Talk about works of art with the kids, and they’ll likely reference pieces they’ve seen in museums or books. But have you ever looked at some of the public art around town with them? Do they even consider the iconic eyeball downtown or the “Dream” sign in Arlington art? How about, the mustangs in Irving or the “Chisholm Trail Mural”? Well, free installations with interesting background stories can be found all over Dallas and the surrounding areas. So lace up those sneakers, grab your camera and hit the streets to show the kids that art is approachable, interesting and lots of fun.
Explore the public art at DART rail stations along the Red, Blue, Green and Orange transit lines. The Mockingbird station (on the Red and Blue lines), for instance, features stained-glass birds and human-size bird tracks by artist Pamela Nelson. And outside the Akard station (on all four lines) sits Michael Brown’s 15-foot-tall “BELL TOWER,” which houses a visible and mesmerizing roller coaster track-and-bell system that puts on an hourly show, directing a steel ball down the track at the top of each hour.
BEST PHOTO OP: Capture the kids “holding up” the teetering “Carousel” sculptures by Tom Stancliffe outside the Cedars station (along the Red and Blue lines).
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: A day pass is the best bet for hopping on and off the DART — and seeing as much of the art as you like: adults, $5 each; kids 5-14, $2.50 each; kids 4 and younger, free. Plus, you can take the DART to the State Fair of Texas (see our itinerary) or the Dallas Zoo.
DART, 214/979-1111; dart.org
Celebrate the first settlers of Dallas with a visit to “PIONEER PLAZA.” Large bronze sculptures of longhorn steers and cowboys on horseback bring a historic cattle drive to life.
Texas artist Robert Summers created the work in 1994 to pay tribute to the Shawnee Trail, an 1800s trade and migration route that connected Texas cities such as Dallas and Austin to the Native American territory that later became Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.
BEST PHOTO OP: Wait until twilight and take a selfie with the sculpture with the Omni Dallas Hotel behind you. At night, the hotel’s sides are streaked with colorful fluorescent neon stripes.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: To help your kiddos understand the pioneers, walk to the adjacent Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery, the final resting place for many early Dallas settlers and civic leaders with graves dating to the 1850s. Be sure to stop at the Bryan Memorial, which commemorates John Neely Bryan, the founder of the city of Dallas.
“Pioneer Plaza,” 1428 Young St., Dallas
Dallas Pioneer Park Cemetery, 1201 Marilla St., Dallas
See if kids can spot “THE EYE” — it’s not difficult. Located just across from The Joule in downtown Dallas, the piece is a part of the hotel’s extensive modern art collection, which also includes works from Andy Warhol. And this one’s a looker. It’s a 30-foot-tall fiberglass blue-eyed orb that Chicago-based multimedia artist Tony Tasset modeled off of a photo of his own eye, originally for a temporary exhibit in Chicago.
BEST PHOTO OP: To capture the monstrous size of the oddity, stride to the opposite end of the lawn. Have the kids stand halfway between you and “The Eye,” and have them position themselves so it appears that they are poking the eye from your camera’s perspective — you’ll be sure to end up with some amusing photos.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Continue your celebration of quirky art with a seven-minute drive to Deep Ellum to see colorful murals on the sides of lots of historic buildings. Many were part of the original 42 Murals Project. This year, the second round of the 42 Murals Project is underway. Walk the streets during the day to see new murals and some in progress. Three completed murals to seek out from the original 42? “Deep Texas Pride” by Daniel Yanez on the corner of North Crowdus and Main streets; the vivid “Viva Deep Ellum” mural with sombrero-wearing cacti and a gigantic Mexican wrestler from DallasChild’s former Dad Next Door, Jorge Gutierrez, at 2801 Elm St. and the watercolor-like “Deep Ellum- phants” by Adrian Torres at 3601 Main St.
“The Eye,” 1607 Main St., Dallas
The original “PEGASUS” sculpture included two 40-foot horses that sat atop the Magnolia Building and defined the Dallas skyline for over 60 years before it succumbed to the elements (weather-induced erosion) and had to be grounded in 1999. After spending decades in a city-owned shed near White Rock Lake, the original “Pegasus” was restored to become part of a rotating “Pegasus” on top of a 22-foot-tall oil derrick next to The Omni Dallas Hotel.
