Exploring the Dallas Children’s Aquarium

So I’m finally getting around to writing about our field trip to the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park that we visited while we were in Dallas a while back. It is right next door to the Texas Discovery Gardens, so we just took a short trek across the street over to the Children’s Aquarium after we had our fill of plants and butterflies. Read about our Texas Discovery Gardens field trip here.  Or, you can watch our YouTube video and subscribe to our channel. 

Dallas has a much larger and much more expensive aquarium downtown (the Dallas World Aquarium), but this one is more suitable for younger children and requires much less walking. Perfect for my little ones (and me carrying the baby in the carrier).

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You enter the through the main door, pay the entrance fee of $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-11) at the front desk, and then you’re free to explore the exhibits. Most of the tanks are about eye level for smaller children, so they can easily engage and get a better look at the different aquatic creatures and at information about them.

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Even though this is a fairly small aquarium, taking us only a couple hours to explore the entire facility, the exhibits were well-maintained and contained quite a few interesting animals. We found the albino alligator and sea turtles to be pretty fascinating.

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The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the stingray exhibit. Don’t miss them! You have to go outside to the back outdoor tanks to see them. But you don’t just get to see them, you can touch them and feed them! The aquarium offers food for you to purchase, but these guys are super friendly and conditioned to eat from strangers, so you don’t need to buy the food unless you really want to.

We spent a large part of our time out there interacting with these interesting creatures. They would swim right up to the side of the tank with their faces out of the water like they were wanting to be petted. It took quite some time for my daughter to muster enough courage to stick her hand near those slimy things, but once she did it, she loved it!

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You also don’t want to miss the touch tank just inside the aquarium entrance, where you can pet a chocolate chip sea star, a sea urchin and other little underwater critters. Remember to wash your hands before and after petting the sea creatures in the designated wash stations.

We all had a really fun and memorable time at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park and recommend that you bring your little ones here to explore some underwater life. My daughter still talks about how she got to touch a stingray.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park 

Address > 1462 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210
Phone469.554.7340
Hours > 9 am – 4:30 pm seven days a week (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Websitechildrensaquariumfairpark.com
Admission > Adult $8 | Youth (3-11) & Senior $6 

 

Strolling through Texas Discovery Gardens

Last week while we were in Dallas, I decided to take the kids to Fair Park to see the Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium (our helpful tips are bolded). I would recommend going to both in one trip and making a day (or morning/afternoon) of it. The gardens are literally steps away from the aquarium, and each one only took us about an hour or two with young children (you may be able to stay longer and do more with older children).

We started off that morning with a traffic-filled 30-minute drive into the South Dallas/Fair Park area. If you have never experienced Dallas driving, expect lots of cars and crazy highway interchanges at pretty much any time of the day. Of course, I am used to Oklahoma City traffic, so it may actually be an easy drive compared to where you live.

Our first stop was the Texas Discovery Gardens. I was especially interested in seeing the butterfly house and thought it would be a neat experience to explore a two-story, glass-encased butterfly habitat.

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We went on a Tuesday, which we found out was pay what you want Tuesday for admission. Regular admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children.

As you enter the main lobby and entrance, several small aquariums with critters (insects/snakes/fish) line the walls and open area. So we, of course, had to peer inside and examine the contents of each one before making our way to the gardens and butterfly house.

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I will say that the insects were pretty neat, so I would suggest that you make a stop to investigate that area. My older daughter enjoyed looking at the insects, as I tried to read all the signs to her and tell her about each one.

After that, we made our way through the hallway (again lined with more insects/frogs/etc) and out into the gardens.

I fully expected to stay much longer out there, but the weather was rather warm and muggy already that morning, which therefore resulted in a hot and sweaty (aka whiny) child (who is also very frightened of bees and other flying insects).

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We made a quick pass through the main lawn, pond, the outdoor butterfly gardens, and the large fountain and quickly returned to the safety of the indoors.

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We did actually get several bug bites while we were there, so I would recommend putting on bug spray before heading into the gardens and butterfly house. 

