Kid-Approved Activities Near HGTV Smart Home 2019
No eyerolls or deep sighs on these Dallas adventures—everyone will be engaged!
Photo By: JerSean Golatt / Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo By: Mark Knight / Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo By: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Photo By: Hypnotic Emporium
Photo By: Cathy Burkey / Dallas Zoo
Photo By: Six Flags Over Texas
Photo By: Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art
Photo By: The Office of James Burnett / Klyde Warren Park
Photo By: Photo courtesy of The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection, Dallas
Photo By: William Cushman / Shutterstock
Photo By: Nick Mallouf / River Ranch at Texas Horse Park
Photo By: Kevin Brown / State Fair of Texas®
Photo By: The LOT
Inside and Outside
Dallas has plenty to do for its younger visitors and residents. Educational, creative and just plain fun are all on the agenda, with some kid-approved food to help us power up (or power down). Special pricing is often available for educators, seniors and military, and most places that charge admission are still free for tiny visitors (under 2). If you plan to hit a bunch in a row, check out CityPASS: discounts are substantial. Parking can be pricey downtown and most attractions that do offer it charge extra, so consider public transport and Lyft. Visit amusement parks early and on weekdays to avoid crowds, and do museums after 2pm to avoid competition with big school groups. Let’s head out!
Perot Museum of Science and Nature
A top Dallas attraction, the Perot Museum of Science and Nature is a huge space—11 permanent exhibit halls, a traveling exhibit hall and a 3D theater—but it is so well-designed that it’s easy to navigate and never seems that crowded. It has a dedicated little-kiddo wing in the Moody Family Children’s Museum, and older kids have a wealth of exploration options that are organized by STEM interest. Be overwhelmed by the Alamosaurus in the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall. Perform an actual experiment in the Bio Lab (ages 8 and over), part of the Being Human Hall. Lamar Hunt Family Sports Hall lets kids race a cheetah, a T Rex or NFL running back Jamal Charles. Visit Earth Hall to feel an earthquake and touch a tornado. Plan to spend two to three hours at the museum and head over before noon or after 3pm to avoid crowds. Purchase tickets online in advance. Parking onsite. CityPASS discounts.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
The award-winning Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on White Rock Lake is considered one of the top arboretums in the world and is a "must-visit" on parent lists and travel sites. The Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is awesome for younger ones, offering exhibits where they can play and learn. Don’t miss the huge kaleidoscope, the Secret Garden maze and the tree-house-bounce-house Walk in the Clouds. The Arboretum is open daily. Check its website to see what’s on and buy tickets online (reservations are recommended) or call, as school groups can book up the place. Purchase parking online in advance for a price break. Kids under age 2 free. CityPASS discounts.
While you’re near the Arboretum, reward good behavior with a visit to Hypnotic Emporium. It has delicious, locally made ice cream from Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Denton—as well as sundaes, milkshakes and classic candies. Also, the same owners have Hypnotic Donuts and Biscuits next door, so there’s something for everyone. Tip: Visit this place after the Arboretum unless you want to be associated with the sugar-crasher by the Koi Pond.
The Dallas Zoo
The Dallas Zoo opened in 1888 with two deer and two mountain lions; now it has 2,000 animals and a million visitors a year. There’s a lot to see and do at this popular Dallas attraction. Feed the giraffes at the multispecies Giants of the Savannahs exhibit, rated a "Top 10 Zoo Exhibit" by USA Today. Check out Monster—the 13.5-foot long, 900-pound appropriately named Nile crocodile. Head over to the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo to feed the birds at Travis & Zach’s Birds Landing. Crawl through the Underzone tunnel to hang out with naked mole rats. Finally, cool off from all the activity in the play water feature The Stream. Under age 3 free. CityPASS discounts.
Six Flags Over Texas
Six Flags Over Texas is the first regional theme park built in the U.S. and features 100 acres of entertainment. Nobody needs to be told what to do at an amusement park, so we’ll just lay out a few tips to make the most of the visit. Head over on weekdays during the busy season—the earlier in the morning, the better—and call ahead or check online to see what shows and special activities are on for the day. Six Flags regularly runs promos and buying tickets online can get you substantial savings, especially in the off-season. You can store your stuff in lockers as well as rent strollers. If you’re visiting with little ones, Bugs Bunny Boomtown is the area to head to first. After the kids fall asleep in the stroller, head to the rides you care about and ask about the park’s THRILL SWAP, which enables families to stay together in line with their tiny nonthrill-seekers who won’t be riding. Older kids love Six Flags’s FLASH PASS that holds their place in line and notifies them when it’s their turn, so they can spend less time abiding and more time riding.
The Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art has something for every young art lover. Older kids will enjoy the museum’s Contemporary and American Art permanent collections, with cool pieces by Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Gerald Murphy, among many others. Check the website for current temporary exhibitions. Those individuals who get testy slow-walking galleries (e.g., kids 8 and younger) have their own retreat areas in Arturo’s Nest and the Young Learners Gallery in the Center for Creative Connections. General admission to the museum is FREE. Special exhibition tickets have a price tag, but children under 11 are free. Also free for all ages are Pop-Up Art Spots on Saturday afternoons, as are First Tuesdays for kids 5 and under, offering storytime, art projects and other gallery fun. Two onsite cafes have convenient online ordering. DMA has an underground lot and parking is pricey. If you pay to park, pick the car up after you head across the street to play at Klyde Warren Park.
Klyde Warren Park
Klyde Warren Park is a hugely popular central-Dallas spot, great for family entertainment. It generally has something going on—from morning yoga and public exercise to evening concerts and films—and it’s all free. Children’s Park is a dedicated play space, with playgrounds, fountains and more. For example, there’s Tuesday morning storytime and Imagination Playground where kids can build together using enormous foam blocks. With a couple of onsite cafes and daily food truck offerings, you have plans through afternoon naptime. Metered parking or in nearby lots with permission. Check the park’s website for details.
The Samurai Collection
The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection features an array of samurai objects—helmets, masks, weapons and full suits of armor—dating as far back as the 7th century and amassed over the last few decades by the Barbier-Mueller family. File this Dallas attraction under "short and sweet," not "specialty interests" because it really isn't just for the Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers in the family. Seriously, you never know how universally cool Japanese armor is until you go to a museum entirely dedicated to it. The museum hosts First Saturday family days, with games and activities geared towards kids, but normal operating days give ample opportunity for intrigue and questions with free tours by engaged staff. Admission is also free. Located in the former St. Ann School in Harwood District, the museum has a fairly hidden entrance through the popular Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Complimentary valet parking.
Dallas World Aquarium
With its monkeys and chameleons, flamingos and penguins—even ocelots, for cryin’ out loud—the Dallas World Aquarium isn’t your typical hometown aquarium (well, unless you live in Dallas). Check out the rainforest exhibit for beautiful birds and unusual sloths. The 20,000-gallon cenote exhibit walks you through the shark habitat, and South Africa is cool for its penguins. With a conservation focus, the aquarium has several endangered animals such as the Antillean manatee. Check out the website or call ahead to plan your visit around scheduled animal feedings and talks. This massively popular downtown zoo is open daily so try for weekday mornings to avoid crowds. There are a few restaurants onsite. Parking at downtown lots and meters.
River Ranch at Texas Horse Park
It’s in the Texas Rulebook somewhere that if you’re in Texas you’ve gotta get on a horse at some point. River Ranch at Texas Horse Park can help you check that box. With pony and trail rides (age-determined), a petting zoo and more, this place is fun for all ages. Featuring free Third Thursdays, River Ranch is closed on Tuesdays and recommends calling or emailing to plan activities before visiting. Aside from its public offerings, River Ranch’s primary mission is as an educational nonprofit, providing scholarships to Dallas at-risk and special-needs kids, so it’s a great place to support.
State Fair of Texas
With its annual attendance exceeding the population of the city, it really seems as though every Dallas resident attends the State Fair. And why wouldn’t they? Indulgent food, fun rides, fantastic shows and crazy exhibits. Did we mention indulgent food? It’s worth the ticket price just to eat a Fletcher’s corny dog in front of Big Tex, the 55-foot-tall cowboy mascot. Outside Fair Month, Fair Park still has cool stuff to do. Events include Holiday Delights at Fair Park and the Dog Bowl and the Park is home to the African American Museum (older kids) and the Music Hall, running youngster-approved Broadway shows. Texas Discovery Gardens is a public garden for young nature lovers with a popular butterfly house. For less time and money than the Dallas World Aquarium, visit the Children’s Aquarium. There are a limited number of exhibits, but it’s entirely geared toward kiddos. Also, if you visited the Dallas Zoo, you’ll get a discount.
After a day of activity and entertainment, herd the family into the car and head to The LOT. This popular East Dallas establishment offers a chill, family-friendly atmosphere in the outdoor patio area, with indoor dining as well. On the menu: yummy Southern and Tex-Mex fare and a few vegetarian and healthier choices. That goes for the child’s menu too, if you can talk yours into options like veggie sticks instead of fries. On the drink front, The LOT features a bunch of local craft brews—for you, not junior. The best part is the dedicated play area to keep the young ones entertained while you sip your Lakewood Lager. Other locals to enjoy: Truck Yard outdoor beer garden with food truck options for picky eaters, and Unleavened Fresh Kitchen for healthy fare, where children eat free after 4 o’clock.