BEST PHOTO OP: Smush your family together and crouch down low to take a selfie with “Pegasus” flying high above you.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: After you’ve finished your photo-op, drive the half mile to Reunion Tower to see “Pegasus” from above — and lit up if you go after sunset. Plus, you can give the kids a 360-degree view of the city they call home from 470 feet in the air. Adults, $17 each; kids 4-12, $8 each; kids 3 and younger, free.
“Pegasus,” 555 S. Lamar St., Dallas
Reunion Tower, 300 Reunion Blvd. E., 214/712-7040; reuniontower.com
Sometimes the most meaningful art hides in plain sight. Artist Jon Barlow Hudson
used slabs of Texas pink granite and steel to create a series of four interconnected windows called “FENESTRAE AETERNITAUS: BOOKS TO ETERNITY.” One window opens into another within the 10-foot-tall sculpture in front of the White Rock Hills Public Library, symbolizing how old ideas lead to the creation of new ones.
BEST PHOTO OP: Snap a picture with each member of your family popping out of a separate window, which are each carved to resemble the side of a book.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: There’s no shortage of things to do at White Rock Lake. Visit the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (a six-minute drive west). Or grab a few gourmet creations from Hypnotic Donuts on Garland Road, and picnic lakeside at T&P Hill, a park with a playground and walking trails on the west side of the lake.
“Fenestrae Aeternitaus: Books to Eternity,” 9150 Ferguson Road, Dallas
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, 214/515- 6615; dallasarboretum.org
Hypnotic Donuts, 9007 Garland Road, Dallas, 214/668-6999; hypnoticdonuts.com
The “BISHOP ARTS MURAL PLAZA,” a new 120-foot-long colorful mural of Texas native jackrabbits, cacti, flowers and more painted by local artists Haylee Ryan and Courtney Miles at Bishop and Melba streets, is about as Instagram-worthy as street art comes. The mural, meant to beautify a blank wall, will also hide construction coming soon to the neighborhood.
BEST PHOTO OP: Ask a friend to snap a picture of you and your kids in front of the built-in space between the butterfly wings. From the right angle, it’ll look as though you’ve sprouted wings.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Plan the trip for Oct. 8 to check out the Oak Cliff Pumpkin Festival from 4–9pm. The free family-friendly festival includes costume contests and face painting. On your way out — and before the screening of the scary movie after dark (which we’re pretty sure you’ll want to skip) — drive along Sylvan Avenue to see the whimsical “Dallas” mural by Oak Cliff–based collective Sour Grapes.
“Bishop Arts Mural Plaza,” 337 Melba St., Dallas
Find “THE TRAVELING MAN WALKING TALL” outside the DART Deep Ellum Rail Station. With a steel interior and a brushed stainless steel exterior, the four-story, friendly-looking man, part of a series from Dallas sculptor Brad Oldham, seems to welcome visitors to the artistic neighborhood as he takes his jaunty stroll.
BEST PHOTO OP: Take a mirror selfie by holding your front-facing camera phone body-height to photograph your reflection on the surface of one of the 42-inch-tall birds surrounding the traveling man.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: “The Traveling Man Walking Tall” is part of a trio. To see them all, stroll to the corner of Good Latimer Avenue and Elm Street, where you’ll find the traveling man’s head rising from the earth, waking from dreamland in “The Traveling Man Awakening.” Next, head to the southwest corner of Good Latimer and Gaston avenues to see “The Traveling Man Waiting on a Train,” where he’s lying on the ground and strumming his guitar.
“The Traveling Man Walking Tall,” 1200 Ross Ave., Dallas
Outside the TEXAS SCULPTURE GARDEN, you’ll find over a dozen modern sculptures you can access for free. Take the kids to see the towering leaf-like metal sculptures in Tim Glover’s “6 Piece Garden” and the life-like metal jackrabbits, native to Texas, in David Iles’ “H.O.P. Rabbits.”
BEST PHOTO OP: Capture a successive action shot of the kids
dancing in front of Jerry Daniel’s steel-and-concrete, 30-foot-tall
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Drive to nearby Frisco Central Park and spend an hour or two walking the scenic trails, picnicking and checking out the park’s collection of Western-themed sculptures.
