An Out-of-Towner Guide to Dallas

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Thinking of planning a trip to Dallas with the family? Moving to the area and don’t know where to start? Don’t get overwhelmed! Let local moms help. We’ve got your ultimate family guide to Dallas: where to stay, what to do, and where to eat with the kids. Plus, a few extra tips to help you navigate your way around The Big D.

Already live here? Make sure to share this guide with family or friends looking to make the trip! 

A Few Helpful Facts Before Planning Your Trip

Know Your Suburbs ::

The city of Dallas has an estimated population of 1.35 million residents, but what that number doesn’t include are the dozens of suburbs and families who live in the surrounding metroplex. That adds around 5 million more. In each suburb you’ll find unique communities and activities any family would enjoy. Around here, it’s not uncommon to drive 20-25 minutes across town for a morning of fun or to attend a playdate. “Dallas” is so much more than Dallas proper.

Recommended Posts:

Neighborhood Fave Five :: Snapshots of Dallas Neighborhoods and Suburbs

Thinking About the ‘Burbs? :: 5 Things You’ll Want to Consider

Driving in Dallas ::

Car culture is pretty unavoidable here. Since you should expect to drive almost all the time, turn-by-turn navigation will be your best friend. Oh, and people drive fast on the highways. You’ve been warned! A few tips:

Toll roads are all over the city and the signage can sometimes be confusing.
If you accidently find yourself getting onto one, don’t panic! There are no toll collection booths anymore; a bill will be mailed to the address associated with your license plate. Do NOT ignore this bill. The late fees get ridiculous. Speaking from experience. If you’re making a permanent move to Dallas, you’ll want to consider getting a Toll Tag for your car.

Major toll roads:

    • President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) a.k.a Bush is a 52 mile loop on the outside of the city and quick access to DFW International Airport
    • Dallas North Tollway is 30 miles from Downtown Dallas to US Highway 380 in Frisco. We just call this one “The Tollway.”
    • Sam Rayburn Tollway (formally known as 121) runs from Grapevine to McKinney.
    • Most highways have added partial toll roads called TEXpress Lanes that run above and/or next to the free lanes. The cost changes by time of day and will usually be posted on digital signs near the entrances. These can get quite pricey during rush hour but are a way to avoid traffic jams if you’re in a big hurry.

You may notice that highways are identified by their numbers on your GPS but by their common names in everyday conversation. Side note: we never include the “I” when talking about highways. I-30 is just “30.”

A few common examples:

    • Central Expressway or Central, a.k.a. US-75
    • LBJ, a.k.a. I-635
    • Preston Road, a.k.a. SH 235
    • Tom Landry Freeway, a.k.a. I-30
    • The High Five refers to the intersection at 635 & 75 (LBJ & Central)
    • The Mixmaster refers to the intersection at I-30 & I-35E. Radio traffic reports love to mention the Mixmaster.
    • Northwest Highway, a.k.a. Loop 12

If heading into the country and using your GPS, make sure to use FM before the street number when needed. It’s actually part of the street name!

Dallas is notorious for its traffic. Make sure to check your map app for drive prior to heading out, especially if it’s between the hours of 7am-9am and 3pm-7pm.

Getting Around Without Driving ::

If you need to get around without driving, the DART rail — Dallas Area Rapid Transit — could potentially work. Expanding every year, the DART rail travels across the metroplex with stops in many of the suburbs (including downtown, the Dallas Zoo, and the airports: DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field). We still have a ways to go when it comes to comprehensive and efficient public transit but we’re working on it!

Downtown Dallas has a free option that will take you to popular areas and attractions: The McKinney Avenue Trolley (M-Line) is a short line with stops near Klyde Warren Park, the Arts District, Uptown, museums, shopping, restaurants, and a handful of hotels.

What to Wear (Weather Talk) ::

You may have heard the phrase “Texas has two seasons: Summer and Winter.” It’s kinda true.

SUMMER

When visiting May-September (and into October, to be honest) expect to be HOT. It’s not uncommon to hit the 90’s by early May and stay in the 90’s-100’s throughout the summer– coming down into the 80’s by October.

  • What to pack:: Hats/caps/visors, bathing suits, plenty of sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and (surprisingly) layers! Businesses do a great job of keeping insides cool, so don’t be surprised if you walk into a restaurant and find yourself freezing in the A/C.

