Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's Hap-pinning Wednesday: My Favorite Activities for Toddlers in DFW

When I first became a stay-at-home mom two years ago after working in the corporate world for 18 months with a child, 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 {and eventually Knox} 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 and Knox contented kids is to not stay at home all day, every day; we are "get out and go" people...of course, after Knox's morning nap and before their afternoon naps. ;) 

Here are my favorite activities to do with toddlers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, whether you're local or traveling to the area: 

Cheap or Free: 

{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 the boys swim. It's good because it lets them spend time with my in-laws, but it also wears them 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 also attached to our local recreation center, which has a basketball court, activity rooms, etc. We also have friends who are members of a local country club and invite us to swim there with them, and we are big fans of a local pool that, while it's not free for us since we aren't residents, is only $6 for adults, $3 for kids and free for Knox, and it's so fun! {It also has an indoor pool option for rainy days!} 

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 the boys like 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, the boys love it! And, like the pool, going up and down the slides wears them out and guarantees me a good nap from them. ;) When the weather is nice, we like to walk the half-mile there and half-mile back in our double stroller. It's good exercise for me, too! 

And sometimes, we'll even take them to the track of our local high school and just let Walker run and run {and Knox crawl all over the place}! 

{3} Fritz Park Petting Farm
Only open June 1-July 31, 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! We haven't been since Walker was about 19 months old, but he 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 boys absolutely adore Founders Plaza, an outdoor area near the DFW Airport where you can sit and watch airplanes of all shapes and sizes take off and land. 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 kiddos can run up and down. It's so fun, especially on days with good weather. We will often pack a picnic lunch and just sit and watch the planes. 

{5} PetsMart, PetCo and any feed suppy store
Two words: "free zoo." I love taking the boys with me to look at the fish, dogs, cats, birds and reptiles for a while, and they love 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 the boys look at the chicks, ducklings and goslings. 

{6} The Ark 
The Ark is a play place located inside GracePoint Church in Coppell. It has slides, a big ball pit and is basically a very large, somewhat 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 or a meal, but remember to bring socks; they can't play in their shoes. 

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. Be sure to check their website for specific hours, as they change during the school year and summer. 

{7} Coppell Farmer's Market Splash Pad 
While we're talking about Coppell, Walker loves the splash pad that's directly adjacent to the Coppell Farmers Market. The water is on from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sundays-Fridays beginning in April. There's an awesome playground right there, too, and I joke that many times I'll put a swimsuit on Walker, slather him with sunscreen...and instead of playing at the splash pad, he'll play on the playground. We like to bring a picnic lunch and eat at the splash pad if we're able. There's also a ton of newly-opened restaurants around this area, including: Twisted Root, Quincy's Chicken Shack, Dodie's, Frost Cupcakery and George's Coffee + Provisions.

{8} The Tubes at Irving Bible Church
Walker is the perfect age for The Tubes now, but Knox is too small. I think it's perfect for about a 2.5/3-year-old and up. (The actual height limit is 52 in. and below.) It's a monstrous play place inside Irving Bible Church that is 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 in shoes. It's open from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily, and there's even a coffee bar a couple of yards away for moms to get a cup of coffee while they watch their kids play. There's also a really cool {shaded} playground outside, too, that's great for cooler days. 

{9} The Mustangs of Las Colinas
Toddlers really couldn't care less about the sculptures at The Mustangs of 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! 

{10} Dallas Galleria Play Place
The Galleria Play Place, located on the 3rd floor of the Dallas Galleria, right outside Nordstrom, is perfect for kiddos (42 in. and under)! 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 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. 

{11} Music & Movement Story Time at Grapevine Public Library 
Grapevine Public Library is by far my favorite story time in the area. It gets a little crazy during the summer, but it's so fun for the kids! Right now, story time is 10:15-11 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. They give kids a variety of "instruments" to play {e.g. shakers, Boom Whackers, scarves, bean bags, etc.} and let them dance and sing while playing music; then they read a story or two; and then bring out the big parachute for them to play under. This summer, after story time, they would turn the lights out, turn on disco balls and lights, pump up the music and let the kids have a dance party! 

And it's not just story time that makes this library so great. Outside in the kid's section {which is HUGE}, they have a variety of activities for kids to do: books, of course; a puppet show; a play mat with cars; a microscope; Magna Tiles; a coloring station; puzzles; and more. 