Texas Sculpture Garden, 6801 Gaylord Parkway, Frisco; texassculpturegarden.org Frisco Central Park, 3155 Parkwood Blvd., Frisco
Artist Snell Johnson was once a convicted con man but changed his life around and became a reputable artist at 50. He is best known for his gigantic bronze lion in front of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but you can see his work locally by visiting his “WAR CANOE” in McKinney. The sculpture, meant to commemorate Native American history in Texas, depicts a man on horseback and a woman floating in a bronze canoe.
BEST PHOTO OP: Position the fam in the space in front of the canoe, and step way back to get both bronze figures in the shot.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Saunter through the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney, a quiet 7.2-acre park with looping scenic trails and a variety of the state shrub, which bloom in the fall, just a short car ride away.
“War Canoe,” Craig Ranch on Stacy Road, McKinney
Crape Myrtle Trails, 321 N. Central Expressway, McKinney
To memorialize a beloved playground rocket ship that stood for nearly 45 years and was torn down (along with the entire jungle gym because of safety concerns) in 2008, the city of Richardson erected a three-dimensional celestial arch in Heights Park in its place. The piece, designed by Jeff Laramore and aptly named “ROCKET,” mimics the original playground equipment it replaced.
BEST PHOTO OP: Crouch down low in front of the rocket with your family and get a selfie of your smiling faces with the top of the arch acting as a crown in the background.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Make your way to the new play set in Heights Park. The structure has a two-story tree house, a sand pit, a log for younger ones to crawl through and lots more.
“Rocket,” 711 W. Arapaho Road, Richardson
Encourage the kids to dream big with a visit to “DREAM,” down- town Arlington’s first-ever piece of public art, which was installed in 2015. Weighing approximately 3 tons, the five sheet-metal letters, perforated with cutouts of 17,400 flying bird shapes, stands 12-feet tall and illuminates at night with LED lights that change color. The sculpture by Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg is meant to reinforce Arlington’s slogan, “Arlington: The Dream City,” a motto that was developed in 2014 to put the city on the map as a place of growing diversity and opportunity.
BEST PHOTO OP: Space your family members out between letters or have one of them climb inside the “D” and stand far enough away that you can capture the whole word.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Get a dose of traditional art a few blocks away at the Arlington Museum of Art. Starting Oct. 19, the museum will have works from surrealist painter Salvador Dalí on display. Admission: adults, $8; kids 12 and younger, free.
“DREAM,” 200 W. Abram St., Arlington
Arlington Museum of Art, 201 W. Main St., Arlington, 817/275-4600; arlingtonmuseum.org
To the kids, the “TABACHIN RIBBON” might resemble a ball of sunshine. The bright yellow sculpture, by Mexican artist Yvonne Domenge, is actually constructed of five separate carbon steel pieces. Together they measure 13 feet in diameter and
weigh about 8,000 pounds. The piece debuted in Chicago’s Millennium Park as part of a temporary exhibition. When the exhibition closed, “Tabachin Ribbon” was
permanently moved to Fort Worth.
BEST PHOTO OP: Have your family stand north of the sculpture to capture the Fort Worth City Hall building in the background.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Fort Worth City Hall is a stone’s throw from the sculpture so head inside the atrium to check out George Rickey’s kinetic “Twelve Triangles Hanging.” Watch as the massive paper airplane-like triangles move in response to the air currents inside. Then take a 10-minute walk east to see
a different kind of art at the Fort Worth Water Gardens’ three ooh-and-aah-worthy pools.
“Tabachin Ribbon,” 1000 Throckmorton St., Fort Worth
Fort Worth City Hall, 200 Texas St., Fort Worth, 817/392-2255; fortworthtexas.gov
Fort Worth Water Gardens, 1502 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817/392-7111; fortworth.com
Towering over Burnett Park is one of Fort Worth’s most iconic sculptures. Artist Jonathan Borofsky’s “MAN WITH A BRIEFCASE” features the silhouette of a man wearing a hat and holding a briefcase cut out of a block of brushed aluminum measuring 50 feet tall and 22 feet wide. While the piece’s significance is open to interpretation, many believe it was meant to symbolize Fort Worth’s place in the worldwide business culture.
BEST PHOTO OP: Get a long shot of your kids peeking their heads through the opposite side of the sculpture’s cut-out legs.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Wander through the 2-acre park and over to the modest playground, which has two roped climbing structures.
