In this economy, we are all looking for ways to save a few dollars. But, sanity is priceless, and with the kids out of school for the summer, we are also all looking for things to keep them busy. So MomsOutLoud.com has done the research for you, and brings you 25 Free (or Cheap!) Things to Do with Your Kids This Summer in Dallas-Ft. Worth. Nothing here is over $5 per child, so get out your calendar and fill it up with these great ideas!
By the way, none of these ideas are “paid” advertising. So, if you know of something we’ve missed – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with all the details and we’ll add it on the article for others to find and enjoy. Have a fun summer!
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#1 – Pet some animals
Fritz Park Petting Farm – The city of Irving operates this petting farm, which is Free to the public and open during the months of June and July. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday (weather permitting).
#2 – Get Your Game On
Nickelmania – This Carrollton video arcade/pizza place let’s you play video games ith – you guessed it! – real nickels. Admission is only $1.95 per person, or you get in free if you buy food (current special on their web site is a personal pizza and soft drink for $3.99). We wouldn’t be surprised to see some young adults there on a lunch break (including my husband if he worked anywhere near it!).
# 3 – Curl up with a Good Book
We are blessed in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area to have so many great libraries in our communities. Most libraries have a summer reading program, where children can track their reading over the summer and earn prizes. This is a wonderful way to encourage your children to read! Check your local library for specifics of their program, but a few examples are:
- Dallas’s Mayor’s Reading Program – kicks off May 30 and runs through August 8, with an end of summer celebration party on August 15.
- Plano’s summer reading program begins with a party at Haggard Park on June 6 and asks kids to track hours spent reading through July 31.
- Arlington’s summer reading program will be themed “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and kick off on June 6; more details coming soon on their website.
#4 – Bounce Yourself Silly
Many area bounce places provide great relief from the heat outside while still giving your kids a chance to work off their seemingly limitless energy. There are many specials at bounce houses around DFW, including two of the recent Mom’s Voice! Award winners!
- Boomerangs Party & Play, with locations in Flower Mound, Hurst, and Plano, was voted the Best Birthday Party Place in Denton County for their Flower Mound location. They are offering discounted admission on Tuesdays in all stores for the entire summer: $5 for ages 4-14 an $3 for ages 1-3.
- Bounce U in Carrollton, Mom’s Voice! Award winner for Best Indoor Fun Place in Denton County offers a $5 Early Bird Bounce on Saturdays, 8:30 – 10am. Also, you can purchase a Summer Bounce Pass for unlimted Summer bouncing for $90, or purchase one each month for $50/month. Depending on how much jumping your kids like to do, this could be a very inexpensive option!
See all the winners of our contest for Denton & Tarrant Counties by clicking here or following the link listed on the bottom left at www.momsoutloud.com/momsreview. This contest allowed Moms to vote on their favorite businesses, without the businesses having to advertise or pay any submission fee, so you get the REAL SCOOP on what Moms think!)
#5 – Attend an Area Festival
Another of the many benefits of living in such a great metro area is the number of free festivals that are held throughout the year. While attending an outdoor event during the summer may not sound so great to us adults, kids don’t seem to notice the temperature when its something fun and interesting. A couple to keep on your radar screen for this summer are:
- Attend the Mansfield Arts Festival, June 5-6. Music on Friday evening, music and artist booths on Saturday. See website for schedule.
- Celebrate Juneteenth in Grand Prairie on June 20. (From www.juneteenth.com: Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.)
- Fort Worth Stockyards National Day of the Cowboy, July 25, all day
- Kimbell Art Museum Family Festival, August 1, 1-4pm
#6 – Splash Around
A favorite invention of mine in the past few years is the spray park. This is much better than turning on the water hose in your own backyard, which was the only option when I was growing up. Splash grounds are a great option for those of us Moms who have multiple young kids and don’t feel quite safe watching over all of them in a pool, but want to go somewhere to beat the heat and get fresh air. Check your city’s Parks & Rec website for all locations near you, but here are links to a few of our favorites that you may even want to drive a little further for.
