Ah Dallas….home to the Cowboys, big trucks and even bigger family adventures. That’s right ya’ll, this North Texas metropolis is evolving into a fantastic kid-friendly spot filled with world-class museums, fantastic parks and Tex-Mex cuisine that can’t be beat. Here’s a handy lil’ guide to the biggest and best ways the family can enjoy Big D.

Where To Hang Your Hat

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Great Wolf Lodge
This all in one hotel-waterpark is awesome for families. Problem is, you might not make it out of the hotel! Kiddo friendly activities include story times, Lazer Frenzy and the kids Scooops Spa. Fort McKenzie and the Whooping Hollow will keep the younger set totally occupied, while older kids jam down slides like the Totem Towers, Alberta Falls and River Canyon Run. (100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine, Tx 76051)

Hotel Palomar
This boutique hotel is pricey but super accommodating to families. Rooms come equipped with Nintendo gaming systems, a complimentary goldfish is provided during the stay and organic snack options are available. Located near the SMU campus, it’s in a prime location for reaching Uptown or the Arts District. (5300 E Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, Tx 5206)

Embassy Suites Galleria
This super family friendly spot offer two-rooms suites with living rooms, complimentary breakfast, late checkout, and a rooftop pool with family cabanas. Rooms can include a crib, high-chair and and a kiddo-friendly room service menu. The DART is within walking distance and the Galleria is near. A best-best for the wallet, the Embassy can definitely fit the family’s needs. (14021 Noel Rd, Dallas, Tx 75240)

See The City

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M Line Trolley to the Arts District
Thought SF had the monopoly on trolley rides? Think again and then grab a ride on the M Line Trolley from Uptown to the heart of the Arts District. It’s a 365-free-to-all ride that yes, comes air conditioned for those crazy hot summer days. Park near or walk to any of the frequent stops in Uptown and be on the way. With lots of water play, imagination playgrounds, impromptu art, random drumming sessions and food trucks from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm daily, Klyde Warren Park (2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas, Tx 75201) is one of those stay and play for hours kinda park. Kids will love the treehouse, the misty creeks and the water fountains, parents will love the Dallas skyline, the complimentary newspapers and magazines from Dallas Morning News and the walking proximity to tons of food and transportation. It’s a good chance something super cool, such as classic movies in the park or live concerts, will be happening when the sun sets so this must-see spot is a good bet for just about any time of day, any day of the week.

Insider Tip: Don’t forget to stash a swimsuit and extra change of clothes in the diaper bag, as the splash zones are absolutely irresistible to little ones.

If the sun is just too blazing hot or the kids have had enough of the water fountains, zip across the street to the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N Harwood St, Dallas, Tx 75201), where general admission is free everyday. Head directly for the Center for Creative Connections. There are two awesome spaces for kids, divided by age. Little art lovers can learn about colors, put on a puppet show or climb to their hearts content in Aurturo’s nest. The Young Learners Gallery is a spectacular spot for expanding minds, especially the constantly evolving playhouse and whiteboards waiting for original artwork. There are outdoor sculptures to see and the main gallery is great for the oldest members of the gang.

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Having opened less than two years ago, it’s hard to say what will be more engaging at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (2201 N Field St, Dallas, Tx 75201); the chance to challenge a T-Rex to a foot race, creating an earthquake beneath your feet or the jaw dropping crystals and gems. It’s five floors of WOW, so choose wisely. This world-class institution will take more than one day to discover. Little kiddies will want to start at the Children’s Museum, a space on the bottom floor filled with a mini-Trinity River, sandbox filled with dinosaur bones, a Farmer’s Market booth and a climbing structure built like the Dallas skyline. Word to the wise; be tempted to cover tiny eyes on the way in, the water zone and frog park in the front of the museum is irresistible but best left as a last stop.

Insider Tip: Nursing friendly baby stations are available in the Children’s Museum or in the restrooms near the Cafe.

Explore the Outdoors

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Dallas Arboretum and Rory Meyers Children’s Garden
Calling 66 acres in East Dallas home is the world renowned Dallas Arboretum. The DFW metroplex can feel somewhat like a parking lot and this gorgeous slice of land is a welcome retreat. With rotating exhibits including Dallas Blooms, Autumn at the Arboretum, and Cool Thursday Concert Series, this outdoor museum is a breath of fresh air for anyone who visits. Newly opened in 2013, the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden is 17 living galleries created specifically for kids to experience the awesomeness of nature and science. With adventures in secret gardens, super cool kaleidoscopes, trees to climb, daily performances and even a hurricane tunnel, one visit won’t be enough. And no worries, there is shade and water to help keep the cool. (8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, Tx75218)

Insider Tip: It’s a pricey place to visit, so be sure to buy tickets ahead online and save $5 in parking fees. If visiting in the sweltering heat of August, admission is only $1!

