Cue the drum roll. It’s here! The issue we look forward to all year long, our holiday gift to you. We asked, you answered and then we did the math. From your favorite place to grab brunch to the best place to take energetic kids, we’ve got it all. Keep reading to see if your favorite haunts made the list. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover something new.
Blue Mesa Grill
Fort Worth, 817/332-6372
Best Restaurant for Healthy Dining
Parents love Sweet Tomatoes’ commitment to fresh, wholesome and seasonal ingredients. Kids love the array of menu options, allowing them to mix and match their own meal. In our book, that’s a win-win. From tossed salads to pasta dishes, Sweet Tomatoes has something for everyone. Stop by this winter for the seasonal chicken pot pie stew and indulge the kiddos with a treat from the soft serve stand. We hear peppermint soft serve will be on tap just in time for the holidays.
Fort Worth, 817/348-8533
Best Burger Joint
For the fifth year in a row (in other words, every year that we’ve had a category for burgers), Kincaid’s has come out on top. It’s been a Fort Worth favorite even longer: The local chain has been family owned and operated since 1946. Kincaid’s grinds its own all-natural beef in-house every day, so you know your kids are getting the good stuff when they bite into their junior bacon cheeseburger or hot dog.
Best Pizza Place
Each location of this eclectic pizza joint is a little different, but they all promise fresh ingredients, fun artwork and a funky vibe the whole family can dig. And if the kids are dead-set on pizza but you’re concerned about calories, try something from the Skinny Shroom menu (yes, it includes more than just salads — think soup, hoagies and wings) while the kids chow down on a specialty pie or a pizza built to their specifications.
Best Mexican Restaurant
Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant
Families don’t love this local institution for its infinite variety (the dinner menu is all about quality, not quantity) but for its time-tested flavors and sprawling setting. If the kids are not so good at patience, go at off-peak times to avoid the inevitable line. But if you do have to wait, the lush patio seating area is totally worth it, as are the family-style dishes that have made Joe T’s a Fort Worth favorite since the ’30s.
Fort Worth, 817/626-4356
Hard Eight BBQ
The meats at this Texas Monthly favorite — everything from brisket to pork chops to jalapeño sausage — are pulled straight from the pit and carved in front of you, so you can order as little or as much as you want of anything on the menu. Grab a side of fries for everyone to share, and head to the patio for cool covered seating and plenty of room for the kids to roam; on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s live music in the indoor/outdoor space.
Best Place for an After-School Treat
Curly’s Frozen Custard
Fort Worth families know that hanging out on Curly’s covered patio with a concrete (that’s custard-speak for “Blizzard”) is the best way to spend a sunny afternoon. Choose from over thirty toppings and mix-ins to add to Curly’s special “proprietary blend” of custard. If you only have time for a quick stop on the way to soccer practice, never fear — Curly’s has a drive-thru too. Craving doughnuts on the way to school? Swing by for a treat from the brand-new breakfast menu.
Fort Worth, 817/763-8700
Best Place to Grab a Family Dinner on the Go
They prepare. You grab, go and eat. What’s not to love? From quick family-friendly meals in the Grab & Go case to chef-prepared entrees, salads and sides available by the pound in the Chef’s Case, Central Market makes it easy to feed your family healthy, tasty food on the go. Pair the honey garlic flank steak with a side of hand-whipped sweet potatoes or give the crab cakes and kale salad a try. Whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. Fort Worth, 817/377-9307
Best City or Suburb for Raising Children
Fort Worth residents have known for years what the rest of the country is finally discovering: Cowtown has all the amenities and happenings of a big city with the friendly community vibes of a small town. From world-class museums (and the annual Day in the District to explore them for free) to the revitalized downtown area and the burgeoning scene at the Trinity, Tarrant County’s flagship city is continuing to show us why it’s the place to raise cool, cultured kids.
Best Place for a Family Staycation
Great Wolf Lodge
If you’ve ever driven past Great Wolf Lodge, you understand a thing or two about first impressions. What we love even more is that the amenities match the grand appearance (there aren’t many places you can find a mini ropes course for toddlers). New additions include the Lodge Wood Fired Grill, a full-service a la carte restaurant open for lunch and dinner, and the Buckets Incredible Craveables, which offers families a variety of snack-bar foods right inside the waterpark.
Best Art Museum
Kimbell Art Museum
Kimbell Art Museum’s new Studio A space opened in late May to offer a drop-in interactive area for families with children ages 5 and younger. On your next family excursion to the museum, take a break between gallery explorations to enjoy a children’s library, digital stations and more. Thematic guides and individual picture cards are also available to help provide fun facts about the artwork and encourage discussion between you and your littles.
