Are you looking for a budget-friendly outing for the kids? Here are 10 boredom-busting adventures to liven up summer days. The best part, all these North Texas activities are free.
Go on a Fossil Dig
The Mineral Wells Fossil Park, located about 80 miles west of Dallas, will capture young paleontologists’ imaginations. Fossil hunters can search for treasures and keep whatever they find. Readily visible, the fossils are intermixed with small rocks. You aren’t likely to find a dinosaur here. The fossils are small, mostly crinoids (sea lily) fragments. While small, the crinoids and shells are everywhere. There is no shade at the park – hat, sunscreen and water are a must on hot days. Mineral Wells Fossil Park (2375 Indian Creek Road, Mineral Wells) is open Friday – Monday from 8 a.m. to dusk.
Indulge your Artistic Muse
An innovative museum, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) houses an extensive collection, over 24,000 works of art, from around the world. Bring your smart phones or borrow an IPOD touch from the visitors’ desk to access interactive content on the exhibits. The museum offers three different audio tours designed just for families with children ages 5 – 11 years old. Children under 12 are always free at the DMA (1717 North Harwood, Dallas). Admission is free to everyone on the first Tuesday of the month. For more information call 214/922-1200.
Explore the Stars
Saturday evenings the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas sets up telescopes in local parks. This family-friendly event introduces young and old to the celestial night sky around Dallas. Telescope owners and volunteers allow the public to look through a range of different scopes. Star gazing begins at dusk. StarGeezer is held on the first Saturday of each month at Spring Park (2900 Spring Meadow Lane, Garland); StarFest is on the second Saturday at Frisco Commons (8000 McKinney Road, Frisco); StarBolt is on the third Saturday at J.W. Williams Park (1605 High Pointe Lane, Cedar Hill); and Stars of the Rock is on the fourth Saturday at the Shores Park (2358 Shores Blvd, Rockwall). Clouds can limit star gazing, call 214/800-6000 to ensure a viewing event has not been cancelled due to weather.
Dallas Area Rocket Society (DARS) hosts launches throughout the year that are open to the public. Launch your own rocket or come as an observer. DARS has a wealth of information for families wanting to try their hand at model rocketry. The launch site for DARS summer launches is in Frisco (field at Panther Creek Parkway and Honey Grove).
Tie a Knot
The National Scouting Museum (1329 W Walnut Hill Lane, Irving) will keep the kids entertained all day. Dedicated to Scouting, the museum offers a wealth of hands-on activities for children from racing at the pinewood derby track to knot tying. The museum even has a campfire storytelling area. Admission to the National Scouting Museum is free on Sunday and Monday. For more information call 972/580-2100.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (9000 Blue Mound Round, Fort Worth) conducts tours of its Fort Worth facility. The 45-minute tour takes guests along a catwalk above print presses used to produce paper currency. The visitor center includes interactive exhibits on printing and currency history. Open Monday through Friday, tours reservations are required and can be made by calling 817/231-4000.
For the best smelling factory tour around, learn how bread is made at Mrs. Baird’s Bakery (7301 South Freeway, Fort Worth). Mrs. Baird’s gives tours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays every hour on the hour beginning at 10 a.m. Schedule your tour at least two weeks in advance at 817 /615-3050. Children must be at least six years old. For safety and sanitation reasons, dress restrictions apply.
Take a Hike
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (6465 Refuge Road, Sherman) has recreational activities beyond birding. Several easily accessible hiking opportunities exist within the refuge. On the trails you’ll find dozens of bird species along with many local animals like armadillo, rabbit, fox squirrel and the occasional coyote, bobcat and feral pig. Trails cover a variety of habitat from prairie to marsh to wood land. The Meadow Pond trail is along an unpaved service road and can be traversed with a stroller for families with small children. The Friends of Hagerman hold informational talks on the second Saturday of each month at the refuge.
The Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora St., Dallas) is dedicated to the arts of Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia. The museum hosts a special program for families, AdventureAsia, on the first Saturday of the month. Yoga for Youth® conducts a family appropriate yoga class at 11 a.m. on AdventureAsia Saturdays. For more information call 214/979-6440.
Make shopping for dinner a family adventure. Dallas Farmers’ Market (1010 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. sells everything from flowers to cheese. Verified local farmer signs cue consumers who wish to buy local meat and produce. Talk to vendors about their products, it’s a great learning opportunity for children. Parking at the market is free.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park: www.mineralwellsfossilpark.com
Dallas Museum of Art: www.dallasmuseumofart.org
National Scouting Museum: www.bsamuseum.org
Dallas Area Rocket Society: www.dars.org
Friends of Hagerman: www.friendsofhagerman.org
Crow Collection of Asian Art: www.crowcollection.com
Dallas Farmers Market: www.dallasfarmersmarket.org