- Allen Celebration Park – This spray ground, designed for children aged 2-12, is adjacent to a playground. What a great option for kids to work up a sweat on the playground and then run through the splash area.
- Arlington Outdoor Pools – especially check out Helen Wessler, Howard Moore, and Randol Mill Family Aquatic Centers
- The Coppell Aquatic & Rec Center has a lot to offer visitors, including both indoor and outdoor water features.
- Garland’s Surf and Swim is truly an amazing aquatic area with – as the name would suggest – a surf pool. They are offering Super Saver Tuesdays throughout the summer – for $25 you get 4 admissions, 4 hot dogs, 4 drinks.
- Grand Prairie Splash Factory – features age-specific play areas including a water wall, ground sprays, play structures, a magic touch water gun, spray cannons and power geysers. Six touch buttons allow children to interact with the play features. Only $1 admission.
- Frisco Parks & Recs – runs a great indoor/outdoor aquatic center, plus there are two great splash parks in the city: J.R. Newman Spray Grounds and Shepherds Glen Park.
#7 – Soak Up Some History & Culture – For Free!
Several area museums have special days set aside for free admission. The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which is currently also housing exhibits from the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History while its new facility is being built, offers free museum admission for the entire family on the last Friday of the month from 3pm-7pm. Bring the entire family and enjoy exhibits and hands-on activities.
Also in Fort Worth, and within walking distance of each other, are the Kimbell Art Musuem and the Amon Carter Museum. Both feature free admission to their permanent collections daily, with admission charges for their extra exhibits (right now they include Art & Love in Renaissance Italy at the Kimbell through June 14 and a few different exhibitions at the Amon Carter Museum, including “Masterworks of American Photography” through June 7).
The National Scouting Museum in Irving offers free admission every Sunday and Monday. With exhibits including virtual fishing, virtual helicopter flying, and a laser shooting gallery, plus many more.
The Dallas Museum of Art offers free admission on Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m as well as the first Tuesday of each month (additional ticket prices may apply to special, non-permanent, exhibitions). Next door is the Nasher Sculpture Center, which houses one of the finest collections of art that was, at one time, privately owned by Ray and Patsy Nasher. On the Target First Saturdays (first Saturday of each month), the Nasher has free admission from 10am – 2pm and special activities for kids and families, including arts, crafts, story time and yoga in the gardens. Also, Thursday nights from 5 – 9 will be FREE from May to July this summer.
#8 – Find some Bugs
Texas Discovery Gardens is a hidden gem in the Fair Park Museum Complex in Dallas. On the third Saturday of every month, they offer guided garden walks through their beautiful grounds focused on a particular topic. There are two this summer that are appropriate for ages 2 and older that you will want to attend with your budding horitculturist. On June 20, the theme is: “Bug Hunt”, and on August 15 it is: “Caterpillar Crawl”. The walks are included with the admission price, which is $3/adult, $2/seniors, $1.50/age 3-11yrs, and free for kids under 3. Their website has details on these plus other great events – including their Butterfly House that will open in September 2009.
#9 – Catch an Indoor Movie Matinee
Many area movie theaters have deep discounts on children-targeted matinees throughout the summer. Here are some links to the big ones so you can find your closest theater to view their schedule. Definitely something to print and have on the frig for the summer!
- Studio Movie Grill – Runs June 8 through August 20, 11 am at their Arlington, Dallas, Lewisville, and Plano locations on Mondays – Thursdays. $2/adult, $1/kids.
- Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse – Runs for 10 weeks, 10 am at locations across the metroplex (either one or more days/week; see specific theater for dates and movie schedule). $5 punch cards can be purchased in advance on a limited availability basis for all 10 movies (that’s $.50/film!), otherwise $1/movie.
- AMC Summer Movie Camp – Runs June 17 through August 5, 10 am every Wednesday, at participating locations around the metroplex. $1/movie, proceeds benefit Variety-A Children’s Charity and The Will Rogers Institute.
