*Last updated August 2016
Dallas is the fourth largest city in Texas and has a completely different feel than its nearby neighbours – Fort Worth and Grapevine. With the State Fair of Texas coming up (September 30 – October 23, 2016 to be exact), we’ve updated this post for families heading to Dallas this year.
Here are 12 of the city’s best kid-friendly places, spaces and activities.
Popular Attractions with CityPASS
We are big fans of CityPASS and families visiting Dallas can check off 4 popular attractions for just $46 per adult and $31 per child (3 to 12 years old). Since there are 6 attractions to choose from here are our recommendations if you have kids 12 years old or younger.
1. Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Race a Tyrannosaurus Rex, build a remote-control car, stand on an earthquake simulator, watch a tornado – this museum can easily take an entire afternoon to finish. While most of the museum is aimed at the 6 and older set, children 5 and under will love the Moody Family Children’s Museum on the lower level. There’s water play tables, sandboxes, a child-size campsite and a Dallas Farmer’s Market to keep young ones entertained and busy. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is worth a visit even if you don’t plan on heading inside – the architecture of the building is impressive and the small park outside the main entrance is fun for the kids.
2. Dallas Zoo
The Dallas Zoo is the largest zoological experience in the Lone Star State. With over 100 acres and 2000 animals, the Dallas Zoo is a good way to spend a morning or afternoon while learning about wildlife conservation and preserving endangered species.
3. Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
This is a great outdoor space for kids to burn off energy. Located on White Rock Lake, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden features 66 acres of flower beds and trees. The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is an 8 acre garden made specifically for younger visitors with 17 indoor and outdoor learning galleries and 150+ interactive exhibits including The Texas Skywalk (walkway through the treetops), The Moody Oasis (rooftop garden), Walk in the Clouds (bouncy house in the air), and The Amazing Secret Garden (maze).
4. Reunion Tower
If you are looking for a spectacular view of the city, Reunion Tower is the perfect place to take the kids. Go up to the top and take pictures and view the entire city from this landmark observation platform. There are interactive screens for visitors to locate points of interest. If you want to see the skyline at its best, visit just before sunset or in the evening.
Free Kid-Friendly Activities in Dallas
5. Dallas Museum of Art
Located across the street from Klyde Warren Park is the Dallas Museum of Art. While art musems/galleries aren’t places we frequent with our young children, this one in the Dallas Arts District has an interactive kids area and admission is free.
6. McKinney Avenue Trolley
Four restored vintage trolley cars (Rosie, Matilda, Petunia, Miss Daisy and Green Dragon) allow visitors to explore historic Uptown Dallas for free. The McKinney Avenue Trolley service (also known as the M-Line) runs 365 days a year with stops at some of Dallas’ popular sites including Klyde Warren Park.
7. Klyde Warren Park
Built above a highway between Downtown and Uptown Dallas, Klyde Warren Park offers families a morning or afternoon of fun – for free! There’s a children’s area with jungle gym and splash pad, putting green, ping pong tables and various lawn games to keep the family busy while enjoying the outdoors. There are a variety of dining options- food trucks line the edge of the park and there’s several restaurants if you are looking for a meal indoors.
8. Pioneer Plaza
Interested in seeing a cattle drive but don’t have time to visit the Fort Worth Stockyards? Head to Pioneer Plaza where there’s a re-creation of a cattle drive done with over 70 bronze statues. Located adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center, families can pose with the statues (some which are placed on hills and crossing a stream) and check out the waterfall and man-made cliffs.
9. Dallas “Big Things Happen Here”
Visitors walking around Dallas may see large B & G letters around the city. This is part of the Dallas Convention & Visistors Bureau’s “Big Things Happen Here” campaign. Visitors are invited to be the “I” in BIG and share on social media networks using the hashtag #DallasBIG.
If you’re looking for the exact locations of the B & G letters, you can find them all here.
Other Notable Places and Spaces
10. Dallas World Aquarium
This popular downtown attraction is more than just an aquarium. Spanning 3 buildings, the Dallas World Aquarium is a zoological park where kids can learn about sea creatures, reptiles, penguins, and life in the rainforest. Open daily from 10AM to 5PM (except Christmas and Thanksgiving), it gets extremely busy on weekends. If you want to avoid the crowds, it’s best to go early in the morning closer to opening.
11. NorthPark Center
Although shopping malls are normally not on my recommendation lists for parents with young children, NorthPark Center offers several unique experiences families can enjoy. The artwork found throughout the mall are larger than life and is a big draw for tourists passing through the area. This luxury mall exhibits pieces by renowned artists including Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Joel Shapiro and Beverly Pepper. Popular spots for preschoolers include Bookmarks (the first children’s library to be located in a U.S. shopping center), an indoor turtle and duck pond (near Tiffany) and the outdoor CenterPark Garden.
12. Trinity Groves
For foodie families, Trinity Groves is a must-do when in Dallas. This 15-acre dining and entertainment complex offers one-of-kind dining experiences. All the restaurants here go through a Shark Tank style application process – chefs and restaurant entrepreneurs come up with a concept, theme and menu – and if approved the Trinity Groves team helps with staffing, design and financial investment in exchange for a 50% ownership. Food is guaranteed to be good here! Kitchen LTO (shown above) is very unique as it is a permanent pop-up shop restaurant where the menu and the chef changes every few months.