At last, here it is: our annual who’s who of the best dining, attractions and services for families in the Fort Worth area. Readers, this feature is by you and for you. You voted for the winners and now you can refer to these pages all year long as you look for fresh spots to eat, play and shop with your family in 2014. Read on to start planning your first adventure.
Best Themed Restaurant
The food is good, but let’s be honest – the kids are really in it for the life-like animatronics that growl and caw and hiss while they munch on Jurassic Chicken Tidbits, Rainforest Rascals or Mini Mojo Bones (chicken nuggets, mini burgers and pork ribs, respectively). Healthy sides like bananas and applesauce are available with each kid’s meal, plus all the animal encounters they could wish for.
Grapevine, 972/539-5001; rainforestcafe.com
Best for Healthy Dining Zoës Kitchen
Whether you’re watching your waistline, looking to accommodate a special diet or taking a self-imposed leave of absence from the fast-food drive-thru, Zoës Kitchen has you covered with healthful, Mediterranean-inspired dishes for the whole family. With a delicious (and health-conscious) menu, it’s easy to see why Zoës Kitchen was voted Best for Healthy Dining. Try the kabobs at one of their family-friendly locations or pick up a meal to-go.
Multiple locations; zoeskitchen.com
Best Burger Kincaid’s Hamburgers
Kincaid’s declared 2013 the year of homemade, and many of their menu items – including chicken strips, onion rings and new banana pudding – are now made fresh, in-house daily just like their famous all-natural hamburgers. Also try the limited edition Cowtown Deluxe burger with bacon and pimento cheese and watch for new Seasonal Shakes to roll out each season.
Multiple locations, kincaidshamburgers.com
Best Barbecue Hard Eight BBQ
Fort Worth is ripe with mouthwatering Texas-style barbecue, but Hard Eight BBQ stands out from the rest. All of Hard Eight’s meats are cooked on a pit using mesquite wood, resulting in a delicious smoky flavor. And while there’s no shortage of choices for carnivores, but be sure not to neglect “the fixin’s.” The jalapeño cream corn and potato salad can’t be beat. If you’re looking for a break from kitchen duty, stop by and pick up a to-go pack for $11 a person.
Roanoke; 817/837/8888; hardeightbbq.com
Best Brunch Ol’ South Pancake House
Ol’ South Pancake House has been a Fort Worth institution for more than 50 years, meaning they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the fine art of preparing the perfect pancake. And while they may serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s those delightfully fluffy pancakes that make brunch our favorite time to stop by Ol’ South. Bring the whole family. The littles (and the bigs) will love building their own pancakes. Choose from fluffy buttermilk, buckwheat or corn cakes and add your choice of toppings. We recommend a buttermilk base topped with peanut butter and bananas.
Fort Worth; 817/336-0311; olsouthpancakehouse.com
Best Food Truck Lee’s Grilled Cheese
Taking the grilled cheese concept and running with it, Lee’s Grilled Cheese has come up with a line of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches fit for the most discerning foodie. The Billy The Kid (goat cheese topped with spring mix, roasted red peppers and olive oil vinaigrette) is to die for, but you can’t go wrong with the good old-fashioned classic either. Follow Lee’s on Facebook and Twitter for updates on their location or stop by their brand new storefront in the heart of Keller.
Fort Worth; 817/479-3220; leesgrilledcheese.com
Best Place for a Sweet Treat Nothing Bundt Cakes
Nothing Bundt Cakes has the Bundt business covered, and we’re OK with that. It doesn’t get much better than a melt-in-your-mouth bite of Bundt cake made with fresh eggs, real butter and cream cheese. With a number of flavors (try the marble) and cakes available in everything from bite-sized bundtinis to tiered cakes for large groups, there truly is a Bundt for every sweet tooth and every occasion.
