Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thoughts for Thursday: My Favorite Cheap or Free Activities to Do with Toddlers in DFW

When I first became a stay-at-home mom {you know, a mere month ago}, I was a little overwhelmed with the many activities that parents could do with kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I wanted to take Walker places, but I didn't want to break the bank. We did a few trial runs at some places, only to find out they were better suited to bigger kids. But on the opposite end, we tried out some places and Walker loved them so much he cried when we left because he wanted to continue to play. 

I learned quite quickly that the key to me being a happy stay-at-home mom and Walker a contented kid is to not stay at home all the time, so here are my favorite cheap or free activities to do with toddlers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, in no particular order: 

{1} Residential and Neighborhood Pools 
Don't we all know someone, or maybe have a friend-of-a-friend who has a pool? We personally don't have a pool, but my in-law's do, so we spend a lot of time over there in the summer letting Walker swim. It's good because it lets him spend time with my in-laws, but it also wears him out! 

On the opposite end, our neighborhood pool is awesome! It has slides, a baby pool area, a snack shack and much more. Our pool is attached to our local recreation center. Be sure to check the Parks and Recreation Department section of your city's website, or talk to your neighborhood association or HOA to find out specific hours and rules for your local pool. 

And if all else fails, buy a cheap plastic baby pool from Target, put it in the backyard and fill it up with water from the hose. Sometimes I think Walker likes that more than a big pool! 

{2} Neighborhood and City Parks
Toddlers love to run and play, so don't discount taking them to a local little park! Adjacent to our neighborhood pool is a little park, and even though it's not the nicest, Walker loves it! And, like the pool, going up and down the slides wears him out and guarantees me a good nap from him. ;) When the weather is nice, we like to walk the half-mile there and half-mile back in his little car. It's good exercise for me, too! 

And sometimes, we'll even take him to the track of our local high school and just let him run and run! 

{3} Fritz Park Petting Farm
Only open in June and July, Fritz Park Petting Farm is a free petting zoo owned and operated by the City of Irving. There aren't a ton of animals, but toddlers -- especially animal-loving ones -- won't care a lick! Walker loved getting up-close-and-personal with the goats, rabbits and chickens. You can stay as long as you want, and there's a little playground nearby, too. 

{4} DFW Airport's Founders Plaza
Our little plane-loving boy absolutely adores Founders Plaza, an outdoor place near the airport where you can sit and watch airplanes of all shapes and sizes land at DFW Airport. They have speakers where you can hear the control tower communicating with the pilots during the final approach; picnic tables to have a meal or a snack; and a big hill where kiddos can run up and down. It's so fun, especially on days with good weather. {We plan to be out here a lot in the fall!} This is a great free activity!

{5} PetsMart, PetCo and any feed suppy store
Two words: free "zoo." We have a cat, so we often have to make a run to PetsMart to get more cat food. I love taking Walker with me to look at the fish, dogs, cats, birds and reptiles for a while, and he loves it, too! 

Brandon has a local little feed store next to his office, and we often go in there when we're visiting Brandon for lunch to let Walker look at the chicks, ducklings and goslings. 

{6} Play Street Museum
With two locations {one in Frisco and one in Plano}, Play Street Museum is awesome! It's basically a tiny town for young kids, and we love it! It's $11 for each adult and kids are free; they receive one wooden "coin" to get a healthy snack after they play. With everything from an art station, to a Moon Sand station, to a fun little interactive "town," it's everything a kid could want. We haven't yet visited the Frisco location, but the Plano one was definitely one to write home about. 

{7} The Ark 
The Ark is a play place located inside GracePoint Church in Coppell. It has slides, a ball pit and is basically a very large, very clean version of a restaurant play place. Plus, you can't beat the fact that it's indoors and air conditioned, especially in the summer! There are tables so your kiddos can have a snack, but remember to bring socks; they can't play in their shoes or barefoot. 

