Perched on the Trinity River in North Central Texas, Dallas was once a major industrial heartland that attracted huge numbers of cotton, cattle and later oil workers from across the south and midwest. That mercantile spirt has endured to this day, but is instead evidenced in more contemporary professions and trades, with Dallas’s central district now dotted with glass skyscrapers. At the same time, the city’s cultural scene has burgeoned with it, and is now up there with the very best in the region.
Indeed, Dallas’s emergence as a major cultural and entertainment hub has seen it become home to a vast range of festivals and fairs that take place in and around the city every year. If you’re coming to Dallas and would like to take in one or more of these events during your stay, we’ve looked at the calendar and picked out 20 of the finest.
Explore Texas’s oldest zoo
Always a safe bet for a fun family day out, Dallas Zoo has been attracting visitors since the last quarter of the 19th century, making it the oldest (not to mention largest) zoological park anywhere in Texas. Spread across some 106 acres on a site a few miles south of downtown Dallas, the zoo houses an impressive 2,000 animals, along with a renowned children’s area and special African habitat that can be viewed from a monorail. There are also daily keeper chats, as well as hands-on experiences such as the chance to feed giraffes.
LOCATION 650 South R L Thornton Freeway, Dallas HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Soak up the city aboard an electric cruizer
There are few better ways to get to know a city than on a guided sightseeing tour, where you can benefit from the knowledge of a true local expert. Great R Tour are a popular local agency that run and operate fun and engaging group tours across the city. Their most family-friendly experience is the Dallas Cruizer Tour, which invites you to explore the city’s downtown district with the wind in your hair aboard an open-sided green electric Cruizer. Available for kids aged 6 and over, the 1-hour tour takes in all of the area’s most popular sights and landmarks, with plenty of opportunities to stop for photos along the way.
Test your mettle on some fearsome theme park rides
Located in the city of Arlington, about a 20-minute drive east of Dallas, Six Flags Over Texas theme park has been drawing thrill-seekers for over half-a-decade. Divided into nine themed sections – each inspired by one of the six nations that have ruled over the Dallas area down the years – the park features a variety of adrenaline-fuelling rides, all of which come with their own “thrill” rating. Highlights include the Titan, said to be the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Texan, while there are also plenty of rides suitable for younger kids.
LOCATION 2201 East Road to Six Flags Street, Arlington HOURS Sat-Mon 10.30am-6pm Closed Tues-Fri
Get scared and satiated on a ghostly food tour
If you’ve got older kids who aren’t fussy eaters, you may want to consider signing up for one of Dallas’s most renowned tour experiences, the Haunted Food Tour. Hosted by an acclaimed local company called Nightly Spirits, the tour takes visitors on a spine-tingling journey through what’s said to be the most haunted route in Dallas. Handily, given the tour runs for up to 3 hours, among the stop-offs are several foodie hot spots, all selected for their supposedly haunted heritage. And so as well as getting a taste of the city’s dark and ghoulish side, you’ll also get to sample Dallas’s thriving culinary scene, while you’re regaled with ghostly stories by your entertaining host. Tours are for up to 15 people and cover around 1 mile of walking with plenty of stopping for stories and food along the way.
Discover a kaleidoscope of floral beauty
One of the city’s most beautiful outdoor attractions, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden may challenge the attention of younger childen, but if you’ve got slightly older kids who have acquired an interest in horticulture, then there’s plenty to draw them in. Situated on the banks of White Rock Lake, there are spectacular display gardens showcasing stunning seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees and plant collections, as well as a charming dining terrace and family gift shop.
LOCATION 8525 Garland Road, Dallas HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Visit an area of natural beauty
Nestled just north of Central Dallas, the 1,015-acre White Rock Lake Park is one of the region’s most renowned natural beauty spots. Visitors flock here to enjoy the serene atmosphere and scenic views, but for more active minded folk there’s also no end of activities to enjoy, from kayaking and canoeing to bird watching, biking and hiking. For the latter, among the most popular routes takes you directly around the picture-postcard lake.
