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 zip lining, 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.
More unforgettable experiences in Dallas
Located 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. It's also 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: Purchasing tickets online is highly recommended to guarantee entry, especially on weekends.
The sprawling 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art 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, they also can enjoy a variety of excellent interactive programs offered year-round. 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. Best of all, 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: Free art activities are offered for kids on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. at the museum's Pop-Up Art Spots. Free general admission entry to the DMA requires a ticket for entry. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets online in advance, but walk-ups are also able to be accommodated.
Nestled inside a massive refurbished warehouse in Dallas' Historic West End District, this privately-owned aquatic wonderland is home to countless varieties of marine and animal life (many of which are endangered) from all over the world. In addition to stingrays, piranhas and Orinoco crocodiles, the aquarium boasts a multi-level rain-forest with a waterfall as well as a 20,000-gallon walk-through exhibit filled with sharks. Visitors can also commune with everything from three-toed sloths and manatees to giant river otters, penguins and ocelots. Note that at present, animal feeding events have been canceled to ensure social distancing guidelines are met.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: The Dallas World Aquarium is a must-see for animal lovers of all ages.
Ilene's expert tip: The Aquarium has implemented a timed-entry system for tickets, though walk-in admission is still welcome.
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 a slew of aircraft and space vehicles ranging from a full-size model of the 1903 Wright Flyer to 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. Children age 2 and under are admitted free.
This living history village, located in one of the city's oldest parks on the southeastern edge of downtown-- allows visitors to experience what life was like in North Texas during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The village is comprised of thirty-eight restored and fully furnished buildings, some of which include-- a log cabin, a Greek Revival style mansion, a school house, a shotgun house and a farmstead. Kids will especially like the general store where they can weigh products, wrap up merchandise and sit around an old stove playing a game of checkers. Adding to the atmosphere are costumed docents, live farm animals and a host of recurring events, ranging from mock gunfights to historical reenactments.
Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Dallas Heritage Village is a fun and interactive place for kids to learn about the area's early years.
Ilene's expert tip: The Village offers a slew of programs ranging from workshops, to a blacksmithing class and special guided tours. Check the website under programs for details.
his 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. 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.
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.