Multiple locations; nothingbundtcakes.com
Best Place for a Cold Treat Sweet Sammies
Sweet Sammies has a simple formula: fresh-baked cookies plus Blue Bell ice cream equals delicious. For $2.95 you can indulge in a signature Sweet Sammie, an ice-cream sandwich made with cookies like peanut butter, cinnamon chip, chocolate chip or nine other flavors. Sweet Sammies is family owned and operated and you feel right at home as soon as you walk in the door – or as you walk out with a dozen cookies for your cookie jar.
Fort Worth, 817/332-0022; sweetsammies.com
Best Pizza Black Dog Pizza
There’s no shortage of dining options at Arlington Highlands. But for your pizza fix, Black Dog is the way to go. Stop in with the family and catch a game; there are TVs aplenty. Or call in one of their handcrafted pizzas for pick up. The plain ol’ pepperoni pizza is sure to please the kiddos, but we suggest getting a little more adventurous with the BBQ chicken … always a crowd favorite.
Arlington; 817/635-5551; blackdogpizza.com
Best Shopping Center Arlington Highlands
With picturesque storefronts and a wide selection of stores, Arlington Highlands is the perfect place to take your brood for some Saturday morning shopping. Stop for a bite at one of several family-friendly restaurants, like Best Burger winner Kincaid’s Hamburgers. Need a night out? Drop off the kids at KidsPark for hourly childcare and hit up Studio Movie Grill or Dave & Buster’s.
Best Trampoline Park Urban Air Trampoline Park
If your kids are climbing the walls, take them to Urban Air Trampoline Park where they can bounce off the walls ’til their hearts are content and their energy is spent. The trampoline park has two big trampoline courts, a foam pit, dodgeball arena and a special runway for experienced jumpers. Plus, Urban Air has birthday packages (including new glow parties) and fitness classes for mom and dad.
Southlake, 817/203-8686; urbanairtrampolinepark.com
Best Hair Salon for Kids Cool Cuts 4 Kids
Whether it’s baby’s first haircut or your wild child’s latest trim, Cool Cuts 4 Kids knows how to keep any little one entertained while fixing his ’do. Your child will sit at a themed station and play with toys and video games while the stylist snips away with practice and patience. Plus, all products at Cool Cuts 4 Kids are safe, organic and alcohol-free so you know your kiddo is getting the best care.
Multiple locations; coolcuts4kids.com
Best Kid-friendly Bank Chase
You only need $25 to get your child started on a savings plan with Chase. Open up a savings account under your kiddo’s name and the monthly service fee will be waived until he’s 18. Then use Chase’s online resources to teach your young one about money management and good saving habits – and start putting that piggy bank to good use.
Multiple locations; chase.com
Best Art Museum Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell recently unveiled its highly anticipated addition, the Renzo Piano Pavilion, with a grand opening celebration. The sleek new pavilion will house traveling exhibits, new education studios, an auditorium, an expanded library and underground parking. Take the kids to the Kimbell to see an exhibit of Japanese samurai armor, which replaces The Age of Picasso and Matisse in February, pick up a free audio guide with 25 stops in the permanent collection for ages 7–12, and watch the calendar for family programs year-round.
Fort Worth, 817/332-8451; kimbellart.org
Best Spot for Open Space and Fresh Air Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Get the most out of your visit to the oldest botanic garden in Texas by taking even the youngest of your flower children down the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk and to one of three, free programs offered monthly April–November. Bring a picnic for the Concerts in the Garden in June and July, and don’t miss the biannual festivals in the Japanese Garden featuring performances and traditional crafts, including gyotaku, the art of fish printing.
Fort Worth, 817/871-7686; fwbg.org
Best Place to Explore Science and History Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Cultural District is home to phenomenal attractions, and none are more kid-oriented, interactive and educational than the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Their IMAX films, special events and exhibits make it difficult to stay away, and with Curious George on view and Indiana Jones coming this spring, who would want to? Their Children’s Museum alone is worth hours of entertainment. Take the kids stargazing with Big Bird in the planetarium, begin excavations in the DinoDig and more anytime of year.
