6 Kid-friendly Art Tours in Dallas-Fort Worth

The best places to take your family to see art, according to local artists

Art can be found anywhere—from a framed painting that hangs on a museum wall to spray-painted mural on the side of a building. We called on local artists (and parents) Angela Mia De La Vega, Brandon Howell, John Holt Smith, Katie Murray, Emile Stewart and Cassie Arnold for their kid-approved art picks around Dallas-Fort Worth. Take your kids on one of these artist-curated tours through North Texas to discover must-see masterpieces in your own backyard.

Big D in 3D: Angela Mia De La Vega’s Tour

Pennsylvania native Angela Mia De La Vega began her career sculpting life-size bronzes for shopping centers in Texas and California and now has sculptures throughout the Dallas area, notably depicting kids. The mom of five (three children and two stepchildren spanning ages 9–23) invites families to tour her Lakewood studio and see how a bronze sculpture is made. But here, she takes us on a tour of her family’s favorite public sculptures in Big D.

Pack a picnic basket and blanket before heading to the first stop on the list: Lakeside Park. Park on Lakeside Drive and walk across the bridge to get to the larger-than-life limestone teddy bears. “We would love going there, [my kids] would climb on the teddy bears,” she shares. “Usually we would ride our bikes there. There’s a nice bridge you can cross over to get to the teddy bears. Often times, other families we would know would show up at the same time.” Find a grassy area to open your picnic basket (and beware of greedy ducks). And before leaving Highland Park, seek out De La Vega’s very own bronze sculpture of kids riding a horse at Hackberry Creek Park. “Getting to know that child is very important—I do my very best to sculpt their inner beauty,” she says.

Lakeside Park, 4601 Lakeside Drive, Dallas

Hackberry Creek Park, 3600 Saint Johns Drive, Highland Park

Drive south into downtown to see the iconic longhorn herd at Pioneer Plaza. Created by native North Texan Robert Summers, the bronze sculptures represent Dallas’ early days, when cowboys drove their herds along the Shawnee Trail. Dozens of steers parade down a hill and over a stream under the watchful eyes of mounted cowboys. “There’s a lot of places for [kids] to run,” De La Vega says. “You can get up close and personal, walk alongside the herd—you can go right up to it and be a part of it. My kids really enjoyed that.”

1428 Young St., Dallas, 214/953-1184

Take Ervay Street north to Main Street. In a green space across the street from The Joule, the kids won’t be able to escape the gaze of Eye by Tony Tasset. “It’s this three-story-tall eyeball. It’s very funny [and] sensational,” says De La Vega. “Anytime we have the opportunity to visit someone else’s very unusual display of art, it only seemed to excited them to do something unique and original themselves.” The garden surrounding the eye (owned by The Joule) is usually closed to passersby, but you can park in a metered spot along the street or in the DALPARK garage at 1600 Commerce Street and walk up to the gate to get selfies.

1601 Main St., Dallas, 214/748-1300

“Not far from that is the gorgeous Genesis mosaic I know was recently restored, and that’s on Main Street as well at the St. Jude Chapel,” De La Vega says. Just a few doors down from Eye you’ll find the multicolored mosaic above the chapel’s entrance. De La Vega shares that the mesmerizing rings would put her kids in a state of calm. “I think because of the spiritual connotation, it would put them in a mindset of meditation, quiet and enjoying something of beauty.”

1521 Main St. Dallas

Art for All: Brandon Howell’s Tour

As an arts educator through Allen Independent School District and instructor at the McKinney Art House, ceramist Brandon Howell has plenty of experience sharing the power of creativity with many different age groups and through many different mediums. Oh, and he’s a father of five—ages 10, 8, 6, 4 and 2. His kid-friendly tour highlights Collin County’s youth-empowered arts scene.

Choose a sunny Saturday to start your family arts adventure in McKinney. From 8am–noon every Saturday through Nov. 17, the Chestnut Square Farmers Market takes over the space in front of Roy and Hellen Hall Library. “My kids love going because it’s not just fruits and nuts sold there,” Howell says. “There’s also art, and some friends sell pottery. One time we went and there was a blacksmith who was working and showing what he was doing.”