What I like most about this place is that it's divided into two sections: one for big kids, and one for smaller babies and toddlers {pictured below}. Be sure to check their website for specific hours, as they change during the school year and summer. The Ark is free.

{8} Coppell Spray Park 
While we're talking about Coppell, Walker loves the spray park that's directly adjacent to the Coppell Farmers Market. The water comes on at 8 a.m. each day {I think May-October, but I can't find the hours anywhere…and I even tweeted the city!}, and there's an awesome playground right there, too! The city is currently building a lot of restaurants in this vicinity {think Twisted Root, a cupcakery, a bar and grill, etc.} so there will be a lot of time spent here on our part in the spring when it's all completed! The park and splash pad are free. 

{9} The Tubes at Irving Bible Church
While I felt like this was a bit too big for Walker right now, I can't leave The Tubes @ IBC off of this list! It's a monstrous play place inside Irving Bible Church that I felt was very clean and well-maintained! While there's really not much space for parents to sit, I was impressed with this place. Like with The Ark, be sure to bring socks, because they can't play barefoot or with shoes. Be sure to check their website for the hours; it's cleaned once a month and closed for the morning. This is free. 

{10} The Mustangs at Las Colinas
Toddlers could really care less about the sculptures at The Mustangs at Las Colinas, but there is a ton of space to run and there's water for them to splash in! {And parents can marvel at the beauty.} Put the kiddos in some water shoes {we love these}, a bathing suit and a rash guard; pack a picnic lunch and bring your camera…you'll be surprised how much they enjoy this free activity! 

{11} Perot Museum of Nature and Science
This is on our list of places to go, but I couldn't leave it off the list. I've heard their Moody Family Children's Museum is quite a site to behold, and we're planning to go soon! You can order tickets online and view prices and hours there, as well as view parking information. 

{12} Klyde Warren Park + Dallas World Aquarium
Located right in the same vicinity of the Perot Museum are both Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas World Aquarium

Klyde Warren Park is a free park right in the heart of downtown Dallas. Admission to the park is free, but be sure to check their website for parking options. Not only are there a ton of food trucks to get a bite to eat, but there are always fun events for kids and adults alike to partake in. There's also a Children's Park with interactive fountains, a story-telling tree, a playground and a kid-sized amphitheater. 

While we absolutely love the Dallas World Aquarium and have been a number of times, I do think the price is a little steep for Walker's attention level right now. {Adults are $20.95 + tax and children 2-12 are $14.95 + tax; children 2 and under are free.} They have a number of great exhibits and it's so clean and well-done. Paid parking is available in lots near the aquarium, so be sure to prepare for that. 

{13} SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium
A much smaller and better-priced {although still a little high to me} is the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, located in Grapevine Mills Mall. They have "Toddler Tuesdays," held Sept. 8 - Nov. 17, where tickets are cheaper {$15 for one adult and two toddlers, through age 4}. Without the special, tickets are $15 for each adult online {$20 walk-up} and $12 for each child, ages 3-12 online {$16 walk-up}. 

It's a small place, enough to walk through for about an hour in a stroller, and it's very kid-friendly. 

{14} Galleria Play Place
I had no idea this even existed until my friend Ashley told me about it: the Galleria Play Place, located on the 3rd floor of the Dallas Galleria, right outside Nordstrom. It's a very clean, large play place in a Mayan theme, complete with slides, a big structure to climb on and some tunnels. {It totally reminds me of that Nickelodeon show from our childhood, "Legends of the Hidden Temple."} It's the perfect place to go when it's raining or cold, or when Mom needs a shopping break and the kids are tagging along! 

Be sure to pack socks; kids can't go barefoot or in shoes! Park in the Nordstrom garage and take the Nordstrom elevator up to the 3rd floor, then walk out to the middle of the Galleria and you'll spot it. 

{15} Dallas and Fort Worth Zoos 
We have been to both the Dallas Zoo and the Fort Worth Zoo, but personally love the Fort Worth Zoo just a tiny bit better. Both zoos are amazing, however, and you're guaranteed a good experience at both. 

