Dallas, Texas-Travel With Kids

Late September/early October 2016 Milana and I flew to Dallas for 72 hours. Dave has been traveling a lot for work, so we decided to fly in for a few days to see him. The weather was perfect (in the 70s) and we were very glad to get away from the 108 degrees it was here in Southern California! Hard to believe that Texas was cooler than SoCal, but it was and it felt glorious. We flew Southwest from SNA and it was a short 2.5 hour flight. We arrived at 9pm, so we picked up our Silvercar (highly recommend using them!) and headed straight to the hotel and explored the next day.

After reading tons of reviews and blog post mentioning Pecan Lodge as being the best bbq place in Dallas, I knew we had to try it.  Everyone said that the lines are really long, so we made sure to arrive just before they opened at 11. We got there 15 minutes before opening, and there were only about 10 people in line. However I’ll probably get crucified for saying this, it was some of the worst bbq we have ever had! Milana is a little food critic and said that the brisket was too slimy (pure fat!) and the ribs were too hard (way overcooked, not fall off the bone).  She was right!  We ended up throwing most of the food away, I would have been so mad if we had to wait in a long line! The neighborhood this place is in, Deep Ellum, is super cute though and definitely worth a visit to walk around and explore!

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After lunch, we headed to the Dallas Arboretum, to see the pumpkin village.  It’s named one of the top 10 pumpkin patches in the US by the Travel Channel, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! There were pumpkin houses, pumpkin piles and basically pumpkins everywhere!

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They also had an area set up with many different looking gourds, pumpkins and squash, with their names next to them. Who knew there were so many varieties!

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This place is amazing, and if you are in the area in the fall, definitely make it a point to visit! We didn’t explore the rest of the arboretum much because we spent so much time here, but there is lots more to see if you have the time.

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Milana is obsessed with American Girl (as you can see in the above photos!), so when she heard there was an AG store in Dallas, she really wanted to go.  We live near the Los Angeles one, which is much bigger than Dallas, and always busy regardless of day/time. This one was deserted with maybe 4 other people in the store, which was actually nice and gave us a chance to see everything without huge crowds. I made reservations for the afternoon tea and off we went.  If you’ve ever been inside an AG store, you know this is a very expensive hobby!  Thankfully, she chose a couple of outfits, some accessories, a chair, and the Christmas package so our total wasn’t too terrible.  We also got her doll Julie’s ears pierced and hair done in their salon, which she really enjoyed watching.

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The aftermath:

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At the hair salon, they have a book with styles you choose based on the type of hair your doll has.  Julie has smooth hair and Milana chose the single braid.

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On to the restaurant.  When you enter the bistro, your doll is given a chair to use and if you don’t have your own doll, you can borrow one of theirs.

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While you wait for your food, there is a box of conversation starters on the table. Milana loves these!

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During certain times of day, the bistro has the option to do the afternoon tea and that’s what we selected. You get several different little finger foods as well as desserts, and of course tea.

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And because it’s a month away from Milana’s 5th birthday (we celebrate for a full month!), they sang to her and she got to blow out a candle. You can see the video here.

Milana loved her AG afternoon and was happy to carry her loot back to the hotel.

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After shopping, we headed off to Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas.  It’s a fairly new park (opened up in 2012) with lots of things to do! They have a children’s park, dog park, restaurant, games and all sorts of other activities.  It’s a must visit when in Dallas!

The playground is pretty awesome, with some really cool climbing structures.

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There was also a large, grassy field to play on.

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One of the coolest features of this park is the section with books/magazines/games.  They had both adult and children’s books, more parks should do this!

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After the park, we headed to the Truck Yard for dinner. This is a must do when in Dallas! Keep in mind that after 9pm, you must be 21 or older to enter.  There were several food trucks and a really cool outside seating area to enjoy your food. Such an awesome place!

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We decided to give bbq another try, and the one from the food truck happened to be awesome!  Much better than our Pecan Lodge experience.  For dessert, we had ice cream from Motor Sisters and it was awesome as well.

