Power up the time machine for an adventure through some of North Texas’ oldest and grandest sites, with kid-friendly “assignments” (i.e., cool experiences) to bring the past to life. These mini history lessons are the perfect way to get your family into the back-toschool spirit while making the most of the dog days of summer.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park
Lesson: This 6-acre park is home to fossils from around 300 million years ago. Excavators have found remains of ancient sea creatures, plants and sharks, in addition to small knickknacks and shells.
Assignment: You and the kiddos are allowed to dig around and keep the shark teeth, snails and other fossils you find. Pack magnifying glasses, small gardening tools and plastic bags to bring your haul home—along with lots of water. Admission and digging are free. Restrooms are available on-site, but there’s no running water.
2375 Indian Creek Road, Mineral Wells, 940/328-7803; mineralwellsfossilpark.com
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Lesson: The museum itself is a product of the 1940s, but you can learn about prehistoric inhabitants of our world—yes, that means dinosaurs—at the DinoLabs and DinoDig exhibits.
Assignment: Mini paleontologists can get their hands dirty digging up real fossils with hand shovels and brushes at DinoDig, an outdoor, faux archeological site. Then make your way over to DinoLabs to learn about the dinos’ history with a little help from technology. Play hide-and-seek with the prehistoric reptiles at DinoStomp, where standing in front of a screen with motion detectors will prompt the dinos to jump out from their hiding spots. At DinoGlow, the newest addition to DinoLabs, kids can draw on-screen and bring their own Stegosaurus to life, 3D-style. Admission is $16 for adults, $13 for children 2–18 and free for members.
1600 Gendy St., Fort Worth, 817/255-9300; fwmuseum.org
Fort Worth Stockyards
Lesson: From humble roots as a cattle drive outpost on the Trinity River, the Fort Worth Stockyards grew to become the country’s largest livestock trading company during the Great Depression. It reached its peak during World War II, processing over 5 million livestock. Safe to say, this Fort Worth landmark truly earned the city its trademark nickname. Today, the stockyards keep true to its roots with daily cattle drives at 11:30am and 4pm.
Assignment: Experience a bit of the Old West as you and your herd watch the cattle drive along East Exchange Avenue. Further down East Exchange Avenue, the kiddos can make friends with the goats and llamas at the petting zoo before you hop aboard a replica stagecoach for a horse-drawn jaunt around the stockyards. And visit the Stockyards Museum to see the world’s second longest–burning light bulb, celebrating its 110th birthday this September. Petting zoo admission and feed are $3 apiece (cash only) and stagecoach rides are $15 for age 10 and up, $5 ages 5–9 and free for 4 and younger (also cash only). Admission to the museum is $2 for adults and free for children under 12.
130 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth, 817/625-9715; fortworthstockyards.com
Chisholm Trail Mural
Lesson: The three-story-tall mural painted in the late ’80s by Richard Haas is a must-see for the youngest generation of cowboys and cowgirls. Located on a historic building in Sundance Square, the mural celebrates cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail from 1867–75. In the years after the Civil War, more than 6 million longhorn were taken north to be sold, and Fort Worth was a hub for supplies along the way.
Assignment: Although you and the kiddos can see the painting any time of day, the best view is arguably after sundown, when the lights in Sundance Square emphasize the mural’s grandeur. Much like in a 3D image, the cattle in the trompe l’oeil painting appear to be walking off the wall toward you—so you feel like you’re right in the middle of the Old West. After taking a few snaps, head over to Riscky’s Barbecue, a Fort Worth legend, or skip straight to dessert at Steel City Pops.
400 Main St., Fort Worth; dfwi.org
Leonard’s Department Store Museum
Lesson: The Leonard brothers’ department store was Fort Worth’s one-stop shop from 1918 to the ’70s, thriving even during the Great Depression by printing their own currency and offering the lowest prices in town on staples like bread. The store was also responsible for building the world’s only privately owned train, the M&O Subway, in 1963 to alleviate congestion. Today, Leonard’s Department Store Museum in the Foundry District preserves a picture of mid-20th century life in Cowtown, with products and photographs from the original store.
Assignment: Peruse old-school objects like oilcans, typewriters, sewing machines, roller skates, baby dolls, even a piece of Fort Worth’s first elevator. Inside you’ll also find a Lionel train set—the kiddos can ask to have it turned on. (To see a real train, stop by One City Place at 300 Throckmorton Street—the department store’s original site—and admire the restored M&O Subway car in the lobby.) For lunch, grab burgers at the retro-style M&O Grill connected to the museum.
200 Carroll Street, Fort Worth, 817/336-9111; fortworth.com
Brazos Drive-In Theatre
Lesson: Drive-in movies were the pastime of the ’50s. And although drive-in theaters are back in vogue, this gem in Granbury is the real deal—it’s been showing feature films since opening in 1952. In fact, Brazos Drive-In still uses its original screen and popcorn maker (talk about getting a bang for your buck).
Assignment: Bring chairs, blankets or a flatbed and get cozy for vintage-style family fun. Outside food is allowed, but a concession stand is on-site in case the kids (or adults) are craving Frito pie. Showings are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a double feature on Friday and Saturday. There are no external speakers, so bring a radio if you want to watch from outside your car. Admission is $20 per carload of six people for double features and $15 on Sunday. Movies start at dusk; arrive 30-45 minutes before the movie to find a space in front of the big screen. Restrooms available.
1800 W. Pearl St., Granbury, 817/573-1311; facebook.com/brazosdrivein