Best for Families 2014: North Texas / Your top picks for dining and destinations around North Texas
Cue the drum roll. It’s here! The issue we look forward to all year long, our holiday gift to you. We asked, you answered and then we did the math. From your favorite place to grab brunch to the best place to take energetic kids, we’ve got it all. Keep reading to see if your favorite haunts made the list. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover something new.
They’ve dubbed themselves “Not Just Another Coffee House” and we couldn’t agree more (though you can buy coffee by the pound!). Coffee is just the start at Café Brazil, the laidback breakfast joint where you can get bacon and eggs 24/7. Take your pick of breakfast fare from Huevos Rancheros to French Toast with Fruit; they’ve got something for every palate — even for the finickiest of little eaters. Kids 12 and younger eat for free Sunday–Thursday 5–10pm. The rest of the time they can get their Pigs in a Blanket and Candy Bar Pancakes for just $4.99.
Best Restaurant for Healthy Dining
Parents love Sweet Tomatoes’ commitment to fresh, wholesome and seasonal ingredients. Kids love the array of menu options, allowing them to mix and match their own meal. In our book, that’s a win-win. From tossed salads to pasta dishes, Sweet Tomatoes has something for everyone. Stop by this winter for the seasonal chicken pot pie stew and indulge the kiddos with a treat from the soft serve stand. We hear peppermint soft serve will be on tap just in time for the holidays.
Best Burger Joint
Twisted Root Burger Company
With their kid-friendly atmosphere and adult-friendly milkshake menu (Bailey’s & Chocolate, hello!), it’s easy to see why Twisted Root is such a popular spot for Dallas families. But shakes aside, it all starts with the burgers: chef-made creations like Big Tex, Frito Bandito and The Kevin Bacon, topped with all sorts of saucy ingredients and available on beef, turkey or vegan patties. Picky kiddos are free to build their own, or chow down on mini corndogs instead.
Best Pizza Place
Palio’s Pizza Café
The dough is made from scratch daily, the sauce is all-natural and the toppings are fresh from the farm: That’s why we can get behind Palio’s gourmet pizzas. Kids love that they can order their own mini pizza with a topping of their choice, or they can always bite into your pizza (if you’re willing to share!). Vegetarian families will find plenty of options, including five specialty pies, and Palio’s offers a gluten-free crust on request.
Best Mexican Restaurant
Chuy’s Mexican Food
Since expanding to North Texas and around the country, this kid-friendly favorite has not lost its Austin edge, boasting eclectic décor and recipes collected from the far corners of our state. The kids will love gathering chips at the nacho car (yes, an actual car) during happy hour from 4–7pm on weekdays, while you chow down on the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom, a house special enchilada plate. Make sure to ask for creamy jalapeño sauce for chip-dipping.
Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q
Born in the Hill Country, Rudy’s has become a popular pit-stop (literally — each location is also a gas station) for North Texas families because of its no-fuss atmosphere, special sauce and truly Texan smoked meats. Fill up on brisket, pork, chicken, ribs, turkey or sausage served up on butcher paper, or pile your barbecue high on a jumbo smoked potato. The place is pretty kid-proof, with picnic tables for seating and plenty of paper towels to wipe messy mouths and fingers.
Best Place for an After-School Treat
Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
Walking into Beth Marie’s feels like stepping back in time, and that’s just fine with us: The ice cream parlor goes about their sweet business the old-fashioned way. Stop by the original location on the Square for homemade ice cream in a fresh-baked waffle cone or a chocolate soda whipped up in their antique soda machine. Too chilly? Try a cup of hot chocolate (made with ice cream, natch) for the best of hot and cold.
Denton, W. Hickory, 940/384-1818
Denton, Wind River, 940/591-1010
Best Themed Restaurant
Not only do monkeys and alligators and tigers growl at you while you eat, but the menu items at Rainforest Café also tend towards the wild side — and wild doesn’t have to mean wildly unhealthy. Kids can choose from Python Pasta, Rainforest Rascals (AKA sliders) or a whole menagerie of other animal-themed entrees, with healthy sides like applesauce, fresh fruit and steamed veggies.
Best Place to Grab a Family Dinner on the Go
They cook all day, so you don’t have to. What’s not to love? From quick family-friendly meals in the Grab & Go case to ready-to-eat chicken and ribs from the rotisserie oven, Market Street makes it easy to feed your family healthy, tasty food on the go. Try the King Ranch Casserole or one of Market Street’s four signature chicken salads. All recipes are concocted by Market Street’s corporate chef and sure to please.
