May 13

Great Zoo Exhibit: Museum of Living Art

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Museum of Living Art or MOLA is a world class exhibit dedicated to the more colorful species in the animal kingdom. Located at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas this great museum makes any trip to the Fort Worth Zoo a worthwhile destination.

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Opened in 2010, the Museum of Living Art is a 30,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor exhibit that houses more than 250 amphibian and reptile species.  It is the best zoo herpetarium that Karen and I have ever been to and we have many to a lot of zoos.  From the start to the finish whoever design this exhibit did a fantastic job.  The Museum of Living Art starts off with a large area for its saltwater crocodile on one side and large tank filled with gharial crocodiles, turtles, and fish on the other and it just gets better from there.  Once through the doors there was one large tank after another filled with just about every type of amphibian and reptile imaginable.  Some of the highlights for us were their komodo dragons, giant salamanders, dwarf crocodiles, king cobra, and its abundance of every size, shape, color of frog imaginable. .
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We do not live in the Fort Worth area, but have visited this zoo twice mainly to see their Museum of Living Art it is that nice of an exhibit.  We enjoyed our first visit a little bit more than our second only because it was less crowded the first time.  Like any exhibit that deals with smaller enclosures like those in an aquarium or a herpetarium the crowd size plays a big part in our level of enjoyment we get out of a visit.  It is hard to enjoy the experience with 20 other people all crowded around each tank.  Fortunately even when it was crowded the Museum of Living Art is large enough that we were still able to find some space and time every now again to enjoy looking at those colorful animals.

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Besides being a world class exhibit, the Museum of Living Art also serves as a breeding facility for rare and endangered animals.  Getting the chance to see some very rare animals as well as realizing that the Fort Worth Zoo is fighting the good fight to keep those rare animals going makes the Museum of Living Art a special place.
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If you enjoy visits to zoos then we recommend checking out the Fort Worth Zoo they have several nice areas besides this one.  Now if you love reptiles or amphibians then the Museum of Living Art is a must see for you because you will be hard pressed to find a better place to see them.   Overall, we felt it is just an awesome exhibit, we enjoyed that the enclosures were larger than most herpetariums and the animals seemed happy which made us enjoy it that much more.

To see our reviews of other top zoo exhibits click here

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Fort Worth Zoo
Located at 1989 Colonial Parkway, Fort Worth, TX
Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily from October 26th through Feb 13th the rest of the year they are open till 5:00 p.m.
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 13 to 64 $12 Children 3 to 12 and Seniors 65 and over $9 plus parking is $5
For more information visit their website at http://www.fortworthzoo.org/

May 07

M’s Musings

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We decided it was high time for another installment of M’s Musings.

Musing #1
M: (Looking at a cook book with me she saw a picture of muffins) Momma look at these big chocolate mushrooms

Musing #2
M: Mommy you are a queen and Daddy is a PRINCE-ah-pul  (principal)

Musing #3 
M: I am a genius!  Pink Kitty is a genius too.
Dad: Is Mommy a genius?
M: No…. Mommy is a half nelson (I think Dad had been teaching her some wrestling moves)

Musing #4
M: (from the kitchen standing on a stool) Mommy it’s a highway to the ground
Mom: what!?  A highway??
M: yes, a highway to the ground, I need help
Mom: (I hopped up from nursing and realized it’s a HIGH way to the ground) OH!  It’s a long way to the ground, you are up high, I will help you baby girl

Musing #5
McKenna also has a knack for making up fun words.  Most recently it’s the verb loof
M: I just loofed over here to see you…. I going to loof down on the bed

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General McKenna-isms

vitamin= vit-e-um

basket= bak-iss

marshmallow= marsh pillow

girls= gir-luhs

electricity= leck triss eh ah

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That sweet girl just makes our day, we want to remember all the fun things she says.  Hopefully it gave you a little smile too.  To see more of M’s Musings click here.

 

 

May 06

Cameron Park Zoo: Small Town Wonderful

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Cameron Park Zoo is a beautiful zoo located next to the Brazos River in Waco, Texas.  Karen and I were quite surprised to find this wonderful of a zoo in the smaller town of Waco.  Texas really has the market cornered when it comes to small town zoos they have some of the nicest ones that we have ever visited in the Cameron Park Zoo as well as the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler.
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At 52 acres the Cameron Park Zoo was perfect for my small family.  Not too large for my 2 year old to get tired or bored with it, but not too small that it was over after thirty minutes.  The zoo has a diverse collection of over 1700 animals representing nearly 300 different species.  Besides the large variety of animals to see, the Cameron Park Zoo also has two really nice exhibits their Brazos River Country and Asian Forest.  When visiting small town zoos it is a real treat to find quality exhibits, but for a town this size to have two, that was special.
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The Brazos River Country exhibit highlights the animals that can or at one time were found along the Brazos River in Texas.  Here we were able to see Mountain Lions, Black Bears, and a 50,000 gallon saltwater aquarium as well as a 35,000 gallon fresh water aquarium.  Their Asian Forest exhibit has orangutans, komodo dragons, and tigers as well as an Asian Temple.  Other animal highlights included a large reptile house, African elephants, rhinos, lions, Galapagos tortoise, and bald eagles.  The exhibits were well designed and they took advantage of native plants and features of the Brazos River.
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My 2 year old is a big fan of zoos just like her parents and she really enjoyed her visit to the Waco Zoo.  The aquarium exhibits made her shout with excitement as well as getting to see her favorite animals’ giraffes, elephants, and any type of bird.  We also liked how the viewing areas were unobstructed by either using moats for barriers or glass.  If my memory serves me correctly, there were very few bar or net enclosures.  Also many exhibits had little kids in mind giving even the wee ones unobstructed views to many of the animal enclosures.
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We walked away from the Cameron Park Zoo being really impressed with not only the quantity of animals but the quality of their enclosures.  Lots of vegetation and space for just about every animal they had.  Karen and I could easily tell their animals seem to be relatively happy and well taken care of.   If you are ever in the Waco area we highly recommend a stop at the Cameron Park Zoo.