After returning inside, we headed up the stairs to the entrance of the butterfly house. You enter through some carefully-timed sliding glass doors into a beautiful, lush garden with butterflies flitting around freely. They keep it fairly warm and humid in there for the plants and butterflies, so be prepared and pack some water. 

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I found it to be a pretty surreal experience and loved watching these delicate insects flying all around me, finding the birds, and seeing inside an active beehive. My daughter, the one who is afraid of flying insects, thought it was cool for about two minutes and then wanted to bolt out of there as fast as she could.

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The baby, who was in the carrier, loved watching the butterflies and squealed in excitement (very loudly, might I add) as they would fly past us. I’m not sure if strollers are allowed in there, but I would advise against bringing one in there if at all possible. 

As you exit the butterfly house, there was an educational cart, where you could touch butterfly wings, see butterflies emerging from chrysalises, and other interesting things probably. We didn’t stay in there long enough to do those things because apparently, butterflies are dangerous and could probably kill small children (according to my daughter).

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I, unfortunately, didn’t get very many photos during the whole visit but did enjoy our brief tour of the Texas Discovery Gardens, especially the Butterfly House. We also learned a few interesting facts about butterflies and other insects.

I was going to write about the aquarium in this post but will save it for the next one since this one is getting so long.

Texas Discovery Gardens Fast Facts

Address > 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. | Dallas, TX
Phone214.428.7476
Hours > Open daily from 10 am – 5 pm. Final admission is sold at 4:15 pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve and Day.
Websitewww.txdg.org
Admission > $8 Adults | $6 Seniors (60+) | $4 Children (3-11) | FREE for children 2 and under

Free Indoor Kid Activities in Dallas

This last week we headed down south of the border, the Oklahoma border that is, to Dallas again. But this time we just tagged along as part of Daddy’s work trip. He travels fairly often these days, but we can only go if it’s within driving distance since last minute airplane tickets can get pretty pricey.

We were going to be in Dallas for about three days, but I didn’t have too many activities planned because getting around with a young child and baby without Daddy can be exhausting. The weather was the typical hot and muggy Texas summer heat, except for the last day we were there, so we tried to stay indoors as much as possible.

The first day we headed to the Galleria to kill some time before we could check into the hotel. There is one of those carpeted play areas with the plastic structures on the third floor by Nordstrom. My little ones had quite a time crawling, climbing, and basically just running amok through the jungle-themed kids area. I was happy to let them explore and get some energy out by crawling through the tunnels, climbing up the steps, pretending to drive the jeep, riding in a canoe and jumping off the tops of various jungle creatures.

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Another highlight for my older daughter was the American Girl store by the Galleria. It’s not actually connected inside the mall, but we just walked from Nordstrom a few steps outside to get there. We didn’t go to the second level, which appeared to just be the salon and bistro. The first level were all the displays of dolls and accessories that she could touch and play with. Her favorite area was the Wellie Wishers section that had a playhouse, some interactive nature activities, and of course little baby dolls, strollers, high chairs and cribs.

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We also paid a visit to IKEA while we were in Dallas to pick up a few things (namely a cheap high chair without fabric to clean). I was more than willing and excited to drop off my older child in their supervised play area (which looked super fun through the windows – let me know if they are if your kids have been), but she refused to be left there and wanted to shop with me. She really enjoyed just playing in the upstairs kids furniture area, trying out the little beds, sitting in the kid-sized chairs and just touching and looking at all the things. We even ended the IKEA trip with a one dollar soft serve ice cream cone.

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On the last day, we again had a few hours to spend waiting for Daddy to get off work and set off to the local Barnes and NobleWe love books and bookstores, and B&N has a pretty neat kids area complete with a stage, mini tables and benches, and even a Thomas train set. In addition to a decent selection of books, there are also toys, games, stuffed animals and vintage Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie dolls. We read some books, looked at the toys and games, played with all the My Little Ponies stuffed plushes, and left the store with a few books from the 75% off clearance shelves.

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We were able to beat the summer heat indoors, while keeping the kids entertained and occupied. Some moments of our trip were super challenging with little ones, but these little field trips can present teachable moments. 

I had the opportunity to talk about jungles and what ancient ruins are at the mall play area, teach my daughter about doing laundry and ironing at the American Girl store, mention information about Sweden and Swedish food at IKEA, and read books about different characters and topics at Barnes & Noble. 

