More than fun in the sun: big lessons, attractions in Texas

Big portions from Mi Cocina // Photo by Sheletta Brundidge

After my story about making vacations a teaching opportunity for your children ran in the MSR this past December, I’ve been inundated with calls and e-mails from parents looking for places to go.

Most of them asked, “Where should I take my children for spring break?”

Others demanded to know, “Are there places nearby we can drive that have rich African American history but won’t break the bank? I got bills to pay!”

While a funnier mom quipped, “Anywhere I can drop them off and keep going? I need a break too!”

It began getting difficult for me to respond to them all.So my editors at the MSR allowed me to do a follow-up series in the coming weeks — just in time to book travel for spring break —, detailing warm weather cities that you can take your kids. My suggestions won’t hit your pocketbooks too hard, and they have Black history and culture you can’t get anywhere else in the nation.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good husband with a pretty decent job who loves to travel and do new things. Each year, he spearheads renting an RV, loading up all four of our little ones, and setting out a new destination for us to see. For every town, city and state, there is a story to tell that has blessed our kids and helped them learn more about life outside of Minnesota.

  • In Dallas, we saw where JFK was assassinated.
  • In Louisville, we checked out the Muhammad Ali Center.
  • In Niagara Falls, we visited the Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
  • In Kansas City, we took a tour of the Negro League Baseball Museum.
  • In Atlanta, we watched movies about MLK and Coretta at the King Center.

Each city and each trip inspire and educated my little ones.

This week, we’ll start off with Dallas and work our way down the list. They say everything is bigger in Texas and they are right!

Treat your children to an enjoyable hotel that’s spacious and luxurious. If they’ve never stayed in one before, they’ll appreciate being at the Canopy by Hilton Hotel in Uptown Dallas.

It’s a newer hotel so it has all the amenities, including free breakfast that includes real food like eggs and bacon and not just muffins and bananas. They’ve got the fitness center, pools, spacious lobby with the wrap around bar.

And the coolest feature is the bicycles that are available that you can ride around for free to checkout nearby attractions.

The rooms have space to move around so you’re not all cramped. There is a patio with chairs and tables where the kids can play games in their down time and enjoy a view overlooking the city.

For grown up fun (and you’ll need some of that after a few days), there is a rooftop bar that boasts Texas size drink pours and live music.

The hotel sales director, Kevin Sullivan, says there is a lot nearby for families to do. “The uptown area of Dallas is very rich with excitement and fun,” said Sullivan. “There are trollies that have stops right in front of the hotel that will take you throughout the downtown Dallas area. There are parks, museums, and restaurants all along the way.”

They also have a family fun package that lets you book your stay and save a few dollars when you’re traveling with the children.

And speaking of food, there are at least a dozen stellar and inexpensive restaurants within walking distance of the Canopy by Hilton in uptown Dallas that will set your taste buds on fire.

The area is known for its blend of Texas and Mexican cuisine known as TexMex and there isn’t a restaurant in the area that prepares it better than Mi Cocina. With signature dishes like Red Chile Chicken Pozole, sizzling fajitas and the almost too pretty to eat Rico salad, you’ll want to eat until you pass out.

Olowe of Ise, Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye
), Nigeria, c. 1910-c. 1938, wood, pigment, and paint, the Dallas Museum of Art.
// Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

When you’re done eating and enjoying your hotel room, get on the free McKinney Avenue Trolly and tour the city. It’ll take you to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, and the Dallas World Aquarium.

Klyde Warren Park is within a stone’s throw of the hotel and boasts live music most evenings. The free concerts feature both local and national bands from a variety of music genres. Get your groove on and dance until the break of dawn with your babies until your feet hurt.

Then they can go back to the hotel room too pooped to pop. That’s when you sneak up to that rooftop bar and have yourself something brown and tasty.

And, you can’t leave the city of Dallas without going to Elm Street where President John F. Kennedy was traveling when he was fatally shot by an assassin.

Dealey Plaza, a museum that overlooks Elm Street, honors the memory of JFK. There is an exhibit set up as a timeline leading up to his death in November of 1963. It includes one-of-a-kind historical photographs, films, artifacts and documents that you will only see in Dallas.

I thought this would be too sad for my children to take in; however, it had quite the opposite effect. We found it life-changing and left feeling empowered and inspired.

So, roll your quarters, put some gas in the car and head south on I-35 until it turns into I-45. It’s a straight shot and well worth the trip.

Next column, I’ll tell you why it’s imperative that you take your kids to Louisville so the legacy of Muhammad Ali can propel them to greatness.