We asked and you answered! Our readers voted for their family favorites across Dallas-Fort Worth—here are the Best for Families winners. From animal attractions and bookstores to water parks and western experiences, there’s no shortage of things to do or places to go for family fun. Plus, there are numerous professionals and services to help your crew thrive and grow.
Every year, we highlight the best of the best—as chosen by the experts, our readers. Read on for your fellow parents’ local favorites in our 2022 Best for Families honors, and find everything you need for your family’s best year yet.
Best Museum for Kids
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
What’s not to love about the Perot when even the building itself is an architectural marvel? There’s the impressive glass escalator that juts out from the building’s exterior and leads up to five floors of the 11 interactive exhibit halls. One of those exhibits is designed specifically for preschoolers, while the rest provide fun for all ages. Let kids experience the secrets of DNA, astronomy, robot engineering and dinosaur fossils. (Don’t miss the seriously cool Tylosaurus, an ocean predator, on display.)
With so much to see and do, the Perot is not a museum you can get through in just one day, so it’s worth considering a membership for repeat visits on the cheap. When you need a break, grab a snack from the on-site café or catch a short film inside the 3D theater.
2201 N. Field Street, Dallas, 214/428-5555; perotmuseum.org
Runner-up: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
RELATED: Find more family fun events every day of the week at dfwchild.com/calendar.
Best Place to See Animals
Fort Worth Zoo
Our hometown zoo consistently ranks as one of the top zoos in the nation and proudly supports conservation efforts in 30 countries. Of course, your kids just want to see baby Brazos. The newest addition lives with his Asian elephant herd in the Elephant Springs habitat with its own watering hole and waterfall. (Guests can splash in their own water play area when Safari Splash reopens later this spring.)
For hands-on fun with the animals, don’t miss the goats, sheep and pigs in the Toyota Children’s Ranch and the recently revamped Playbarn and Kiddie Corral, designed to help preschoolers learn about farm life and food sources. There’s even a new space for mothers to nurse their baby or pump in private.
1989 Colonial Parkway, Fort Worth, 817/759-7555; fortworthzoo.org
Runner-up: Dallas Zoo
Best Place to Be Outdoors
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
These gardens—stretching 66 acres and overlooking White Rock Lake—are a sight to behold no matter what time of the year you visit. See tulips at their peak in spring, picnic under any shade tree in summer, walk through pumpkin houses in autumn and take in the garden in lights for the holidays.
Besides the beauty of the main gardens, guests with kids in tow enjoy the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, an 8-acre attraction that teaches littles about earth sciences through age-appropriate learning galleries and daily plant laboratory experiments. Visit the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden for an additional $3 on top of the regular garden admission.
8525 Garland Road, Dallas, 214/515-6615; dallasarboretum.org
Runner-up: Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Best Western Experience
Fort Worth Stockyards
The site where drovers moved more than four million heads of cattle from 1866 to 1890 has transformed today into a national historic district, as well as a shopping and dining destination with family festivals and special events year-round. (The Cowtown Cattlepen Maze and petting zoo are always a hit with the kids.) You’ll find continued proof of Fort Worth’s “Cowtown” moniker in the twice-daily longhorn cattle drives down East Exchange Avenue and rodeos every weekend inside Cowtown Coliseum.
If you’re arriving from the east, here’s one way to both shorten and maximize your trip: Take a roundtrip excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, timed to give you several hours to explore the Stockyards with the family before your return train ride. Or for a much-needed couples getaway, check out the new rustic-meets-luxurious Hotel Drover.
140 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth, 817/625-9715; fortworthstockyards.com
Runner-up: Mesquite Rodeo
Best Themed Restaurant for Families
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
This isn’t your average dinner theater. Diners witness a two-hour, action-packed tournament inside the Grand Ceremonial Arena in which six knights compete to be named champion by Queen Isabella. (Cheers to a queen on the throne.) The show is set in 11th-century Spain, but the rest is real—the sparks that fly from the clash of swords, the wooden jousting lances that crack on impact and the Andalusians known as the “dancing horses.”
