Second in size behind Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, this stunning complex on the Southern Methodist University campus encompasses not only a library and museum but also the George W. Bush Policy Institute and the George W. Bush Foundation. However, most visitors will only see the museum, which features 14,000-square-feet of exhibits and interactive displays, including a 22-foot tall ravaged steel beam from the World Trade Center and a full-scale walk-through replica of the Bush Oval Office. Also, on view are some of the gifts given to the President and First Lady from foreign Heads of State. Keep an eye out for special exhibits and events throughout the year.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a terrific place to learn about presidential history.
Ilene's expert tip: There is a parking lot adjacent to the library or if it's full there is a parking garage located down the street on the SMU campus. This venue is included in Dallas CityPASS.
For families looking for an urban escape, this scenic wildlife sanctuary and natural science museum hits the mark. Set on 289-acres in McKinney Texas (around 30 miles north of downtown Dallas), the Heard boasts 6.5 miles of nature trails, a two-acre native plant garden, live animal exhibits and a replicated 1800s prairie settlement complete with eight playhouse scale buildings. Not to mention, this place is a hotbed for spotting migrating birds (it's an Audubon Society designated birding area). After hiking through the wetland, bottomland forest, prairie and white rock escarpment be sure to stop in the education center to check out interactive exhibits featuring everything from venomous snakes to marine life and children's fossil dig.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is appealing to nature enthusiasts of all ages.
Ilene's expert tip: The Heard presents year-round events, including night hikes, nature talks, astronomy presentations and guided canoe excursions around the Heard wetlands. Check the website schedule for more information.
While plenty of area museums feature activities for children, the Play Street Museum (with multiple locations throughout the metroplex) is one of the only places that's purposefully designed for kids ages eight and under. With everything from miniature playscapes (think supermarkets, farms and campsites) to building blocks, science experiments and crafts galore, there's no way kids will get bored here. In addition to all the activities on offer, the museum regularly hosts special events, ranging from tea parties to painting and pottery making. Check the website for details on locations and event schedules.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Play Street Museum is best for families with young children, older ones will be bored here.
Ilene's expert tip: Play Street Museum has multiple locations in the DFW Metroplex. There is free WiFi and ample seating for parents.
Recently opened in downtown's West End, this edutainment-based museum brings forth a dizzying array of optical illusions designed to offer an insight into why the eyes can see things that the brain cannot explain. The museum, which is part of a global franchise that started Zagreb, Croatia in 2015, is an Instagrammers dream come true with over 60 exhibits featuring everything from holograms to installations and interactive illusion rooms. Visitors can expect to find a vortex tunnel, a reverse room, a tilted room, an infinity room and a Beuchet chair as well as a smart playroom filled with a variety of puzzles, brain teasers and mathematical games. If you're looking for an attraction that will appeal to a variety of ages, this emporium of mind-bending fun is the place to go.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Museum of Illusions is great for all ages, most especially teens.
Ilene's expert tip: The MOI hosts an After Dark Hours event one Friday a month from 6-11 p.m. where guests can enjoy an illusionist performance, mind-blowing exhibits and 15% off regular admission. Check the Facebook page under events for exact dates.
The sprawling 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, houses one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation. And not only can your family check out masterpieces by heavy hitters like Pollock, Rothko, Monet, Rodin and Picasso, but they also can enjoy a variety of excellent programs that the museum offers year-round. There's everything from special late-night experiences (held on the third Friday of each month) to thematic art-making activities, story times and gallery activities for kids (held the first Tuesday of the month) and free bi-monthly art tours for teens. In addition to the galleries, the museum boasts a play space as well as an art-making area, a sculpture garden and a cafe featuring a window of Dale Chihuly's glass flowers. And except for certain exhibitions and events, general admission to the museum is always free.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Dallas Museum of Art offers activities for every age group, plus you can't go wrong with free admission.
Ilene's expert tip: The museum offers family audio tours geared for 5-11-year-old children. The tours are available at the Visitor Services desk and are free. Also, be sure to check out an Art to Go family activity tote, which can be found at the Pop-Up Art Spot on Saturdays.
