Back to Nature
Trail blazing. Head to a local, state or national park and make a day of nature hiking. Before you go, make a list of things for your family to find and identify, such as a black oak tree, woodpecker holes, a Gardner snake or a raccoon paw print. Carry a backpack with binoculars, sunscreen, visors or sunglasses and plenty of water and snacks. Don’t forget your hiking shoes.
• Audubon Dallas, Dallas, 972/293-5110
• White Rock Lake Park, Dallas, 214/670-8890
Z is for zoo. Visit the wild at one of the many zoos that have created natural, spacious settings for their animals, and teach your children the importance of these habitats. Check the schedule for animal presentations, and don’t miss the petting zoo where youngsters can walk and talk with the animals and feed them from their palms.
• Dallas Zoo, Dallas, 214/670-5656
• Dallas World Aquarium, Dallas, 214/720-2224
Fresh-fruit picking. Perk up those taste buds when berries are in season. Round up the family and head to the country for a day of fruit-filled fun. When you get them home, work together rinsing, removing stems and preparing the fruit for shortcakes, smoothies and fresh-fruit pies. Call ahead to be sure fruit is ready for the pickin’!
• Bailey’s Berry Patch, Sadler, 903/564-6228
• Blueberry Hill Farms, Edom, 903/852-6175
Water, Water Everywhere
Beach bumming. Load up the beach ball, buckets and blankets, and get ready for a day at the lake. For added fun, take along goggles, snorkels and fins for underwater exploration.
• Lake Ray Hubbard, Rockwall, Garland, 972/205-2750
• Lake Texoma, Denison, www.laketexomaonline.com
Wet your whistle — and more. Spend a smoldering summer day chilling at one of the many water wonderlands where your family can swoosh down waterslides, catch the man-made waves and tube around narrow canals. Before you go, ask about age and height requirements and what activities are available for the younger set. Don’t forget to protect your family’s skin; apply sunscreen throughout the day.
• Hawaiian Falls, Garland, The Colony, 972/370-4327
• Surf ‘n Swim, Garland, 972/205-3993
Take a trip downstream. Canoeing is a fun-filled family adventure for all ages. Look for canoe rentals on a clear river and take a cool dip when the day heats up. Carry belongings such as wallet, keys and snacks in a waterproof bag that floats since tips are not only common (although easily avoided if caution is exercised), but can be half of the fun. Give kids plenty of opportunities to paddle and steer.
• Hidden Cove Park, Lake Lewisville, Frisco, 972/294-1155 (Operated by The Lake Parks Division of The Colony.)
• Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill, 972/291-3900
Backyard water blast. Plenty of cool fun can be had right in your own backyard. Make it a family tradition to have an annual water spree: fill water balloons and play a game of catch; hook up the sprinklers for a cool game of tag; load up the squirt guns and super soakers and make sure everyone stays drenched. Then, take a refreshing break in the wading pool.
Putt around the lake. You don’t have live on a lake or own a boat to enjoy this luxury. Contact nearby marinas, lakeside stores and resorts to find out where you can rent a pontoon or motorboat for a cruise around the lake.
• Just For Fun Watercraft Rental at Silverlake marina, Lake Grapevine, 817/310-3000
• DockSide Boat Rentals, Lake Lewisville, 940/321-4665
Your Own Backyard
Under the stars. Take full advantage of the peaceful Texas nights and camp out in your backyard. Kick off the evening by watching the sunset, then build a bonfire (if it’s permitted in your area), roast marshmallows and gaze at the stars. Bring out your guide to the stars and see what you can spot: the Little Dipper, Hercules or Sagittarius.
Croquet champs. Set up this outdoor game for the entire family to play. Then, hold a family croquet match. Give handicaps to each family member based on most recent scores for a game that’s fair to all.
Up, up and away. Is the wind hampering your fun? It won’t be for long. Make the most of that breeze and get your kite up in the air.
Step right up. Organize a backyard carnival to raise funds for your favorite charity. The entire family will have a ball putting on this event. Hang posters in local businesses, and submit a press release to your local radio station and newspaper. Ask friends and neighbors to help man the booths, and set up games such as a beanbag toss or number wheel, a baked goods stand, fortune telling, face painting and refreshments.
Green thumbs. Make gardening a family affair. Ask each member to choose a favorite vegetable to plant. If you’re getting a late start, look for starter plants that have already sprouted. Work together to get the garden ready and plant it, then give each person his own responsibility for keeping it up: watering, pulling weeds, picking ripe produce, cleaning vegetables and preparing produce to eat or store.
Swiss family who? What’s a backyard without a hideout or special place to kick back? Little ones will thrill at building a tree house or fort. Older kids will look forward to a covered hangout — such as a gazebo — for visiting with friends. Whatever you build, have the whole family pitch in. Small children can feel a part of the project by carrying small materials, dispensing nails and occasionally swinging the hammer.
Out and About
Dancin’ in the street. Enjoy live music, new foods, boating and ski shows, magic acts, and arts and crafts. Look for upcoming festivals in our calendar section.
Grab a putter. Family-fun centers offer a variety of recreation for the whole family. Get ready to practice your batting swing, holler, “Fore,” speed around the race track, bump another boat, or have some wacky golfin’ fun.
• Adventure Landing, Dallas, 972/248-4653
• Celebration Station, Mesquite, 972/279-7888
Recycled treasures. Join the craze and spend the day rummaging for treasures. This is a great way for kids to get the most out of their limited earnings and to teach them the importance of recycling and how to get the best value for their money.
Super sights. Places and things to see are abundant — from checking out the big city with its tall skyscrapers, old architecture, and murals and art displays, to viewing the wonders of nature.
• West End Market Place, Dallas, 214/748-4801
• Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Dallas. 214/327-8263
Performing arts in the park. Unwind by listening to a concert in the park or taking in a movie under the stars. These events are often under publicized, so contact area parks for a summer schedule. Richardson has a popular summer series.
• Dallas Summer Musicals, Dallas, www.dallassummermusicals.org
• Outdoor Community Concerts Richardson Civic Center, 972/851-9784
Big wheels and small. Paved trails are popping up everywhere: in parks, along riverbanks, and even through town. Pull out your bikes and roller blades and take advantage of these smooth paths. For a better work out and to keep everyone moving at an equal pace, have small children ride bikes while older ones and parents push off on their blades.
• Katy Trail, Dallas, 214/303-1180
• Duck Creek Greenbelt Trail, Garland, 972/205-3585
Coasters, cars and Ferris wheels. A trip to a theme park can be the highlight of the season. If your children are at different ride levels, invite another family or two with children similar in age to your own. Then, split up so everyone can get the most out of the day. Meet up for lunch and dinner and to swap kids (so all adults get time with each age group).
• Six Flags, 817/640-8900
• Sandy Lake Amusement Park, Carrollton, 972/242-7449
Park play. Take your little ones for a picnic and an afternoon at the park. Scout your area for an updated park with a large, enclosed fort-style playground. Bring along a playmate for your child, and they’ll be content for some time. Don’t forget to bring your reading to catch up on. Try these:
• Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, Plano, 972/941-7250 (Voted No. 1 Family Park by DallasChild readers.)
• Towne Lake Park and Recreation Area, McKinney, 972/542-0045