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The next day, we were heading to Grapevine to spend the night at Great Wolf Lodge before heading home.  But first, we stopped at Start for lunch, which is an awesome healthy fast food place, serving non-fried, made from scratch real food.  They have many organic options too, don’t miss this gem when in the area! They have a drive thru as well, making eating healthy on the go easy.

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Milana chose the baked nuggets with fruit and I had one of their burgers, made with all-natural, grass-fed beef. Everything was really good!

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After lunch, we headed to the Great Wolf Lodge.  One recently opened near us (February 2016) and we have been there once, however we went right after opening and there were still tons of kinks to work out. This one has been opened for several years, and everything was great.  The biggest difference was the flooring in the water park. In SoCal, I watched person after person go down, it was like walking on ice! Here, they didn’t have this issue. I’m not sure why the chain doesn’t use the same materials at all of their locations, but SoCal definitely lacked in that department!

The entire facility was decorated for Halloween, and starting October 1st, kids can dress up in costumes and participate in their Halloween parade/trick or treating. We missed it since we checked out early in the day October 1st, but we are giving our home location another try later this month, so Milana will get to do all the Halloween activities then.  The activities are the same for all locations, so I won’t mention them all here however if you want to see what there is to do besides play at the water park, look at my Great Wolf Lodge post for SoCal, it’s all detailed there.

As soon as we checked in, we noticed that it was almost time for Bingo. This was one of Milana’s favorites last time we went so we headed straight to play.  Unlike the SoCal location, this wasn’t done on the floor in the lobby. They have a separate room for all kids activities, and you can sit at a table instead of the floor. I liked this much better! Because of the time (not quite check in but past check out), we were the only ones there so Milana won every game.

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After Bingo, we headed off to the water park.

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All that water play makes you hungry! Just like the SoCal location, the food here was awful. But I found out that there’s a Grimaldi’s Pizzeria nearby and knew we had to go. When we lived in Jersey, we’d frequent their original Brooklyn location and though it’s rare we try pizza outside of the NYC area, this was a huge hit! We ordered the 4 cheese pizza, and we all loved it. So much so that Milana grabbed a slice before I was able to take a picture!

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Dallas was definitely a fun city for a quick few day getaway. The weather was perfect and there was lots to see and do to occupy us the entire time. On the way home, we found a cute little airport play area, where Milana played before we boarded our fight home.

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39 comments

  1. This looks like so much fun! I really enjoyed reading about your adventures in Texas. My brother lives there and I’m also a bit homesick for autumn in America. I would really like to go to a pumpkin patch and corn maze. Your daughter looks like she had so much fun at the American Girl place! I always wanted to have tea with my doll, but my dad always said it was too expensive! The food looked absolutely delightful though!

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  2. I love this! The pumpkin village is my fav! I see lots of pumpkin patches and corn mazes every fall, but I’ve never seen a pumpkin village complete with pumpkin houses and corn ear houses! Even as an adult, I think I would have fun running around and taking pics in it haha! I’m originally from Texas, too…but I haven’t been back in quite some time. Love this! ❤

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  3. Milana is totally adorable. Looks like she had lots of fun in Dallas. Even though the day started with the worst BBQ ever, looks like you made up with the AG afternoon, the pumpkin place and the water park. I never knew they had places like AG for dolls.

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  4. That pumpkin village is really cute and the American doll store is a hoot! Who knew there were so many amenities for a doll? Interesting about the Gray Wolf Lodge. I was thinking about taking my boys to the one in So. Cal next week, so we will watch for the slippery floor if we go ;).

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  5. Oh, I’m so sorry for your barbecue experience! Texans take their barbecue very, very seriously and I hope you keep trying different places when you get the chance. An American Girl Doll store is an experience for sure! We had our doll’s ears pierced!! Love Dallas as a visit. Great city. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  6. Dallas seems such a fun place, it can be seen from Milana’s expressions.Would love to go to the Pumpkin Village and the Truck Yard and try out the food from the different food trucks.

