It's summer again. Kids look forward to it all year, while parents dread it.
It's not so much the hot Texas sun (you've already stocked up on enough sunscreen to cover the whole Rangers team for a year) as the notion that those lazy days of summer are completely lost on your children, bless their little hearts. They crave entertainment, but you'll probably run out of fun homemade crafts by lunch time on the second day of summer break.
Instead of denting your wallet with yet another summer camp or trip to Disney World, why not stay close to home this year? The metroplex, in all of its family-friendliness, is chock full of activities that are entertaining and educational at the same time.
If you and your tykes dig the beauty of nature as well as music, try out the Children's Concert Series at the Dallas Arboretum (8525 Garland Road). After the arboretum closes for the night, the family can sit back for a picnic dinner and enjoy the tunes of artists such as Sara Hickman (May 28), Trout Fishing in America (June 24), Justin Roberts (July 15) and Parachute Express (August 5). In addition to the musical performances, there will be an instrument petting zoo (perfect for the kids to pick out their future guitar or trumpet), face-painting and crafts until 8 p.m. each night. Admission is $6 for members, $10 for non-members. Call 214-515-6500 or visit dallasarboretum.org.
Drive west for an afternoon of out-of-this-world amusement and exploration. Lucasfilm Ltd.'s Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination will make its Southwestern stop at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (1501 Montgomery St.), June 9 through September 3. Within the themes of "Getting Around" (transportation) and "Robots and People," the interactive exhibit provides a hands-on look at real-world applications of the films' technologies. Visitors can work together inside Engineering Design Labs, building and testing speeders and robots of their own. In addition, there will be more than 80 props and costumes from all six Star Wars films (including Luke's landspeeder and an original Yoda puppet), videos and 21 interactive exhibits. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 3-12, and include museum exhibits. For reservations, call 817-255-9540 or visit fortworthmuseum.org.
If you have a young Motherwell, Warhol or Lichtenstein in your household, consider a week-long art camp at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St.). Grouped by age (5-8 and 9-12), the day campers will explore the museum's permanent collection as well as special summer exhibits. As they study under area artists in the art studio, they'll get to create masterpieces of their own that will be on display at an end-of-camp reception for families and friends. Call 817-738-9215 or visit mamfw.org to enroll.
The Ballpark After Dark Sleepover program at the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum and Learning Center (100 Ballpark Way, Arlington) has been a favorite for some time. Ideal for boys and girls in grades 1 through 5, it teaches kids about teamwork and sportsmanship but doesn't leave out the fun of the game. Young pitchers, batters and catchers will get to enjoy the Rangers batting cages, baseball crafts and a baseball movie all before being tucked in for the night right on the field. Reservations are required. Call 817-273-5087.
Do you have your own drama queen at home? Be sure to check out the summer day camps at the Dallas Children's Theater. With classes for every age group (call 214-978-0110 for registration), your little star will have a chance to shine on stage. If your little ones prefer to watch, they'll enjoy the DCT production of PINKERTON!!!, Steven Kellogg's story about a mischievous Great Dane. Weekend performances run from June 22 through July 22 at the Baker Theater in the Rosewood Center for Family Arts (5938 Skillman St.). For showtimes and ticket info, call 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.
Every Saturday throughout the summer your comic-loving kids can laugh and learn at Cosmic Strips, a special program at the Sky Theater (1704 W. Mulberry St., Denton) on the University of North Texas campus. The one-hour program will show how classic comics such as Frank & Ernest and others mirror scientific concepts in unique and light-hearted ways. In addition, there will be a presentation on the elements (constellations, weather formations and other features) of each evening's sky. Call the Sky Theater at 940-369-8213 for more information.
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If giant parks such as Hurricane Harbor seem daunting, perhaps your young ones would prefer The Wet Zone, Rowlett's family waterpark (5304 Main St., Rowlett). Open May 30 through September 3, the water park features slide rides like Haley's Rapid Ripple (125-foot body flumes) and Krrplunk, a lazy river and a submerged jungle gym. Flick and Float on Fridays, featuring family-friendly movies such as Jumanji, Chicken Run and Over the Hedge, is a relaxing way to start the weekend as you lounge around or float in the wave pool. Each movie starts at 8 p.m. and is free with daily admission. After 7 p.m. Flick and Float is $7 and includes a hot dog, chips and a drink. Call 972-412-6266 or visit wetzonewaterpark.com.
Wee history buffs may enjoy a day at Log Cabin Village (2100 Log Cabin Village Lane, Fort Worth). The Village, open since 1966, is a living history museum that portrays the lives of 19th-century folk in North Texas. Kids get to grind corn, card wool and weave on a loom, experience one-room schoolhouse lessons and enjoy stories and songs with Wichita Bob. Log Cabin Village is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $3 for children ages 4-17. Reservations are required for some special events such as Timber Tales and day camps. Call 817-392-5881 or visit logcabinvillage.org.
Even with all of these exclusive summertime adventures, don't forget the local faves. The Museum of Nature and Science, which houses the IMAX and Planetarium (1318 Second Ave., 214-428-5555, natureandscience.org,), will have half-day and full-day camps all summer long in addition to regular exhibits. The Dallas Zoo (650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway, dallas-zoo.org) is great for budding Jane Goodalls and Jeff Corwins, and the Dallas World Aquarium (1801 N. Griffin St., dwazoo.com) features an 85,000-gallon tank, a rain forest, and South African and Mayan exhibits perfect for burgeoning Jacques Cousteaus.
With such a wide variety of goings-on at your disposal, those aforementioned lazy days of summer—and the bored kids that come with them—won't know what hit 'em.