“Man With a Briefcase,” 501 W. 7th St., Fort Worth
The iconic “CHISHOLM TRAIL MURAL” in Sundance Square commemorates Fort Worth’s rich agricultural history. Richard Hass painted the three-story trompe l’oeil-style (a style that tricks the eye into seeing a painted detail as a three- dimensional object) mural on the south side of the Jett Building’s facade to honor the longhorn cattle runs of the 1860s on the Chisholm Trail.
BEST PHOTO OP: Sundance Square can get crowded. We suggest visiting at night for a better photo opportunity of the illuminated mural—and less people in the background.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Pop in to the Sid Richardson Museum, half a block from Sundance Square, that showcases Wild West paintings. Go on Oct. 14 to take advantage of the museum’s Second Saturdays program, which includes a free public tour at 2pm and a living history performance at 3pm.
“Chisholm Trail Mural,” 400 Main St., Fort Worth
Sid Richardson Museum, 309 Main St., Fort Worth, 817/332-6554; sidrichardsonmuseum.org
Let Ned Kahn’s “WIND ROUNDABOUT” mesmerize the kids when you drive
by (several times if you like; the sculpture is the center of a traffic roundabout). The 30-foot metal sculpture is made of 4,000 hinged aluminum flappers that flutter in the breeze. The artist intended the piece to heighten people’s awareness of natural forces since the sculpture’s movement is powered entirely by free, renewable energy.
BEST PHOTO OP: Do a few loops with the windows down and let your kids take a video, narrating their impressions with the piece in action.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: You’re a five-minute drive from the Coyote Drive-In so plan your trip around a show time at the outdoor movie theater. There are nightly screenings of G- or PG-rated movies, and the canteen serves kid-friendly fare like thin-crust pizza and churros. Buy tickets online up to a week in advance. Tickets: adults, $8; kids 5–11, $6; free for littles 4 and younger.
“Wind Roundabout,” 703 N. Henderson St., Fort Worth
Coyote Drive-In, 223 NE 4th St., Fort Worth, 817/717-7767; coyotedrive-in.com/fortworth
You don’t need to wait for the holidays to see an outdoor light spectacle. Drive down the “AVENUE OF LIGHTS” on historic Lancaster Avenue to see six Art Deco–style stainless steel sculptures by artist Cliff Garten. The 36-foot-tall sculptures, located along the median from Lamar to Main/Commerce streets are constructed of 100 stainless steel plates that appear to twist and stretch gracefully upward. At dusk (and until dawn) energy-efficient LED lights turn the artwork white. And on holidays and other special occasions, you might see the sculpture wearing a different hue (red or green perhaps) at night.
BEST PHOTO OP: From the corner of Lamar and Lancaster streets, carefully cross to the median where the first sculpture is located. Take a few steps back and snap a picture facing east so you can capture your kids in front of multiple sculptures in the background.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Continue the lesson in Art Deco architecture with a trip to Bass Performance Hall, a five-minute drive north. Most Saturdays at 10:30am (call ahead to confirm, 817/212-4280), you can join a free docent-led tour to learn the history of the building.
“Avenue of Lights,” 221 W. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth
Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 817/212-4200; basshall.com
A star made out of cowboy hats. Can you think of anything more quintessentially Texas? This large fashion statement, “INTIMATE APPAREL AND
PEARL EARRINGS” by artist Donald Lipski, hangs in the Fort Worth Convention Center (open Monday–Thursday 7am–4pm and Friday until 1pm). Attached to a tubular star-shaped steel frame, many of the 400 cowboy hats belonged to notable Texans such as former President George H.W. Bush, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and several rodeo stars.
BEST PHOTO OP: Hold your phone or camera vertically and take a jumping picture of the kids trying to reach the star (extra points if you wear your own cowboy hats).
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Find natural art less than a 10-minute drive at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. There, kids explore over 20 free gardens and see October blooms like trumpet vines, lilies and marigolds. Head by on Oct. 10 from 11am–noon for the free Monarch tagging event where kids ages 4 and older help tag Monarch butterflies as they migrate to Mexico.
“Intimate Apparel and Pearl Earrings,” 1201 Houston St., Fort Worth
Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth, 817/392-5510; fwbg.org
Austin-based artist Philippe Klinefelter carved “EARTH FOUNTAIN,” a 9-foot orb
with three openings for flowing water to show how water comes from, shapes and then returns to the earth. The 2009 sculpture was made from a single 30-ton slab of Texas Sunset Red Granite, which is the same granite used in the nearby Tarrant County Courthouse.