Stay tuned for the next post about the garden and aquarium we also visited on this Dallas trip. 

Omni Dallas at Park West Hotel Review

This past weekend, we traveled south down I-35 to the Lonestar State to meet up with some wonderful friends of ours. One family came from San Antonio and the other from the Oklahoma City area also. In total, there were six kids ages five and under. With that in mind, I had the task of trying to find a kid-friendly and budget-friendly hotel to accommodate our needs.

I searched several deal sites and review sites and was lured by the gleaming reviews, the fantastic value and convenient location of the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West. I had never stayed at an Omni Hotel before, so I heavily researched if it would be a good fit for our little reunion.

They currently have a special promotion where you can save up to 25% off based on the number of nights you stay. Or, if you sign up for their free Select Guest® loyalty program, they will email you a coupon for 20% off your next stay (which I didn’t see until I had already booked our stay). You also get free Wi-Fi if you sign up, which was a major thing for us, because we don’t like to stay at places that make us pay extra for Wi-Fi or parking (which is also complimentary if you don’t valet and covered in a garage). So for around $100 a night, we were able to stay at this really nice hotel.

The main feature that attracted me was that Omni seemed to cater to families and kids. They have a program called Omni Kids Crew, where your little ones will get a fun backpack with activities and crayons and also get milk and cookies delivered on the first night. We didn’t get the milk and cookie delivery to our room, but we all already had our fill of cookies from the lobby and family lounge (more on that later).

Also, in the summer months, they have Dive-In Movies at the pool on Fridays and Saturdays. The website lists the time as 9 p.m., but the movies actually started at 8 p.m., which is much better with little kids. You can grab an info flyer at check-in for exact details of activities during your stay or watch the info channel on the TV. It was pouring down rain when we arrived on Friday, so we didn’t get to go to the pool, but we did go on Saturday night since the weather was perfect then. My kids absolutely loved swimming in the pool, and the baby could stand on the ledge on one side of the pool. The website said that there would be poolside snow cones, popsicles and smores on Saturdays and Sundays, but we must have missed it. They did have free popcorn, lemonade and water though. Which brings me to one thing I loved about the Omni Hotel…the snacks and drinks!

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When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with delicious star-shaped, iced gingerbread cookies (and fruit for the baby) in the lobby, along with bottled water, lemonade and cucumber water. In the mornings, they had coffee and delicious pastries/cakes in the lobby, and on Saturday, they put out yummy chocolate chip cookies. Do not miss the refreshment cart if you stay here; it’s just to the right of the main entrance to the elevators, in front of the wine bar.

Since it was storming and raining like crazy when we arrived on Friday, we didn’t know what we were going to do with all our kids that evening. This is where I was completely sold on Omni. They had a family lounge set up in one of their rooms, complete with board games, video games, movies, coloring pages, books, adorable little chairs and beanbags, a cookie decorating station, popcorn, lemonade and water. We pretty much had that entire space all to ourselves that evening and let our kids run free and play. It was the perfect space for us and our whole crew and almost felt like we were just hanging out at someone’s home.

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And finally, the most important part…the rooms. We all slept like rocks during our stay. Even though we were right by the elevator, we didn’t hear a sound and appreciated how quiet it was. We also really enjoyed looking out the huge, picturesque windows (although our views were of the highway and top of the parking garage). The mini refrigerator and robes were also much appreciated. The only thing that would have made the room even better is if there were a microwave, especially for families with kids and babies.

We absolutely loved our stay with Omni Hotels and highly recommend staying at this hotel if you’re ever in the Dallas area. Thank you, Omni for allowing our family to make fun memories. We hope to stay at other Omni Hotels in the future and write more positive reviews. I read that there is a new one coming this summer to Frisco!

(Disclaimer: Field Trip Family was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are our own. However, this post does contain affiliate links, where you will be helping support this site (at no additional cost to you) if you book through some of our links. I also evidently didn’t take very many photos of the hotel, so the image of the hotel and lobby are from the Omni Hotel website. You’ll have to check out our upcoming video tour for more of our own images.)

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