#10 – Learn about Aviation
You’ve got two great choices for teaching your pilot-in-training about aviation.
- The Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison will amaze kids and adults alike with its collection of a century of aircraft – wood and fabric aircraft from the World War I era, significant aircraft of the 1930s and World War II periods, the the early jet planes of the 1950s, and the technology that’s driving aviation advances today. Base admission prices are adults – $8, children 6-14 yrs $4, and kids 5 and under free, but with their coupon on MomsOutLoud.com (www.momsoutloud.com/coupons/list), you can buy 1 regular price admission and get 1 (of same or lesser value) for FREE! That’s a bargain for such a high quality educational experience!
- The American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum in Fort Worth is the first museum dedicated to the commercial aviation industry. Its 1000+ collection features hands-on learning through hands-on exhibits. Best of all, it’s one of the best values around our area for a museum of its class – only $4/adult, $2/child aged 2 – 12 and students, and free for kids under 2.
#11 – Go to an Outdoor Summer Concert
- McKinney will have an outdoor concert every Thursday night in July beginning July 9 at Towne Lake Park from 7:30-8:30pm. See the McKinney website for more information.
- In Little Elm, there will be a concert series called “Summer Rhythms by the Lake” every Friday in June from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Little Elm Park Amphitheather.
- Plano Community Band will begin its Summer Concerts in Haggard Park on June 1, with concerts every two weeks or so in June and July (see website for specific dates). All concerts are free and begin at 7pm.
- Richardson Community Band Summer Series kicks off 2009 with a concert on May 24 to honor our veterans, and continues with performances twice per month (see website for dates and details). All concerts begin at 7pm on the lawn of the Richardson Civic Center (900 Civic Center Dr.), except July 4 which starts at 8pm. Free to the public.
#12 – Go Fishing!
While it may sound hard to find in our concrete jungle, there are several parks nearby that allow fishing. You don’t need a boat for many of them, either, or fancy equipment. Collin County alone has over 30 ponds and lakes that allow fishing (check the Texas Department of Wildlife website for the full list for area counties). Just make sure this is an entire family activity (i.e., hubby’s there), or you may get stuck baiting the hooks. Personally, I prefer packing the lunch than handling worms.
Some cities even host special family events at their fishing holes, many of which are during National Fishing Week from June 6 – June 14.
- Arlington is having its 8th Annual Free Kids Fishing Tournament on Saturday, June 6. Fish Lake Arlington from Bowman Spring Park. It’s a day of food, fun, prizes, and activities for all ages.
- Also on June 6, the City of Hurst is sponsoring a Kids All American Fishing Derby at Chisholm Park, which is a free fishing contest for kids aged 5-16 years.
- From June 6-14, Garland is hosting Take Me Fishing at Ablon Park by stocking the pond. No registration or fee required; just bring your kids and your fishing poles.
- Keller will host “Fishing for Fun” on June 20 at Bear Creek Park Pond from 9-11:30am. Open to anglers ages 16 and younger, there will be contests, prizes and drawings. Bring your fishing pole, favorite bait, and an adult fishing buddy for a morning of easy casting in Bear Creek Park.
#13 – Have a Free – or Almost Free – Indoor Play Date
A couple of area churches have every Mom’s dream answer to the age-old question of “what to do with the kids without breaking the bank?”.
- Paradise Pond in Grapevine (hosted by First Baptist Church of Grapevine and pictured here) is an indoor play place for kids aged 2 through 6th grade. They are open for “open play” on Thursday and Friday mornings from 9am – 11am. Admission is only $1/person, but their max capacity is 100 at any one time, and we’ve heard they do fill it up so if you want to get in, get there early. They also have birthday parties, see their website for more information.
- The Irving Bible Church has a unique and wonderful spot for parents to enjoy with their children: The Tubes. The Irving Bible Church website says this about the play structure: “In designing our facilities, our intention was to build spaces that were available for the entire community to use. The Tubes are one of the results of that intention. This massive indoor play area is designed for children up through 5th grade and is open to the community seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. No reservations are required. It is closed for cleaning the last Wednesday of the month from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The Tubes is a warm and welcoming place for all parents and their children to enjoy.” I’m thinking Jesus is up there applauding this church for its generosity.
