Best Place to Take the Kids 2018 | Crayola Experience | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Ah, the smell of fresh crayon wax. There was nothing like opening a new big box of Crayolas, 64 colors untouched by some other kid's grubby little fingers. Enjoy some old-fashioned fun with your children at the Crayola Experience, which opened in March at the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano. Watch how crayons are made, stop at a coloring station that would put your 64-count box to shame, paint with watercolors or melted wax, explore the playground or visit the photo booth to create a coloring page of your family. Don't forget to tell your kids that you didn't get to do any of these activities back in the day.

Your favorite music, food trucks and flowers. Do you need to know anything more about KXT Sun Sets? Before the weather gets unbearably hot (OK, technically this is a late spring concert series), the signature series from KXT 91.7 FM lets you hear national and local musicians chosen by the radio station's staff members in an intimate setting at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Guests can bring food and drinks to set up picnics on the Camp Lawn overlooking White Rock Lake. Artists for 2018 included Patty Griffin and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.

Sure, you can check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science during its regular hours, but it's just not socially acceptable to push kids out of the way so you can try the interactive exhibits. That's probably why the museum offers plenty of adult-only programs, or as its website calls them, "scientifically grown-up fun." Social Science events have fun themes and include experiments, performances, discussions and, of course, drinks. Hear from engaging explorers during a lecture from the speaker series National Geographic Live. Or check out Science Cafe at a local pub, where you can hear about scientific trends and research from experts and, of course, drink.

If you ever hear someone say nobody cares about art in Deep Ellum, this is where to send them. Since 2005, Kettle Art Gallery has been a springboard for up-and-coming artists in Dallas. In a city rife with stuffy, see-and-be-seen galleries, owner Frank Campagna (aka the "Godfather of Deep Ellum") and a dedicated band of volunteers are the DNA of this little gallery that could. His tireless dedication to the wellbeing of Dallas' underrepresented artists has been on clear display since the day he opened his Main Street doors. Their annual event For the Love of Kettle sees lines literally around the block of people clamoring to snag inspired works of art.

The Craft Guild's motto is learn, create, be inspired, and for the last 70 years, that's exactly what the Carrollton-based nonprofit has offered artisans in the Dallas area. If jewelry-making is your thing, the Guild's all-levels beading class is going to be your new happy place. Offered at various times throughout the year, the classes are interactive and include how-to demos, pro tips and techniques for beginning beaders as well as those who've mastered the art. From peyote to brick stitch, to weaving, loom work and all the latest methods and designs, there's no need to enroll in a fancy design school to be the next great jewelry designer. The Craft Guild's got you covered at a fraction of the cost.

If you've ever wondered if DIY pottery-making is as fun as it looks, it is. But don't take our word for it. Plan your next date, girls night out, kids party, or "me time" at Quigley's Clay House in Richardson. With an array of activities like pottery painting, glass fusion, adult wheel night and canvas night, to name a few, there's no risk of not having an amazing time. Warning: Throwing clay at Quigley's can be addictive. Govern yourself accordingly.

Dallas' rich history is part of what makes the city all that it is, with a culture fueled by business, sports, entertainment and diversity. A visit to Dallas means you better buckle up, because it's impossible to distill it all in one or two experiences. If you must, however, then we suggest starting with one of the few things that brings everyone together: food. In Dallas, Tex-Mex is where it's at. Options are abundant here, and they're arguably among the best in the world. Dallas' Taco and Margarita Tour will take you on a food-and-drink-sampling adventure. You'll hit many of the best Tex-Mex spots in a four-hour stretch that includes a motorcoach ride, food and drinks. You'll also get to indulge in what Bon Appétit magazine has named the "Best Taco in America." Be sure to plan in advance. No surprise, this tour sells out regularly. It's put together by Dallas Bites!, 972-814-5997.

Learning to chill while life throws everything but the kitchen sink at you isn't easy, but you can learn to tap into inner peace with the help of Dallas Meditation Center. One of the oldest and largest interfaith meditation centers in the North Texas area, DMC offers multiple yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes and events every day of the week. Modeled in the style of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, DMC classes are suitable for students of all meditation levels. Don't have a lot of time? Easy Tai Chi and Zen to Go ensure that when life comes at you fast, you'll still be standing.

Best Historical Landmark (That You've Probably Never Heard Of)

California Crossing Park

In the 1800s, settlers voyaged cross-country on wagon trains carrying freight and other goods. A historical site is marked in Irving for a large caravan hailing from the Pennsylvania area that crossed the Trinity River as the group neared the end of what would ultimately be an almost 3,000-mile trek. Get a feel for their journey on a visit to California Crossing Park in Valley Ranch, a beautiful 34.5-acre park dotted with streams and walking trails. You may just forget you're in Irving when history comes to life at California Crossing.

It's no secret that Dallas is not a world-class city when it comes to treatment of animals: Strays and packed-full animal shelters have been a constant battle for years. Flower Mound-based nonprofit Humane Tomorrow is on the forefront of that battle. Not only do they work to find homes for animals in their own Dallas suburb, but they also operate an innovative educational outreach program that visits Dallas schools. That's where Sweetie the Incredible, a 12-year-old pit mix, and her five-year-old pit mix BFF Poindexter, come in. These multitalented canines empower and motivate pre-K to second-graders to make a difference in the lives of animals — and humans — through compassion and action. The "ambassadogs" were both rescued from tough circumstances and provide a great example of how a little bit of compassion goes a long way. Poindexter is often spotted in retro sunglasses and gives plenty of hugs, while Sweetie's resilience makes her a gifted storyteller. Kids that visit with these two get a dose of character education that encourages them to make life better for all creatures great and small.

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