101 E. Hunt St., McKinney

If your family is up for a walk, pick up some snacks at the market and head 0.7 mile north to the McKinney Art House nestled amongst the lavish Historic District homes. Howell (who teaches pottery here) loves how student-made art shapes the century-old home. “It’s an environment that inspires creativity,” he remarks, noting the mosaic steps, the swirling installation of broken pottery permanently mounted on a washroom wall, and the rotating selection of student paintings, sketches and photography adorning the hallways. The power of existing among—and interacting with—art is pivotal for Howell. “I was lucky to be raised in a home surrounded with many different works and textures,” he reveals. “I want my kids and the kids I teach to appreciate art in all senses.” While his eldest two children have taken classes at the Art House, Howell seeks to extend the creative environment well outside of the classroom. “My kids eat off plates made by me, or they can drink hot chocolate out of a mug they themselves have made,” he says. “I want them to know that art isn’t something just to be looked at one way, but a part of life.”

502 N. Kentucky St., McKinney, 469/952-2787 

Load back into the car for a 9.1-mile drive to Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm to visit Blue House Too, which opens at 1pm on Saturdays. The gallery, supported by Allen Arts Alliance, regularly dedicates exhibitions to a diverse range of works by local students, art teachers (Howell included!) and residents of the cognitive disabilities education center My Possibilities. Every November, the gallery stages Artropolis, a showcase of works by Allen ISD elementary students. Older students have the opportunity to be featured in the annual 20 Under 20 exhibit in January. “It’s so great to see that there’s a real art scene for youth here,” Howell says.

934 Watters Creek Blvd., Allen, 972/984-6711

After perusing the art, enjoy a stroll around Watters Creek and make your way to The Green, an area of the shopping center home to plenty of restaurants, boutiques and a treehouse-like play structure. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for the multiple artworks installed throughout the center. A favorite of Howell’s kids is Bull on the Green by Chris Powell. “My kids have climbed and played on that piece many, many times,” Howell says of the large-scale bronze bull. “That kind of interaction with art is great for getting an interest piqued early on in life. Even if it’s just climbing on it, it’s an introduction. It allows parents to open up a conversation and ask their kids what they think it means and why it was put there.”

Take his advice and stop for lunch at one of the many eateries, like Mi Cocina or Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. Between bites, ask your kids what they thought of the art in the gallery versus the works out in the wild.

970 Garden Park Drive, Allen, 972/747-8000

If your little ones still have excess energy to let out, drive 2.1 miles to Windridge Park. Here your crew can see one of the city’s newest public works, 75 Feet of Friendship, a graffiti-style mural featuring colorful leaves, clouds and stick figures that wraps around the perimeter of the playground. A collaboration between Jondavid De Leon (a native Texan who transitioned from teenage tagger to artist and mentor of at-risk youth) and local students from Boyd Elementary and Allen High School, the work is yet another great example of Collin County empowering creativity in its youngest residents. Howell appreciates that his kids can take in some art while they slide. “Allen has done a lot to empower its arts scene, especially for kids,” he explains. “Some of the art [around town] really does sneak up on you. But it’s a great way to introduce and expose people to art, especially for folks who maybe wouldn’t go out to a museum.”

1015 Cambridge Drive, Allen

Shopping and Museum Hopping: John Holt Smith’s Tour

Anyone who’s shopped, stayed or flown through Dallas-Fort Worth is likely familiar with the works of John Holt Smith—even if they don’t realize it. The Cowtown native’s large-scale public works can be seen at Terminal D at DFW International Airport, the Shops at Clearfork’s Neiman Marcus, and the Joule Hotel, the Mansion and W Residences in Dallas. As a fixture in the Fort Worth creative community, it’s no surprise that Smith is providing his sons, Holt, 14, and Wyeth, 11, with a master class in the city’s arts scene. Read on for Smith’s top picks, from the prized paintings in Fort Worth’s landmark museums to unexpected artwork in the city’s shopping centers.

Be sure everyone is sporting comfortable walking shoes: This arts adventure kicks off with museum hopping in the heart of Fort Worth’s art scene. The three major museums open at 10am daily, so park your car in one of the lots along Camp Bowie Boulevard and head first to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to discover some standout items in the permanent collection. Smith advises budding art critics to make a beeline for the “fun, wild” works of Andy Warhol. “The sooner you introduce someone to Andy Warhol, the better,” he says. Observe Warhol’s signature silkscreen style in Twenty-Five Colored Marilyns, which replicates Marilyn Monroe’s image 25 times in varying levels of quality. Kids can even get a glimpse of the elusive pop artist himself with 1986’s Self-Portrait, a Smith family favorite. “When an artist makes a painting, they reveal something about who they are, what drives them, where they get their energy as well as what they think about their subject,” he explains. “All of that gets more intense when the artist turns their gaze on themselves.”

