“There’s 104 days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it.”
So goes the theme song to Phineas and Ferb (c’mon, I bet you can sing the rest). There are actually about 93 days of summer, but no matter how you look at it, this vacation is long.
To help out, here are seven fun-filled family activities that let you rediscover Dallas, whether than means exploring like a tourist or eating like a local.
Old-Fashioned Fun: Klyde Warren Park
The 5.2-acre green space at Klyde Warren Park is by far the best free fun in Dallas. There’s a playground for climbing and running, along with a splash area in which to cool off. And with a calendar of activities and events for just about every day, kids can be entertained by live music one day or engrossed in building gigantic structures from the Imagination Playground the next.
Recapture the essence of childhood, bring a ball to throw or relax with a picnic lunch on the lawn. There’s a reading area stocked with books and newspapers, and a games station where visitors can borrow games like chess or Mancala. It’s wholesome fun for families.
Think of Klyde Warren Park as the front yard of the Dallas Arts District, so if it gets too hot, just walk over to Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas Museum of Art or Crow Collection of Asian Art and appeal to your creative side.
Where to eat? Food trucks always line the perimeter of the park; the schedule varies. Or dine at Savor, with its floor-to-ceiling windows for a meal with a view, or its more casual sibling, Relish, for burgers, hot dogs and salads.
A Free Ride: M-Line McKinney Avenue Trolley
The M-Line vintage electric streetcars that chug along McKinney Avenue link the Dallas Arts District to Uptown. The whole trolley ride takes about 45 minutes, picking up passengers from any of the 38 stops along the route, which loops around Dallas Museum of Art to West Village.
Christened with unique names and busting with personality, the six streetcars are born from different eras and cities. Riders can meet Matilda, the largest streetcar from Melbourne, Australia, and the oldest member, 106-year-old Rosie, who could possibly be the oldest streetcar still in operation. The drivers are full of historical trivia, so be sure to ask away.
Where to eat? Uptown Dallas is home to about 120 restaurants and eateries. Casual places like Village Burger Bar, Shell Shack or the Original Cupcakery are all family-friendly. Just for fun, try to eat around the globe in one afternoon. Start off at Malai Kitchen, which has easy options like pad Thai noodles. Then hop over to Paciugo for Italian gelato and pick up French macarons or croissants from Bisous Bisous Patisserie. Enjoy some window shopping or gallery gawking before heading back.
Little Einsteins: Perot Museum of Nature and Science
A nature theme dominates summer at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. “Amazing Animals: Built to Survive” lets museumgoers learn how plants and animals survive despite the crushing forces of gravity, the pressures of water and wind, and the attacks of predators.
Feel how hard a giraffe’s heart works to pump blood to his head. Try to “fly” and see how animals jump, gallop, slither and swim. And see technological breakthroughs like wind turbines and chainsaws that were inspired by nature’s gifts. The Build It! exhibition lets visitors engineer and build their way through nature-inspired creative stations.
Where to eat? Operating since 1918, El Fenix, next-door to the museum, brings you the authentic Tex-Mex enchiladas, fajitas, guacamole and tacos. Ellen’s Southern Kitchen, which is a short drive or 10-minute walk away, is a popular spot for chicken fried steak, fluffy pancakes and Cajun shrimp and grits.
Be a Wild Child: Trinity Forest Adventure Park
Channel your inner Tarzan or Jane at Trinity Forest Adventure Park, where swinging from treetops is highly encouraged. Trinity Forest Adventure Park is a gigantic aerial obstacle course on seven wooded acres within the Dallas city limits. Kids ages 6 and up can climb on one of the six different courses, which are marked like ski runs for levels of difficulty. There are zip lines, cargo nets, wobbly bridges, tight ropes and balance beams for visitors to navigate through on 200-year-old Post Oak trees. Reservations are required in three-hour blocks.
Where to eat? Go upstream along the Trinity River to Trinity Groves, a surprisingly family-friendly cluster of small, locally owned restaurants. The build-your-own spuds at Potato Flats, creative hot dogs at Hofmann Hots, or street-style tacos and coffee at Sugar Skull Cafe are best bets. Don’t leave without a decadent slice from the Cake Bar or a handmade truffle from Kate Weiser Chocolate.
If the kids still have the wiggles after a meal, there’s a play area at the nearby pedestrian-only Continental Avenue Bridge with a stunning view of Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
Reach New Heights: iFly Indoor Skydiving
Thrillseekers and adrenaline junkies can get their fix at this indoor skydiving facility in Frisco. It boasts a 14-foot-diameter vertical wind tunnel featuring an all-glass flight chamber capable of speeds of up to 175 mph.
The wind tunnel, similar to those used in the military or to train sky divers, is built to give you the free fall and float experience. Kids as young as 3 years old are allowed to go in with a certified instructor, and a wind tunnel operator is on hand to control wind speeds to suit the flyer’s experience.
Where to eat? There are tons of restaurants in the area, like the newly opened Blaze Pizza at the nearby Centre at Preston Ridge. The fast casual Southern California pizza chain serves up fresh, made-to-order artisanal pizzas fast-fired in 180 seconds flat. Customers can choose from seven cheeses, eight proteins, 20 vegetables and three sauces. There are also gluten-free and vegan cheese choices available.
Movies Under the Stars: Galaxy Drive-In Theatre
Your kids might not remember the movie Grease, but it might be cool to be “stranded at the drive-in” (sans the part about being “branded a fool”) at Galaxy Drive-In Theatre in Ennis. Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Dallas off I-45, the six-screen drive-in plays every night, rain or shine.
There’s even a 3D movie option, and the sound is piped in through the vintage sound boxes or through Dolby digital sound on your FM radio. Movie tickets are a bargain at $7 for an adult and $3 a child for a double feature. The concession stand, while basic, is reasonably priced. No outside food or drinks are allowed.
Where to eat? If you need dinner before the movie for the family, the small town of Ennis — which is known for its Texas bluebonnet trails and Czech history — has a few local eateries. Firehouse Grill serves chicken fried steak, burgers, and mac and cheese; affordable Italian fare such as hand-tossed pizza and homemade pasta can be found at Bella Italia. Pick up a bag of Czech pastries at Kolache Depot Cafe & Bakery for the trip home.
Scavenger Hunt: City of Dallas BIG campaign
We’ve all seen them driving around town, the enormous blue “B” and “G” with a space in the middle where you stand to make the “I.” Complete your summer bucket list, do a scavenger hunt and take a photo at every one of these 16 BIG locations. We guarantee you’ll know Dallas very well when you’re finished.