FALL

When visiting October-November, temperatures will be milder. Expect mid 60’s-low 80’s. Because our falls can have significant high/low temperature swings, severe weather, including tornados are possible. Not to scare you, just to keep you aware.

  • What to pack:: Layers & an umbrella (just in case)! Temperatures vary a lot, so pack for cooler weather and rain but also sunshine and warmer weather.

WINTER

When visiting late November-late February temperatures are in the 40s-50s. Freezing temperatures, sleet, or snow are infrequent but not impossible. Most often it’s just gray and chilly.

  • What to pack:: Scarves, hats, and coats if planning to be outside for long to help with the wind. A ski jacket isn’t necessary!

SPRING

When visiting March-April, temperatures will be mild and cool. Expect mid 60’s-70’s and enjoy the absence of mosquitos. Rain is common but rarely lasts all day. It’s also tornado season. Again, not to scare you, but it’s not a bad idea to check out our post on Tornado Safety in Texas.

  • What to pack:: Layers & an umbrella (just in case)! Temperatures can vary quite a bit from morning to night and day to day in the spring, so pack for cooler weather and rain but also sunshine and warm weather.

A Quick Language Lesson ::

“Y’all” is the only way to refer to more than one person. Can be used as many times in a sentence as necessary, including the hyper plural “all y’all.”

When you’re about to do something, you’re “fixin'” to. Example: “I’m fixin’ to go to the store soon.” 

Notice we keep using the word “metroplex.” It originated as a way to describe the sprawl of Dallas/Fort Worth and its surrounding suburbs. You’ll hear it a lot.

“BBQ” is a type of food, not an activity. If a Texan refers to barbecue, odds are they’re referencing smoked meats, not a hamburgers & hotdogs get-together.

When you’re trying to avoid cussing in front of the kids, might we suggest incorporating “dad gum” into your vocabulary? And “dang” is always useful, either as an adjective or for an emphatic “DANG IT!!”

Things to Do in the Dallas Metroplex

Dining ::

Dallas has so many great restaurants. Assuming you’re staying near Major Dallas Attractions, here are a few recommendations perfect for families:

Breakfast: 

Lunch/Dinner: 

Famous Tex-Mex: 

Authentic Texas BBQ:

Recommended Posts:

5 More Kid-Friendly Places to Eat in Dallas

5 Fabulous Toddler-Friendly Restaurants in Dallas

5 Healthy Family-Friendly Places to Eat in Dallas

Shopping :: 

NorthPark Center (75 & Northwest Highway, Dallas) – An upscale shopping center with movie theater, restaurants, and events. A wide-range of stores that includes Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Roberto Cavalli to Gap, Macy’s, and H&M.

Galleria Dallas (635 & Dallas North Tollway, Dallas) – An upscale shopping mall with restaurants, attached hotel and ice skating rink. A wide-range of stores that include higher end boutiques on the lower level to more common stores on the third. (Think Banana Republic on level 1, Gap on level 2, and Old Navy on level 3.) 

Highland Park Village (Mockingbird & Preston, Dallas) – An upscale shopping center in the heart of one of Dallas’s oldest upscale neighborhoods, Highland Park. Drive through multi-million dollar homes and shop high-end boutiques like Cole Haan, Jimmy Choo, and Anthropologie. WARNING: Not family-friendly unless you’re coming at Christmas time, but great for a girls’ weekend! 

IKEA (Sam Rayburn Tollway & Dallas North Tollway, Frisco) –  A Swiss furniture and home design store selling modern pieces at low prices! A tourist destination as much as a shopping destination for locals.

Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm (75 & Bethany, Allen) – An ourdoor shopping mall with restaurants, boutiques, and outdoor events (plus playground for children!)

Allen Premium Outlets (75 & Stacy Road, Allen) – Dallas’s most popular outlet mall and shopping destination.

The Village at Fairview & The Village at Allen (75 & Stacy Road, Allen) – A family-friendly destination for shopping and dinning. (Read this post for a local mom’s review.)

