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An Out-of-Towner Guide to Dallas

Thinking of planning a trip to Dallas with the family? Moving into the area and don’t know where to start? Don’t get overwhelmed! Let local moms help you plan your trip! We’ve got your ultimate family guide to Dallas; where to stay, what to do, and where to eat with your families. 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 and friends looking to make the trip! 

Out of Town Guide Dallas Moms Blog

A Few Helpful Facts Before Planning Your Trip 

Know Your Suburbs :: 

The city of Dallas has an estimated population of 2.5 million residents, but what that count doesn’t include is the dozens of suburbs and families that live in the surrounding metroplex. In each suburb you’ll find unique communities and activities any family would enjoy. In Dallas, it’s not common to drive 20-25 minutes across town to have a little morning of fun or attend a playdate! 

This will help explain why we’ve split up our “Dallas” guide into suburbs and many of the locations aren’t actually in “Dallas”. 

Driving in Dallas :: 

Since you should expect to drive almost all the time, make sure you’re familiar with your GPS and get make sure Google Maps is loaded on your phone. A few tips: 

  • Toll roads are all over the city and often aren’t clearly labeled before entering. If you find yourself on one, don’t panic! They don’t have toll collection booths; just Toll Tags, but a bill will be mailed to the address associated with your license plate.
    • George Bush Turnpike AKA PGB or SH 190 is a 52 mile loop on the outside of the city and quick assess to DFW International Airport
    • Dallas North Tollway is 30 miles from Downtown Dallas to US Highway 380 in Frisco. 
    • Sam Rayburn Tollway (formally known as 121) runs from Grapevine to McKinney. 
    • LBJ Freeway AKA I-635 has a partial tollroad called the TEXExpress. It follows I-635 and I-35E and runs above and/or next to the free lanes. 
  • You may have noticed with the tollways, but roads are often identified by their numbers on GPS’s and their names by locals. A few common aliases: 
    • Central Express AKA US-75 (but becomes I-45 just past south of Dallas and north as you hit Oklahoma)
    • Preston Road AKA SH 235
    • Tom Landry Freeway AKA I-30
    • High Five refers to the intersection at 635 & 75 (LBJ & Central)
    • Mixmaster refers to the intersection at I-30 & I-35E
    • Northwest Highway AKA 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 Google Maps prior to heading out especially if it’s between the hours of 7am-9am and 4pm-7pm. Radio can often be useless as there’s too much going on to report to stay up to date! 

Getting Around Without Driving :: 

If you’re needing to get around without driving (and are staying within the Dallas city limits), the DART rail — Dallas Area Rapid Transit — might be a way to go. Expanding every year, the DART rail travels across the metroplex with stops in many of the suburbs (including several in Downtown, the Dallas Zoo, and DFW International Airport). 

Downtown Dallas has a free “tourist” attraction that will take you around some of the popular spots in Dallas. The McKinney Avenue Trolley is a short line that has stops near Klyde Warren Park to the top of McKinney Avenue in Uptown. 

What to Wear (AKA the Weather) :: 

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

Summer: When visiting May-September, 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 September. 

  • What to pack:: 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 the sweat that keeps you cool outside causes you to freeze in the A/C. 

Fall: When visiting October-November, temperatures will be mild and cool. Expect mid 60’s-low 80’s. Then out of no where…Winter will hit

  • 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 30’s and 40’s. Snow is far and few between, but not impossible. 

  • What to pack:: Scarves, hats, gloves, boots, 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-low 80’s. Rain is common, but don’t expect weather like we’ve had this year! It’s also tornado season. While we wouldn’t worry too much, 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 vary a lot, so pack for cooler weather and rain but also sunshine and warmer weather. 

A Quick Language Lesson :: 

“Y’all” – (sometimes ya’ll or yall) is a contraction of you and all; example “Are y’all going to the park?” 

“Fixin’ ” – used when you’re about to do something; example “I’m fixin’ to go to the store.” 

“Coke” – refers to every type of soda. For example, “Can I get you a Coke?”  “Yes, I’ll have a Dr. Pepper.” 

“BBQ” – (or Barbecue) is a type of food, usually not an activity. If a Texan refers to barbecue, odds are they’re referencing smoked meat, not a get-together of Hot Dogs and Hamburgers over a BBQ grill. 

 

What to Do in the Dallas Metroplex

Dining ::

Dallas has some great restaurants, but assuming you’re staying near the Dallas Attractions, here’s a few restaurant recommendations perfect for families: 

Breakfast: 

Lunch/Dinner: 

Famous Tex-Mex: 

Authentic Texas BBQ:

For more recommendations, read these posts: 

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.  (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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. (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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! ( http://dallas.citymomsblog.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. (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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.  (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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! (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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. (http://dallas.citymomsblog.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.  (http://dallas.citymomsblog.com/family-theme-park-fun-in-dallas/)

 

Holiday Guides (for any time of year) :: 

A Family Guide for Spring Activities in DFW

25 Family Friendly Summer Activities in DFW

25 Family-Friendly Fall Activities in DFW

Dallas Holiday Guide for Families

 

Dallas CMBN Travel Graphic

 

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

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2 Responses to An Out-of-Towner Guide to Dallas

  1. Laurent June 8, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    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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