Admission to the museum is $16 for adults and free for kids under 18. On Friday, admission is free and on Sunday, tickets are half-price.

3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth, 817/738-9215

Another favorite of Smith’s sons can be found next door at the Kimbell Art Museum. First, be sure to visit the Kahn Building information desk and say the magic phrase “Kimbell Kids” and a museum rule (here’s one for free: don’t touch the art!) for a free sticker. Then make your way to the prized gem of the Kimbell’s free permanent collection, Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps. “It’s a fun painting to look at with children,” says Smith of the 16th-century painting of two tricksters cheating at a card game. “Caravaggio reveals something no matter how short or extensive your gaze.” Plus, he notes that the piece holds a good lesson to stress to the kiddos: “Cheaters always get caught by someone.”

3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817/332-8451

Then mosey one block over to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The free collection of works honoring the American Southwest provides ample opportunity to educate your kids about Fort Worth’s cattle-ranchin’ days of yore. Frederic S. Remington’s 1889 oil painting A Dash for the Timber is a favorite of Smith’s boys. The scene is right out of a Wild West epic: Eight cowboys gallop away from a group of Native Americans in hot pursuit. A closer examination reveals more chaos: four men fire guns at the approaching enemy while another attempts to support a wounded comrade; one terrified horse has no rider on its back. “It’s a fun painting for children—a lot going on, very exciting,” Smith explains. “[Plus it] can lead to historical discussions.”

3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; 817/738-1933

If your crew needs to refuel, Smith suggests making your way to the Shops at Clearfork—but take the scenic route and drive 2.7 miles down Camp Bowie to reach Dream on Dreamer by Katie Murray. (See her own art tour below.) The mural at the Crossing at Camp Bowie shopping center depicts a woman in a wide-brim hat emblazoned with the piece’s inspirational title. Public works like the mural are an important way to engage kids in art beyond the museum scene, says Smith. “I love artworks in places children do not expect to see art. It’s fun to encounter the unexpected. It helps to activate seeing.”

5702 Locke Ave., Fort Worth

Drive a further 10 minutes toward the Trinity River to reach the Shops at Clearfork. “It’s a great setting for the entire family,” says Smith. Your brood can choose from a long list of dining options like Mesero, Malai Kitchen, B&B Butchers & Restaurant and Fixe Southern House to cap off your day, but before or after the meal, be sure to check out the artworks on display throughout the shopping center. Smith’s kids love Avocados by J.C. Pace III. The bronze avocado halves, each 4 feet by 3 feet, lie in the shopping center’s turf plaza. In Smith’s opinion, they are the “perfect sculptures for the location.”

5188 Monahans Ave., Fort Worth; 817/985-377

On the Wall to Off-the-Wall: Katie Murray’s Tour

Katie Murray, our December 2017 Mom Next Door, is chief creative officer of M2G, a real estate and development company that finds spots throughout Fort Worth for artists to contribute to the public art scene. You may have seen some of M2G’s work—and Murray’s own handiwork—in the Dreamer series, three murals located on properties throughout the city. The painter and mom to Charlie, 5, and Campbell, 2, shares her top spots to see art in Cowtown.

The first stop on Katie’s list is Inspiration Alley—one of Texas’ only permanent outdoor art galleries—in the Foundry District. “[It’s] just a great place to walk around and take pictures,” Murray shares. “Most of the murals have plaques, so it will tell you who the artist is and what the mural is about.” Park in front of Craftwork Coffee or M&O Grill and walk through a wooden gate on Whitmore Street (a painted sign on the side of a building points the way). Walk to the end of the sidewalk and turn left to reach the alley. The wall-to-wall murals depict lollipops, unicorns, birds, bright geometric shapes and more subjects the kids will recognize. On your way out, stop by the butterfly wings on Whitmore Street and let the kids stand front and center for a pic.

Pack a snack and enjoy a little picnic at the benches near the entrance to the alley, or hit up Craftwork Coffee, which is equipped with a kiddie-size table and seating.