#14 – Get Stars in Your Eyes
Independence Day celebrations are a big highlight of everyone’s summer, but in Dallas-Ft. Worth you don’t have to wait until July 4 to catch beautiful fireworks displays. Here are three picks for pre-July 4 Fireworks displays:
- At Fireworks Over Lake Grapevine, enjoy a 12 minute fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. every Friday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day (May 22 – Sept 4) . Fireworks can be seen from any Lake Grapevine Park.
- Highland Village is hosting its 10th annual Highland Village Days Red, White & Blue Festival on June 6. All-day activities include a family Fun Run, Fishing, and music — including Kevin Fowler (if you know country music, you know Kevin Fowler!). The evening culminates with a Fireworks Extravaganza.
- For Frisco and some Plano residents, weekly fireworks at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark (home of the Frisco Rough Riders baseball team) are as much a part of summer as popsicles. Generally on Friday evenings around dusk; see the full schedule here.
#15 – Go to a Farmer’s Market
Shop for fresh produce and unique items at one of the local farmer’s markets.
- The biggest one around is is the Dallas Farmer’s Market, just south of downtown. They have different sheds that house different types of suppliers, including home decor importers, produce (local, wholesale, etc.) and is within walking distance of several nurseries.
- The popular, open-air Grapevine Market in downtown Grapevine is open every Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. until October 17. You can find an eclectic array of items, including fresh produce, handmade jewelry, home décor, antiques, and more.
- In Frisco, at Frisco Square, the farmer’s market runs every Saturday from May 9 through September 19 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or sell-out). Vendors include a range of local farmers, home-made crafts, and unique household and gift items.
- McKinney’s Farmer’s Market, in historic Chestnut Square, has produce, flowers, baked goods, and more; open Saturdays from 8am – 2pm from April 25 – October 17. (Notable: their website includes a list of produce harvest dates so you can see which are truly sourced locally vs. being sourced from “far away” places like Canton, TX.)
#16 – Watch an Outdoor Movie – on Your Lawnchair
The Parks & Recs Departments of our many cities in Dallas-Fort Worth go overboard in the summer, and many of them provide outdoor summer movies. A few examples:
- The City of Keller is sponsoring Family Movie Nights on Friday evenings in June at Johnson Road Park. Bring a blanket and lawn chairs and enjoy favorite family movies under the stars at the Johnson Road Park Amphitheater. The movie is shown on the big screen as soon as the sun goes down at 9:00 PM. Before the movie begins, there will be a variety of family games and activities, on some evenings even concerts. See website for movie schedule.
- Fort Worth continues its popular “Stars Under the Stars” in downtown Fort Worth (Sundance Square). Movies (like the Pink Panther, June 11) are shown every Thursday evening through July 2 at dusk in the Chisholm Trail Parking Lot. The movie is free, and you are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs for seating.
- Garland is having Lawnchair Theater – Cinema in the Starlight at Holford Park on June 5 (WALL-E) and August 7 (Enchanted), both at 8pm. This is a free event; bring a lawn chair or blanket. Affordable snacks available for purchase.
#17 – Watch an Outdoor Movie – on Your Floatie
With so many great aquatic centers around Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s no wonder there are lots of options for “dive in movies”. Here are a few of the many:
- Hawaiian Night in McKinney on August 15 at the Juanita Maxfield Aquatic Center. Enjoy an evening of water, music, games, prizes, food, outdoor movie (Finding Nemo) and fun for the whole family, 5:30 – 8:30pm. See the McKinney website for more details.
- At the Bedford Splash Water Park, they will have “Flick and Float” nights on Friday, June 19 (Water Horse: Legend of the Deep-PG) and Friday, July 17 (Muppet Treasure Island-G). Admission is free with your paid Splash Park admission, or $5.
