The Ultimate Dallas Bucket List For Family Fun

Photo courtesy of Mesquite Championship Rodeo Facebook page
Photo courtesy of John Lehman
Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo Facebook
Photo courtesy of Dallas Segway Tours Facebook
Photo courtesy of River Ranch at Texas Horse Park Facebook
Photo courtesy of American Resort Management
Photo courtesy of Dallas World Aquarium Instagram
Photo courtesy of Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo courtesy of Klyde Warren Park
Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest Adventure Park Facebook
By Ilene Jacobs, Dallas Local Expert

Dallas certainly has no shortage of family-friendly activities and attractions. But there's no need to compromise your own day out just to keep the kiddos entertained: these fun-filled outings offer something for all ages–from tots to teens and everyone in between.

There's not a better place to find the most attractions in one location than Downtown Dallas, the city's (as well as the state's) most walkable neighborhood. A good place to start is at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, one of the best science museums in the country– featuring five floors of enough mind-blowing exhibits to fascinate kids and grown-ups alike.   

Further down is the Klyde Warren Park, a 5-acre deck park featuring children's spaces, lawn games and activities like yoga, musical performances and film screenings. There's also the Dallas World Aquarium, a wonderland of exotic creatures from the sea as well as the land. 

Want to explore Dallas' wild landscape? Even many locals are not aware that the city is home to one of the largest urban hardwood forests in the nation. One of the best ways to experience it on a high-flying aerial adventure at Trinity Forest Adventure Park. For a more grounded option, you can take a ride through the forest on horseback with the folks at River Ranch, located at Texas Horse Park.

And though teens can be a tough audience to please, you certainly won't have any issues with boredom if you take them on a rolling tour of the city with Dallas Segway.     

Need more inspiration and ideas for family fun? Then consider this your to-do list for keeping the whole brood entertained in Dallas.

10. Mesquite Championship Rodeo
Photo courtesy of Mesquite Championship Rodeo Facebook page

Looking for the quintessential Texas experience? Then head to the official Rodeo Capital of Texas in Mesquite (14 miles east of Dallas, where you can witness the thrills and spills of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo every Friday and Saturday night throughout the summer. Since 1958, the rodeo has been drawing in fans from all over the world-- and for good reason: From steer wrestling and barrel racing to bull riding and mutton busting, there's no shortage of non-stop, family-friendly action. And it's not only the activity on the dirt that keeps crowds entertained, 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. As well, be sure to keep an eye out for the hip hop rodeo (usually in the spring), which delivers all the traditional rodeo excitement mixed in with the sounds of hip hop, R&B, blues and more. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, but you can avoid service charges by purchasing them directly at the box office.

9. Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park
Photo courtesy of John Lehman

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.

8. Dallas Zoo
Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo Facebook

Situated 3 miles south of downtown, the Dallas Zoo is home to over 2,000 animals (from roughly 400 species), including all the favorites; chimps, lions, elephants, camels, zebras, hippos and giraffes. But there's more going on here than your usual walk-through animal exhibits. Not only is the 106-acre zoo the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas (established in 1888), it's also one of only ten zoos in the country to house a koala exhibit. As well, 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. From a recreated Australian Outback to an African savanna and South American rain forest, everything is designed to show off the birds and the beasts without disturbing their daily habits. Along with a monorail safari through areas not accessible by foot, there's also a children's area 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 special feeding times, plus the zoo hosts an assortment of special events throughout the year.

7. Dallas Segway Tours
Photo courtesy of Dallas Segway Tours Facebook

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's 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.

6. River Ranch at Texas Horse Park
Photo courtesy of River Ranch at Texas Horse Park Facebook

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.

5. Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark
Photo courtesy of American Resort Management

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. Daily admission rates for non-residents run $24-$29, plus children 3 years and younger are free.

4. Dallas World Aquarium
Photo courtesy of Dallas World Aquarium Instagram

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, tree kangaroos and even a few jaguars. 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 40 foot waterfall. Not-to-be-missed are the talks and feeding sessions held throughout the day. Speaking of feeding, human guests have several dining options to choose from, including the Aquarium's Eighteen-O-One restaurant, which offers international specialties from Mexico, Indonesia, British Columbia, Australia and Fiji.

3. Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo courtesy of Perot Museum of Nature and Science

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. Not to be missed is the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall where explorers can build robots and create their own digital music. 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.

2. Klyde Warren Park
Photo courtesy of Klyde Warren Park

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 is abound 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.

1. Trinity Forest Adventure Park
Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest Adventure Park Facebook

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 six 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 six 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. In addition to aerial courses (weekends only) the ranch offers a slew of recreational activities during the summer-- which include everything from pedal boats and pony rides to swimming, rock climbing and fishing.