When you start noticing your baby’s rapidly growing curiosity in his surroundings, it may be time to pack up the diaper bag for a change of scenery. Visit these Dallas-area destinations for stimulating activities that are both adventurous and comfortable, including smelling fragrant flowers and petting animals on dry land and in the water. Consider it a start to showing your baby all the world has to offer, not to mention an opportunity to show off your little one.
Though babies cannot appreciate how rare and exotic the animals are inside the Dallas Zoo, petting, feeding and looking eye-level at wildlife will thrill their little hearts. For a full-on animal experience, prop your little one on your hip and feed leaves of romaine lettuce to giraffes with outstretched tongues, let them hold a cup of nectar or a birdseed stick to attract friendly birds, and pet the ponies, rabbits, African pygmy goats or baby doll sheep inside the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo.
Fort Worth Children’s Museum
Located inside the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Children’s Museum provides a multisensory experience for even the tiniest tots. Your baby will ogle at the live reptiles and amphibians, giggle at the water play stations and learn through exploration in the infant developmental space, all housed in a colorful, kid-pleasing environment. A family restroom and nursing room are provided for mommy’s convenience.
Fort Worth, 817/255-9300
Crybaby Matinee at the Angelika Film Center
The Angelika Film Center, a favorite among discerning moviegoers for its independent films, offers a special screening just for parents. Bring your little tykes to either location in Plano and Dallas for weekly Crybaby Matinees. They keep the lights dimmed and the volume low, and you’re free to breast-feed, soothe your child’s crying sans annoyed glances and change diapers at a station inside the theater so you don’t miss any scenes.
Baby and Toddler Park
The Moody Family Children’s Museum inside the Perot Museum of Nature and Science fills up quickly with rambunctious kids, but you can find respite with your little ones inside the Baby and Toddler Park, an enclosed, gazebo-style area with a mole hole to crawl through, knobs and levers to turn, and stories to read from the book bench. On your way out, show them the brightly colored giant leap frogs and the xylophones in the outdoor musical forest.
Prestonwood Baptist Church
A Promised Land-themed play place at Prestonwood Baptist Church’s Plano campus, one of the largest churches in the country, welcomes nonmembers and members alike to bring their preschoolers for playtime. You’ll find Noah’s Ark with a ladder, slide and crawlspace underneath as well as seating for adults on the log-, tree- and fishing pier-shaped benches. Come on Sunday–Friday mornings or all day Wednesday when the adjacent Main Street Café is open, and don’t miss the children’s bookstore and up-front parking for expectant mothers.
Children’s Park at Klyde Warren Park
On Dallas’ so-called front lawn near the Dallas Arts District, Klyde Warren Park includes a special place for young children to roam – a 15,000-square-foot playground built with soft sidewalk material, mounds to climb and plentiful seating by the grass, real and Astroturf. The misting water from the caterpillar-inspired fountain will come in handy come summertime, and the spacious family restrooms with changing tables, outdoor sinks and long counters allow for an easy diaper change.
Irving Bible Church
When the nondenominational church built its children’s playground, the planners’ intention was to open it up for the entire community. Any time the church doors are open, feel free to take your youngest kids to its two play areas: an outdoor playground with climbing structures, slides and swings suitable for heights up to 52 inches, and The Tubes, an indoor playground of colorful crawl tubes, open 9am–9pm daily. Need a break? Take advantage of the church’s free Wi-Fi.
Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park
Thanks to an $8 million remodel in 2010, the original 1936 aquarium brings youngsters up to eye level with the stingrays, sharks, turtles and more fish inside the tanks and interactive zones. Visit the coastal touch tank for your baby to touch horseshoe crabs, sea urchins or sea whelks with the help of a volunteer, or guide them in turning a knob to change the colors inside the glowing jellyfish tank.
For moms on the go, you’ll get your time’s worth at NorthPark Center, the four-in-one stop for shopping at children’s boutiques, infant story times at the Bookmarks library, weekly children’s entertainment at NorthCourt and even for a look at a few animals. Show them the ducks and turtles wadding in the shallow indoor pond at Neiman Marcus Court and visit the adjacent sloped planters, perfectly shaped for a short slide.
Arturo’s Nest at the Dallas Museum of Art
The rule in most fine art museums is look but don’t touch – not so at the DMA. Inside the Center for Creative Connections, the hub of activity for families, you’ll find Arturo’s Nest, a “please touch” learning area for children up to age 4. Take the youngest of your brood to enjoy toys, games, puzzles and books; to expand their motor skills with activities based on monthly themes; and to meet Arturo, the museum’s family mascot.
No place will ignite your baby’s senses quite like the Dallas Arboretum. Follow the winding paths through the 66 acres and stop at any one of the garden beds of tulips, azaleas, poppies, peonies or other rotating seasonal plants for stimulating sights and smells. Let your little ones play on the lush grasses, set them on your lap for a slide down the Aztec pyramid playhouse and explore inside the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden when it opens later this year.
Texas Discovery Gardens
No matter the weather outside, you can see hundreds of exotic butterflies housed year-round at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park. Visit the indoor butterfly house, open 10am–5pm daily, for a guaranteed sighting. Come for the butterfly release each day at noon, bring a blanket for a peaceful picnic on the outdoor garden lawn and explore the rest of the 7.5-acre gardens.