- Flower Mound Community Activities Center Dive In Movies will be held on Fridays monthly at 8pm from May through August (see the Activity Guide for specific dates) and include Ratatoiuille and Madagascar. Admission is free with paid admission to CAC.
#18 – Get Back to Nature – Pick-your-own Berries, Walk a Trail, Go Canoeing
While getting some exercise in the great outdoors may be the last thing on your mind as the Texas summer heats up, don’t discount the quality time you can spend as a family in nature….or the chance to work up a sweat and go home and play in the backyard garden hose. There are several fun options around DFW. Some of the notable ones include:
- Pick-your-own veggies and berries at Gnismer Farms in Arlington. Located at 3010 S. Bowen Road, you don’t have to drive far to give your kids the experience of picking their own crop. Strawberries are almost done, but blackberries, watermelon and others will be here soon. You can check their website for what crop is ready and ripe for the picking! Hours are 12-5pm Wednesdays and 9am-noon Saturdays.
- Stroll through the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. Open from 8am-dusk, these gardens are an oasis of beauty very near downtown Fort Worth. Admission only $1 for adults, $.50 for kids aged 4-12 yrs, and free for kids under 4.
- Arbor Hills Nature Preserve on the wester edge of Plano (bordering Carrollton) is a 200-acre park featuring vast areas of natural beauty for walking, jogging, hiking, orienteering, and other outdoor activity. It’s also got a great playground area and lots of open space for kite flying and frisbee throwing.
- The Colony is hosting a grand opening event at its newly completed Shoreline Trail on June 6 from 3 – 5pm.
#19 – Go to a Special Program at Your Local Library
In addition to the area summer reading programs and regularly scheduled story-times, many area libraries also host special events for kids throughout the summer that are free of charge. Some of our favorites are:
- Bookmarks – the Dallas Public Library branch at NorthPark Mall. They have story-times, of course, but on Wednesdays at 10:30am they feature musicians, storytellers and puppets who delight newborns to 6-year-olds. On Saturdays at 2pm, they feature interactive programs especially for elementary children in grades K-6. Thrill to storytellers, childrens book authors and illustrators, puppets, musicians, magic shows, dancers and more.
- Keller Public Library – with activities from toddlers to teens, this library has many special programs this summer for your entire family, like their Summer Reading Program‘s special performance on June 15 at 2:30pm called “Texas Magic Tricks and Tomfoolery” with Brett Robert. (Due to their renovation and expansion project, it will be held at Bear Creek Intermediate School located at 801 Bear Creek Parkway.)
- Mansfield Public Library – their Summer Reading Club has special programs weekly for kids in age groups 3-6 yrs and 7-11 yrs, with special visits from such local “celebrities” as the Creature Teacher, and Bongo the Puppet Guy.
#20 – Go to a Live Theater Performance
You may think that “live theater” and “$5 or less” can’t exist in the same sentence, but think again. A few area productions geared for children are very reasonable – and impressive.
- The Artisan Center Theater in Hurst offers children’s productions in addition to outstanding community theater. Starting May 23 and running through June 25, for instance, is Wimberly the Duck, based on a true story of a duck raised from birth by a human family who is re-introduced to life on a farm. Tickets are just $5, all ages.
- Shakespeare in the Park – Junior Players. A FREE Shakespeare production of As You Like It, performed by students, runs July 28 through Aug. 2, nightly at 8:15 at the amphitheater at Samuell Grand Park in Dallas.
- Theater Arlington presents its summer Family production of Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit. See youth performers demonstrate how the fairy tale criminal justice system works! June 16-18, 10am and 2pm performances each day. Tickets just $5 ($4 for groups of 10 or more).
#21 – Beat the Heat Indoors at a Mall
Most malls in our area have great indoor play places for younger kids to work off energy. A few malls go one step further with even more free programs for kids.
