Visiting one of Texas' largest cities is just as daunting as visiting the state itself - it's so huge! We've narrowed down our favorite things to do and places to go in Dallas with our kids. Our biggest takeaway each time we visit friends in the area is how there is always something new to discover. The museums and gardens are top-notch, and because it's Texas you'll find delicious barbecue and Tex-Mex at virtually every corner. There's no shortage of reasons to love this city.
For more Texas-sized fun, check out our kid-friendly guide to San Antonio, Austin, and a plethora of things to do in Houston.
Dallas World Aquarium
The Dallas World Aquarium is fun for adults and kids alike, with dozens of exhibits featuring exotic birds, mammals and fish. The facility is beautiful and well-kept, and the food is even reasonably priced. Houstonians may liken the experience to a combination of the Moody Gardens pyramids. It's not to be missed!
One step inside the stunning Dallas Arboretum is all you need to see why the arboretum touts itself as an "urban oasis." Its children's area, the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden is truly whimsical. And while the eight-acre section is beautiful, it's also perfectly safe for children and geared toward interactive play and adventure. Kids can walk under waterfalls, soak in great views on the Texas Skywalk, and track animal prints in First Adventure, an area geared toward toddlers and preschoolers.
Cooling off at the splash pad at Klyde Warren Park. Photo by Carrie Taylor
Klyde Warren Park
Our family has spent many hours at Klyde Warren Park, whether it's in the fenced-in play areas for kids or playing tag in the huge green space or grabbing delicious food from local food trucks parked along the curb. This unique urban park is literally on top of a freeway, so you may do a double take when looking at Google Map's directions. It opened in 2012 and is a fun spot to relax and play.
Visit the home of more than 2,000 animals (more than 400 species) and one of the country's best African exhibits, which is a 36-acre, beautifully designed arena housing the six habitats of Africa. Other highlights include the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo complete with a splash pad, nature play space, and more, as well as Cheetah Encounter, home to a famous pair of animal friends, cheetah Winspear and his Labrador retriever buddy, Amani.
Related: 9 things to do in New Braunfels, TX, besides Schlitterbahn
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
A must-see for any train enthusiast, the vintage railroad offers a peek back in time and a ride on a 1920s coach. Its route travels between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards. There are also special events, like occasional appearances by Thomas and friends.
The Dallas area is home to one of two of the state's largest theme parks, Six Flags Over Texas. Technically, it's in Arlington, which is about 15 miles west of the city. It's home to some seriously killer thrill rides, including wood-and-steel hybrid coaster New Texas Giant, La Vibora, which sends visitors down in a bobsled, and The Joker. But don't worry, there are plenty of family rides and kid-friendly attractions as well.
And for something completely different, there's LEGOLAND Discovery Center, which is an indoor entertainment center complete with rides, exhibits, and Duplo Village. Yes, it's exactly how it sounds - filled with Duplos and thus a guaranteed hour or more of fun for your young ones.
Great Wolf Lodge's indoor waterpark has attractions for kids of all ages. Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge
Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark in Grand Prairie, just southwest of Dallas, is the region's newest theme park with an 80,000-square-foot facility open year-round. There are 11 waterslides, an outdoor wave pool, indoor pools and lazy river, and Rascal's Round Up inside, which is perfect for preschoolers and smaller swimmers. just southwest of Dallas. Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, a few minutes northwest of Dallas, underwent a massive renovation in 2018. The resort has themed rooms your kids will love and is jam-packed with activities (it's not just a water park!) for your kids. You could say this place is a kid's Las Vegas!
In the outdoor water park arena, there is Bahama Beach, a modestly-sized facility with lots of fun rides, and Hawaiian Falls, which has a great (and huge) wave pool and lazy river.
Related: Top things to do in Galveston with kids
Children's Aquarium at Fair Park
If you want to visit an aquarium but are wary of how your small children will hold up, then we definitely recommend Fair Park's small, kid-friendly facility than the Dallas World Aquarium. The latter is huge and can become overwhelming. At Fair Park, most exhibits are eye-level to your average toddler or preschooler, and it houses more than 250 different species.
Dallas Museum of Art
We were pleasantly surprised by the Dallas Museum of Art, not because we doubted its impressive collection or presentation, but we weren't sure how our kids would do. We found solace in the Center for Creative Connections, which in turn houses Arturo's Nest - a play area for 0-4-year-olds - and the Young Learners Gallery for ages 5-8. Creative Connections allows you to create your own works of art and let your imagination run wild. The rest of the museum is equally as impressive and worth a visit as well.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
One of the exhibits is the Moody Family Children's Museum geared toward kids ages 5 and under.
Taking in the views from the GeO-Deck on Reunion Tower. Photo by Tracy Locke/Courtesy VisitDallas
Soak up the city's skyline from 470 feet in the air at the top of Reunion Tower. The GeO-Deck features interactive experience Reunion Tower Constellation where visitors can add their name and where they are from to a star. There's also a cafe where you can enjoy a casual lunch in the sky!
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
This museum chronicles and memorializes the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It's a sobering but well-done museum dedicated to JFK. Exhibits explore his life as well as the assassination and the culture and history of the 1960s. Don't miss the nearby John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; a stunning monument erected in 1970.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
Just north of Dallas in Plano is the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. You can easily spend all day here (if you bring a picnic). The 200-acre park has miles of hiking and biking trails, a playground, and lots of opportunities for spotting wildlife, from coyotes to woodpeckers.
While you're in Plano, you have to go see the Crayola Experience. Part museum part indoor playground, this massive facility is bursting with color and fun. I may have enjoyed it more than my 4-year-old. I think it was harder for me to walk away from the gift store than it was for him.
Related: 100 things to do with Houston kids before they grow up
For families who don't take themselves too seriously, Medieval Times is for you. Enjoy a four-course (and utensil-free!) meal while watching jousting and horsemanship in a restaurant that is shaped like a castle. Check the website for discounts and promotions, as you can often get children's tickets for free for weekday visits.
Big Tex is a State Fair staple. Photo courtesy VisitDallas.
Seasonal: The State Fair of Texas
If you're visiting Dallas during October (the state fair runs the last Friday of September for 24 days) then you must go to the State Fair of Texas. Eat your share of fried goodness (my husband's term for anything deep fried) from savory bites to desserts under the watchful, and smiling, eyes of Big Tex, the fair's infamous and huge statue. The fair has taken place annually since 1886 and shows no sign of slowing down. Not only will you get your fill in delicious food, but also in Texas history and culture.
For more family travel ideas, check out our guide to kid-friendly things to do in cities across the country.