WORDS BY STEPHANIE FAULK
This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of VisitDallas The Magazine. To see the entire issue and read other features, click here.
With an abundance of hotels and affordable attractions, Dallas is an easy and fun family getaway. Fill long spring breaks and summer hours with swimming, museums and enjoying the outdoors, with just a tiny bit of education thrown in for good measure. Buy a Dallas CityPASS (visitdallas.com/citypass) before arrival for bundled admission to the city's best attractions at a discounted price.
3 PM: Check In and Suit Up
The Hilton Anatole is a true urban oasis with all the amenities a family could want, but the star of the show is Jade Waters, a sparkling water park exclusively for hotel guests. The splash areas, lazy river and 180-foot water slides will keep the kids entertained and thoroughly exhausted. Weekends include duck races, family pool parties and movies under the stars. And if you manage to sneak away, there's an adults-only pool and swim-up bar.
7:30 PM: Fish Friday
Scoop your little minnows out of the pool and head up the road to Flying Fish for dinner. The fast-casual eatery sells fresh catfish, shrimp, oysters, crab legs and crawfish in season, of course, but also hamburgers, chicken tenders and salads for those less seafood-inclined. Bring a pic of you with your biggest catch and pin it up on the "Liars' Wall." Sure, that definitely looks like a fourteen-pound bass - we believe you!
9 AM: Fresh Breakfast
The Texas spring and summer months abound with fresh, flavorful produce - melons, okra, tomatoes, peaches, grapefruit and more. Find them all from local growers at the Dallas Farmers Market, along with breads, local honey, cheeses and a variety of prepared ethnic dishes. The perfect Saturday summer day includes an ear of fresh grilled corn and a crisp watermelon wedge for the little ones.
11 AM: Age-Appropriate History
Every family trip should include a little bit of learning, and Dallas has options for all ages. Dallas Heritage Village will transport you back in time through a collection of 21 historic buildings and period actors representing North Texas as it was from 1840 to 1910. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is a CityPASS attraction that's great for the whole family. Be sure to snap a pic of your future leader behind the presidential desk in the full-size Oval Office replica.
For more mature children (12 and older), show them what it means to be an upstander, not a bystander, at the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, or visit the Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles the life, legacy and assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Located blocks from each other in the historic West End, they're emotionally heavy exhibits, but important and impactful.
1:30 PM: Pack a Picnic
An afternoon at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is about as picturesque as it gets. Set against White Rock Lake, the massive 66-acre playground of plants and trees is a feast for the eyes and senses that never ends. Each turn of the trail reveals another garden, babbling waterfall, historic mansion or food garden. Children can spend all afternoon playing and learning in the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden. Bring a cooler and spread a blanket for a relaxing picnic and enjoy outdoor concerts in the summer months.
3:30 PM: A World of Inspiration
Take a break from the afternoon heat in the Dallas Arts District at three museums, all on the same stretch of Flora Street. The always-free Dallas Museum of Art has hands-on activities for the kids and an impressive collection of 24,000 works spanning 5,000 years of history. The Nasher Sculpture Center is free the first Saturday of every month and features indoor exhibits and a beautiful sculpture garden. Head east, figuratively, and explore the Crow Museum of Asian Art to be transported across the globe. Museums close at 5 PM, so plan plenty of time to take it all in.
5 PM: Close Down Klyde Warren
It's been a busy day but amazingly, there's still energy to burn. Head across the street to Klyde Warren Park to wind down. The children's play area has creative climbing structures and a caterpillar fountain to splash in (pack a towel!), and there are long lawns for frisbee tossing and football fielding. Dinner at the food trucks means everyone gets just what they want. Chances are you'll enjoy live music, a movie or yoga in the park - free programing is offered daily.
9 AM: Get Glazed
The creative concoctions at this East Dallas doughnut shop will satisfy the sweet tooth and the savory tooth, for that matter. The Holy Cannoli has a cinnamon-orange glaze over chocolate cake, topped with a cannoli-cream drizzle and chocolate hazelnut crunch. The Jim is a breakfast sandwich, of sorts, with breaded, fried chicken between a toasted glazed doughnut (glaze side in so it can meet hot chicken for melty perfection), served with Sriracha.
11 AM: Fishy Business
Don't let the name fool you. The Dallas World Aquarium has plenty of fish, but also birds, sloths, ocelots, penguins, otters and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. The aquarium features an incredibly believable reproduction of the Orinoco rainforest, with exotic birds flying freely. The exhibit has the only public display of three-toed sloths and Antillean manatees in the U.S. (the manatees might be the cutest creatures you see all weekend, other than your own kiddos, of course). A highlight is the 40-foot tunnel where you can observe sharks and fish swimming around you.
1 PM: Old School Entertainment
Before heading out of town, show the kids what it was like before black lights and laser shows took over the local bowling alley. Bowlounge features twelve vintage lanes salvaged from an East Texas alley and reassembled in the Design District. It's nostalgic fun with great tunes and seriously good eats. The kids will love the fried pickles and pizza, and you'll love the forty-plus beers on tap. Note: Bowlounge is 21 and up after 8 PM on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Extend Your Stay
That was a great 48 hours, but you've just scratched the surface of family fun in Dallas. Stay and see the rest of the CityPASS attractions: Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas Zoo and Reunion Tower GeO-Deck. Also, you got a glimpse of the visual arts in the Dallas Arts District, but there's still much more to experience, from symphony to dance. Find all the fun things to see and do at visitdallas.com.