Dallas2For a city known to be big and sprawling, Dallas is surprisingly easy to navigate. Despite the “Live Large. Think Big.” motto of its Convention & Visitors Bureau, its attractions tend to be clustered. If you are in Dallas for the Super Bowl or Dallas is now on your radar because the Super Bowl is there, you will find lots of family friendly attractions.

Dallas is the birthplace of Neiman Marcus, so shopping is big. The Galleria Dallas literally offers shopping as sport. You don’t need to go mall walking – there’s an ice skating rink. For toddlers, head to the jungle-themed play space, limited to those 42 inches and younger. Teens and tweens can indulge in retail therapy, with more than 200 luxury shops. Restaurants include the American Girl Boutique & Bistro.

Stay at the The Westin Galleria Dallas, right in the Galleria. The family-friendly, smoke-free hotel gives kids the Westin Kids Club bag of amenities, with a night light and rubber ducky. The American Girl package includes milk and cookies and a doll bed for your visit. The huge rooftop pool has cabanas and bed-size lounges, for no additional charge.

A trip to the Highland Park Village mall might qualify as educational: This National Historic Landmark was the nation’s first shopping center. It remains current, with high-end boutiques like Hermes and Jimmy Choo.

Dallas History

My husband, a history buff, convinced my kids that the one place they had to see was The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  This museum, which delves into details of President Kennedy’s history, assassination, and legacy, is housed in the purported location of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald.  The museum relies on news footage, voice recordings and photographs to tell the story; its multi-media presentation resonates well with kids.  There’s also a worthwhile audio tour, with a special version geared toward kids ages 6-12.

A docent at The Sixth Floor Museum recommended that we walk to the West End Historic district, which has outdoor cafes and the Dallas World Aquarium.  This huge (of course) aquarium has a rainforest exhibit, outdoor South Africa exhibit and a 40 foot shark tunnel.

Dallas Museums

The Dallas Arts District, a short stroll away, has The Dallas Museum of Art. The museum has drop-in art studio activities on weekends, gallery sketching for kids, family films and special family tours on Sundays. The museum has an extensive collection of African art. We also explored the adjacent Nasher Sculpture Center, which has a huge garden and floating glass ceiling in the galleries.

Fair Park, a National Historic Landmark, has nine museums.  The newly renovated Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park Dallas has everything at eye level for young kids, and lots of interactive displays. The organic Texas Discovery Gardens has a butterfly habitat, a wildlife pond and a scent garden,

The Museum of Nature and Science truly espouses Dallas’s living large motto.  The super-sized museum, the result of the merger of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children’s Museum has interactive children’s museum galleries, an urban farm, a water room, dinosaurs, an IMAX theater and a planetarium.