- The area Simon Malls all offer a great program called “Kidgets“. For an annual membership fee of just $5 per child, you get exclusive offers from mall merchants and the chance to participate in great programs at the malls, like story-times, mini-chefs events, fun safety fairs and more. Simon Malls in the area include: Firewheel Town Center (Garland), Grapevine Mills, North East Mall (Hurst), and Irving Mall. The Kidgets website has event listings by mall.
- In addition to having a popular children’s play area (3rd level, near Saks), the Dallas Galleria offers children and the young at heart “Showtime Saturdays.” Slappy’s Playhouse presents a different program each week, including magicians, musicians, comedians and other performers. All shows are free, on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. near the play area.
#22 – Go on a Train Ride
Riding a train to an event is a great way to introduce your kids to a more environmentally friendly way to get around than your SUV or mini-van provides. The DART Rail website has a great page that lays out the routes to get to various festivals and special events around Dallas-Ft. Worth. Even simply taking a ride to get an ice cream treat (like at Cold Stone Creamery at Mockingbird Station) will delight kids who have only seen the yellow DART cars zipping around town.
To introduce your kids to an even more unique mode of travel, ride the McKinney Avenue Trolley. This short ride between the Uptown area of Dallas and the Dallas Arts District will teach your child about a disappearing method of transit (except for maybe San Fran and Europe). Runs free 365 days/year thanks to volunteers; see website for map and schedule.
#23 – Make Something Together
Working together on a craft or project can be a fun, enjoyable time for you and your kids. If the thought of heading to the craft store, figuring out a project, and buying all the needed materials seems overwhelming, then take advantage of some of the free offerings around Dallas-Fort Worth instead.
- Lakeshore Learning Store offers free craft projects for kids every Saturday from 11am-3pm in all their stores. June projects include puppets and Father’s Day ties.
- Southlake Public Library hosts “Make and Take Crafts” twice a month, on certain Monday afternoons from 4-5pm. They are suitable for all ages and absolutely free, no registration required. Just show up! See their website for dates.
- Home Depot and Lowe’s stores offer kids projects once/month where kids aged 5-12 can make different items with their parents for free. At Home Depot, the workshops are on the first Saturday of the month from 9am – noon. To see what projects are offered, go to the website’s Kids Workshop page. At Lowe’s, you can see their Build and Grow Clinics webpage for instructions on how to sign up, which dates the clinic is offered, and what project will be made.
#24 – Tour a Log Cabin
There are a couple of great options to help your kids learn more about frontier life right here in north Texas. (My boys are currently fascinated with Davy Crockett, so I’m thinking we’ll be heading out to both of these places this summer.)
- Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village is a living history museum with several historic log cabins, including a smokehouse and blacksmith shop. When you visit, you will enter a beautiful wooded area dotted by these log structures where you can “escape the present and experience the past.” The structures all remain open during normal operation hours, and on various days in June you can participate in special programs geared toward teaching kids about life in frontier Texas. Admission is $3.50/adults over 18 yrs, $3.00/ages 3-18, and free for kids under 3.
- Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area is home to several historic structures, most notably the Minor-Porter Log House, which dates to about 1869. Completely restored and furnished with all the trappings of everyday frontier life, the log house give LLELA visitors a window on early Denton County history. Tours are available every third Saturday of the month and are no extra charge beyond general admission ($5/person over age 5, under 5 free).
#25 – Help Your Kids Learn about Safety
Your kids (and you, probably) never knew learning about safety could be so fun. But it is – at Frisco Fire Safety Town, where all the buildings are built on 5/8 scale (i.e., children-sized) and replicate the town of Frisco. Their summer program includes multiple hour-long classes each day of the week, with topics on things like “Outdoor Safety”, “Bicycling Safety”, even (on special dates/times) “Babysitter Safety.” Programs are open to the public and available to individuals, community groups or daycares, all free of charge. Classes are offered to any child who has completed kindergarten through the fifth grade. As class sizes are limited, all students / groups must pre-register for each program. You can do so online at their website.
With such a diverse range of free or reasonably priced thing to do around Dallas-Fort Worth this summer, ther’s no excuse for anyone to say “I’m bored” – and that goes for parents, too!