LOCATION 8300 East Lawther Drive, Dallas HOURS Mon-Sun 5am-11pm
Step back in time at an evocative festival
Running for 40 years in the city of Waxahachie, a 40-minute drive south of Dallas, the Scarborough Renaissance Festival is packed full of interactive fun for the whole family, 16th Century style, with full combat jousting, birds of prey exhibitions and 25+ stages of unique entertainment. Plus, incredible artisan demonstrations and 200 shoppes and food & drink fit for a king. The kids will love the special children’s entertainment, games of skill, Renaissance Rides, Knighting ceremonies, Amazing Maze, Petting Zoo, Grande Parade, and the Mermaid Lagoon with live mermaids. Get all the details at SRFestival.com.
LOCATION 2511 FM 66, Waxahachie DATES 10 April – 31 May
Get wet ‘n’ wild at an indoor waterpark
With warm to hot weather for three quarters of the year, Dallas is very much an outdoorsy kind of place. But for those infrequent occasions when the elements work against you, it’s always handy to have a few indoor options for entertainment – especially if you’ve got kids. Step forward the Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark, a huge water wonderland in Grand Prairie, a quick drive from Dallas. With 11 waterslides, an outdoor wave pool, Texas-sized lazy river, a surf simulator, and the nation’s tallest indoor Aqualoop, this is certainly an attraction that will stave off the blues on a rainy day.
LOCATION 2970 Epic Place, Grand Prairie HOURS Sat-Sun 11am-8pm Closed Mon-Fri
Catch a magical musical
Dallas has a vibrant performing arts scene and at its vanguard are Dallas Summer Musicals who run a busy programme of Broadway theatre shows, events and classes at venues across the city all year round (and despite the name, not just in summer). Local families are placed at the heart of the organisation’s aims, with dozens of kid-friendly plays on offer, as well as community outreach programmes and subsidised classes and workshops for young, aspiring thespians.
LOCATION Refshaleøen, Copenhagen DATES 16-19 June 2021
Take a look around a world class museum
Earth, dinosaurs, sports, crazy science experiments – there’s plenty to excite the kiddies at the acclaimed Perot Museum of Nature and Science, situated in the heart of Dallas. Spread over five floors, the venue’s assortment of exhibits and displays have been designed to spark the imaginations of children in an educational, informative and entertaining way. As well as the exhibits, there’s also a theatre, an outdoor play spac, and a café, while the museum also hosts regular kids’ sleepovers.
LOCATION 2201 North Field Street, Dallas HOURS Thurs-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 11am-5pm Closed Mon-Weds
Educate yourselves about African American art & history
With the clamour for African American history to play more of a central role in the education of our children gaining pace, there has never been a better time to take your kids to the African American Museum of Dallas. Designed to provide a powerful insight into the rich heritage of black art and history, the museum features a theatre, studio arts area and classrooms where visitors are invited to explore and learn more about one of America’s panoply of hot button issues.
LOCATION 3536 Grand Avenue, Dallas HOURS Wed-Fri 11am-5pm Sat 10am-5pm Closed Sun-Tues
Watch a kid-friendly theatre show
For more than 35 years, Dallas Children’s Theater has been providing world-class family-friendly shows. Unsurprisingly, it’s been named as one of the top five children’s theatres in the United States. Programming features familiar stories, literary works, histories and biographies that are thoughtfully produced to capture the imagination of little ones. Engaging, enriching and educational, the theatre is also affordably priced. The theatre boasts ten main stage productions each season, plus a national touring company and an arts-in-education program.
LOCATION 5938 Skillman Street, Dallas
Learn about aviation history
Dive headfirst into the history of aviation – from the 1920s through to the modern day – at the sprawling 100,000 square-foot Frontiers of Flight Museum. Located right next to the Dallas Love Field Airport, Frontiers of the Flight is a veritable love story to flight. As well as an exhibition space, there are 25 air carriers, 20 interactive displays and regular presentations from space shuttle astronauts that are guaranteed to inspire a lifelong fascination with aviation among little ones. Kids love putting the two flight trainers to the test too.