Dallas Zoo: Kids 2 and under are free; kids 3-11 are $12; adults are $15. Parking is $8. Be sure to check their website for specific pricing and hours…and don't forget to check out Penguin Days and  $1 Day! 

Fort Worth Zoo: Kids 2 and under are free; kids 3-12 are $9; adults are $12. Parking is $5. Be sure to check their website for specific pricing and hours…and don't forget that admission is half-price every Wednesday! {And the zoo is open 365 days a year!} 

{16} Grapevine Vintage Railroad
Walker is a huge fan of basically any plane, train or automobile, so the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was a big hit for him! For younger children, I recommend the Grapevine Fun Train, which is typically on Saturdays, but runs on Fridays during June and July. Basically, you take a one-hour train ride on the vintage steam railroad, "Puffy" around Grapevine. Be sure to purchase your tickets online in advance to avoid standing in a long line on-site. They also do a North Pole Express ride; click here for more information on that. For older children, there is a longer train ride that makes a round-trip between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards. 

Honorable Mentions: 
Other things that we love to do around DFW are: 
  • Gymboree Play & Music Classes: Walker really enjoys his 45-minute-long Gymboree classes. He has so much fun playing on their equipment, running around, singing, playing with the parachute and bubbles and I love that he's asleep in the car the second we hit the road. Ha! But seriously, they're so fun and a great way for them to burn energy and meet some little friends. {Click here to find a class near you.}
  • Story Time at your local public library: I met one of my friends, Ashley, doing this very thing! Our local library does a "Toddler Time" story time each week, with bubbles, a few stories, songs and dancing. {It's basically like Kindermusik…but totally free!} Check your city's website to see what your local public library offers. 
  • Chick-fil-A Play Places: We love Chick-fil-A around here! Not only are they super kid-friendly, their play places are usually pretty clean. We like to go for lunch and then let Walker play, but going in the morning is also great because I can get a coffee while he runs around. 
  • Market Street Flower Mound: There are Market Streets in many different locations, but I personally love this one! They have a great patio for kids to run around on, and there is an awesome playground in the back for them, too! {And did I mention they sell wine by the glass? So take a girlfriend and her kiddo{s} and enjoy a glass while the little ones play!} 
  • Dove Park Sprayground: This is an awesome splash pad located right by Dove Park Playground {which is awesome in and of itself}. It's free to both residents and non-residents and is open May 1-Sept. 30 from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., seven days a week. It's so much fun! 
  • Pottery Painting: There are many different places to do this, but we love Sunshine Glaze in Southlake. Kids can paint their own pottery {which make cute gifts for holidays for family members who will love it no matter what it looks like}, and they often have a lot of specials on their website. On Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., they do "Mommy and Me," where children painting with an adult receive a free studio fee. 
  • Kid movie days at your local theater: Many local theaters will provide "Kid Days," or "Mommy Days," where you can take your little ones{s} to see a kid-friendly movie {or not} during the day. At some places, lights are left a little brighter so you can see to get in your diaper bag, the sound is turned down a little lower and both of you can enjoy a movie guilt-free without having to say, "I'm sorry!" to the childless patrons around you. I know Alamo Drafthouse, Moviehouse & Eatery, Regal Cinemas {summer $1 days}, and The Angelika do events like these. 
Linking up with Annie and Natalie today! 



  1. These all look like so much fun! :)

  2. Im super excited about the Play Street Muesum! Looks adorable. There is also the Coop in Frisco that looks fun. Have you heard of Paradise Pond in Grapevine? It's another church play place and only $1 per person!

  3. Thank you! I didn't know about some of these! We LOVE Klyde Warren though!

  4. These are great suggestions that work for any city! I am a fellow SAHM and when my daughter was younger I really had a hard time figuring out what to do with our days. When we got out we were all a lot happier!

    Annie- All Things Big and Small


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