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The Dallas Arboretum is one of the top-recommended things to do in the DFW area.  And for good reason.  This place is a gorgeous, peaceful, well-design place of beauty and nature, right in the middle of America’s largest metroplex.

Kids guide to the Dallas Arboretum and Children's Garden

About the Dallas Arboretum

The Dallas Arboretum is split into 2 sections.  There are the Gardens which is a lovely (and long) walk through different gardens and areas.  Then in a separate location at the very end of the Gardens is Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.  Assuming, if you read this blog, that you travel with children, THIS is the place for you!

a Young girl balances on a mushroom at First Adventure Dallas Arboretum

Rory Children’s Garden Map at Dallas Arboretum

Though much more compact than the regular gardens, it is chock full of educational, scenic and interesting, hands-on activities.

The Dallas Arboretum offers different events throughout the year including Harvest Tea in the Fall, 12 Days of Christmas Night events, and Tulip festivals.


Normally, the Arboretum costs $15 plus $3 admission to the Children’s Garden.

However, if you want the budget-friendly version, go any day in August!  The Dallas Arboretum offers Dollar Days.  This means that you get into the Gardens for $2 and into the Children’s Garden for another $2.  Making it $4 per person for one of the best days of your summer.

Where to Park

There are several entrances to the Gardens from Garland Road.

If you want to spend the majority of your day at the Children’s Garden, Park at gate #4.  You will go into the parking garage and drive down 2 levels.  You will walk through an underground walkway (under the traffic) right to the entrance of the Garden and Children’s Garden.

If you are interested in the larger Gardens, you can park at Gate 1.

In August, parking is also discounted at $5 for underground parking.  Any other month, book your parking ahead of time online and get a discount. Certain events will include the parking fee.

Essential Tips for Summer Attendance

Baby gets wet at Splash pad
Handle the Heat at the Dallas Arboretum

Wear Swimsuits (with clothes to throw on over).

Slather the sunscreen and wear sunglasses.

Bring lots of water and ice (refills available at the water fountains.

Bring a picnic lunch and snacks if you are living budget-friendly. Or buy food offered at the Dallas Arboretum.

Arrive as early as possible.  The Gardens open at 9 so the earlier you arrive the less intense the sun will be.

Park at gate #4 if you are spending the day at the Children’s Gardens. If you want to see the whole gardens, there is a shuttle golf cart that will give you a ride from the children’s garden to the main entrance.

There are workers in each section of the Gardens.  Ask for help if you aren’t sure what to do with a certain activity.  They are there to help.  When I went on my own with my 4 kids, they were more than happy to be an extra set of hands as my kids worked on projects.

Handling the Texas Heat and Humidity

The reason that August is so dramatically discounted, is that it is the dead of summer.  In Texas.  The heat and humidity will melt you into a puddle in no time!  So to incentivize visitors in the ‘dead season’ they offer a steep discount.  As a budget traveler, I jumped at this chance.a girl plays in water mushroom at Dallas Arboretum

The first year or two we melted quite a bit, but now I am ready to pass on the best itinerary to keep you cool and calm. Unlike the main Gardens, the Children’s garden has plenty of opportunities to get wet and keep cool so you can see the sights comfortably.

CoolDown #1: Entrance Splash Pad

First, wear your swimsuits.  Right as you enter the children’s garden, there is a small splash pad with 8 streams of water.  Let the kids (and you) get completely soaked.

View of the Treetops at Dallas Arboretum
Kaleidoscope area view from the Walk in the Clouds bridge

Walk to the left of the Splash pad, straight past the First Adventure area.  This is quite possibly the best (and most shaded) part of the Gardens, so I always reserve it for the end.  It is perfect for toddlers, but the bigger kids love it, too. 

Plants are Alivebuild a Flower at Dallas Arboretum

While you are soaking wet, walk down the petroglyph path to the Plants are alive section.  Create flowers, Stamp Flower life cycles, go on a short nature hike.

Kaleidoscope and Math Area

kaleidoscope at Dallas Arboretum

Next, spend time at the Kaleidoscope.  Create a garden using giant blocks that look like bushes.  Garden grooming at Dallas Arboretum Explore shapes and patterns with  Tangrams and Tessellations.Tangram puzzles at Dallas Arboretum

The Glade

The Glade is a great place to stop for a peaceful snack and a little puppet show on stage.