200 Carroll St., Fort Worth, 817/915-3261

Drive about six minutes southwest, past Montgomery Plaza, to reach the Kimbell Art Museum. The Kimbell hosts kid-friendly events throughout the year, such as the Children’s Workshop series on select Saturdays (register for the upcoming program on Oct. 13) and the free Drop-In Studio (the next one’s Oct. 27; sign up on-site an hour before). At both programs, kids get their hands dirty working on projects based on the art in the galleries.

Even if you don’t attend a structured program, you can take advantage of the museum’s drop-in family room in the Piano Pavilion Education studios. “It’s really for ages 0–4 [and] has a couple sofas and really nice games, toys and activities,” Murray shares. “It’s nice to kind of take a break when you’re walking through the galleries.”

Speaking of which, the Kimbell’s permanent collection is free—great for families with young kids who may need to leave on short notice—but if you have a young fashionista, don’t miss the new exhibition Balenciaga in Black. The Kimbell partnered with Paris’ Palais Galliera to bring a collection of dresses by the revered fashion designer to the museum Oct. 7–Jan. 6. Exhibition admission is $18 for adults, $14 for ages 6–11 and free for children under 6.

3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, 817/332-8451

Drive 10 minutes south on University Drive to reach the last stop: the Fort Worth Zoo’s new African Savanna exhibit. Though a zoo is not your typical art destination, the Fort Worth Zoo used art to enhance their new 10-acre exhibit, which opened in April. “It really feels like you’re in Africa,” Murray says. “There’s paintings and murals all over the wall, gold T-shirts hanging from the ceiling, and lots of knickknacks in the marketplace. I’ve noticed a lot of people like to go there and take pictures and hang out.”

You can find even more murals at the Museum of Living Art, the zoo’s maze-like collection of reptiles, amphibians and more colorful creatures housed in hand-painted environments.

Zoo admission is $14 for adults, $10 for ages 3–12 and free for children 2 and younger; parking costs $5.

1989 Colonial Parkway, Fort Worth, 817/759-7555

Creative Community: Emile Stewart’s Tour 

Since appearing as our Mom Next Door in April 2017, Emile Stewart has been mighty busy developing her company, Wildflower Art Studio, from e-commerce phenom to thriving brick-and-mortar destination in Denton. To celebrate the anniversary of her studio, the mom of Ande, 5, and Oliver, 3, is expanding Wildflower’s educational offerings to include regular art classes for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. On a tour through her top picks for Denton-area art, Stewart highlights the city’s unique creative community, where art shows up in the form of murals, chairs and handcrafted goods.

Start on a Saturday from 9am–1pm at the Denton Community Market, where the city’s creative spirit is expressed in many mediums. From April to November, dozens of local vendors come together to offer everything from fresh produce and artisanal jams to handcrafted jewelry, handmade children’s toys, naturally dyed textiles and awe-inspiring artworks all created by Denton denizens. “Within our community, we have incredible artists,” Stewart marvels. Browsing the market, your kids will be treated to “impressive works of art from people who have lived here a long time and want to share with their friends and neighbors.”

317 W. Mulberry St., Denton; 940/268-4326

Load up on snacks at the market and then drive a few miles northeast to picnic at the quirky Chairy Orchard. This neighborhood attraction made up of discarded furniture will mesmerize kids with its only-in-Denton charm. “It’s so creative and adorable, it’s definitely a highlight for my children,” says Stewart. Don’t miss the rocking horses that make up the “Chairousel” or the chandelier-like structure suspended from one of the orchard trees.

1426 Churchill Drive, Denton; 940/387-0738

After lunch, take in the sights from the comfort of your car with a self-guided tour of Denton’s murals, many of which were commissioned as part of the city’s Keep Denton Beautiful initiative. From the Chairy Orchard, drive 1.4 miles over to Bell Avenue and Sherman Drive to observe the macro floral mural by Travis Sykes—a favorite of Stewart’s boys. “They could stare at it for hours and they always see new things in it,” she says. The mural features butterflies, snakes and birds buzzing around the multi-colored flowers, making it the perfect piece for a family game of “I Spy.”

Bell Avenue and Sherman Drive

On the outside of SCRAP Denton, a nonprofit art supply shop at Bell Avenue and Prairie Street, look for the Mick Burson mural that’s a mix of geometric forms, nature shapes and animal silhouettes (plus bits of the alphabet). This piece is one of Stewart’s personal favorites and offers a great dose of inspiration before you head into SCRAP to stock up on supplies for your own art projects.

