Whether it's a random weekend in winter or the middle of summer, keeping children busy and entertained when they're out of school is a big concern for all parents. But giving them mindless activities to do can't always be the answer.
Luckily, Dallas-Fort Worth is chock-full of museums that stimulate kids' minds while also letting them have a ton of fun. These are the seven that do it best.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Dallas' newest museum almost instantly became its most kid-friendly when it opened in 2012. Yes, there's an actual children's museum that gives the young ones their own special area in which to play, but the entire museum is so insanely interactive that there's almost no spot they won't enjoy.
The museum features 11 exhibit halls where you can do such things as experience an earthquake, make music, build a robot or remote control car, put on 3D glasses and pretend you're a bird, conduct actual science experiments, create your own virtual dinosaur, race against a Tyrannosaurus rex, and much more.
Add in a theater, now sponsored by National Geographic, showing cool 3D nature movies and a fun — and free — courtyard area out front, and you have a spot that can be explored for hours on end.
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science may be getting all the recent attention, but Fort Worth boasts its own go-to science museum. It has been in existence since 1968 and got a brand-new building in 2009.
Its children's museum features a variety of activities good for younger kids, including the opportunity to observe live reptiles and amphibians. The museum's DinoDig, where you can pretend to be a paleontologist, has been a favorite with visitors since it debuted in 1993.
And don't forget about the "history" part: In addition to the history evident in the permanent exhibits, the museum occasionally brings in special exhibits like one featuring artifacts from the Titanic.
C.R. Smith Museum
There's almost no business more synonymous with Dallas-Fort Worth than American Airlines. It's had flights originating here as early as the 1940s, and its headquarters have been in Fort Worth since 1979.
The C.R. Smith Museum — one of several flight-related museums in the area — celebrates that history with exhibits that let you see the variety of airplanes the carrier has featured, interactive features that guide you through the years and behind-the-scenes looks at everyone from the flight attendants to the baggage handlers.
But the biggest draw by far is the flight simulator, in which you can pretend you're a pilot flying over the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dallas Museum of Art/Nasher Sculpture Center/Crow Collection of Asian Art
Yes, these are three separate places, but because of their proximity to each other in the Dallas Arts District and their collaborations on kid-friendly events, tying them together only makes sense.
The DMA has a variety of programs aimed at children as young as 2 that introduces them to certain special areas of the museum and then encourages them to make art of their own. It's also free to get in, making it an obvious draw for cost-conscious parents.
To reach out to children, the Nasher throws open its doors the first Saturday of every month, offering things like scavenger hunts and storytelling. And "adult" exhibits like Katharina Grosse's Wunderblock or Alfredo Jaar's piece for Nasher Xchange bring out the kid in anyone.
The Crow hosts AdventureAsia the first Saturday of every month, offering different activities to help kids get closer to the art. Kids can even try their hands at yoga, in which the instructors use music, games, stories and more to introduce the young ones to the challenging activity.
The third Friday of every month is when each museum offers something extra special: Late Nights at the DMA, Nasher's 'til Midnight and Crow Collection After Dark. Each has something a little different, but movies, concerts, art activities and more are the norm. Don't miss their special spring, summer and fall block parties, when the action spills out of the museums and into the streets.
Dallas Firefighters Museum
Being a firefighter is one of those jobs that inspires awe in children and adults alike, because their entire purpose is to keep people safe from harm. It's the rare child that doesn't get entranced by the sight of a fire truck, and the Dallas Firefighters Museum features a few for the books — the history books, that is.
On display are several vintage firefighting vehicles, including one nicknamed "Old Tige" that dates back to 1884. Kids can sit in some of the old trucks, check out how firefighting techniques have changed over the years and pore over rookie class pictures.
Who knows — one trip to the museum could result in a child deciding to serve his community proudly like thousands of others before him.