Exploring Dallas History with Kids

Dallas isn’t just cowboys, the Cowboys, and Texas BBQ. As one of the oldest cities in the state, Dallas is steeped in local history. Best of all for parents, most exhibits in and around Dallas honoring the region’s history are free or low-cost for all.

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See Founders Plaza: Located downtown in a unassuming park area, Founders Plaza showcases a replica of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan’s original settler’s cabin. Kids can see a map of the county circa the 1800s here, and in Pioneer Plaza, families can view a monument of bronze steer, representing the many animals driven along the Shawnee Trail during the 1850s.

Spend an entire day at Dallas Heritage Village: Located in Old City Park, this 19th-century Texas ‘town’ an historic Main Street surrounded by almost 40 beautifully restored buildings, dating from 1840 to 1910. Families can walk through Heritage Village on their own using self-guided tours, stopping to take in living history presentations by costumed staff. We love the doctor’s office (always interesting to see how injuries and illness used to be treated!), the train depot, and of course, the schoolhouse. Kids can go inside buildings, talk with re-enactors, and even dress up. A petting zoo is included in the ‘local’ farm just outside the town proper, and the general store encourages play, allowing kids to try the cash register (watch out…you’ll need to do calculations in your head instead of on a phone!). Purchases come in brown paper tied with string, and candies and soda pop for sale are all the old-fashioned favorites. While in the village, be sure to stop in at the old Millermore Mansion for a tour. Kids will see how ‘the other half’ lived a century ago.

Learn about Kennedy at Dealey Plaza: For some of us, only one generation stands between us and the event of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. To kids, it’s ancient history, which is one reason to take school-aged kids through this national historic landmark district. Located at the site of the assassination, Dealey Plaza and the rest of this district is home to several sites, including the Texas School Book Depository, Sixth Floor Museum (located within the depository building), and Pillars of Unity. The Sixth Floor Museum tells the story of Kennedy with the most details, but is still appropriate for most kids. There is a fee for the museum, but the district itself, including the park, is free to tour; pick up a self-guided map.

Step inside a cathedral: Teach kids about history and architecture at the same time while touring the Cathedral Shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe. This gothic building stands out in Dallas, as one of the last examples of high Victorian gothic design. Admission is free, and tours are self-guided when the cathedral is not in session for worship (this is a working church with congregation).

See a very old cemetery: Not many kids have walked the grounds of a pre-Civil War cemetery. Instead of creepy or disturbing, cemeteries can be good historical tools, if parents present them as such. The Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial, located downtown, pays homage to former freed slaves, buried in what was called a ‘freedman’s town’. Parents can teach kids the ground they stand on was once a community, and explain how this memorial honors the people who did not get the recognition they deserved during their lifetime. Admission is free.

Where do you go in Dallas to learn about history?

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About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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