The results are in! We asked those that are in the know (we mean YOU) to vote on everything from the best Dallas dining destinations and most fun family getaways to the coolest museums and easiest shopping trips in town. If you’re looking for a family-friendly destination where you can kick back with your brood, check out this year’s Best for Families winners to avoid ending up in the one place you don’t want to be—the land of indecision. Drum roll, please …
BECAUSE EATING SHOULD BE WORTH THE CALORIES ...
Hottest Taco Joint (That Won’t Blister Kids’ Tongues): Tin Star Restaurant
For more than a decade, the popular taco bar has enticed diners with their Southwestern flavors and casual, cool atmosphere (not too loud, not too quiet—just right). Kids dig their chicken soft tacos while grown-ups go for their hearty salads and fajitas.
Various locations. tinstartacobar.com
Runner Up: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop; Dallas, 214/370-8226. fuzzystacoshop.com
Best Pizza Pie with a Side of Playtime: Chuck E. Cheese’s
You’ve heard their motto: “Where a kid can be a kid!” And they mean it. After the kiddies fill up on pizza, they can romp around in ball pits, play video games, fly through skytubes and much more.
Various locations. chuckecheese.com
Runner Up: Gatti Town; Dallas, 972/677-7598. gattitownnorthdallas.com
Ultimate Eatery to Share a Meal Family Style: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House
It may have started as a cozy restaurant in Roanoke, but today, Babe’s down-home charm and to-die-for chicken-fried chicken, steak (and depending on which one you go to, catfish and ribs, too!) and all the trimmings is accessible by way of Carrollton, Frisco, and Garland, to name a few. With its uncomplicated family style menu, Babe’s is truly comfort food at its finest.
Various locations. babeschicken.com
Runner Up: Bucca di Beppo; Dallas, 214/361-8462. bucadibeppo.com
Coolest Themed Dining Experience (That’s Worth the Wait): Rainforest Cafe
Part restaurant, part jungle excursion, this is one dining destination that’ll leave the kids wanting more. With its extensive children’s menu (mini sliders or Python pasta, anyone?) and larger-than-life animatronics, it’s no wonder the little ones give Rainforest their seal of approval. But don’t worry mom and dad—the family-friendly resto has tasty offerings for more sophisticated palates as well.
Grapevine, 972/539-5001. rainforestcafe.com
Runner Up: Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament; Dallas, 866/543-9637. medievaltimes.com
Best Healthy Dining (Whether It’s Eating In or Out): eatZi’s Market & Bakery
Marinated steak strips, grilled chicken breast and salmon filets … and that’s just what’s available at the salad bar. From salad and sandwich selections aplenty to a wide variety of artisan breads and baked goods, eatZi’s has busy parents making a beeline for the gourmet grocer to bring home a bag of healthy pre-prepped meals, freshly squeezed juices and more.
Oak Lawn, Dallas, 214/526-1515;
Lovers, Dallas, 214/358-3100. eatzis.com
Runner Up: The Dream Café; Dallas, 214/954-0486; Addison, 972/503-7326. dreamcafe.com
Best Spot to Snag a Frozen Treat: Paciugo Gelato & Cafe
The name may ooze Italian, but Dallasites have made this gelateria their number one pick when it comes to frozen delights. And with dozens (and dozens) of flavors like Banana Crème Pie, Pistachio Almond and Sea Salt Caramel, everyone in the family will certainly find something they’ll enjoy—mini-spoonful after mini-spoonful.
Various locations. paciugo.com
Runner Up: Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt; Various locations. pinkberry.com
Where the Whole Fam Can Enjoy a Picnic: Dallas Arboretum
Nowhere else in the city of Dallas offers as many acres of lushly manicured lawns and floral abundance as the Arboretum. And with seasonal displays, from Peter Rabbit’s springtime visits to the Great Pumpkin Festival in the fall, there’s always something new to see. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket or cooler full of food and choose your spot. Wine and beer are also permitted.
Dallas, 214/515-6500. dallasarboretum.org
Runner Up: Texas Discovery Gardens; Dallas, 214/428-7476. texasdiscoverygardens.org
Best Spot to Pick Up Ready-Made Picnic Fare: Central Market
We can’t all afford a personal chef … but the least we can do is pretend on occasion. When you stop by the Grab & Go case at Central Market, you can choose from delicious chef-prepared foods such as home-style meatloaf, lasagne al forno, beef bourguignon, chicken Diablo, garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and other favorites sure to tickle your family’s tastebuds. Maybe grab some extras … in case the kids ask for seconds.
Dallas, 214/234-7000; Plano, 469/241-8300. centralmarket.com
Runner Up: Whole Foods Market; Various locations. wholefoods.com
Best Place to Get Grub, Texas Style: Love & War in Texas
Its stick-to-your-ribs offerings are arranged by region, and this is one taste tour of Texas you won’t want to miss. From Hill Country inspired wild boar to Border-style brisket enchiladas, this restaurant loves to satiate a good appetite—in true Texas form. Even better: They’ve got a pretty good roster of musicians, so those who wanna get an earful (we mean that in a good way) will surely want to drop by this patriotic eatery.
Grapevine, 972/724-5557; Plano, 972/422-6201. loveandwarintexas.com
Runner Up: Tillman’s Roadhouse; Dallas, 214/942-0988. tillmansroadhouse.com
Best Place to Pick up Dinner and Go: Celebrity Bakery, Café & Takery
Aside from their delicious homemade sandwiches and pastries, Celebrity also offers
ready-made entrées like meatloaf and King Ranch chicken so that moms like you can take some time off from the kitchen. Just don’t forget to set the table!
