If there’s one thing North Texans love more than food, it’s art and culture, both of which are reflected in some of the areas’ amazing museums such as the Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Kimbell Art Museum. But what about all those lesser-known museums that don’t often see the spotlight? Explore something new such as a piece of the World Trade Centers, gowns of the First Ladies of Texas or oil paintings of the Wild West.
Sid Richardson Museum
What began as the personal art collection of one oil tycoon became a museum (tucked away in Sundance Square) of more than 100 works, mostly oil-on-canvas paintings depicting scenes from the American West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Plus, don’t miss all the free family-friendly programs such as a docent-led Living History Performance every second Saturday of the month, a screening of Disney’s Home on the Range (complete with popcorn and snacks) on April 30 or painting a landscape canvas together at the family workshop on May 7 (register for both the movie and workshop in advance online).
Fort Worth, 817/332-6554
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Snap a photo of the kids as they sit as the commander in chief at the desk in the to-scale Oval Office. Then let them loose to explore dozens of touch screens that teach U.S history and more with interactive games throughout the permanent exhibit of our 43rd president’s library. And now through October 9, kids campaign to run the free world at the museum’s newest exhibit “Path to the Presidency” by choosing campaign platforms, making a slogan and poster and giving speeches using a real teleprompter.
Admission: Adults, $17; teens, $15, ages 5–12, $11; 4 and younger, free
Play Street Museum
Kids enter different pretend worlds at the children’s Play Street Museum’s three locations in Collin County. Kiddos become chefs, firefighters and shop owners in Frisco’s mini town square. Little nature lovers boat, fish and sit by a (flameless) campfire in Plano. And they milk a cow, cook or man the ice cream shop and grocery store in the make believe farming town in McKinney.
Admission: Kids ages 1–8, $11
Frisco, McKinney and Plano, 469/362-8624
National Scouting Museum
This institution of the Boy Scouts of America is history, art and children’s museum all rolled into one. Thirteen different interactive areas — including an indoor spelunking cave, Pinewood Derby racetrack and a laser shooting gallery — keep kids busy while they learn valuable survival, gun safety and leadership skills. Plus, don’t miss the 48-piece collection of original Norman Rockwell art.
Admission: Adults, $8; scouts, $5; kids 4–12, $6; free on Sunday and Monday
Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection at Texas Woman’s University
Take fashion lovers — big and small — to see regal gowns worn by the First Ladies of Texas from 1837 to the present. The collection includes over 40 gowns (there are about 20 dresses on display at one time and they are switched out periodically), replicas and originals, worn by Laura Bush, Mamie Eisenhower and Lady Bird Johnson, among others.
Denton County Museum and Historical Park
Explore Denton County history in this three-part museum, starting with life in the 19th century at the Denton County Courthouse. Let littles play conductor on a train set and color and craft in the create corner. Take a docent-led tour through the Queen Anne-style Bayless-Selby House to learn about Denton’s Victorian era. Then encourage tiny history buffs to delve into Denton’s black heritage with interactive educational panels in the Quakertown House.
Patterson-Appleton Art Center
See student art on display this month in one of two galleries (both with rotating exhibits) at the Patterson-Appleton Art Center, run by the Greater Denton Arts Council. Starting April 5, the Gough Gallery features the annual Denton High Schools art show with works from talented Denton ISD students. Pop into the Meadows Gallery if you’re there after April 15 to meander through VAST Merging Visions, which pairs art and poetry for a multi-sensual experience.
Admission: Free during these shows
Heritage Farmstead Museum
Discover what life was like in the blackland prairie region of Texas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at this living history museum set on a 4.5-acre farm. Take the public tour at 1:30pm daily (except Monday) to gain access to the entire facility, including the house, around the grounds and into the outbuildings. Visit during select Fridays when kids 18 months–2 years meet animals, touch bugs, read books and take a wagon ride. Three different summer camp sessions give kids ages 6 and older the opportunity to explore science and history outdoors.
Admission: $3 per person; ages 2 and younger, free; guided tours and special programs cost extra
If your family lives in or around Cowtown, you likely know some trivia and tidbits about the Stockyards. But this museum puts all the history into perspective with exhibits detailing the original stock exchange — livestock, that is. Kids get a glimpse of the rich communities that made up Fort Worth and how this history influences Cowtown today. Don’t leave without snapping a picture of the kids in a cowboy hat riding the barrel saddle.
Admission: Adults, $2; kids 12 and younger, free
Fort Worth, 817/625-5082
Tandy Archaeological Museum
After exploring archeology through the more than 4,000 artifacts, including ceramics, figurines and jewelry, set the kids loose to dig. And on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus, where the museum is located, there’s the Baxley Archeological Park simulation dig site (open by appointment only), where littles use provided tools to unearth pottery and other faux artifacts to learn about the excavation process.
Admission: Free for the museum; $5 per person for the dig
Fort Worth, 817/923-1921
Cookbook Collection at Texas Woman’s University
Fancy yourself a foodie? Do the kiddos love to help in the kitchen? Spend the day perusing the massive vintage assortment of books, recipes and manuals spanning 1624 to prohibition and the Great Depression. Browse the personal collections of local celebrities such as Julie Benell, food editor for The Dallas Morning News for 25 years, in this library setting. Kids are welcome but should be strong readers to appreciate the works here.
Vintage Flying Museum
Take war history buffs and transportation-loving tots to the Vintage Flying Museum, which chronicles American wars — mainly World War II — with memorabilia, photographs, and a hanger filled with several one-of-a-kind, vintage aircraft, some of which still fly. Just looking for plane fun? Board a virtual flight in the flight simulator or reserve a scenic daytime flight in a C-47 plane through the Great Generation Aircraft (gga1.org) for about $99 per person for 30 minutes.
Admission: Adults, $8; teens, $5; ages 6–13, $3; 6 and younger, free
Fort Worth, 817/624-1935
Texas Civil War Museum
An interactive scavenger hunt helps kids (and adults) navigate the museum’s military artifacts, Victorian dresses and Texas Confederate flag exhibit. Don’t miss the 30-minute film Our Homes Our Rights about Texas land during the war.
Admission: Adults, $6; ages 7–12, $3; 6 and younger, free
Fort Worth, 817/246-2323
DFW Elite Toy Museum
With more than 3,000 antique toys, models and collectibles that line shelves, walls, even the ceiling, the DFW Elite Toy Museum showcases fascinating playthings that kids won’t find in today’s stores. Invite the grandparents to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane as you all take in the eye-candy that spans decades, from vintage trucks and cars to dolls, dogs and other figurines.
Haltom City, 817/834-3625
Denton Firefighters Museum
Kids try on a firefighter uniform, meet Denton firefighters (as long as they aren’t on a call) and tour the trucks at this museum located in the historic Central Fire Station. Plus, there’s a fragment of one of the World Trade Center buildings from 9/11, a collection of model firetrucks and firefighting equipment and tools on display.