SCRAP Denton, 420 S. Bell Avenue, Denton; 940/808-1611 

If the weather’s not too chilly, walk two blocks over to Locust Street, where you can soak up the community’s artful flavor as you stroll. Families flock to the Denton Independent Maker Exchange, aka The DIME Store, which exclusively sells handcrafted, artisanal items. Stewart’s boys love DIME, and she does as well. “I love the opportunity to support another artist,” she says. “When I was starting [Wildflower], I was so thankful just to have someone want to buy something that I made. To give that feeling to someone else makes us feel so connected.” Kids will have no problem finding an array of clothes and toys that you’ll just have to buy for them, and Stewart suggests you keep an eye on the shop’s social media to learn about their regular kid-friendly events.

510 S. Locust St., Denton

From there, it’s just 0.7 miles to Stewart’s own Wildflower Art Studio. In addition to their mega-popular DIY calligraphy kits, the studio offers weekend workshops, after-school classes, summer camps and birthday parties for artists of all ages. “It’s really a tribe of people seeing the value in creativity and coming together,” Stewart says. Space is limited and classes sell out fast, so be sure to sign up in advance for the multi-week series. Of course, your family can always try your luck and email the studio at wildflowerartstudio@gmail.com to see if your mini Monet can drop in on a class that day.

715 N. Locust St., Denton

To the Gallery & Beyond: Cassie Arnold’s Tour

As an art educator at Coram Deo private school and the co-founder of FIN Press, which publishes works written by middle and high school students, Cassie Arnold routinely inspires creativity in the younger set. The mom of two, featured as our Mom Next Door in October 2014, has her own impressive portfolio of installations and mixed media works. Her tour will take your family to a mix of traditional and nontraditional art spaces, starting at a gallery exhibition and ending at a popular burger joint—all destinations she enjoys with her kids: Finley, 5, and Louisa, 2.

Start your morning with fun-filled activities for your little ones at the Greater Denton Arts Council. The almost 50-year-old organization is at the helm of the city’s widespread creative initiatives. GDAC has exhibitions throughout the year and programs just for kids, including story time and art-centered activities every third Saturday of the month at 10:30am, when parents and kids have the space to themselves 30 minutes before regular opening hours. (Register online for the upcoming program on Oct. 20; $5 per kid.)

“The Arts Education Director at [GDAC] is phenomenal,” says Arnold. “She has a section in almost every gallery space on how you can interact with the artwork on your own, as parents or as educators.

“The last time we were in, just like a week and a half ago, we took our 2-year-old to see the Jason Lee exhibit—he has some photos up from all over Texas,” Arnold continues. “There was a handout that was like a seek and find, like, ‘Can you find the picture that has the red stop sign?’ but it was almost like riddles. It was a little too high-level for her, but it allowed her to stop and actually look at the photos. We’re teaching them to see the art … teaching them observation skills.”

While the Lee exhibition is no longer on display, you can still see two of his photos alongside works by other local photographers in On North Texas through Nov. 24. While you’re there don’t miss Under Tension, featuring string art by Amie Adelman, and I Come As One, But Stand As 10,000, an exhibition of works by Tyrone Geter that depict the struggles of women of color.

Arnold counters the preconceived notions that art galleries are not kid-friendly spaces. “I think sometimes people are scared to take their kids to something like that because art is so unattainable sometimes, or ‘Oh, my kids are loud, my kids will touch,’” Arnold says. “But it’s such a great opportunity to teach them how to look at art, how to appreciate it.”

400 E. Hickory St., Denton, 940/382-2787

Drive northwest a few blocks to Recycled Books on Locust Street to see one of Arnold’s favorite murals. On the side of the used book store, whimsical trees seem to swirl and grow in front of a silhouette of the courthouse. The piece was painted by local high school students. “The street art can become a huge conversation with the kids,” Arnold says. “A lot of the times, kids can relate to the street art—the bright colors, bold shapes. In some ways, it’s similar to their mark-making.”

200 N. Locust St., Denton

To wrap up your tour with some grub, take a three-minute walk to LSA Burger Co. on Hickory Street. Choose seats on the rooftop, Arnold suggests—“not only do you get a great view of the city, but they also have changing murals up at the top.” The current paintings by local artists include one with vibrant geometric shapes and another of a kid with a house on his head. “Our girls always think it’s fun [and] they always have live music,” Arnold shares.

113 W. Hickory St., Denton, 940/383-1022