Whether for a quick weekend getaway or a week long adventure, the Dallas-Fort Worth area offers a host of fun for kids of all ages, just three hours south of Oklahoma City. Peruse the possibilities for both tried-and-true activities and attractions, newcomers and a few quirky additions.
On The Way
At Bedre’ Fine Chocolate’s Manufacturing Facility in Davis, Okla., watch through floor-to-ceiling windows as confections are produced and packaged. Taste-test samples, purchase favorites individually or in pretty packages, take advantage of nice restrooms and burn some energy at the outdoor playground.
In Gainesville, feed the flamingos, watch the big cats, giraffes and bears, ride a tiny train and stretch legs at the large community playground at Frank Buck Zoo, or tour Circle N Dairy to bottle feed calfs, milk a life-sized cow simulator and sample milk products.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine. Boasting 10 restaurants, indoor gardens, oversized board games, two pools and running trails, this resort alone can keep the whole family entertained for a long weekend. Don’t miss Paradise Springs, the outdoor water park, free for guests. The park is small, making it easy to keep up with multiple kids, without feeling overcrowded. A multi-level play structure, splash pad and small slides are perfect for young children, a winding lazy river is fun for all ages, and the large family lagoon offers waterslide and zip line adventure for older kids. The onsite bar and grill will deliver straight to your lounge chair.
Other favorites: The Hilton Anatole features Jadewaters which is an extensive resort pool area with water slides, lazy river and kids splash zone, and Gepetto’s Marionette Theater showing childhood favorites like “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Peter Pan.” And the Omni Dallas has a rooftop pool and hot tub offering beautiful views, especially at night.
Play & Eat
Minutes away from the Gaylord Texan in the Grapevine Mills Mall are Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. The aquarium’s 30 displays are home to more than 5,000 sea creatures, and even small kids stay engaged with a book to collect stamps along the way. Name, rescue, rehabilitate and release a mock turtle in the sea turtle rescue center, and get hands-on with crabs, sea stars and urchins in interactive exhibits. Educational talks and feeding times occur throughout the day with creatures from stingrays and sharks to seahorses and jellyfish. The aquarium’s smaller size makes it an easy trip for younger kids. LEGOLAND includes rides, an obstacle course, a small outdoor water park and LEGO play zones. Discounted tickets to either attraction, or a combo ticket to both, are available online.
For kids 13 and up, the Escape Game Dallas has a location in the mall, too, offering one hour immersive mystery-solving adventures, like recovering a stolen painting or finding a stash of gold. Rest your legs, grab a bite and enjoy the jungle and extensive menu offerings at the Rainforest Cafe, also in Grapevine Mills Mall. Tiny conductors will love the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, in historic downtown Grapevine, offering hour long to half-day routes in 1920s Victorian coaches on Saturdays and Sundays.
Whether via the Grapevine rails or on your own, at the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards, catch the twice-daily cattle drive, puzzle your way through the Cowtown Cattle Pen Maze, and love on livestock at the petting zoo. Nearby Joe T Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, started in 1935, serves handmade tortillas and enchiladas in casual but beautiful indoor and outdoor dining rooms (expect a wait and bring cash as credit cards aren’t accepted). Family owned Kincaid’s Hamburgers is the place for a burger, or Angelo’s will satisfy barbecue cravings. After dinner, pair the lightness of shaved ice with the creaminess of ice cream at Lumi Snow, whose creative, towering concoctions boast flavors like campfire classic and breakfast trash.
Other Fort Worth favorites include the Kimbell Art Museum, with free admission to the Kimbell collection, sensory-friendly play space for kids 5 and under and drop-in studio art projects for families with kids 12 and under, and the American Airlines CR Smith Museum, where pilots-to-be learn how an airline works through interactive, kid-friendly exhibits. Cap off a cultured day at Coyote Drive-In, showing double features nightly Science Museum Oklahoma members receive free general admission (with ID and member card) at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History or Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Likewise, a Myriad Botanical Gardens membership gets you in free to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, which includes a new 8-acre Children’s Garden full of interactive exhibits and discovery trails, and Texas Discovery Gardens in Plano, where kids can discover an enchanting two-story butterfly habitat or learn the benefits of more than 20 slithery species in the new Snakes of Texas exhibit.
Foster kids’ creativity at Crayola Experience in Plano, where their digital artwork comes to life through augmented reality, they can watch crayons being made and name and wrap their own crayon labels. Families will feel right at home at nearby Whistle Britches’ roomy outdoor patio while enjoying chicken and biscuits. For families seeking adventure, Plano’s Whirlyball, a mash-up of lacrosse and basketball played in bumper cars, delivers quirky competition for ages 9 and up. Venture northwest to Hope Park, part of Frisco Commons Park, with designated areas for ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12. In addition to typical playground equipment, find tiny storefronts mimicking locations in town, a train and a giant xylophone. Kids will love the food, participating in the chicken dance and the vintage tractor and firetruck out front at Babe’s Chicken Dinner.
Enjoy the outdoors in the midst of a bustling city at Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park. The Children’s Park with interactive fountains, playgrounds and a kid-sized amphitheater offers weekly storytelling and theater activities. Check out reading materials, board games, table tennis or croquet equipment for free, and grab lunch from the onsite restaurant or food trucks. On a rainy day, kids ages 2 and up can test their inner American Ninja warrior at Obstacle Warrior Kids in Dallas, offering open-play admission daily. History buffs and kids with CSI inklings shouldn’t miss The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, chronicling the assassination and lifetime contributions of President John F. Kennedy. Opt for an eccentric Dallas eatery, like the always entertaining Magic Time Machine, where zany wait staff dress as pop culture icons and decor vignettes include a teepee and carousel, or Fuel City, a truck stop serving tacos consistently rated the best in the area. An ode to the family ranch formerly on the site, watch longhorn, donkeys and even buffalo and zebra graze its 8 acres, get your car washed for free and check out the impressive collection of taxidermy. Indulge your sweet tooth at Cake Bar, serving Southern-style scratch-made cakes, cookies and ice cream, the perfect way to celebrate your crazy fun trip to DFW.