Cheer for the knight in your designated color section—and your matching paper crown—in between bites of a four-course meal served sans utensils. For once, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your hands.
2021 N. Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, 469/342-5555; medievaltimes.com
Runner-up: Rainforest Café, Grapevine
Best Kid-Friendly Bookstore
Barnes & Noble
With books for every age group and interest, kids can discover new authors and series then plop down on the stage or children’s reading area for an impromptu story time. Check the calendar for scheduled events, like story times or mother-daughter book clubs at your nearest B&N location. And stay tuned for the Summer Reading Program, which launches in May, for first through sixth graders. Kids earn a free book after reading any eight of they choose.
Multiple locations; bn.com
Runner-up: Half Price Books
Best Shopping Center for Families
Parents know they can find great deals on clothing and shoes at this outlet mall in the center of Dallas-Fort Worth, but the loyalty to this center goes beyond shopping. Grapevine Mills is a full-scale entertainment venue with a movie theater, bowling alley, Rainforest Café (with animatronic jungle animals) and Let’s Pretend Parties, where you can attend a tea time or host a birthday party complete with princess costumes the kids can borrow.
Or spend the day at Legoland Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium and Peppa Pig World of Play using the Kids Play Pass for fun at all three at a discounted price. And visit again this summer when Legoland reopens its outdoor splash pad.
3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine, 972/724-4900; simon.com/grapevine-mills
Runner-up: NorthPark Center, Dallas
Best Place for a Family Staycation
Great Wolf Lodge
Come for the year-round indoor water park—with a four-story treehouse/water fort called Fort Mackenzie and multiple age-appropriate splash areas—and stay for the additional entertainment on dry land, such as the Howlers Peak Ropes Course (it’s actually more fun if you do look down) and The MagiQuest live action game (pricing varies). Other events for kids like yoga and story times are included in your stay.
Visit now through May 1 for special spring-themed crafts and dance parties, and help support Autism Speaks with your purchase of blue wolf ears (only $5 per pair) available until April 30.
100 Great Wolf Drive, Grapevine, 817/488-6510; greatwolf.com/grapevine
Runner-up: Gaylord Texan Resort, Grapevine
Best Family-Friendly City or Suburb
As the Texas population boom continues, Fort Worth has grown into the 12th largest city in the U.S. with more than 927,000 residents. But Cowtown, as it’s affectionately called, works hard to maintain its hometown feel and preserve its Western roots, which is evident during vibrant annual festivals and attractions loved by locals and visitors alike. Don’t miss the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, the new Dickies Arena and a revitalized downtown.
Then explore the city’s walkable neighborhoods, and walk, bike or ride (on horseback) the Trinity Trails along the Trinity River, which you can also discover by kayak.
Visit Fort Worth visitor information, 800/433-5747; fortworth.com
Best Water Park for Families
Hawaiian Falls Waterparks
When the kids are bursting with energy that only a day at the water park can satisfy, readers head to one of the four Hawaiian Falls locations (in The Colony, Garland, Roanoke and Mansfield). The parks reopen this May—either May 7 or 21, depending on the park—with adrenaline-pumping tube rides, super steep body slides, kiddie splash grounds, wave pools and, thankfully, lots of cabanas and shaded lounge areas.
Plus, coolers are welcome. Fill them with snacks and factory-sealed water bottles. Check the calendar for Hawaiian-themed special events throughout the summer season, like the Ohana Games and after-hours fun like movie nights over the wave pool and fireworks displays.
Multiple locations; hfalls.com
Runner-up: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Arlington
Best Party Entertainment for Kids
Schedule a visit from a brightly colored, state-of-the-art gaming truck, featuring the latest consoles (XBox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch), 90+ age-appropriate video games (with available upgrades to online multiplayer games like Fortnite), certified game coaches, high-definition flat-panel TVs, music and a long and comfy couch for the video game fanatic in your house.
