The summer is long, but probably not long enough by your kids’ calculations. In between summer reading and day camps, school shopping and swimming, there is, fortunately, plenty of time to do what summer was made for — relaxing and having fun.
We may not have the beach or the mountains, but Big D has a lot to offer and plenty of corners to explore, if you know where to look. Dallas is brimming with culture and activities, and we just can’t get enough. We love Dallas, especially in the summer, and here’s why:
Because we know how to throw a great (often impromptu) backyard BBQ:
Don’t mess with Texas … barbecue, that is. Whether it’s a weeknight grill-fest, a perfectly planned backyard feast or a block party (National Night Out is Aug. 7), there are some undeniable staples of every great barbecue, and Dallas does it best.
Do-it-yourself affair. Don’t miss Central Market’s rare selections of Premium Angus Gold, and squeeze in time for fresh produce at either the Dallas Farmers Market or Fairview Farms Farmers Market in Plano. You’ll support local farmers and get delicious, untainted produce to make your meal pop. The main element, though, says Sherry Koven of Plano, is friends. The kids swim and play until they work up a Texas-sized appetite, while Dad grills burgers with the family’s “secret” ingredient … fajita seasoning.
The leave-it-to-the experts affair. Sammy’s Bar-B-Q, situated in the cool shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, can help you out with meat and all the fixins, including some not-to-be missed casseroles. And of course, the Dallas original Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is an able standby. Order fried okra, and whatever you do, don’t forget the watermelon.
Because we have a lot of pretty things to look at (indoors):
The only way to stay truly cool during a Dallas heat wave is to duck indoors. Lucky for us, the arts are alive and well in Dallas, offering a plethora of air-conditioned options for having fun and exploring priceless permanent collections and world class exhibits and architecture.
NorthPark Center has a lot to offer, visually speaking. Peer beyond the retail spaces and you’ll see the mall anew as a contemporary gallery. The orange steel sculpture, Ad Astra, 2005, by Mark di Suvero towers over the food court. And look for Corridor Pin, Blue, 1999, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen from the second-floor windows by the AMC Theater. See what other treasures you can spy on the mall’s walls — it’s just what NorthPark developer Raymond Nasher would have wanted.
The Dallas Museum of Art celebrates summer with its “Late Nights” the third Friday of every month. Tote the kids in their PJs for storytellers, art projects and yoga based on a theme of the museum’s collection. Starbucks coffee flows to keep Mom and Dad bright-eyed, but the little ones will be ready for “nite-nite” when family activities wrap at 10 p.m.
While you’re downtown, explore the Latino Cultural Center, part of the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. The center not only houses works from locally, nationally and world-renowned Hispanic artists, it also encourages participation with children’s mural projects, dancing, performance art and music. Family-friendly activities, designed to celebrate Latino heritage, take place on the second Saturday of every month.
Just up the Tollway in North Dallas is the Jesuit Dallas Museum on the campus of Jesuit College Preparatory School. Here you’ll find a variety of masterworks from artists like Pena and Dali; kids will love the colorful glassworks by Chihuly. Allow a knowledgeable docent to guide your exploration of the museum and its cool, shady courtyards, or explore on your own (free by appointment).
Fair Park is a perennial favorite – even when it’s not bustling with State Fair activities. You can visit interactive gems such as The Museum of Nature and Science and the Children’s Aquarium. Make sure you don’t miss the African American Museum, which boasts an extensive folk art collection and is the only museum in the Southwest devoted to the preservation and display of African-American artistic, cultural and historical treasures. You’ll also discover special family activity days throughout the summer, such as the Juneteenth Festival and the weekend art activities.
Because we’ve got wide open spaces for exploring:
What better way to see your city in a new light than by ditching the cramped confines of a car and freeing up the whole family to relax and enjoy the ride? How to get on board, you ask? With DART, of course. The red line starts in Plano and follows US 75 through Richardson into downtown. There’s a convenient stop at the Dallas Zoo. You can also take the blue line to explore the White Rock Lake Museum and the Bath House Cultural Center. Or, just stay on the line for easy excursions to Mockingbird Station, the West End or Union Station.
The McKinney Avenue Trolley is a quaint reminder of North Texas’ early origins. The trolley covers all of Uptown, from Ross Avenue to the West Village. The Dallas Museum of Art, the West End and the West Village are all on the route.
In the mood to get out of town? Try the Trinity Railway Express (TRE), which connects Dallas with Fort Worth for some day-trip fun. A day pass costs $10, and the journey takes about an hour. At the halfway point, hop off and tour the Irving Heritage District. Continue on to Cowtown, where Sundance Square awaits.
If you feel like exploring our terrain by foot, there are parks aplenty for such pursuits. The Katy Trail has a vibrant history as the route of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad through Dallas in the 19th century, and now your family can stroll, bike, skate or run along its manicured path through Uptown Dallas.
The shining jewel in Dallas’ crown is Victory Park. The complex is still evolving, but it’s more than just home to the Mavs and Stars. (Did you know the site is a former “brownfield,” or highly contaminated area, and its reclamation has been commended by the Environmental Protection Agency?) Inspired by central plazas in places like Venice and Paris, the Digital Art Gallery builds a sense of community in this revitalized part of the city. Eleven enormous LED screens in the plaza dazzle with film shorts, animated films, stunning videography and time-lapse photography.
Because it’s fun to play games (or watch them):
We’re a city of sports fans, that’s for sure. When we’re not cheering our Rangers, our Cowboys and our Mavs, there are other local teams and lesser-known sports that are good for summer fun, as well. The Dallas Desperados are proud to prolong the football season well into June at the American Airlines Center. Soccer fans can enjoy FC Dallas matches at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco (tailgating encouraged!), which also hosts various summer concerts and a spectacular Fourth of July show. The Frisco RoughRiders baseball team keeps families entertained at the idyllic Dr Pepper Park (make an even bigger splash with the kids by renting the Pool Pavilion by Riverbend Sandler in the outfield during games).
And, don’t forget, the Mesquite Rodeo is well underway, enjoying its 54th season, every weekend this month. And then there’s polo. In the highbrow sport with down-home appeal in North Texas, the Las Colinas Polo Club plays matches every Saturday throughout the summer. Be sure to bone up on important terminology, like “chukker,” “hook” and “neckshot” before you go.
More interested in getting in on the action? There’s no shortage of indoor fun and games to be had around town. Try 300 Dallas in Addison for bowling and games. Don Carter’s All Star Lanes is a classic for bowling, as well. Nothing’s cooler than ice-skating in the summer, either. Galleria Dallas and Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre feature rinks, and three area Dr Pepper StarsCenters let kids free skate or get lessons in hockey and figure skating in a professional setting.
Because everyone is a kid again:
That’s right. Because when the weather heats up, the days are long and school is out, Dallasites look for ways to have fun. We love our big attractions like Six Flags, Hurricane Harbor, The Dallas Arboretum, Hawaiian Falls and The Dallas World Aquarium. And now, several local parks departments are bringing the cool fun of the water parks to the neighborhood. Spray grounds (big, colorful playgrounds that keep you hydrated) are popping up all over North Texas, with seven in Dallas and several in Allen.
The reasons for living in Dallas are practical (good schools, jobs, familyetc.), but it’s time to get out and discover it anew, for all the fun it has to offer.