Looking for the quintessential Texas experience? Then head to Mesquite, the official Rodeo Capital of Texas (14 miles east of Dallas), where you can witness the thrills and spills of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo every Friday and Saturday night throughout June, July and August. Going strong since 1958, the rodeo offers a bucket full of family-friendly action, ranging from steer wrestling and barrel racing to bull riding and mutton busting. And it's not only the activity on the dirt that keeps crowds entertained, but there's also a posse of other attractions to enjoy, including everything from headliner concerts and laser shows to face painting, pony rides, petting zoos and even taking a spin on a mechanical bull. Keep an eye out for the winter rodeo (in December)and the hip hop rodeo (in the spring), as well as a variety of other events (concerts, circuses and bull riding), held throughout the year.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Mesquite Rodeo is the ideal place to get a true Texas-style experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, but you can avoid service charges by purchasing them directly at the box office. Get $10 off adult admission by picking up a coupon at any Bootbarn Western and Work Store.
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 consoles, artifacts and games, 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 actually 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 Things to Do with Kids because: A museum filled with video games, many of which are available to play, what's not to like?
Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to check out the website and Facebook to find out about rotating exhibits and special events.
When it comes to entertaining your teen, you can't go wrong with a ninety-minute tour from Dallas Segway. The company offers sightseeing tours of all the famous Downtown landmarks as well as a nature glide down the Katy Trail, a popular hike-bike trail that winds through parts of Uptown and Highland Park. There are no special skills required and they'll teach you all you need to know to get rolling. The tours are open to anyone age 14 to 70, though riders under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian co-sign a liability waiver.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Dallas Segway is the most popular Segway tour company in the city.
Ilene's expert tip: Dallas Segway also offers a lunch or dinner combo ticket for $10-$18 extra.
Home to over 2,000 animals (from roughly 400 species), the Dallas Zoo is the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas (established in 1888). But there's more going on here than your usual walk-through animal exhibits: The zoo is committed to conservation and breeding programs for numerous endangered species and as such has constructed many of the enclosures to replicate the animals' natural habitats, one of which includes the award-winning Giants of the Savanna, the only multi-species zoo exhibit in the United States to mix elephants and other species in the same habitat. Along with a monorail safari through areas not accessible by foot, there's also a children's zoo complete with interactive exhibits, a petting farm, pony rides and a nature-inspired swap shop where kids can exchange items. Daily presentations include animal encounters and a giraffe feeding experience, plus the zoo hosts an assortment of special events throughout the year.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: The Zoo is a great way to get up close and personal with wildlife.
Ilene's expert tip: You can frequently find discounted tickets on sites such as Groupon.
Those looking to tap into their inner cowboy (or cowgirl) need not travel to the countryside when they can hit the trails at River Ranch, a 600-acre equestrian facility--located within minutes of Downtown Dallas. From Wednesday through Monday, the ranch offers all levels of guided horseback rides to cowpokes--ages nine and over-- through the picturesque Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban bottomland hardwood forest in the country. Younger folk, ages three to nine can also get into riding action with a hand-guided pony ride around the arena. Want to take your riding skills to the next level? The ranch provides group and private lessons for children as well as adults.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: River Ranch is the best place to go horseback riding in the middle of Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: River Ranch offers free pony rides, mini-lessons, bounce houses and field games from 1-6 p.m. every 3rd Thursday of the month. You can also find discounts on trail rides via Groupon.
This 80,000-square foot, indoor-outdoor aquatic paradise will make you forget about the municipality swimming pools of your youth. Owned by the City of Grand Prairie, the waterpark features eleven different waterslides, including the nation's tallest indoor Aqualoop and the first indoor double rider Aquasphere inner tube ride. Not into water slides? No problem, the park also boasts a surf simulator, a 10,000-square-foot wave pool, a kiddie play area and one of the longest lazy rivers in America. Add in a 4,000-square-foot arcade, a café and a full-service bar and good luck convincing your family to leave. Best of all, you don't need to wait for summertime to get your splash on, the park is open year-round.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Epic Waters is the largest indoor water park under a single retractable roof in the nation.
Ilene's expert tip: Go to the 'Deal' section of visitgrandpraietx.com to download a $5 off admission coupon.
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 (many of which are endangered) 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 brimming with hundreds of Indo-Pacific fish-- as well as a forty-foot long glassed-in tunnel filled with sharks circling overhead. But there's more than fish that meets the eye, visitors can commune with everything from three-toed sloths, manatees and giant river otters to penguins, snakes and even ocelots. There's also a lush three-level (seven stories in height) recreated South American rain-forest-- complete with free-flying birds, pink flamingos, monkeys and a 400-foot waterfall. Not-to-be-missed are the animal talks and feeding sessions held throughout the day.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Between the exhibits and the animals, the Dallas Aquarium is awe-inspiring for both kids and adults.
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.
Whether you're a science buff or just have a curious mind, the world-class Perot Museum offers a treasure trove of goodies that are certain to fascinate visitors of any age. Opened in 2012, this stunning 180,000-square-foot architectural gem, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis-- features five floors of mind-blowing exhibit halls filled with hands-on activities, interactive kiosks and a state-of-the-art multimedia cinema. Highlights include a children's museum with a dinosaur dig, a hall of gems and minerals with a 5-foot geode and an earth hall where you can experience an earthquake. 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 Things to Do with Kids because: The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is one of the best science museums in the country.
Ilene's expert tip: Avoid the long lines by securing your tickets online beforehand. Save 38% or more on admission to the Perot Museum, plus three more top Dallas attractions by purchasing a Dallas CityPass online or at the museum's box office.
Perched atop a sunken freeway, this nationally acclaimed 5-acre oasis is just one of the examples of what makes Dallas' downtown area so dynamic. The park was opened in 2012 for the purpose of encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic to the area as well as to be a central gathering place for locals and visitors to enjoy. Today, the resplendent space abounds with year-round programming, ranging from fitness sessions, dance lessons and lawn games to children's entertainment, musical performances and film screenings. There are also special areas within the park allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing board games. In case you work up an appetite after all of the activities, you can tempt your taste buds at the park's chic gastro-pub, Savor, it's companion kiosk, Relish-- or from a variety of food trucks stationed along the side.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Klyde Warren Park's outstanding contribution to Dallas earned it the prestigious Urban Land Institute's 2014 Open Space Award.
Ilene's expert tip: Park for free in the West Village off McKinney Ave and hop on the free trolley to get to the park.
Just minutes from downtown Dallas lies Trinity Forest Adventure Park, a seven-acre combination obstacle course and zip line park where families can soar, swing, scramble and climb to their heart's content. Designed for ages four and over, the park boasts over twenty zip-lines (from 10' to 75' above ground) and 70 different elements (cargo nets, wobble bridges, tight ropes and the like) which are spread out over eight aerial obstacle courses, each with varying elevations and challenges. The courses are all self guided to allow everyone to move at their own pace, but it's important to watch your time since tickets are only valid for three hours.
Recommended for Things to Do with Kids because: Trinity Forest Adventure Park is a blast for active folks of all ages.
Ilene's expert tip: Secure your spot and save $5 on each ticket by reserving online in advance.