Dallas with Kids: A Perfect Family Day
Families heading for Dallas, Texas, will be able to experience the world of cowboys, longhorns and barbecue while enjoying the culture and class of the ninth-largest city in the United States. Visitors to Dallas may expect to find a city filled with Texans in 10-gallon hats and snakeskin boots, but this sophisticated city is very fashion-forward with a collection of eclectic neighborhoods where top-notch art, music, and theater reign.
Spring and fall are the best times to travel to Dallas, since summers are hot and humid and winters can be cold. If you do go in the summer, you may find the air conditioning cold enough for blankets for infants and a sweatshirt or sweater for everyone else. With approximately 1.3 million people living here, you will want to avoid major freeways during rush hour and may want to opt for public transportation whenever possible to avoid expensive parking fees.
Here is our suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Dallas, Texas with kids:
Start your vacation day in Dallas by taking the kids to The Dream Cafe (2800 Routh St.; 214-954-0486) for great food at a reasonable price and a playground. Plan to sit outside so you can relax and take this chance to linger over your breakfast while the kids play nearby. My breakfast choice is the steel-cut oats, scrambled egg whites, sliced tomatoes and vegetarian sausage, but my kids really enjoy those Mickey Mouse-shaped cloud cakes so I get to sneak a bite of those too (adult menu from $5; kid's menu from $3.50).
Reunion Tower (300 Reunion Blvd; 214-571-5744; $2 for adults, $1 for children 3-12) -- one of the most recognized landmarks, for a bird's-eye view of the city. (Note: It was closed for renovation at this writing, so check before you go.) Kids will get a kick out of the elevator ride and the slowly revolving floor and you will get a feel of the layout of Dallas, Texas.
When you are able to pull your family away from the thrill of the 560-foot tall tower, head to the Old Red Courthouse Museum (100 S. Houston St.; 214-745-1100; $8 for adults, $5 for children 3-16, free for kids under 3) for a glimpse into Dallas County's past. Children (and adults) can get to know Dallas through an interactive education center where they can build a skyscraper, try on old clothes, play history-oriented video games and participate in mock trials. Parents can also take the opportunity to grab some brochures from the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau which is also located here.
There is no place like the kid-friendly Spaghetti Warehouse (1815 N. Market; 214-651-8475; from $6) when hungry tummies start to rumble. The bouncy atmosphere, train car seating, and location in the historic West End make this a great place for a family lunch in Dallas. The kids menu includes chicken strips and corn dogs for the anti-pasta kids, but my son always chooses the pizza (from $4). , especially those
Insider tip: Check their website before you go for special offers like Buy One Get One Free.
Following lunch, take a break by going back to your hotel. The combined heat, crowds and traffic in the city will wear anyone's patience thin; and there is no better respite than the cool darkness of your hotel room.
For an afternoon family adventure, explore the wonders of the world's oceans at the Dallas World Aquarium (1801 N. Griffin St.; 214-720-2224; $20.95 for adults, $12.95 for children 3-12, under 3 free), which houses a variety of species from angelfish to scorpionfish in tanks designated by region. But it isn't just an aquarium: As you wander through the habitat exhibits representing plants and animals from around the globe, you and your children will be delighted by up-close encounters with everything from bats and birds to tree frogs and vipers. My favorite exhibit has always been the leafy seadragons, but my 1-year-old daughter is a penguin fan and my 3-year-old son can't get enough of the sharks. Luckily, we can all get our fill here.
Insider tip: The Dallas World Aquarium is small but popular, and the walkways can get congested. If you have small children, you may want to opt for a sling, backpack carrier or umbrella stroller so you can easily maneuver through the crowds.
There is nothing that embodies Texas more than a rodeo-- and the Mesquite Championship Rodeo (1818 Rodeo Dr., Mesquite, Texas; 972-285-8777) has something for everyone. It happens every Friday and Saturday night from the first weekend in June to the last weekend in August.
Insider tip: There are a few daytime competitions, and an occasional event in November and March, so check the calendar to see what works best for your family.
This is a great place for families to experience their first rodeo. It is about 15 miles outside of Dallas and there are seats for every budget (starting at $11 for adults and $6 for children 3-12, under 3 are free; $5 parking fee). Gates open at 6:30PM, so you can arrive early, chow down on a barbecue dinner buffet ($10.95 adults, $7 children 12 and under), ride the ponies or mechanical bull and enjoy the petting zoo. There is also free face-painting for the kids and cowboys giving autographs -- again for the kids, but something mommies might enjoy too.
If you can actually get the kids into the arena, you will see rodeo at its best: barrel racing, steer wrestling, bull riding and the list goes on. Large video monitors around the arena bring the action up close and the announcer explains each event before it starts, so you will be able to answer all those questions your kids will ask about what is going on.
Stay as long as your kids can hold out, then head back to the ranch (or hotel as the case may be) kick off your boots, hang your hat and relax after your perfect family vacation day in Dallas, Texas with kids.
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- Overview:Dallas Travel Guide