{12} Chick-fil-A Play Places 
Chick-fil-A is always a hit at our house! I'll let the boys go play after they eat their lunch, and I love that these places are {mostly} clean. ;) One of our local Chick-fil-A's even has little containers of Cheerios for babies to munch on while they wait for their meal. {And be sure to check out my list of Mom Hacks here that includes my favorite Chick-fil-A tips!} 

{13} Dove Park and Parr Park + Spray Grounds 
Dove Park is an awesome park and splash pad located in Grapevine. The park is open year-round and the spray park is open May-September each year from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Admission is $2 per person for Grapevine residents and $5 per person for non-residents; 12 months and under are free. 

Parr Park is also a park and splash pad combo located in a gorgeous area of old Grapevine. The park is open year-round and the spray park is open May-September each year from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and is free! 

**I also really like Bicentennial Park in Southlake. There's a splash pad area, covered picnic tables, a special zip line for bigger kids, a little stream running through the area, a giant sand box, swings {my kids' favorites!} and more. 

{14} Bass Pro Shops
This is such a great rainy {or cold} day activity. I'll often just take the boys up to Bass Pro Shops and let them "ride" on the ATV's, boats, etc. and let them look at the fish in the tank and in the little pond, as well as the snake in the big observation area. They do an awesome "Santa's Wonderland," in December that's completely free! 

{15} Bubble Land at Gateway Church (Southlake)
BubbleLand is an indoor, clean play place located inside Gateway Church in Southlake. It's only open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. The boys love the ride-on ark, fire truck and train, and there's a slide, little tree for the babies to crawl through and they'll sometimes turn on the bubbles! Be sure to wear socks. 

Paid, but still fun:

{1} Play Street Museum
With many locations {Allen, Frisco, McKinney, Plano and new locations coming soon in Flower Mound and Richardson}, Play Street Museum is awesome! It's basically a tiny town for young kids, and we love it! It's $11 for each child ages 1-8; children younger or older receive a free admission if accompanied by a paying sibling; 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 other locations, but the Plano one was definitely one to write home about. They're open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m....and I'd suggest getting there early {especially in the summer and during Spring Break} so you don't have to wait. 

{2} Peek N Play 
Peek N Play is very similar to PlayStreet and we love them both! At Peek N Play, kids have to go barefoot, so remember that. There's big tree house and slide that goes down into balls, a small area for babies, a cute little "town" for bigger kids, and a full upstairs with blocks, LEGOs and two swings. They're open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and it's $12 per child; crawlers and under are free with an accompanied elder child and adult. 

{3} SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium
A much smaller and better-priced than the Dallas World Aquarium {although still a little high to me} is the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, located inside Grapevine Mills Mall. They have "Toddler Tuesdays," where tickets are cheaper {$15 for one adult and two toddlers, through age 4}. It's a small place, enough to walk through for about an hour in a stroller, and it's very kid-friendly. 

{4} Pottery Painting at Sunshine Glaze (Southlake)
I love to take the kids to Sunshine Glaze around Mother's and Father's Day to paint a little something special for my in-law's, parents and grandparents. It's definitely a little nerve-wracking with two active little boys {I think I say, "Be caaaaareeeeeful!" about 140 times while we're there!} but they love it. And I love that there are high chairs available for little ones. The price varies based on what you choose to paint; check out their specials here

{5} Kid Movie Days at Your Local Theater 
This is totally a great idea for those super cold, super hot or yucky rainy days! Walker has only been to the movies twice; he's not really a sit-still-and-watch type of kid, but we've tried before and it's so much fun! At one of our favorite local theaters, they have "Mommy Mondays," where the cinema volume is lower, the lights are brighter and they offer $6 tickets before 2 p.m. {AKA: before nap time!}. 

{6} Dallas and Fort Worth Zoos 
My grandparents graciously gifted us with a Dallas Zoo membership for Christmas, and we are loving getting use out of it! We bring our wagon, pack a lunch and let the boys see all they want to see {and ride the carousel and Monorail}. The Dallas Zoo is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. It costs $8 to park {members are free}. Admission prices are listed on their website here

We aren't members of the Fort Worth Zoo, but love it, too. It's a smaller zoo and, when we visit, we bring the wagon, pack a lunch and let the kids ride the carousel. I'm so thankful we have two zoos in our area! The Fort Worth Zoo is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. It costs $5 to park. Admission prices are listed on their website here; Wednesdays are half-price admission. 