Fort Worth, 817/332-8451
Best Children’s Theater
Casa Mañana Theatre
You don’t have to live in the Big Apple to get a Broadway experience. Fort Worth’s own Casa Mañana Theatre offers Broadway plays and musicals for adults and a full season of children’s productions. Stop by for the remainder of the season to catch Here Comes Santa Claus, Charlotte’s Web, Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz. Don’t forget to ask about their acting and musical theater classes available to kids 18 and younger.
Fort Worth, 817/332-2272
Best Western Experience
Stockyards Station/Fort Worth Herd
If you’ve lived here long, you may have brushed elbows with a cowboy or two (or twelve or twenty). But if you’re looking for more than just ten-gallon hats and boots with spurs, head to Stockyards Station for an experience that will take you back to the Old West. Watch rodeo cowboys compete at the Cowtown Coliseum and see a cattle drive down East Exchange Ave. twice a day. Did we mention Riscky’s Barbeque and Trailboss Burgers?
Fort Worth, 817/625-9715
Best Place to Explore Science and History
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was created to be kid-friendly, and with new attractions like the extremely interactive MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibit, we can’t argue. IMAX films, planetarium shows and special events like Celebrity Lecture Series make this museum one of a kind. Stay tuned for Journey to the South Pacific, the newest IMAX movie that will take viewers on an adventure to the lush tropical islands of West Papua, opening December 26.
Fort Worth, 817/255-9300
Best Place for an Animal Encounter
Fort Worth Zoo
Private Penguin Tour? You had us at “penguin.” Whether it’s behind-the-scenes experiences (like the Penguin Tour) or year-round education classes for kids, the Fort Worth Zoo gets kids excited about animals. You can even get an up-close look at different types of mammals, reptiles and birds through animal outreach presentations and stage shows in the spring. Don’t leave without saying hello to the newest members of the zoo family, 4-year-old Layla and 2-year-old Makolo, the first and second bonobos born in the state.
Fort Worth, 817/759-7555
Best Place to Get Outdoors
Fort Worth Botanic Garden
If you need a breath of fresh air, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is the place to find it. The botanic garden may be the oldest in Texas, but it’s currently undergoing major renovations due to be completed in January. The original part of the garden, the Rock Springs Woods, was purchased in 1912 and will soon add a new bridge, enlarged observation deck, new and restored walkways, a boardwalk over a pond and exciting water features. Free monthly programs, concerts, festivals and classes make the garden a local favorite.
Fort Worth, 217/871-7686
Best Water Park
Hawaiian Falls Water Parks
From character-building camps to philanthropic community events, Hawaiian Falls Water Parks stand out from the competition because of their continuous efforts to keep kids of all abilities cool and active. Don’t forget about the luxurious cabana rentals and chair-side attendants that make your day in the sun truly feel like a vacation.
White Settlement, 817/591-1159
Best Jump Center
Urban Air Trampoline Park
With 25,000 square feet of space, you can jump in almost any direction at Urban Air Trampoline Park. Kids can play trampoline dodgeball and basketball or dive into a foam pit while parents enjoy unique fitness classes. If you’re looking for a place to party, ask about the new glow parties for a one-of-a-kind birthday.
Best Place to Take Energetic Kids
Six Flags Over Texas
More than a million twinkling lights, holiday shows, toasty campfires, delicious hot cocoa, 60-foot holiday tree and Santa Land make Six Flags over Texas a holiday hot spot every year. Enjoy after-the-holidays hours December 31–January 4, 2015, and be on the lookout for the all-new 3-D interactive dark ride coming in 2015: Justice League: Battle For Metropolis. Don’t forget to check out the newly renovated Bugs Bunny Boomtown for perfect pint-sized rides.
Best Kid-Friendly Shopping Center
With wide aisles and life-size cowboys and lassos hanging from the food court ceiling, Grapevine Mills is kid-friendly to a T. Sure, it’s got plentiful shopping, but it’s also home to Rainforest Café, SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. While those kid favorites won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, the shopping center will get a facelift over the next year. The goal? To give the mall a sophisticated new look and feel that will ensure Grapevine Mills appeals to fashion-savvy moms as much as to their fun-seeking kids.
Best Bank for Kids
Only $25 is required to open a Way2Save account at Wells Fargo, so your child can take his piggy bank to the next level and start learning how to be responsible with his money. Account options include joint ownership (in case you want to keep an eye on things) and an ATM card when you think your child can handle it. Sign up for the Junior Agent Saver Club for kid-focused tips, ideas and printables to help him keep track of his riches.
Best Grocery Store
Last year Kroger donated 50 million pounds of perishable foods to food banks nationwide — just one of the reasons it’s the favorite grocery store of parents across Dallas-Fort Worth. A wide selection of natural foods and gluten-free products, along with quick checkouts and shopper reward programs (such as fuel discounts earned with every grocery purchase) are also high on the list of reasons local parents love Kroger.