Flower Mound, 972/355-4007
Best City or Suburb for Raising Children
With an extensive network of trails and nearly 1,000 acres of park space, including the flagship Fort Wildflower Park with equipment for children of all ages and abilities, Flower Mound makes its case as an outdoor-friendly suburb with easy access to the big-city amenities of Fort Worth and the vibrant cultural scene up the road in Denton. Good schools and safe neighborhoods round out the reasons Flower Mound has topped this category four years running.
Best Place for a Family Staycation
Great Wolf Lodge
If you’ve ever driven past Great Wolf Lodge, you understand a thing or two about first impressions. What we love even more is that the amenities match the grand appearance (there aren’t many places you can find a mini ropes course for toddlers). New additions include the Lodge Wood Fired Grill, a full-service a la carte restaurant open for lunch and dinner, and the Buckets Incredible Craveables, which offers families a variety of snack-bar foods right inside the waterpark.
Best Art Museum
Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art is a cultural hot spot for both local downtowners and out-of-towners. The museum reaches out to the community through its classes, camps and craft workshops for kids of all ages and frequently hosts interactive exhibits and installations for parents to enjoy as well. Their newest class, Art Babies, is specifically designed to introduce art to children 0–24 months. General admission to the museum is always free.
Best Children’s Theater
Studio B Performing Arts Center
With opportunities in performing arts for children ages 4 and older, Studio B Performing Arts Center remains a local favorite for families. The nonprofit community theater offers classes, workshops, camps and productions — all catered to families and kids. Be on the lookout for their children’s workshop production and spring classes starting in mid-February.
Highland Village, 972/966-2787
Best Place to Explore Science and History
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
A proven family favorite, the Perot Museum keeps kids (and parents) entertained with their 11 permanent exhibition halls filled with galaxies, dinosaurs, robots, sports and more. The newest traveling exhibit, 2theXtreme: MathAlive! introduces math to children through things they love, such as extreme sports, space, fashion and video games. Check out the exhibit through January 4. If you need a break, pop in to the 3-D theater for one of the current movies on humanlike robots, exotic iguana species or adorable pandas.
Best Place for an Animal Encounter
Fort Worth Zoo
Private Penguin Tour? You had us at “penguin.” Whether it’s behind-the-scenes experiences (like the Penguin Tour) or year-round education classes for kids, the Fort Worth Zoo helps get kids excited about animal education. You can even get an up-close look at different types of mammals, reptiles and birds through animal outreach presentations and stage shows in the spring. Don’t leave without saying hello to the newest members of the zoo family, 4-year-old Layla and 2-year-old Makolo, the first and second bonobos born in the state.
Fort Worth, 817/759-7555
Best Water Park
Hawaiian Falls Water Parks
From character-building camps to philanthropic community events, Hawaiian Falls Water Parks stand out from the competition because of their continuous efforts to keep kids of all abilities cool and active. Don’t forget about the luxurious cabana rentals and attendants that make your day in the sun truly feel like a vacation.
Best Place to Take Energetic Kids
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
LEGOLAND Discover Center stole the show this summer with the debut of its Pirate Beach, an interactive water playground featuring more than 30 gadgets pumping and spraying thousands of gallons of water. While you wait for the splash pad season to start back up, check out Holiday Bricktacular (milk and cookies and Santa scavenger hunt included) during the first three weeks of December.
Best Kid-Friendly Shopping Center
With wide aisles and life-size cowboys and lassos hanging from the food court ceiling, Grapevine Mills is kid-friendly to a T. Sure, it’s got plentiful shopping, but it’s also home to Rainforest Café, SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. While those kid favorites won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, the shopping center will get a facelift over the next year. The goal? To give the mall a sophisticated new look and feel that will ensure Grapevine Mills appeals to fashion-savvy moms as much as to their fun-seeking kids.
Best Bank for Kids
Only $25 is required to open a Way2Save account at Wells Fargo, so your child can take his piggy bank to the next level and start learning how to be responsible with his money. Account options include joint ownership (in case you want to keep an eye on things) and an ATM card when you think your child can handle it. Sign up for the Junior Agent Saver Club for kid-focused tips, ideas and printables to help him keep track of his riches.
Best Grocery Store
Last year Kroger donated 50 million pounds of perishable foods to food banks nationwide — just one of the reasons it’s the favorite grocery store of parents across Dallas-Fort Worth. A wide selection of natural foods and gluten-free products, along with quick checkouts and shopper reward programs (such as fuel discounts earned with every grocery purchase), are also high on the list of reasons local parents love Kroger.