Nature lovers listen up! We are locals to the DFW area and the options for entertaining kids never cease to amaze us. Big D and its surrounding areas make up a bustling metropolitan community where you can find adventure-a-plenty. If you and your family love the great outdoors check out this 3-day itinerary for the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
DAY 1: DOWNTOWN DISCOVERY
Start your day at Klyde Warren Park. This 5-acre urban oasis sits on top of a freeway amongst the skyscrapers of downtown Dallas. There are literally hundreds of activities to keep you going all day. Scheduled events like Yoga, Imagination Playground, Music and Stories, Dancing and Water Gun Madness are great, but with young kids we also like the "at your own pace" activities as well. From 10am to 6pm you can find a mountain of free games available for checkout at Game Carts located in a shady section of the park. When you tire of games like croquet, Candy Land, badminton, and chess, check out the lending library.
Next, let your kids spend time frolicking at the Children’s Park complete with splash pad, tree house, multiple rope climbing structures and merry-go-rounds. Don’t forget to pack a towel and a dry change of clothes. Kids can be easily changed in the bathrooms conveniently located right inside the Children’s Park area.
Food Trucks line up across from the Children’s Park and provide a great cost effective alternative for those looking to grab fast casual bites between 11am and 3pm daily. You can find anything from Vietnamese street food to BBQ to Gluten Free Pizza. Find a table or bring a blanket to set up picnic style on the expansive lawn.
For dessert, make sure to stop by the Steel City Pops cart located on the lawn of the park. All popsicles are gluten free!
Then, head across the street to The Dallas Museum of Art. The best part: it is free! Make your way to the Center for Creative Connections where people of all ages can be immersed in art through participatory spaces. We especially love Arturo's Nest for the under 4 crowd providing a relaxed environment and touch spaces, as well as, the Young Learners Gallery for those 5 to 8 years old where sensory art exploration is encouraged.
End your day by relaxing in the largest garden patio in Dallas located right in the heart of Downtown at Saint Ann Restaurant. Gluten free options are limited here especially for kids (mine just eats salad) but the ambiance is well worth the visit.
When you arrive, make sure to head to the second floor to visit The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum. That's right, you walk through the restaurant to get to this museum. Think of it as a right of passage to glance in to the world of a renowned private art collector. And...the admission is free!
The collection features the Samurai and will be good for either a quick walkthrough with younger ones or a more in depth visit for those who are interested in learning more about this ancient Japanese culture. In fact, it is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. It is so significant, that in 2017, the famous Fashion house Hermes created the Parures de Samouraïs silk twill scarf. It isn't simply inspired by the collection, it places an exact replica of one of the Edo-period garments on display front and center. But, hours are strange so make sure to check before making your way here to avoid missing it.
Day 2: Garden by Day, City Lights By Night
Start your day at the larger-than-life Dallas Arboretum. With plenty of shaded areas to explore, you could spend a whole day attempting to traverse the 66-acre nature complex. For an additional $3, bring the kiddos to Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden overlooking White Rock Lake. The 8 acres will keep them running from activity to activity as the garden mixes educational learning and fun with each new experience. Highlights include the treetop play space, as well as, touch tank and plant petting zoo. When everyone needs a break from the Dallas heat, don’t forget to spend some time in the water play area.
For foodies in your group, make sure you visit A Tasteful Place. This 3.5 acre edible display garden is home to a teaching kitchen with classes and special events. If your schedule or the attention span of your brood doesn’t fit that kind of experience, simply stop by to wander and sample daily tastings of items grown right on property. Recipes are posted online for the month. Anyone with food allergies can check ingredients before arriving.
If you have kids 13 or older consider making a reservation to enjoy the three course tea service at the DeGolyer Tea Room as a special treat.
We encourage you to stay on site to take advantage of the picturesque views for lunch. Options can be found to suit every budget or food preference as you can carry in your own picnic items or visit one of the many dining establishments scattered throughout the gardens.
Make sure to secure dinner reservations early at the very popular revolving restaurant Five Sixty. Here you can catch the best 360-degree views of Dallas from over 400 feet in the air. Skip buying an expensive ticket to just take the kids to the viewing deck. Instead, adults and kids will enjoy the sites and bites presented by the famed chef Wolfgang Puck. They even have great activities to entertain the kids like Elmo activity books and etch-a-sketches while you wait if the view just isn’t enough for the younger members of your party. Plus, they are able to accommodate gluten free kids even if they don’t eat sushi (think along the lines of chicken fried rice with gluten free soy sauce and edamame).
Day 3: Journey to the Wild West
Hop aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s 1950s diesel or 1890s steam locomotive to visit one of the most famous cattle locations of the American Southwest: The Fort Worth Stockyards. Select either the open-air coach if you like the feel of the wind in your hair or opt for the more comfy First Class boasting upholstered seats and climate-controlled cars (recommended if you are visiting during the summer months). The refreshments offered during the ride are much to be desired so unless you want your kids nibbling on over priced chips and ring pops, bring your own healthy reasonably priced alternatives.
Now, be opened minded. The path to the Wild West has changed a bit in the last 200 years (think overpasses, abandoned warehouses and backs of strips malls), so the train ride itself won't exactly be scenic. Even still, the roughly five hour experience is unique and will win you big points from your little buckaroos because it really delivers the total Texas-themed adventure.
Experience a cattle drive through cobblestone streets, try your luck at the Cowtown Cattle Pen Maze, take the kids to cuddle with critters in a petting zoo, or take the 8 second challenge on a mechanical bull.
If traveling by train, you won’t have time to sit and linger at one of our favorite fine dining establishments like Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. Instead, try some of the more fast casual places like Love Shack from chef Tim Love for burgers and jalapeño margaritas or grab some authentic smoked meats at Riskey’s Barbeque.
Alcoholic beverages can be carried as open containers throughout the Historic District legally if purchased from a vendor. So don't forget to look for one of the many walk up bars for grab ‘n go options.
If you want a sit down dining experience once back at the depot, check out Mi Dia From Scratch for upscale contemporary Mexican cuisine and margaritas with a punch. Fireside Pies is also great for cocktails, homemade pasta and gourmet pizza and boasts a menu that is almost 100% gluten free.
Explore more great Dallas/Fort Worth dining ideas on our DFW homepage.
Looking for self-catering locations when staying in the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Check out Dallas Condos and Vacation Rentals for a comprehensive list of available vacation rental accommodations, plus some more tips, statistics, and info about the city of Dallas.