Nestled inside a massive refurbished warehouse in Dallas' Historic West End District, this privately-owned aquatic wonderland is home to countless varieties of marine life from all over the world. In addition to stingrays, piranhas, electric eels, poison dart frogs and Orinoco crocodiles, the aquarium boasts a 20,000-gallon walk-through exhibit which includes a forty-foot long glassed-in tunnel filled with sharks that circle overhead. Visitors can also check out a lush three-level recreated South American rainforest as well as get up close and personal with manatees, giant river otters, three-toed sloths, penguins and more. Not-to-be-missed are the talks and feeding sessions held throughout the day.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Dallas World Aquarium is jam-packed with enough exhibits and interactive features to keep both kids and adults engaged for hours.
Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to check the website for feeding times and special performances. Also, be aware that the manatee and penguin feedings are extremely popular, so plan on getting to the area at least 20 minutes in advance if you want to snag a good viewing spot.
Located in a 100,000-square-foot airplane hangar at Love Field Airport, this Smithsonian affiliate is a must-visit for aviation buffs of all ages. The museum is home to over 35,000 artifacts showcased in 13 galleries detailing the history of space and aviation. Expect to find around thirty types of aircraft and space vehicles, including a full-size model of the 1903 Wright Flyer, a replica of Sputnik I and a Chance Vought V-173 Flying Pancake. The Apollo 7 command module (which is on loan from The National Air & Space Museum) is also here as well as the only actual moon rock on display in North Texas. As a bonus, there's a hands-on children's discovery area featuring a control tower for kids to climb around on.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Frontiers of Flight is a fun place to visit as well as watch aircraft taking off and landing at Love Field.
Ilene's expert tip: The museum frequently hosts private events, so be sure to check if it's open before you go. You can usually score discounted admission through Groupon. Children age 3 and under are admitted free.
You may know where the buck stops, but if you're wondering where it starts, then head over to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility (AKA the Money Factory), located on the northern edge of Fort Worth. It is the only place in the world, other than Washington, D.C., where U.S. currency is printed. In addition to two floors of interactive displays and exhibits, the BEP provides visitors a behind-the-scenes look (via an enclosed walkway lined with large windows) at millions of dollars in the making before it's all shipped off to the Federal Reserve. The 45-minute tours are free and offered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Money Factory is fascinating pace to visit, especially for kids ages 8 and older.
Ilene's expert tip: The last tour leaves at 4:30. Note that all electronics (cell phones, cameras, iPods) must be left in the car before being allowed to board the shuttle to the facility.
This is one museum parents won't have to convince the kids to go to. Situated inside the Frisco Discovery Center, the National Videogame Museum (NVM) is a veritable retro gamer's nirvana, dedicated solely to the history of the videogame industry. The brainchild of three longtime gamers, the museum features a mind-blowing collection of videogame memorabilia, including the largest working Pong game in the world. And not only can visitors see all the great games from the past, but they can also play them. Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, they're all here as well as an 80's style classic gaming arcade with gaming stations for you to go head-to-head with family and friends. Oh, and did we mention that there's even an interactive 1980s-style replica bedroom and living room set up for TV gaming? Talk about a blast from the past.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: A museum filled with videogames, many of which are available to play, what's not to like?
Ilene's expert tip: Admission includes game tokens to use in the retro arcade. The museum offers free guided tours at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. every Sunday.
Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, this stunning 180,000-square-foot science museum on the outer edge of the Arts District boasts five floors of interactive exhibits focusing on everything from earth and space to geology, paleontology and engineering. Highlights include a children's museum with a dinosaur dig, an earthquake simulator and a gallery of gems and minerals featuring a 5-foot geode. A good way to start is to take the external glass escalator up to the top and work your way down while enjoying the panoramic views of downtown Dallas. Whether you're a science buff or just have a curious mind, this place is certain to fascinate visitors of any age.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Perot Museum is particularly entertaining for kids ages 3-15.
Ilene's expert tip: Avoid the long lines by securing your tickets online beforehand. You can also save on admission to the Perot Museum with Dallas CityPASS. Check the website for more details.