If you’re itching for a change of scenery, but have already spent your vacation budget this year, consider venturing just outside the city limits for a quick day adventure.
Recently we shared 5 Places to Road Trip in 5 Hours or Less. If you’d prefer to be in your own bed at the end of a day of family fun, we recommend a day trip. All of the fun, without all of the packing.
Vacations are good. Vacations are great. But family fun that doesn’t involve an airport, luggage or travel crib, is fantastic.
But we’ll share the love with other areas of the Metroplex. All of our suggested day trips are under two hours away, because let’s be honest—any longer and there will be a lot of whining from the back seat. And nobody needs that.
Whether your family has toddlers or teenagers, we’ve rounded up some great day experiences for you. Our destinations guide is brimming with over 50 activities. I wish you luck in choosing what you’ll do first!
Take your pick from several major events and activities in Arlington. It’s the home of the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park, and one mile down the road, the Dallas Cowboys’ $1 billion AT&T Stadium Complex. If that weren’t enough, a few steps from stadium central is Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor, and a lot of great restaurants. I’d say that’s worth the drive from Frisco.
2. Glen Rose
If you’re ready to ditch city life and dig into nature, Central Texas has some great options for you. Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a drive-thru safari park located in Glen Rose, approximately 90 minutes from Frisco. Tigers, giraffes, and zebras, oh my! The park offers a variety of ways to enjoy the animals and the land, including Crack O’Dawn Family tours, a Children’s Animal Center and The Overlook Cafe, a restaurant with a large wraparound deck and scenic views.
Also in Glen Rose is Dinosaur Valley State Park and Dinosaur World, where you can pretend to be a paleontologist and track real dinosaur footprints! Encounter more than one hundred life-size dinosaurs along a winding walkway! Have a picnic, explore twenty miles of trails, mountain bike, swim or fish in the river. The Park also offers events such as Archery 101, Geocaching and Campfire Scary Stories.
You’re likely hearing about Waco, TX with every turn these days. Home of the remarkable Chip and Joanna Gaines and their ever-growing Magnolia enterprise, there is a lot to see and do in Waco these days. Shop ’til you drop at the Magnolia Market, then can grab lunch from the food trucks on-site and relax on the lawn. After you’ve bored the kids with all of the home decor shopping, take them to The Cameron Park Zoo. While in Waco, you might also consider a quick stop at the Dr. Pepper Museum for a tour and a snack at the soda fountain. Inspire your kids’ education with a visit to the campus of Baylor University (which is about 1/4 mile from Magnolia Market).
4. Downtown Dallas
As cozy as I am in my Frisco bubble, I do value the endless fun available to us in Downtown Dallas. Hop on the DART Rail in Plano for an easy trip south, or make the drive downtown for a whole host of art, science and entertainment options. Drop into the Dallas Museum of Art for free family fun. Just outside the Museum, you’ll fall into Klyde Warren Park where you can picnic, play on the lawn, enjoy the Children’s Park and probably catch some live music. Downtown Dallas also boasts of the Dallas World Aquarium, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and West End. Head a bit further south on the train and you’ll arrive at the Dallas Zoo. There’s an extensive selection of great restaurants between Uptown and Downtown, so you can literally dine your way through the city. Depending on the ages of your kids, maybe it’s time to visit the many historical sites of Dallas, such as the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Okay, so Downtown Dallas might require two or three day trips.
If you’re tired of construction sites, and craving natural beauty, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a refuge of gorgeous blooms, gardens and grassy lawns for picnics. (Side note: It’s also a fantastic place to take a family portrait.) Your kids will adore the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, where they can frolic across 8 acres of science and nature-inspired fun.
Literally, just steps from the Arboretum is White Rock Lake, the gorgeous and highly popular area known for the 9.3 miles of scenic trail circling it. Joggers, walkers, and cyclists are always on the go here, as are visitors with picnic baskets and fishing poles. Sailing, rowing, fishing, canoeing… You can play all day. Load up your bikes, trikes, and scooters for a family ride around the lake, and make periodic stops at the various playgrounds. Your leashed dogs are invited as well. Stay until sunset, and soak it all in.
Less than five miles from White Rock is the Dallas Children’s Theater, which has adorable, high-quality and reasonably priced plays for children. Past and upcoming performances include The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Pinkalicious the Musical. The DCT is not far from the Half Price Books Flagship Store, which could add another element of affordable fun to your day.
If you’ve lived in the area for awhile, you might remember when the fancy Grapevine Mills Mall first opened, and we all flocked to their big AMC Theater and outlet shops. It was a big deal. Today, Grapevine is more than just a giant outlet mall near Bass Pro Shop. It’s fabulously loaded with family fun, all year long. Legoland® Discovery Center and the SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium are just the beginning. Grapevine loves a good festival, such as GrapeFest, Main Street Fest, and Summer Blast, each of which usually brings with it traveling amusement park rides, food vendors and live music. Shop your way through Historic Grapevine, with its charming boutiques, unique gifts, and clothing. Grab lunch at Rainforest Cafe, a really fun, interactive dining experience. Grapevine has officially been named the Christmas Capital of Texas®. The holiday season is magical with tons of Christmas lights along Main Street in downtown Grapevine, and a long list of special events. The North Pole Express® at the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, and Snowland and ICE! at the Gaylord Texan Resort.
Experience a beautiful 77 ft. waterfall and natural swimming areas with sandy beaches. Turner Falls Park is just 90 miles away in the Arbuckle Mountains, and a great departure from suburban life. There are picnic areas, hiking trails, and three natural caves. Explore a rock castle or go fishing. To me, it sounds to like a great way to take a breather. Your paid admission to the Park is fairly reasonable, and it’s recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance.
McKinney may not seem far enough away to qualify as a day trip, but it’s home to some out-of-the-ordinary fun, such as the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary. You can walk among free-flying native butterflies in their Native Texas Butterfly House & Garden. There are night hikes, animal presentations, canoe programs, story time, and guided trails.
After you commune with nature, head to Historic Downtown McKinney to dine at one of their many fabulous restaurants. There are charming boutiques and a lot of family-friendly events year-round. The McKinney Performing Arts Center has consistent attractions, as well.
9. Ft. Worth
“The City of Cowboys and Culture” is only 50 miles from Frisco, and bursting with fun things to do. Sundance Square, in downtown Ft. Worth, is thirty-five blocks of boutiques, restaurants, night spots, and art galleries, making it one of the coolest entertainment and shopping districts in the area. Sundance Square Plaza offers free concerts, and there is ample room there to frolic, dance or relax. Ft. Worth is home to the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, and Ft. Worth Zoo, the last of which is across the street from Texas Christian University. The Trinity Railway Express (TRE) or the Grapevine Vintage Railway will take you from Dallas into Ft. Worth, if you want to take a break from traffic and add another layer of fun to your day.
10. North Dallas
Go ice skating at the Dallas Galleria, or attend one of the many family-friendly events in Addison Circle and Vitruvian Park. Addison Oktoberfest, Taste Addison, and Shakespeare Dallas, among them. Consider dining at The Magic Time Machine off Beltline Road, the historic schoolhouse-turned-theme restaurant where you might be waited on by Jack Sparrow, Snow White or Spider-Man. From there, it’s a quick trip on the Tollway South to SMU for a tour of the George Bush Presidential Library. Just East of the University you can shop or dine at Mockingbird Station, or try one of the many cool spots on Greenville Avenue.