If video games aren’t your kid’s thing, no worries. GameTruck can also arrange a laser tag party and turn your yard, neighborhood park or other area into a custom arena. Other options, such as water tag and GellyBall (a no-mess, lightweight version of paintball), may also be available, depending on your party’s location.
Runner-up: Mad Science of Dallas & Fort Worth
Best Animal Entertainer for Kids Parties
For animal education that kids won’t forget, our readers love Cathy’s Critters. Whether you visit the farm in Collin County or the party comes to you, kiddos get a hands-on experience with farm animals (cattle, horses, ponies, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens and alpacas) and exotic creatures (giant tortoises, kangaroos, sugar gliders, Patagonian cavies and a fennec fox, among others), too.
The farm features a private barn for birthdays and other events, but you don’t have to host a party to enjoy Cathy’s Critters. Check out the Open Farm Days every weekend, Saturday trail rides, summer camps and homeschool services.
7422 CR 466, Princeton (mobile petting zoo available), 972/562-0583; cathyscritters.com
Runner-up: The Creature Teacher
Best Character Entertainer for Kids
Enchanted Parties DFW
Would the best gift for your child be a visit from Elsa and Anna, Tiana, Cinderella, Moana, or Barbie? Enchanted Parties DFW can make it happen with a cast inspired by classic characters. (Seriously, they look like they stepped right out of a movie or fairy tale. Enchanted Parties DFW says it has done hundreds of hours of research and spent thousands on costumes, wigs and accessories.)
Visits range between 30 minutes and 3 hours, and your princess (or other character) of choice can take pics with the partygoers, sign autographs, sing, crown the guest of honor, cut the cake, and play games, among other activities. Don’t need the whole package? Set up a princess phone call or video chat for your child. Bonus: There’s now a prince character, too.
Runner-up: Kreative Kidz Partyz
Best Party Venue for Kids
Urban Air Adventure Park
Let your kids bounce—and climb, and slide and soar—at one of Urban Air Adventure Park’s dozen-plus locations. While visitors come for the trampolines, of course, Urban Air also features trampoline dodgeball, the slam dunk zone, ProZone performance trampolines and more. (There’s a special section for age 7 and under, too.) Depending on the location you choose, kiddos can enjoy bumper cars with laser lights, a ninja course, trapeze, climbing hill, mini golf, ropes course and tubes playground, among other possibilities.
To plan an Urban Air party, pick the theme, attractions and other package details then let Urban Air staff take care of the logistics while you enjoy watching the kids bounce—and climb, and slide, and soar.
Multiple locations; urbanair.com
Runner-up: Altitude Trampoline Park, multiple locations
Best Hospital to Have a Baby in Dallas County
With hotel-style labor and delivery rooms, VIP suites, and luxury perks, Medical City Dallas’ Women’s Hospital has earned our readers’ vote two years in a row. Rooms feature an entertainment center, refrigerator, spacious bathroom and in-room sleeping accommodations for support partners. Suites provide a larger bedroom and upgraded linens for Mom, a spa-like bathroom, Tempur-Pedic Murphy beds for partners, an eat-in kitchen and separate living area.
The hospital offers award-winning childbirth classes, choice of delivery methods, traditional and natural pain relief options, a chef-prepared celebratory meal and 24/7 lactation support, among other benefits. And talk about peace of mind: Medical City Dallas is the only North Texas hospital with a full-service children’s hospital, a Level IV maternal designation, a Level IV NICU (the highest level available) and an adult hospital on the same campus.