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  7. I know you said the food was terrible, but fatty meat? That’s my favorite! I love me some good fat, I think it’s the best part! I’m glad you had fun in the end, the Pumpkin Village looks absolutely adorable!

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  8. My husband has been begging me to have kids for about a year now but I haven’t been ready to give up my solo female travel bit. Seeing these photos touches my heart. Your daughter is precious and looks like she is having a wonderful time. I don’t know why I thought I could not travel with kids

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  9. Looks like you and your family had a great time. For Christmas several years ago, I gifted an American Girl doll to my 6-year old niece. I told her father that is a Christmas and Birthday gift until she turns 16.

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  10. So glad you enjoyed Dallas. I was there four years ago for a flying visit and it didn’t grow on me at all. My friends daughter also loves American Gorl but they are impossible to get in Australia. Thanks goodness for eBay!

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  11. I grew up Dallas but I can’t believe I never knew there was a pumpkin patch at the Arboretum! It looks absolutely adorable. Any idea if it’s still open in November? I could totally use this to get myself in the mood for fall (since it still feels like summer here in San Francisco!). I also really need to try Pecan Lodge — this Texas girl loves her BBQ! 🙂

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  12. I think your little girl had so much fun that day! 🙂 I love the pumpkin patch and long wanted to visit something similar (if we have one over here!). And that grilled meat is definitely drool-worthy!

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  13. So many bloggers just rave about everything. Good for you for being honest about the poor quality food.

    I would have loved the doll afternoon tea thing as a child! What a nice idea.

    I really like how American this all is – the pumpkins, the Halloween stuff, BBQ food – and of course the Americanisms in your writing – I only usually read other UK travel bloggers, so this was a refreshing change!

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  14. Looks like a great place. I love the idea of the pumpkin village it looks amazing and I think I would like the truck yard for dinner too 🙂

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  15. Welcome to Dallas! I’ve been here a little over a year and still have not visited the Pecan Lodge. I prefer my bbq from a pit off of a random guy on the street. I am also dying to get to the arboretum this year since I didn’t get to go during the holiday last season. And I’m so glad you enjoyed Klyde Warren. I love the book station and the food trucks!

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  16. What a great weekend in Dallas for the family. My favorite is the Dallas arboretum. What a perfect place to visit in the fall. Hope I can bring my kids there some day.

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  17. What a lovely bunch of activities! That BBQ looked so tasty and the pumpkin patch looked unreal! I’ve never seen one so cute. I have fond memories of visiting the American Girl Store & Cafe when I was a young girl with my momma. Those are memories you will cherish forever! 🙂

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  18. Looks like a great break in Texas. Milana is so cute! I wish that we did the whole autumnal thing better in the UK – I love the pumpkin village. My little girl would love the American Girl shop and cafe too – the food there looks delicious.

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  19. Looks like a lovely trip and Milana had loads of fun eating and visiting places. I am glad that the bbq atTruck Yard is great and that it made up to the bbq experience you and Milana had before. I love the pumpkin village, as the Halloween is soon starts in Toronto.

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  20. Ah, the pumpkin village is amazing! I can imagine it is a great stop for people travelling with kids! Also, fall is just the right time to think of pumpkin spiced cakes and muffins, right? Forget about the pumpkins, an afternoon tea at the doll house was probably the best for kids haha. Looks like you had a great trip!

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  21. Milana is adorable and it looks like you guys had a lot of fun! American Girl Dolls sure have come a long way since when I had one as a kid. 8 year old me would have been envious!

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  22. We are headed to Dallas in a while for the first time! I have actually been eying off the Truck Yard for dinner but wasn`t sure if it would be suitable for kids – you have just proved it is! We are planning a winter trip, do you think it will be too cold at night for Truck Yard? Great post!

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