where elephants roam in their own fields and the giraffes can be seen (and fed) from a giraffe’s eye view of the animals. There is also the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo which features a Pony Trek, where visitors who weigh less than 80 pounds can mount a pony and trot around for a few minutes, as well as many interactive learning areas. Also, for an extra charge, families can ride on the “Endangered Species Carousel.” The Monorail Safari which offers a 20-minute tour of the zoo is currently closed for renovation, but they hope to re-open it during the summer of 2015. To make a visit even more fun and convenient, hop on the city’s DART light rail system which stops at the entrance. Children under 3 are free and stroller rentals are available.
The Sixth Floor Museum
411 Elm Street (at Dealey Plaza)
Dallas, TX 75202
Grandparents and some parents will remember the Texas Book Repository as the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald lay in waiting to shoot President John F. Kennedy when his motorcade drove through downtown Dallas. At the time of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assasination in 1963, it has evolved from a private collection of conspiracy theorists (some are still around) into a fascinating, multimedia look at 1960’s America, with a chronological display of news clips, amateur photographs taken by the crowd and, most interestingly, the many home movies taken at the time of his killing. Part thriller, part history, all intriguing to teens and adults; this small museum is well worth a visit.
Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium
1 AT&T Way
Arlington, Texas 76011
The hottest thing in town — even before the 2011 Super Bowl play — is Cowboys AT&T Stadium, a state-of-the-art indoor sports facility that leaves fans with their heads spinning. Families line up for the VIP Tours led by guides who will wow your football fans with their facts and figures. The enormous video scoreboard screen, over 150 feet, is enough to thrill even the football-hater. On the 90-minute VIP Tour, you will see private and media boxes, the Cotton Bowl offices, the field, several clubs, the post-game interview room and both the Cowboys’ and Cheerleaders’ locker rooms. Self-guided tours also available but limited schedules work around game times, so be sure to book ahead.
Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
Dallas, TX 75201
A visit to the heart of the Arts District provides a chance to see the city’s ultra-modern skyscrapers up close. DMA features more than 17,000 works of art from around the world, as well as excellent ethnic and folk art galleries. In the main galleries, Arturo, the museum mascot, and any of the many weekly family activities make this a fun outing. The whole family can also visit the Center for Creative Connections (C3), where there are special touch, feel and explore sections designed to introduce art to all ages. Closed on Mondays; the museum has late Thursday sessions, and has started offering a free general admission policy (fees for special exhibitions may apply).
Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street
Dallas, TX 75201
Next to the DMA, we love the Nasher Sculpture Center which is devoted to modern and contemporary sculpture. Its 1 1/2-acre outdoor garden-like setting presents large outdoor works — up to 25 are on display at any one time. Older kids will appreciate the three indoor sculpture galleries as well as the fine cafe and gift shop. Closed on Mondays.
Childrens Aquarium at Fair Park Dallas
1462 First Avenue (Fair Park)
Dallas, TX 75226
Here’s a great reason to visit Fair Park, the Art Deco-era Texas state fair grounds whose iconic Big Tex, a larger-than-life cowboy who greets all comers. Once a traditional, fish-in-a-tank aquarium, this newly renovated marineland is the largest in the Southwest and a partner with the Dallas Zoo. It boasts a collection of 3,500 specimens representing more than 320 different species of aquatic life. Exhibits include 6 unique zones including a Freshwater Zone, and Offshore Zone and Stingray Bay, as well as some unique creature such as an albino alligator, snapping turtle, upside down jellyfish and a 5-foot-long electric eel. For a dazzling feeding frenzy, call ahead for the shark and piranha feeding schedule. If the kids have limited interest, check out the smaller downtown World Aquarium (noted above).
Shopping for Cowboy Clothes, Boots and Gear
If you’re traveling with teens, head straight to Cowboy Cool on McKinney near downtown Dallas which describes its boot collection as having everything “from rocker to ranch hand.” Their stylish but pricey clothes and boots for cowboys, cowgirls and calves sets the standard for what will be fashionable next year. Pinto Ranch in the North Park Mall (and other locations) is for everyday shopping — women’s “cowboy” rain boots in bright patterns are a great souvenir. The traditionalist need look no further than M.L.Leddy, a Fort Worth instituion since 1922. Known for their custom saddles and bespoke cowboy boots, Leddy’s attracts celebrity cowboys like Lyle Lovett. Check out their chaps, chinks and Vaquero boots.
For more general information, contact the Dallas Convention & Visitor Bureau at 800/232-5527 or 214/571-1000. For information about other attractions in the Greater Metroplex region, read about Ft. Worth Family Attractions, the Mesquite Rodeo and the Arlington Texas attractions.
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