7777 Forest Lane, Dallas, 972/566-7000; medicalcityhospital.com
Runner-up: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas
Best Hospital to Have a Baby in Tarrant County
Medical City Arlington
Named a Newsweek Best Maternity Hospital of 2021, Medical City Arlington’s Women’s Hospital features a dedicated postpartum floor with 34 private, peaceful patient rooms and four spacious suites. Suite amenities include upgraded linens and décor, snacks and beverages, aromatherapy, entertainment options and gifts for parents.
Moms also benefit from childbirth classes, choice of delivery methods, traditional and natural pain relief options (including labor tub and hydrotherapy), a gourmet meal to celebrate and 24/7 lactation support. Parents will feel comfortable and confident with two experienced medical teams—one for Mom and one for baby—at every birth, so moms get everything they want and babies get everything they need. Plus, Medical City Arlington offers a Level III NICU.
3301 Matlock Road, Arlington, 682/509-6200; medicalcityarlington.com
Runner-up: Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth
Best Hospital to Have a Baby in Collin County
Medical City Plano
Four years in a row, readers have chosen Medical City Plano as the Best Hospital to Have a Baby in Collin County. The hospital believes every mom-to-be deserves royal treatment. You’ll feel like you’re in a hotel in Medical City Plano’s standard postpartum suites, or choose an upgraded suite with memory foam beds, a luxury bath for Mom, and separate bedrooms and lounge areas with a kitchenette for guests.
The long list of amenities also includes traditional and natural pain relief options (from an epidural to nitrous oxide or aromatherapy), your preferred delivery method and on-site breastfeeding and lactation support. Celebrate your baby’s birth with a chef-prepared, gourmet meal. Medical City Plano also offers award-winning childbirth classes and a Level III NICU.
3901 W. 15th St., Plano, 972/596-6800; medicalcityplano.com
Runner-up: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano
Best Hospital to Have a Baby in Denton County
Medical City Lewisville
Medical City Lewisville completes Medical City Healthcare’s sweep of our 2022 Best Hospitals to Have a Baby. This hospital offers complete labor and delivery services in a safe and inclusive environment, supporting your childbirth preferences and unique family needs (same-sex partners, birth mothers, adoptive parents, etc.). Pamper Mom with one of the upgraded, luxury postpartum suites that include a private area for her, a lavish bathroom, living area where family and friends can enjoy entertainment options, a kitchenette with snack pantry, and a full-size sofa bed for overnight guests. After your little one arrives, enjoy a chef-prepared, gourmet meal.
Medical City Lewisville patients have access to award-winning childbirth classes, high-risk pregnancy services, breastfeeding support, on-site lactation consulting, cord blood donation and more. Additionally, the hospital has a Level III NICU.
500 W. Main St., Lewisville, 469/370-2000; medicalcitylewisville.com
Runner-up: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton
Best Birthing Center
Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center
Our readers recommend Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center, the only accredited birth center in Dallas-Fort Worth. The center is staffed by educated and experienced midwives, and the birthing suites feature deep-water immersion tubs for labor and water births as well as full kitchens and private bathrooms.
Laboring moms also have access to nitrous oxide and TENS units for pain relief. On-site services include photography, lactation and nutrition support and phlebotomy. In addition, Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center is two blocks from Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, in the event additional care is required.
You can also rely on Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center for well-woman exams, family planning needs, gynecological care and more.
622 Hemphill St., Fort Worth, 817/878-2737; fwbirthcenter.com
Runners-up: Allen Midwifery & Family Wellness; and Origins Birth Services in Dallas and Keller
Melissa Espey-Mueller of North Dallas Doula Associates
A repeat winner in the Best Doula category, Melissa Espey-Mueller is valued by her clients for her intentional, inclusive support and expertise. Espey-Mueller, the owner and founder of North Dallas Doula Associates, has been practicing as a doula for 22 years, and she also serves as the director of prenatal education at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Each year, Espey-Mueller and her team serve thousands of families as prenatal educators, birth doulas, postpartum doulas, board-certified lactation consultants and placenta encapsulation specialists.