LOCATION 6911 Lemmon Avenue, Dallas HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm
Immerse yourselves in living history
Head out to the suburbs of Dallas for a taste of what life was like for the Blackland Prairie Pioneers and the early settlers. The Heritage Farmstead Museum is a living history attraction, located on 4.5-acres of farmland. Families can tour the 19th-century mansion, which includes a full scale replica of an old school-house. In the Blacksmith Shed, kids can explore how rural farmers handled their metal and machine work, while in the Carriage Garage they can hop aboard a vintage Ford Model T. As well as these permanent fixtures, the museum features revolving exhibits highlighting different aspects of life in Plano and North Texas.
LOCATION 1900 West 15th Street, Plano HOURS Thurs-Fri 10am-2pm Closed Sat-Weds
Marvel at some stunning metal public art pieces
The Traveling Man is an impressive 38-foot trio of colossal sculptures created by artist Brand Oldham. The statues are dispersed across Deep Ellum, known as the artistic soul of Dallas due to its live music venues, galleries and murals. Based on a Dallas folklore tale, the statues look to both the city’s rich history and bright future. Each statue is made from polished metal sheets held together by 10,000 stainless steel rivets. The site of a collection of super-sized robots with guitar-shaped heads, rubbing shoulders with some of the tallest buildings in the area, can’t fail to impress the kids.
LOCATION 2605 Elm Street, Dallas HOURS 24/7
Hit the heights at one of Dallas’s largest towers
Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, the Reunion Tower has been an iconic feature of the Dallas skyline since 1978. Affectionately known by locals as “The Ball”, the 470-ft tower offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the whole city. Staff are on hand to snap a family photo in front of a green screen, which visitors can then download for free. If you’re reluctant to leave the tower, Cloud 9 cafe is an affordable family-friendly dining option, located in the ball of the tower.
LOCATION 300 Reunion Boulevard East, Dallas HOURS Mon-Thurs 4pm-7.30pm Fri-Sun 1.30pm-9pm
Let the little ones loose in a vast park
Located in the heart of the city, the 5-acre open air Klyde Warren Park can keep kids occupied for days. And, it offers more than an abundance of green space too. It is packed with games and activities for families to enjoy, including chess, ping pong, corn hole and croquet – as well as putting greens and games rooms. Live music events take place throughout the year too. For hungry tums, there’s a range of food trucks surrounding the park, including family favourites like Ruthie’s Rollin’ Cafe and What’s da Scoop.
LOCATION 2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas HOURS Mon-Sun 6am-11pm
Cast your eyes on a truly unique sculpture
If the kids are growing tired of traipsing around traditional attractions, head to downtown Dallas for something a little more unusual. The swanky Joule Hotel, which features its own sculpture garden, is home to a 30-foot Giant Eyeball. The orb sculpture was created by Chicago-based multimedia artist, Tony Tasset. The enormous blood-shot retina, which is modelled after Tasset’s own eyeball, is the same height as a three-storey building. The sculpture has become a city icon and a huge hit with kids. While the sculpture itself is gated, visitors can get a good view of it from the surrounding sidewalks.
LOCATION 1601 Main Street, Dallas HOURS 24/7
Sit down to a memorable themed dinner
The Medieval Times Dinner Theater takes guests back in time to the days of yore for a knight to remember. Located on the western fringes of the city, all the magic takes place in a replica of an 11th-century castle. Don a crown and tuck into a four-course feast, while enjoying the thrills of an authentic medieval tournament. The jam-packed evening features armour-clad knights, falconry flights, Andalusian stallions and jousting competitions. Family dinner theater at its finest – and the kids will never forget it. Tickets cost $65 for adults and $36.95 for children under 12.
LOCATION 2021 North Stemmons Freeway, Dallas
Stop for a selfie among bronze cattle sculptures
Located in the central business district, next to the Dallas Convention Centre, Pioneer Plaza pays homage to its Wild West roots. At 4.2-acres, it is the largest public open space in the area, featuring waterfalls, artificial cliffs, streams and native plant life. But it’s the larger-than-life cows that will capture the kids’ attention. Artist Robert Summers has recreated a cattle drive in bronze, featuring 40 enormous longhorn steers driven by three cowboys on horses. Work on the park was completed in 1992 and it has since become the second most-visited landmark in town.
LOCATION 1428 Young Street, Dallas HOURS 24/7