Summer “to-go’s” in Dallas: affordable, family-friendly

{This post is my 4th in a series on “Slowing Down for Summer”. Sometimes slowing down with your kids in the summer means freeing up days to let them choose adventures and outings; going somewhere, but not with a big agenda; being on the move, but not in a hurry. Check out these ideas for your SLOW family days away from the house…}

Whether you’re visiting Dallas or a Dallas native enjoying a Family “Stay-cation” or just looking for fun outings with your kids while they are out of school, here are some fun, cheap (some FREE) ideas of indoor and outdoor fun for the entire family! Enjoy some summer adventures together! Pass it on, and Plan some play-dates with friends.

  • Try a new park! Our favorites: Coffee Park, Caruth Park, Preston Hollow Park, Scottish Rite Playground (and you can go inside to get some popcorn, see the giant mobile of toys, and look through the world’s largest kaleidoscope!)

  • Dallas Farmer’s Market (Tues through Sunday you can get lunch in Shed 2), but they are open daily – FREE, Take along some cash and your own grocery bags. Let the kids wander through, enjoy samples, and choose some healthy, fresh produce. Plan a meal and cook together with some of your finds. Get some lunch and share ice cream while you are there. (When my in-laws visit us from Oklahoma, they always make one stop before coming to our house: the Texas Meat counter at Farmer’s Market for some favorite sausage!) Take a look at the website for info on seasonal foods to look for, specialty food vendors, food from local farms, and more!
  • “The Lakes” in The Village. We lived here for 8 years, and still go at least once a week for the fabulous outdoor experience – walking trails, lakes, bridges, ducks, fountains, field, sand volley ball which doubles as a giant sandbox! (pools!) You’ve got to take your kids to explore this hidden gem, find everything on my “noticing” nature walk list (made especially for our family time at “The Lakes”), pick up a picnic from Central Market just around the corner. Take a blanket, some books, some sand toys, a ball, and stay for a few hours…(You can use the bathroom in the Village Country Club or Lakes office.)
  • FREE: Explore the beautiful SMU campus on foot, bike, or scooter – Go for a “Wishing” walk with some pennies at all the beautiful fountains or a “Statue” walk. Take a camera and “pose” like the statues that you find: SMU has done lots of renovating and has lots of new beautiful spots…Park for free in the visitor parking area in the Meadows garage, check out the big “Wave” sculpture and fountains around the oval on Bishop Blvd., culminating in the big one in front of Dallas Hall. (Peek into Perkins Chapel and say a prayer of thanks for your family – this is where my parents and my hubby and I were married!) Talk about the different buildings you see, and what different subjects the people are studying. Venture east of the oval to see some more beautiful new buildings, fountains, and statues.Venture west for a treat at “I Heart Yogurt” or lunch at Chick-fil-A on Hillcrest. (Or try eating on campus at one of the many eateries, smu dining options,) smu map
  • White Rock Skate – I grew up going to b’day parties in this neighborhood spot that’s been in Lake Highlands since 1973. I remember enjoying the crushed ice in the sodas at the snack shop, and that good feeling of removing the skates (brown leather with orange wheels) from soar feet. My brother broke his arm their twice! Sundays is Family Day, 1-5, kids are free and parents are only $2. Save for a HOT day!
  • McKinney Avenue Trolley – FREE. This is one of the special outings that Dustin likes to take the kids on. I did join them last summer – take it to the DMA, Cafe Express on McKinney (good outdoor seating), and to Fountain Place (1445 Ross Ave) – another FREE favorite family activity of ours!

  • Dallas Museum of ArtFirst Tuesdays at DMA are FREE for families, and they have lots of activities for kids. It does get very busy…
  • FREE family movies outside – most of these are past are kids bedtimes, but we might stay out late one night…try movies under the moon at Park Lane and Central after eating at Whole Foods upstairs.
  • Cool off in an area Sprayground – FREE and pure joy! open 8am-8pm, locations (We enjoy the one in Lake Highlands where there is also a cheap community pool where the kids are signed up for cheap swim lessons!)

  • Here fishy, fishy! Hot day? Dustin recently took the kids to the new children’s aquarium at Fair Park, and gave it rave reviews. It is much more affordable than the Dallas World Aquarium, and they have some great hands-on stuff for kiddos. world ocean’s day events, June 9th
  • See the stars – before bedtime! Planetarium at Fair Parkinfo – $3.50/ adults, $2.50/ kids, several shows. While you are there, cool off in the nearby fountain at Fair Park, take a picnic to eat by the lagoon. 
  • Dallas Public Library- FREE events and Mayor’s Summer Reading Program, view schedule for ALL branches: story-times, craft-times, special events, and more! If you live in Lake Highlands, visit Launas Little Library
  • Visit a Farm: Samuell Farm in Mesquite is only $2-$3, has fishing, petting zoo, picnic area, horse rides, hiking trails, and more…Check out events at Dallas Heritage Village (not quite a farm) downtown, near Farmer’s Market. “Barnyard Buddies” story-times on Wednesdays,, $5 for kids w/ 1 free adult, Family Past-time Days on Sunday afternoons, $9 adults, kids free
  • Give back together through “Wee Volunteer” of Dallas (June events), and mark your calendars for fun volunteer family events during “Good Deeds Week” Dallas 2012, Aug.18th-25th. (See the good deeds we did last year) Stay tuned to Mommy Manders for more announcements!
UPDATED: REad my post about  Belo Garden and Main Street Garden where we went on Father’s Day!

Let me know…where does your family like to hang out in the summer? Any cheap ideas for the rest of us?



  1. Meredith says:

    Thanks for all the fun ideas! So many I didn’t know about! Eager to check them out!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Lowry these are so great. Thank you!!!

  3. Tricia says:

    LOVE this post! We are always looking for fun and FREE things to do 😉 And the first pic of Miss Ellie with the popsicle is just darling!

  4. Debi says:

    Thank you for your fun yet simple suggestions. It is so refreshing to see the things we can do that do not cost a ton and yet are fun for the family. I think there is an added value in showing our kids that money can’t buy happiness :-) We are doing Movies Under the Moon tomorrow.

    • Great! Let me know how it goes, and I appreciate your insight. It’s a great idea to point that out to your kids as you spend time together – that’s the name of the game – authentic connections made through quality time. No expensive trip to Disney needed! (Though I must admit to looking forward to a trip with my family someday – just one.)


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