Dallas might be known for the Cowboys, the State Fair, and the TV show of the same name, but it is so much more than those three things.
Families heading to this cosmopolitan city will be thrilled to find plenty of fun options, from amusement parks to the zoo, but where the city really shines is its museums. Typically, museums aren’t the first stop on a family vacation, but we think these ones will appeal to everyone in your group.
With the holidays in the air, here are some of our favorite museums in Dallas to visit with kids:
Kids of all ages will love this hands-on interactive museum with 11 different halls, covering anything from sports to dinosaurs to outer space. The museum just opened their latest exhibit, “Origins: Fossils from the Cradle of Mankind,” featuring two new species discovered in Africa. These findings, Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi, are changing what scientists previously thought about the origins of humanity. Kids can see the original fossils and try their hand at an archaeological dig. Book tickets soon because the exhibit is only at The Perot until March 22, 2020, and then it returns to Africa.
One of the best things about the Dallas Museum of Art is free admission. This is one of the largest art galleries in the country, with over 22,000 items, so there are plenty of exhibits to explore with kids. Don’t miss the kid-centric art instruction on First Tuesdays (the first Tuesday of every month), where children can enjoy crafts, story time, and occasional performances.
The Nasher Sculpture Center is right across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, and even though adults have to pay admission, children 12 and under are free. This brilliant museum is divided into indoor and outdoor space, and offers plenty of opportunities for discussion with kids. Ask them what they see, or what a piece represents, to keep them engaged through the visit. Kids will love exploring the grassy outdoor sculpture park, just keep an eye on little ones near the water. It’s a refreshing outdoor space in the heart of downtown.
This is a museum everyone should visit regardless of their political views. George W. Bush was President during some major events in United States history, including the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, and the museum explains everything that happened behind the scenes. The displays are well laid out, and the story of his presidency is told beautifully. There are several videos to watch, interactive displays, and even a replica of The Oval Office.
Kids probably won’t know much about the assassination of John F. Kennedy (JFK), but most parents will. This museum is on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, the location where Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK as he passed through Dealey Plaza. The museum tells the story of JFK, including his rise to the presidency, his legacy and his assassination. Tweens and teens will probably enjoy this museum more than young ones since there is a lot of reading and it is a heavy topic.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is one of the best outdoor museums in the world. Every season The Arboretum decorates in a different theme. In the fall, there’s Autumn at the Arboretum, and each year there’s a different design (this year’s was Charlie Brown). During the winter months there’s Holiday at the Arboretum, where each of the garden’s gazebos are decorated to represent the 12 Days of Christmas. There is also a Christmas village inspired by European Christmas markets. Plan on spending a few hours exploring the Arboretum, as kids won’t want to leave.
Cover photo courtesy Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Kirsten Maxwell is the owner of Kids Are A Trip, a travel website inspiring families to explore the world beyond their backyards. She has been featured in many national outlets including Vogue, Lonely Planet and AFAR. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three teen boys in the Dallas suburbs when she isn’t on the road.