For those looking for the perfect urban family vacation spot, look no further than Dallas. The Big D may be best-known for its cosmopolitan vibes and hefty contributions to popular culture, but locals know that this is one of the best cities to be if you have kids. Though Dallas encompasses nearly 400 square miles, its true soul is in the downtown area, and this is where you’ll find a huge array of family-friendly hotspots and top-notch restaurants (brunch, anyone?). Take the kiddos to one of the coolest science and history museums in the state, stroll around the Arts District, play at the Arboretum or simply enjoy a sunny day at White Rock Lake Park.
Best things to do with kids in Dallas
What is it? The 1,015-acre White Rock Lake is stocked with fish, including crappie, catfish and bass, and thanks to the pretty natural scenery here, this park is one of the most popular spots in all of Dallas.
Why go? From kayaking and canoeing to bird watching and hiking, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy at White Rock Lake Park. In addition to water activities, there’s a 9.33-mile hike and bike trail that winds around the lake. Come here to decompress from city life and enjoy some outdoor family fun.
What is it? A world-class museum with 11 permanent exhibitions that explore the earth, dinosaurs, sports and energy from a scientific perspective, in the heart of Dallas.
Why go? Regardless of whether you’re a science buff or not, families with children of all ages are bound to adore the Perot. This unique, architecturally stunning museum has five floors, a 297-seat theater and a café, plus an outdoor play space and courtyard. For an extra-special treat, kiddos can attend sleepovers at the museum.
What is it? The crème de la crème of Texas theme parks, located halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, in Arlington.
Why go? Adults and kiddos alike will have a blast at Six Flags Over Texas, a 212-acre wonderland with towering roller coasters and plenty of family-friendly rides and attractions. Just a couple pro-tips to keep in mind: If you want to take advantage of potential discounts, be sure to call Six Flags before visiting; also, to avoid long lines, plan to visit the park in April or September, when attendance is lightest.
What is it? Combining regional customs, local tradition and interactive fun, this living history village allows visitors to experience what life was like in North Texas during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Why go? Nestled on 13 lush acres in historic Old City Park, the Dallas Heritage Village uses its collections of centuries-old furnishings and buildings to present educational programs and special events for families. There’s a schoolhouse, a log cabin, a quaint old farmstead and much more on the premises; kids will especially love the old-fashioned general store, where they can pretend to be real store workers and patrons.
What is it? A sprawling, 66-acre public garden with lush floral displays and several amenities including a dining terrace, a family gift shop and various facilities for rent.
Why go? The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is an outdoor oasis – though it’s just minutes from downtown, on the banks of White Rock Lake, it feels like a world away. Plan your visit around the holidays; Autumn at the Arboretum and the 12 Days of Christmas displays are always excellent.
What is it? An 80,000-square foot, indoor-outdoor water wonderland, located in Grand Prairie, just a short drive away from Dallas.
Why go? This community-driven waterpark boasts 11 waterslides, an outdoor wave pool, a Texas-sized lazy river, a surf simulator, and oh yeah, the nation’s tallest indoor Aqualoop. A visit to Epic Waters will undoubtedly delight the whole family – especially considering there’s a 4,000-square-foot arcade and a full-service bar at your disposal.
What is it? A bustling, 5-acre downtown green space built over the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway, between St. Paul and Pearl Streets.
Why go? Opened in 2012, Klyde Warren Park acts as a walkable, central gathering space for Dallas residents and offers daily free programming that ranges from outdoor concerts and movies to yoga and fitness classes. There are plenty of special spots for kids, including the Imagination Playground, a cool treehouse, a splash river and more. Check the calendar to see a full list of programs and events.
What is it? An adrenaline-pumping theme park with dozens of exciting attractions and rides.
Why go? Thrill-seeking kiddos will love Adventure Landing, which has pretty much everything you could ever want in a theme park: adventure golf, batting cages, bumper boats, laser tag, speedway go-karts and a massive video arcade. There are plenty of snack bars and on-site food services, too, so parents can keep up their energy while they chase children around.
What is it? A scenic Audubon nature preserve offering 9 miles of beautiful hiking trails and rugged hill country wilderness, just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas.
Why go? Cedar Ridge Preserve is a hilly, picturesque area with plenty of creeks and great vistas to enjoy as you hike around. In addition to hiking, bird watching is a popular activity here, and there are several lovely picnic areas and butterfly gardens. This peaceful, tucked-away preserve is the perfect spot to spend a relaxing Sunday with the fam.
What is it? The premier nonprofit presenter of Broadway theatre in North Texas.
Why go? For a taste of Broadway in Texas, check out the Dallas Summer Musicals, who produce year-round plays and live performances for local families, in addition to offering community outreach programs and classes for little to no cost. There are dozens of kid-friendly plays that occur throughout the year; check the calendar for a full list of upcoming shows.