6 Days in Dallas

IMG_0012-272x300I said “Wow! Look at its tongue!” as my daughter fed a giraffe a lettuce leaf. The giraffe had a really long dark gray tongue that wrapped around the lettuce and pulled the leaf into its mouth. The last day of our trip got off to a great start at the Dallas Zoo!

When my husband had to go to Dallas on business, we decided to make it a family trip. We found so many different things to do that we actually didn’t have enough time to get to everything like the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Nasher Sculpture Center, or the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Here’s where we went in Dallas:

  • The Dallas World Aquarium was a great place to go on a rainy day. The name is a bit of a misnomer – it’s more of a hybrid zoo-aquarium filled with all sorts of common and unusual animals including fish, sharks, rays, birds, monkeys, Axolotls, 2-toed and 3-toed sloths (they really are amazingly slow), the Mot-mot, the bird-eating spider, and giant otters. One of our favorite experiences was sitting in a tunnel in the middle of an enormous tank and watching sharks, rays, and sawfish feed on shrimp and fish. Another big surprise was Eighteen-O-one, a cafe-style restaurant with views of the fish tanks and real restaurant-quality food that was so much better than the usual attraction fare for about the same price.
  • IMG_9807-300x244The Dallas Arboretum was so incredible and beautiful that we spent a full day and 2 mornings exploring the 66 acres of gardens. Our favorite area was the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden which has 150+ activities such as the Incredible Edible Garden, touch screen computers, a hedge maze, water canons, an Archimedes’ screw to create energy, a knot garden creation station, an enormous kaleidoscope, and activities about Fibonacci’s sequence, fractals, and other patterns.IMG_9860-300x241
  • The Dallas Museum of Art has exhibits ranging from antiquities to some unusual modern art. However, we spent most of our 2 afternoons there doing their free family activities. The museum offers Art to Go Family Tote Bags filled with themed activities and Family Gallery Guides, but we ended up working on art projects in the Center for Creative Connections, a large, 12,000-square-foot space for visitors of all ages to get engaged in making and exploring art. My daughters enjoyed using new and recycled materials to design large letters, adding leaves to a tree of poetry on display, and drawing self portraits.
  • Klyde Warren Park is a fun engaging park in the middle of the Dallas Arts district with a great playground and game carts with additional activities. We had lunch in the park twice – once at Relish, a yummy permanent hot dog and hamburger stand and the second time from the various food trucks stationed at the park.
  • The Perot Museum of Science and Nature, a relatively new museum, has lots of interactive exhibits. We borrowed one of several hundred tablets with applications designed specifically for the museum’s exhibits. Our favorite halls included the Sports Hall where our daughters got to compare their cartwheeling abilities to an elite gymnast and sprint against a cheetah, a T-Rex, and a mosasaur; the Gems and Minerals Hall which included an enormous amethyst geode we cranked open and close; the Life Then and Now Hall which had an assortment of fossils and tablet-based interactives including feeding the Alamosaurus an appropriate vegetarian diet; and the temporary Sherlock Holmes exhibit where we learned about the iconic detective and his methods of observation and deductive reasoning before trying to solve a mystery.
  • The Dallas Zoo was a fun place for a beautiful spring day. Since we had never seen koalas before, we decided to go to the Dallas Zoo instead of the Fort Worth Zoo. Gummy and Tekin the koalas are adorable, but were sleeping when we saw them. Other highlights of our visit that were different than the Bronx Zoo were feeding birds seeds on a popsicle stick and watching a cheetah run at full speed. If we go back, we’ll be sure to bring a fossil or other natural object to trade at the Hillcrest Foundation Nature Exchange, which lets kids swap something they have for points to get something else at the exchange.
  • Skills: Visual acuity, fine motor, curiosity, gross motor
  • Preparation: When we went school was in session in Dallas so we didn’t have to wait on any lines to get tickets. Wear comfortable walking shoes and depending upon the time of year, temperatures vary during the day so dress in layers.
  • Cost: It didn’t make sense for us to get the Dallas CityPASS and the cost varied from attraction to attraction. Basically, it was worth considering a membership to any of the places we visited if we thought we were going to visit more than once.
    • Dallas Arboretum has a Family Level Membership for $128 which includes admission to the gardens and free parking as well as 12 passes to the Children’s Garden. A family of 4 would otherwise pay $15 per adult ($30) +  $10 per child ages 3 to 12 ($20) + $15 for parking (although you can get an online discount for $8) + $3 per person for the Children’s Garden = $77. Since we knew we were going to go more than once the membership paid for itself.
    • Dallas Museum of Art has free general admission!
    • Dallas World Aquarium for a family of 4 was $20.95 per adult ($41.90) + $14.95 per child ages 2 to 12 ($29.90) + $5 parking (there are various lots across the street) = $76.80. A family of 4 would have to go at least 3 times to make a membership worthwhile.
    • Dallas Zoo for a family of 4 was $15 per adult ($30) + $12 per child ages 3 to 11 ($24) + $8 for parking = $62. A membership is worthwhile if a family of 4 is going to go 2 or more times.
    • Perot Museum of Science and Nature for a family of 4 was $17 per adult ($34) + $11 per child ages 2 to 17 ($22) + $8 for parking = $64. We also paid an additional $17 per adult ($34) + $15 per child ($30) = $64 to go to a special Sherlock Holmes exhibit and see a 3D movie on the Galapagos. A membership is worthwhile if a family of 4 is going to go 2 or more times.
  • Time & Energy:
    • IMG_9851-258x300The Dallas Arboretum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Visiting the gardens can easily fill more than a day. The Children’s Garden has so many different activities that it could be a day unto itself. It reminded me of the New York Hall of Science’s Science Playground, but much bigger and better.
    • The Dallas Museum of Art is open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday (and open until 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays) except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The museum’s collections cover such a wide spectrum that most of the day could be spent spent at there.
    • The Dallas World Aquarium is open from is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day and fills up most of a day.
    • The Dallas Zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day except Christmas Day and fills up most of a day.
    • The Perot Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but doesn’t open until noon on Sundays. Prepare to spend most of a day there.
  • Contact Info: Here are the websites for each attraction we visited:
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