Kid-Friendly Activities ::

There’s so much to do in Dallas, but we’ll stick with the most popular destinations! Here’s our list of family-friendly activities around Dallas:

Dallas Zoo -Located 5 minutes west of Downtown Dallas. Full price tickets are $15/adult and $12/ children ages 3-11, and free for children 2 and under. Parking: $8/vehicle TIP: The DART Rail has a station directly in front of the Dallas Zoo entrance.  (https://dallas.momcollective.com/five-reasons-to-visit-the-lacerte-family-childrens-zoo/)
Reunion Tower – GEO Deck –Located in Downtown Dallas. Full price tickets are $16/adult and $8/ children ages 4-12, and free for children 4 and under. (https://dallas.momcollective.com/reunion-tower-better-than-ever/)
Perot Museum – Located  in Downtown Dallas. Full price tickets are $17/adult and $11/ children ages 2-17, and free for children 2 and under. Parking: $8/vehicle underneath Woodall Rodgers. TIP: Reserve Parking online during busy days to guarantee a spot.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens – Located in East Dallas/Garland on White Rock Lake (10 minutes east of Downtown Dallas). General Admission tickets are $15/adult and $10/ children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. Admission into the Children’s Garden is $3 extra per General Admission ticket. Parking: $15 TIP: Food is welcome, so bring a picnic on a pretty day and enjoy the lakeside view. EXTRA TIP: Bring a change of clothes for the kids when going into the Children’s Garden as there’s many water features to play in! ( https://dallas.momcollective.com/sneak-peek-arboretums-new-childrens-adventure-garden/)
Klyde Warren Park -Located  in Downtown Dallas above Woodall Rodgers Freeway. It’s a public park, but bring cash for the food trucks! Parking is available along the street in meters, or use the McKinney Avenue Trolley. TIP: Bring a change of clothes for the kids as there’s a water feature to play in during the summer. (https://dallas.momcollective.com/klyde-warren-park-downtown-dallas-newest-and-best-addition/)
Texas Discovery Gardens – Located in Fair Park (5 minutes east of Downtown Dallas). Full price tickets are $8/adult and $4/ children ages 2-12, and free for children 2 and under. Free Parking on Fair Grounds except during the State Fair of Texas TIP: There’s a Daily Butterfly release at noon each day.  (https://dallas.momcollective.com/exploring-fair-park/)
Dallas World Aquarium – Located  in Downtown Dallas. Full price tickets are $20.95/adult and $14.95/ children ages 2-12, and free for children 2 and under. Parking available in paid lots.  TIP: Plan to run into school groups during the week September-May.
Legoland Discovery Center – Located  in Grapevine inside Grapevine Mills Mall (20 minutes northwest of Downtown Dallas). Full price tickets are $21/adult and children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. TIP: Purchase Advance tickets for as low as $15.75/person. EXTRA TIP: Bring swimsuits during the summer as the Pirate Beach splash pad is open during the summer! (https://dallas.momcollective.com/legoland-discovery-center-a-young-builders-dream/)
SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium – Located  in Grapevine inside Grapevine Mills Mall (20 minutes northwest of Downtown Dallas). Full price tickets are $20/adult, $16 children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under. (https://dallas.momcollective.com/visiting-sea-life-grapevine-aquarium/)

Six Flags Over Texas – Located in Arlington (30 minutes east of Downtown Dallas). Full price tickets are $66.99/adult $51.99 for children under 48″, 2 and under are free. Parking is extra! TIP: Always check for promotions, free tickets, and passes as there’s frequent discounts! EXTRA TIP: Bring a swimsuit and prepare for heat during the summer. Water rides are open, and there’s not much shade.  (https://dallas.momcollective.com/family-theme-park-fun-in-dallas/)

Seasonal Guides ::

A Family Guide for Spring Activities in DFW

Dallas-Fort Worth Spring Break Staycation Ideas for your Family

25 Family-Friendly Summer Activities in DFW

25 Family-Friendly Fall Activities in DFW

Family Fun Guide to the State Fair of Texas (September & October)

Dallas Holiday Guide for Families

Headed to Dallas and Need More Advice? Visit our Dallas Moms Facebook and ask questions of local moms! 

2 COMMENTS

  1. One thing I thought was missing was the brewery and distillery tours available in and around town that make for a great couple couple hour weekend getaway. The Witherspoon Distillery in Lewisville hosts tours each Friday and Saturday, and you not only learn about distilling but get to sample their spirits.

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