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Trinity River Audubon Center
This absolutely hidden treasure is located on the outskirts of the city. With five miles of hiking trails, an awesome nature exhibit chronicling the history of the Great Trinity Forest, gift shop and even a bullfrog named Jeremiah, this LEED certified center is a fantastic way to learn about the natural landscape of Dallas. Bring plenty of water and a picnic lunch, then head out among the 120 acres in search of birds, otters, beavers and other native critters. (6500 Great Trinity Forest Blvd, Dallas, Tx 75217)

Find The Tourist Traps

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Reunion Tower
Quite possibly the most iconic building in the Dallas Skyline, the recently re-opened GeO-Deck in Reunion Tower offers jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of Dallas and it’s surrounding areas. Wander the glassed-in open air observation deck. Get interactive with large touch screens and check out famous JFK assassination spot Dealey Plaza, with one of the zooming cameras. Nosh at Cloud Nine, part of the Wolfgang Puck Restaurant Group, where the kiddie meals are reasonably priced. (300 Reunion Blvd E, Dallas, Tx 75207)

Insider Tip: Located downtown near Union Station, it’s super easy to grab a ride on the DART from other parts of the city.

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Galleria Dallas
Dallasites love to shop and what better way to show off a favorite tradition than Galleria Dallas? Filled with ritz and glitz, ice skating rink, a vast array of shopping opportunities, and of course, air conditioning, a trip to this collection of shops should be on the list. Little ones will love spending time at rainforest themed Play Space, located on level 3 near Nordstrom. Older kids and tweens will beg for a turn around the ice skating rink. (13350 Dallas Pkwy, Dallas, Tx 75240)

Insider Tip: Showtime Saturdays at Play Space are super fun for everyone. From clowns to magic shows and comedy acts, kids will have a blast! Gather before 11:30 a.m. for prime seating.

Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags Over Texas
If there’s one thing Big D does bigger and better than other cities, it’s amusement and water parks. The summer months are ridiculously hot and so cool slides, lazy rivers and splash zones are a must for hours of outdoor entertainment. Head for Hurricane Harbor, the water park portion of Six Flags Over Texas flagship location. There’s Hook’s Treehouse for the tiniest members of the family, Lazy River for every all shapes and sizes, Surfs Lagoon for sun worshipping and much more.

Where To Grab Some Chow

The Truck Yard
After a day of serious play, head for The Truck Yard in lower Greenville, where good food, brews and benches abound. Parental Guidance Alert: Kids are welcomed with open arms but this is a real outdoor food space and there is 15,000 square feet of dirt to be dealt with. Be prepared and bring your ergo, moby or whatever baby carrier du jour you’ve got in your bag. The cheesesteaks is a must-try and there’s some awesome cocktails and beers to pair with it. (5624 Sears St, Dallas, Tx 75206)

Insider Tip: Kids will scream for Barker’s Ice Cream, located right outside the entrance to The Truck Yard.

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The Lot
This recently voted Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant by D Magazine is truly that; a great place to take the family for a yummy meal. The children’s Garden and Play Area out back will keep tiny hands and minds occupied long enough for Mom and Dad to catch a breather, enjoy a bite and the amazing outdoor dining space. The kid’s menu has great options including cashew butter sandos and sweet potato fries. The menu is locally sourced and the beer garden abounds with local brews. There is a space to play cornhole and foosball. Yeah, this place pretty much rocks. Coolest part? It’s about a mile away from the Dallas Arboretum, so it’s a perfect stop-off after a day of flora and fauna. (7530 E Grand Ave, Dallas, Tx 75214)

Chuy’s
Delicious Tex-Mex and a push-pop for the little ones too? Yup, Chuy’s in Uptown is a slam-dunk dining spot. Filled with fun decor, fantastic food and those beloved push-pops, everyone will leave happy. If it’s not too steamy, ask for patio dining because on those perfect nights, this patio is slammin’. Try the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom or if your stay in Dallas falls during the Green Chile Festival, order a dish off the special menu, you won’t be sorry! (4544 McKinney Ave, Dallas, Tx 75205)

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Trail Dust Steak House
If yer lookin’ for a place to git some honky tonk and some steak, dust off them boots at the Trail Dust Steak House. Located in Arlington, not too far from Hurricane Harbor at Six Flags, (hint, hint) this is a yee-haw, fun-for-all stop. With a two story slide, live music and dance floor, not to mention some pretty tasty looking menu items, this is a real slice of Texas country style. (2300 E Lamar Blvd, Arlington, Tx 76006)

Insider Tip: Beware of wearin’ a tie after five!! It’s likely to get snipped off by any of the staff. This ain’t no country club after all!

What big adventures have you and the family had in Big D? Tell us in the comments below!

–Gabby Cullen

Photo 1Courtesy of GrapevineTxOnline, Photos 2,3,4,5 by Gabby Cullen, Photo 6 by Robert Hensley via flickr Photo 7 Courtesy of the Galleria via flickr. Photo 8 courtesy of The Lot.