Espey-Mueller is a DONA- and Pro-Doula trained, master level, certified elite doula; a certified childbirth educator; certified lactation educator and a gynecologic teaching associate through Texas A&M Health Science Center. She’s also a mother of five and new grandmother of one.
107 Murray St., Dallas, 469/360-3810; northdallasdoulas.com
Runner-up: Maggie Wells of Bluebonnet Birth Services, Denton
Taylor Houser, CNM, DNP, of Midwife+Co Dallas
Reader-favorite Taylor Houser is committed to making women feel supported through individualized, holistic care. A graduate of Baylor University’s nursing program, Houser began her career eight years ago and served as a registered nurse in the NICU before transitioning to labor and delivery. In that role, she realized her passion for the practice of midwifery.
Houser went on to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (also from Baylor) and became a certified nurse midwife in 2018. She builds strong relationships with patients and their families and believes strongly that women should have choices when it comes to health care. Plus, midwifery runs in the family: Houser’s mother also practices with Midwife+Co and even delivered Houser’s baby.
3611 Swiss Ave., Dallas, 214/975-3937; midwifeco.com/taylor
Runner-up: Teri Mitchell, CNM, DNP, of BundleBorn Midwifery, Frisco
Best Child Care Center for Infants
The Goddard School
Our readers trust The Goddard School to provide a warm, nurturing environment for their babies. All locations—currently 18 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with two more under construction—accept infants as young as 6 weeks old. (The centers also provide care for children through age 6.)
Infants develop physical skills while building connections with teachers and new friends. As your baby grows, they’ll receive gentle support and encouragement to explore the world and develop their motor skills, language and ideas. Activities for little ones include baby yoga, music and imitating animal movements and sounds.
Goddard curriculum is based on the premise that children learn best while having fun, and kids of all ages are immersed in activities that spark imagination and support early academics. There’s also a focus on social-emotional development.
Multiple locations; goddardschool.com
Runner-up: Primrose Schools
Best Nanny Placement Service
Mom’s Best Friend
Let the experts at Mom’s Best Friend find the nanny who’s perfect for your family. Serving Dallas-Fort Worth for almost 22 years, Mom’s Best Friend creates custom job descriptions for member families and recruits candidates. Those who pass an 11-step screening are shared for parents to interview.
Options include full-time or part-time care, and the nanny may live in or live out of your home. Child-centered duties can include everything from overnight baby care to transporting kids to activities; additional tasks may include grocery shopping and light housework. Mom’s Best Friend nannies are certified in first aid and CPR. The agency also offers a sitter service.
Runner-up: Nannies On the Go
Best Babysitting Service
Want to simplify your search for a babysitter? Sign up for Sittercity, which was the first online source for in-home care when it was founded in 2001. Parents can check out the profiles created by sitters, which includes bios, pay ranges, safety certifications, babysitting history, parent ratings and any additional services they provide—such as meal prep, laundry or picking the kids up from school. Message a sitter you like, or post a job and interview your applicants. Services also include background checks, identity verification and reference requests. Special needs care is available. If you need a nanny, senior caregiver or a pet sitter, Sittercity can connect you with those professionals, too.
Runner-up: College Nannies + Sitters
Best Sleep Specialist
Mary Cantwell of Rest To Your Nest
When baby won’t sleep at night, it’s time to bring in a pro. Mary Cantwell from Rest To Your Nest has been serving Dallas-Fort Worth families on their sleep journies for nearly six years. Her mission is to bring confidence, clarity and sanity to family sleep.
Cantwell helps parents of newborns set up a solid sleep foundation and guides them through the fourth trimester. For children ages 4 months–6 years, she works with you to create a personalized sleep plan, based on your family philosophy as well as the child’s needs and personality. Cantwell also assesses your little one’s sleep space. Get started with a complimentary Discovery Call.
Runner-up: Sweet Dreams Infant Care
Top illustration: iStock