Kid-Friendly, Budget-Conscious Activities in Dallas

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As much as I would love to get memberships to all the awesome family entertainment places in DFW and to sign my kids up for all the classes and clubs, it’s just not in our budget. But over the years, my husband and I have found so many wonderful kid-friendly activities in and around Dallas. You don’t have to go into debt to have fun. Here are a few of our go-to activities and resources.

family fun

New (to us) Parks

Like most moms, I have my go-to parks that are close to home where we typically take the kids but when the kids need new adventures, we park hop. It’s fun and the kids always love it. We have found some cool, new (to us) parks this way that we might never have visited otherwise. I love the splash pads we have discovered this way during the hot summer months. And when you think about it, our kids are young enough to want to play in a park for such a short period of time. The days are long but the years are short, right? I still remember my mom taking me to parks we had never been to and how exciting that felt. I’m happy to be able to give my own kids that same simple spark of joy.

Tunnel Time

I’ve driven my kids through the Addison Airport Toll Tunnel approximately 1,000 times. That’s probably only a slight exaggeration. Each of them went through a phase as toddlers when they absolutely loved driving through that tunnel. It’s a two-lane tunnel, about 1,600 feet long, and it runs under the Addison Airport runway. It’s also near a police department and fire station. If you know any 2- or 3-year-olds, you know how amazing it would be to watch airplanes taking off and landing, drive through a tunnel, and get to see police cars and fire trucks all in one short drive. This is a great one for days when the weather isn’t great for adventures but the kids need to get out of the house for at least a drive. Pro tip: There’s a drive-through Starbucks at Belt Line and Midway if you want to treat yourself on the way to chauffeuring your littles through the tunnel a dozen times.

Downtown Fun

One of my favorite kid-friendly and budget-friendly adventures in Dallas is taking our kids to the Dallas Museum of Art and Klyde Warren Park. The Center for Creative Connections in the DMA is great for kids of all ages but, y’all, Arturo’s Nest is magical. It’s a play space for children 4 and younger where they can crawl and play. There’s a door so they can’t wonder out of your sight and the space is small enough that you won’t lose track of them but big enough that they can get out some of their energy. It’s a beautiful and fun play place.

If the weather is good, we always go across the street to Klyde Warren Park. They have family-friendly events often and there’s the little park, open space to run and lots of food trucks to choose from if you want to grab something for a little picnic with the kids. We have spent whole days just hanging out at the DMA and Klyde Warren for the price of parking and a few snacks.

Trains

My kids both love trains. Don’t all little ones? Sometimes we head to the nearest DART Rail station and ride the train for a bit. They love it and sometimes we will stop along the way for a bite to eat or just to go for a walk before we head back. DART passes are pretty affordable and we always have fun.

If your kids are more interested in older trains, there’s Grapevine Vintage Railroad at a higher price. But we are big fans of the Farmers Branch Historical Park where our kids can climb onto what they both call the “real-life Little Red Caboose.” The Farmers Branch Historical Park is a museum on 27 acres. There are $3 tours and the park hosts many affordable and fun events, some free, throughout the year.

Restaurant Playgrounds

Of course, there are always the play spaces at Chik-fil-a, McDonald’s, Hat Creek Burger Company, The LOT, and Nico’s Cocina. These are mostly budget-friendly for us although it depends on whether we are ordering food or just having some soda and playtime. I have found that my kids are just as excited about visiting a new (to them) Chik-fil-a or McDonald’s play space as they are to visit new parks so this is one of my favorite low-cost adventures for our family. Zach and I bring books or magazines to read while the kids play.

family fun

Homebase

On days when we’re going to stay home, I have a stash of sidewalk chalk, pop rocks ($1 per box from the dollar store, y’all), bubbles and plastic cups for them to play with in the backyard. Or we go on a photo walk around the block looking for cool creatures and wildflowers to photograph. I let them use my phone or my Instax to take pictures. Sometimes they’ll pick whole bouquets of dandelions and spend half an hour blowing all the fuzz off.

family fun

Local libraries, farmers markets and recreation centers often offer free or inexpensive kid-friendly activities. There’s more than just story time. For example, our local library hosts petting zoos, Lego activities, family movie times all free. Dallas Public Library’s various locations offer free classes for kids such as STEAM Saturday and Bilingual Storytime. The recreation center is often a great option for pool time in warmer months at a much lower price than DFW’s larger water parks.

One of the best things about living in DFW is the many affordable opportunities available for family fun. I feel like we are discovering new places and new adventures all the time.

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