{7} Trampoline Parks 
We have many trampoline parks located near us, and my boys love them! Two near us offer "Toddler Time," where, on a specific day at a specific time, they allow only kids ages five and under to jump. My girlfriends and I love taking our kids during this time because we know they won't be trampled by big kids and are around little ones their own age. One of our local trampoline parks even plays kid-friendly songs over the loudspeakers. 

{8} Grapevine Vintage Railroad 
Our boys love the Grapevine Vintage Railroad! Our favorite thing is the "Grapevine Fun Train," which is a little 30-minute ride up and back through Grapevine. It's the perfect amount of time for little ones before they get antsy. ;) The Fun Train only runs on Saturdays from March-November, but thereafter they do it during the week at various times. They also have fun events throughout the year, including the North Pole Express, Day Out with Thomas, an Easter Train, etc. Check their website for pricing. 

Honorable Mentions: 

{1} Market Street Playground (Flower Mound)
We love Market Street not only for their grocery shopping, but one of our local stores has an amazing outdoor {shaded} playground for kiddos where you can sit and sip coffee while they play, as well as wine on tap and yummy food you can either take to go or sit down and eat...and it's all kid-friendly. 

{2} Central Market Playground (Southlake) 
Two words: playground and drinks. ;) But seriously, parents can grab a drink from an outdoor bar and sit and watch their kids play on the HUGE outdoor playground. And, you can get your shopping done while you're there, too! 

{3} Gymboree Play & Music Classes
When I first started staying at home, we did a weekly 45-minute Gymboree Play & Music Class. Walker had so much fun playing on their equipment, running around, singing, playing with the parachute and bubbles. 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.}

This is such a little slice of heaven in the middle of old Grapevine. I didn't even know it existed until we took Knox's one-year portraits there this summer! There's a cute little playground (with swings!) and it's fun to wander around the beautiful arboretum and see the flora and fauna; my boys love the koi ponds, too! 

I'm only putting this one as "Honorable Mention" because we haven't yet been there! I can't believe we haven't, but it's still on our list. I've heard their Moody Family Children's Museum is quite a site to behold, and we're planning to go soon! 

{6} Dallas World Aquarium + Klyde Warren Park
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 the boys' attention levels 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. 

This is an amazing museum with a wonderfully done children's museum and Dino Dig! The only reason this is listed as an "Honorable Mention" is because it's pretty pricey: $15 per adult; $12 per child ages 2-18 and parking is limited and pricey. But it's very fun! 

What are your favorite DFW activities for toddlers?! 

Linking up with Jessi and Jenn 


  1. This is such a great list. Y'all have so many fun options!! I wish wilson did. We have nothing. There are fun things in raleigh but that's a 45 min drive. One of the downfalls to living in a small town haha

  2. Fellow get out and go mom here! This is extensive and awesome list. Lately I've been having to work through some germ a phone issues that have kept me away from indoor parks/touch museums etc. but I REALLY need to move past it. Do you always pack lunches? Would love to know what you Lee in your car/diaper bag to ensure smooth outings :)

  3. I'm in Fort Worth and have two boys - 6 and 8 years old. The FW Museum of Science and History also has memberships available. You can get a basic membership (up to 5 people) for about $130 per year. That includes your parking and it also gets your family in FREE to the Fort Worth Stock Show when it's in town in Jan/Feb. :) You should also check out the Forest Park miniature train (right by the FW Zoo). My kids always loved that. It's about 45 minutes but stops 1/2 way for a break where you can buy popcorn and/or drinks. We also love the fountains in Sundance Square downtown. Lots of room to run around and good family friendly restaurants too! :)

  4. Man - you've got a great list!!! I need you to come scope out the area where we live and make a great list for us ;) Those pictures of Walker when he was so little are so precious - they get so big so fast!

  5. This is an amazing list; can you do one for my town! I kid. I kid.

  6. So fun!! We have alot of similar things by us in Chicago. We love splash pads/parks and libraries and they help save some money when we spend going to other places :)


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