Various locations. enjoycelebrity.com
Runner Up: Celebration Market; Dallas, 214/351-5681. celebrationmarket.com
Hippest (Tastiest) Local Burger Joint: Purple Cow
From post-soccer game celebrations to dining out just because … the high-energy atmosphere at Purple Cow is a wonderful all-occasion dining destination. You can’t go wrong with one of their juicy burgers, complete with all the fixins. Throw in a hand-dipped milk shake and you’ve got yourself one tasty feast!
Dallas, 214/373-0037; Plano, 972/473-6100. purplecowtexas.com
Runner Up: Jake’s Hamburgers; Various locations. jakesburgers.net
Best Place to Get Breakfast: Cafe Brazil
From decadent French toast topped with fresh fruit and crème anglaise and rich crepes like the homemade chorizo-filled El Gordo, to heart-healthy veggie omelettes and smoked turkey migas, breakfast here is a definite must. The kids are certainly going to love their M&M-topped pancakes—though you might want to ask the chef to go easy on the chocolate tidbits. As for parents looking to get their caffeine fix? Café Brazil has a wide variety of blends at their bottomless coffee bar.
Various locations. cafebrazil.com
Runner Up: Breadwinner’s Café & Bakery; Uptown, Dallas, 214/754-4940;
Inwood Village, Dallas, 214/351-3339. breadwinnerscafe.com
Best Place to Shop without Having to Drop off the Kids: NorthPark Center
Part mall, part museum, NorthPark is a truly luxurious shopping experience. With a full range of dining options (from the Chick-fil-A in the food court to McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant), a movie theater and even a turtle pond, you and the kids will find what you need and have fun along the way. Spacious and clean family restrooms make this mall even more convenient.
Dallas, 214/361-6345. northparkcenter.com
Runner Up: Stonebriar Centre Mall; Frisco, 972/668-6255. shopstonebriar.com
Best Bank that Caters to Kiddos: Credit Union of Texas
Founded in 1931 by local teachers, the Credit Union of Texas offers a lot of perks for children under 12 as well as older students and their families. Whether it’s a prepaid MasterCard that helps teens spend wisely or a special loan designed just for teachers, the Credit Union of Texas aims to support area schools and offers tools that help families be smart with their money.
Various locations, 972/263-9497. cuoftexas.org
Runner Up: Texans Credit Union; Various locations, 972/348-2000. texanscu.org
Best Place to Snip Little Bangs: Cool Cuts 4 Kids
With special hair care products just for kids, video games and movies, and friendly, skilled stylists, it’s no surprise that Cool Cuts 4 Kids is the child salon preferred by DallasChild readers. There are 15 locations in the DFW area; check the Web site for the one most convenient for you.
Various locations, coolcuts4kids.com
Runner Up: Sweet & Sassy; Various locations. sweetandsassy.com
BECAUSE CABIN FEVER ISN'T JUST FOR MOMS AND DADS ...
Best Theater to Awaken a Kids’ Inner Shakespeare: Dallas Children’s Theater
With its fun-for-the-whole-family productions and drama classes for kids, Dallas Children’s Theater appeals to those with a love for the stage.
Dallas, 214/740-0051. dct.org
Runner Up: Plano Children’s Theater; Plano, 972/422-2575. planochildrenstheatre.org
Best Texas Family Getaway: San Antonio
Full of Texas history, Texas cuisine, and Texas-sized fun, San Antonio is a getaway must for families. And while the Alamo and Riverwalk are a couple of the big draws, some attractions slightly off the beaten path (like the King William Historic District and Historic Market Square) will yield good memories too.
Runner Up: Austin. austintexas.org
Best Place to Cultivate Curiosity About All Things Wild: The Dallas Zoo
The Dallas Zoo has been fun for families ever since it opened in 1888. Go visit the African elephants and even ride a camel in Giants of the Savannah—the latest addition to the 95-acre zoo (making it the largest in Texas!). Or, hang out with your wee ones and pet the farm animals in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. There’s always a different
experience waiting for you at this Dallas mainstay.
Dallas, 469/554-7500. dallaszoo.com
Runner Up: The Dallas World Aquarium; Dallas, 214/720-2224. dwazoo.com
Best Place to Take Tots (When You Want Them to Nap After): Pump it Up
Pump It Up gives kiddies the perfect venue to play with bounce houses, obstacles courses and more. When they crash afterward, you’ll appreciate the breather!
Various locations, 866/977-5867. pumpitupparty.com
Runner Up: The Little Gym; Various locations. thelittlegym.com
Best Venue to Take Your Little Einstein: Museum of Nature & Science
Where can you find a planetarium, an IMAX theater, live animals, and animatronic dinosaurs all in one place? The Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, of course! Three cultural institutions in Fair Park (the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum) merged in 2006 to form the Museum of Nature & Science. Today, the combined collections cover more than 1.7 billion years of Earth’s history!
Dallas, 214/428-5555. natureandscience.org
Runner Up: Sci-Tech Discovery Center; Frisco, 972/546-3050. mindstretchingfun.org
Best Artsy Spot to Inspire Pint-Sized Picassos: The Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art has served as a cultural respite from busy schedules and the daily grind for more than 25 years. Visit it with your young ones to see it through new eyes. Ask your child to be your docent for the day or let them create a masterpiece of their own in the Center for Creative Connections.
Dallas, 214/922-1200. dallasmuseumofart.org
Runner Up: Nasher Sculpture Center; Dallas, 214/242-5100. nashersculpturecenter.org