BEST PHOTO OP: Sit your family on the curb-height ring around the fountain, and have a friend take a photo from far enough away to showcase the cool zig-zag paths leading to the fountain.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Stay outdoors. Take a 6-minute walk to Sanguinet Park to shoot some hoops, picnic and let the kids climb a rather intricate geometric structure, plus slide, swing and see-saw.
“Earth Fountain,” Camp Bowie Boulevard and Eldridge Street, Fort Worth
Sanguinet Park, 5137 El Campo Ave., Fort Worth
Inspire kids to go on a fossil hunt with a visit to the “AMMONITE INTERVENTION” sculptures on the pedestrian bridge over Fossil Creek. Created in 2015 by artist Lars Stanley, the two nearly identical, vibrantly painted metal sculptures of the extinct marine mollusks unfurl their tendrils over the handrails of the bridge and over a fossil bed where many ammonite fossils were discovered.
BEST PHOTO OP: Have your kids stand at the end of the ammonite’s tendrils so the photo looks like the ammonite is trying to catch them.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Afterward hike the paved trails of the adjacent 95-acre Buffalo Ridge Park. Supervised kiddos can easily walk down to the banks of Fossil
Creek to search for fossilized ammonites and other treasures before the family retires to the playground.
“Ammonite Intervention,” 6149 N. Riverside Dr., Fort Worth
Buffalo Ridge Park, 5720 Parkwood Trail, Haltom City, 817/831-6464; haltomcitytx.com
Artscapes, a mural art initiative by Keep Denton Beautiful, Inc. was created to inspire civic pride and deter graffiti in Denton’s public spaces. The “SCRAP DENTON MURAL” is one of the murals in the project and appears to be 20 different murals rolled into one. Painted by local artist Mick Burson, the mural, which lives on the side of the SCRAP Denton, the art-focused nonprofit that sells gently used art supplies, is divided into geometric shapes, each showing a different colorful pattern or nature motif.
BEST PHOTO OP: For a framed effect, center your family in front of the green-purple rainbow on the left side of the mural then experiment by trying several other backdrops.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: Like what you see? Hop in the car to take a drive-by tour of Burson’s other colorful works in Denton. First, head north to the Greater Denton Arts Council to see his contemporary take on the mural on the adjacent wall of a rail station and locomotive. Next, coax the kids into taking another family photo in front of Burson’s postcard-like “Denton” mural outside Oak St. Drafthouse before getting yourself one of the 70 beers on tap and letting the kids play ping- pong on the huge patio. Make sure you’re parked legally because you’re going to ditch the car and walk one block north to Burson’s athletic-inspired mural outside Second Hand Sports & Game Swap (the kids may ask for a ping-pong table). Get back in the car to head to the last stop, A Creative Art Studio to see the artist’s colorful wall of houses.
SCRAP Denton, 420 S. Bell Ave., Denton, 940/808-1611; scrapdenton.org
Greater Denton Arts Council, 400 E. Hickory St., Denton, 940/382-2787; dentonarts.com
Oak St. Drafthouse, 308 E. Oak St., Denton, 940/435-0404; oakstreetdrafthouse.com
Second Hand Sports and Game Swap, 204 E. McKinney St., Denton, 940/898- 8733; shsdfw.com
A Creative Art Studio, 227 W. Oak St., Denton, 940/442-1251; acreativeartstudio.com
Impress the kids with a trip to “THE MUSTANGS OF LAS COLINAS.” Rumored to be the largest equestrian sculpture in the world, the hyperrealistic piece by African wild-life artist Robert Glen shows nine bronze wild mustangs crossing a granite stream. It serves as the centerpiece in Williams Square Plaza and is meant to embody Texas’ free-spirit heritage.
BEST PHOTO OP: This one might require a selfie stick or someone else taking the picture. Stand closest to the front of the herd, and shoot from slightly above to capture the small fountains meant to show the movement of the horses’ feet hitting the water.
MAKE A DAY OF THE VISIT: If the mustangs interest your kids, head over to the adjacent Mustangs of Las Colinas Museum where kids learn how the sculpture was built. Free admission.
“The Mustangs of Las Colinas” Museum and Sculpture, 5221 North O’Connor Road, #110E, Irving, 972/869-9047; mustangsoflascolinas.com