Fort Worth, 817/255-9300; fwmsh.org
Best Children’s Theater Casa Mañana Theatre
Get the New York experience right here inside Fort Worth’s favorite professional theater. From October through May, Casa Mañana presents Broadway plays and musicals for adults and a full season of children’s productions. Bring your young thespians to watch Pinkalicious, How I Became a Pirate and Peter Pan coming this spring, or learn the basics during summer camp or theater school classes open to kids 5 and older.
Fort Worth, 817/332-2272; casamanana.org
Best Place to Get a Little Bit Country Fort Worth Stockyards
However you choose to get to the Fort Worth Stockyards – by car or the Grapevine Vintage Railroad – take your children while they’re young to experience this Texas-to-the-core entertainment district. Watch rodeo cowboys compete every Friday and Saturday night at the Cowtown Coliseum and the drovers lead Texas longhorns on a cattle drive down East Exchange Avenue twice every day, but make the your first stop at the Stockyards Station for the cattlepen maze, mechanical bull, petting zoo and a lookout spot over the longhorns pasture.
Fort Worth Stockyards, 817/624-4741; fortworthstockyards.org
Best Place to Take Energetic Kids Pump It Up
Go beyond the backyard trampoline for your next private party or morning playtime and discover the giant inflatable slides, bounce houses and obstacle courses inside Pump It Up. To escape the extreme winter or summer temperatures, take the kids (and their socks) to one of two locations in Fort Worth and Arlington for the Pop-In Playtime and let the kids learn to entertain themselves. As an added resource for parents, visit supportimagination.com, Pump It Up’s initiative to encourage imaginative play.
Fort Worth, 817/570-7055
Arlington, 817/845-9869 pumpitupparty.com
Best City or Suburb to Raise Children Arlington
Arlington is already to home to some of Dallas-Fort Worth’s top attractions: sports stadiums, museums, Six Flags and Hurricane Harbor, and the city really stepped up in 2013 by debuting ArlingtonXpress, its first ever commuter bus service. Five recreation centers and a system of more than 80 public parks mean you’re never far from a playground or walking trails, and families will find more entertainment at the Levitt Pavilion and the River Legacy Science Center.
Best Place to Grab Dinner on the Go and Best Grocery Store Central Market
Are you really into fast, easy and healthy food for your family? Make that quick trip to the supermarket even quicker by stopping into your nearest Central Market. Their ready-to-eat meals, gourmet desserts and more from the in-store cafés satisfy every palate. For a treat your toddlers will love, join the free Stretch-and-Grow class with healthy snack on the patio, offered March–October in Fort Worth, or relax on the playground at the Southlake location.
Multiple locations; centralmarket.com
Best Place for a Family Staycation Great Wolf Lodge
For a getaway anytime of the year, book a suite at this family resort with both indoor and outdoor water parks, a thrill-ride-meets-movie-theater, arcade and camping-inspired lodging. Nonstop entertainment continues with mani-pedis at Scooops Spa and bedtime stories in the lobby. Want to channel your inner Harry Potter? Wave an electronic wand over crystals, dragons and more found objects in ShadowQuest, a new, interactive game that sends you on a hotel-wide scavenger hunt.
Grapevine, 817/488-6510; greatwolf.com
Best Place for an Animal Encounter Fort Worth Zoo
Like proud parents, the Fort Worth Zoo was overjoyed to announce the birth of not one but two of the “biggest babies in town,” Asian elephants Belle and Bowie. In their 125th anniversary issue, National Geographic also took notice of the nationally ranked zoo’s baby boom this year by including a photo of 1-year-old Asha, the first greater one-horned rhino born in Texas, and her mother Shanti. Take the kids to see these new zoo residents and two other notable babies: Sasha the jaguar cub and Ralph the first waterbuck calf born at the zoo.
Fort Worth, 817/759-7555; fortworthzoo.org