CoolDown #2: Water Energy and Wind energy

Water works at Thomas Picken Energy at Dallas Arboretum

By now the kids and you are mostly dry and getting to be quite hot.  Great!  You’ve just arrived at the T. Boone Pickens Pure Energy Area, which includes water energy and wind energy.

Water Energy

While the kids aren’t allowed to galavant through the water here, you can get soaked by the squirt guns across the pond to hit the kids who want to get wet.  You can also play in the rivers of water with your hands and sprinkle as much water from the flow to cool off.

Wind Energy

tornado tunnel at Dallas Arboretum

Then head over to the wind and tornado area to feel the breeze.

Texas Wetlands

Deer statue at Dallas Arboretum

Now that everyone is cooled off and wet again, take a stroll through the Texas Wetlands and find as many animals as you can.

Earth Cycleswaterfall in a cavern at Dallas Arboretum

Here you will find a cavern for shade, an erosion table where you can build mountains and then watch the rain erode, classify rocks, learn about tectonic plates.  And don’t forget the Earth, Moon, sun, and planets.  So much to learn about here.  But you are probably ready to cool off again, so let’s find some A/C!

erosion and sand table at Dallas Arboretum

Living Cycles

information kiosk at Dallas Arboretum

Find out about animal and plant life cycles.

CoolDown #3: A/C in Exploration Center

Since we are mostly dry again, go into the Exploration Center (ahh!  A/C!)  If you are lucky you might catch a science experiment (11, 1 and 3 daily) My kids got to extract DNA from a strawberry.  They were glued to every step of the process.

Science experiment at Exploratorium at Dallas Arboretum

Waterfall cascades
the cascades at Dallas Arboretum
The view from the front of the cascades. Don’t miss sitting under it, too!

Walk around behind the Exploration Center to view the cascades heading up to the large waterfall.  Sit in the cavern under the flowing water. Watch the splash over your head through clear window panes and into the river below.

Walk in the Clouds

walk in the cloud bridge at Dallas Arboretum

The Skybridge from the cascades to the Treehouse with nets to climb on.  and continue walking on the sky bridge to look out of the Arboretum over White rock lake (This is also overlooking the Water and Wind Energy area).

3 kids climb nets at the Treehouse at Dallas Arboretum

CoolDown #4: First Adventure

Before you leave, spend a good chunk of time in the First Adventure area.

Jackson in a turtle egg at First Adventure Dallas ArboretumThis is designed for toddlers and preschoolers, so if you have older kids, won’t find this as entertaining.  This is a shady area with a small river and a sandbox.  It is a toddler dreamland and I could honestly spend all day here.  It is so relaxing here.  My kids are never bored splashing in the water or playing ‘house’ in the little home near the sandbox.

sand box at Dallas Arboretum

Incredible Edible Garden

Now that the kids are wet again if you still have the energy to walk, head in the opposite direction from the First Adventure to the Incredible Edible Garden.  Teach kids where the foods they eat actually come from.A young boy at the Childrens Garden Incredible edible Garden Dallas Arboretum

Amazing Secret Garden

Don’t miss out on the maze which includes a puzzle and riddles to solve as you go.

CoolDown #5: Splash Pad

We are back to the entrance of the Gardens, so for good measure, we all get good and wet one last time for the walk out to the car.

Lay Family Garden

If we still have a bit of energy, we walk through the Lay family garden in the bigger garden area.  There are koi in the pond and some beautiful waterfalls and fauna to gawk at.  Have you kids find their favorite one as they dry off enough to get into the car.

The Gardens?

View from Dallas arboretum

If you want to explore the Gardens more, there is a shuttle golf cart that will give you a ride from the Children’s garden to the main entrance. We have spent time walking through and enjoying the beauty here, but nothing is as interactive for kids.  A date with my husband and no kids was perfect for the Gardens area.

Find more information on the Dallas Arboretum website.

Final CoolDown: Sonic Slush

There is a sonic .2 mile down the street from the Arboretum parking lot.  Grab a slush for the kids during happy hour for 1/2 price and cool down quick.

Kids guide to the Dallas Arboretum and Children's Garden
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What do you love at the Dallas Arboretum? Please leave a comment with your favorite section!

If you are in Dallas, you might also enjoy the Perot Museum.  Or maybe a night on the Town in Dallas.

If you are flying in or out of the DFW airport, check out all the tips and tricks here.


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