To see our reviews of other Texas attractions click here

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Cameron Park Zoo
Located at 1701 N 4th St, Waco, Texas
Hours of Operation Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting Adults 13 to 59 $9.00 Seniors 60 and over $8.00 and Children 4 to 12 $6.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.cameronparkzoo.com/

May 04

Texas Discovery Gardens: A Little Garden a Little Butterfly a lot of Fun

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Texas Discovery Gardens is sensory explosion for little children.  A 7.5 acre botanic garden and a 2 story tall butterfly house all for a reasonable price makes for a fun little outing for the family.  We coupled the Texas Discovery Gardens with the small but well done Children’s Aquarium right next door and had a great afternoon.  My wife and I as well as our 2 year old had some much fun at both locations that anytime we head back to Dallas, while our girls are still little, we will definitely stop back by the the Texas Discovery Gardens as well as the Children’s Aquarium for a quick fun filled visit.
17187078478 9148e8ecd7 z Texas Discovery Gardens: A Little Garden a Little Butterfly a lot of Fun
The garden part of the Texas Discovery Gardens has 10 themed areas in its 7.5 acres of space.  Those themed gardens showcase a variety of native species as well as plants from around the world.  Some of the things you will see on a visit to the Texas Discovery Gardens is a native wildlife pond,  rose garden, scent garden, a well-manicured meadow area leading to a pretty fountain, herb garden filled with wonderful scents, and a native butterfly habitat.  They have a nice path leading to each garden area with a few fun props like giant butterfly wings for candid photographs of the kids.
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Our little 2 year old is a traveler and has been to a few different butterfly houses and ever since she was itty-bitty she has enjoyed every one of them.  The Rosine Smith Simmons Butterfly House at the Texas Discovery Gardens made her just as happy as all the rest.  She would smile and squeak with excitement as the butterflies flew around her.  M would point at the different ones that she would see and has even gotten to the point where she can identify some of them. From an adult standpoint we enjoyed the butterfly house  and thought it was interesting that the entrance started at the 2nd floor giving a bird’s eye view of the plants and butterflies below.  There were quite a few butterflies and a variety of species to see, and if you are there at noon you can see their newly-emerged butterfly release. The person working in that part of the garden was friendly and seemed really well-informed and was ready to answer any and all of the questions that we might have.
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The Texas Discovery Gardens is a nice little outing that if you have young kids your family will surely enjoy.   It is not the biggest garden or nicest butterfly house around but it is worth the admission price and if you go during the middle of the week you might find something there that is hard to find at most Dallas-Fort Worth attractions a little bit of uncrowded space.

To see our reviews of other Texas attractions click here

16752344674 44be1fc0d9 z Texas Discovery Gardens: A Little Garden a Little Butterfly a lot of Fun
Texas Discovery Gardens
Located at Fair Park, 3601 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Dallas, TX
Hours of Operation: Open every day of the week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting:  Adults 12 to 59 $8.00, Seniors 60 and over $6.00, Children 3 to 11 $4.00
For more information visit their website at http://texasdiscoverygardens.org/

Apr 27

Great Aquarium Exhibit: Orinoco Rainforest

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The Dallas World Aquarium is one of our favorite aquariums that we have ever visited.  A chief reason for our fond feelings for the aquarium is because of their wonderful Orinoco Rainforest exhibit.  This large exhibit is one of the main attractions of the Aquarium.  While it feels like half of the aquarium is dedicated to this simulated rainforest, the layout and design sure makes it worthwhile.   And even though you might be thinking that is to much, we feel that the people at the Dallas World Aquarium did a great job with their 7 stories of space in creating their Orinoco Rainforest and would not have it any other way.

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Being a simulated rainforest the Orinoco Rainforest exhibit covers everything from the canopy to the river bottom filling this large area with a variety of animals.  The Orinoco Rainforest is part aviary, part aquarium, and part zoo blended together to create fun exciting learning environment.  The beginning of the exhibit starts in the canopy of the rainforest looking down from the top of a waterfall.  Here you will see lots of bird exhibits and a free roaming sloth though he does not roam far or fast it is still exciting to come to face to face with the animal.
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The winding path down will take you past lots of animal exhibits eventually leading to the rainforest floor where you will see crocodiles, giant river otters, waterfowl, and other animals.  Now it might not seem like it at this point but it is an aquarium and when you take the stairs down you will see just where the aquarium part comes in.  In the lower level there is a wall to wall tank filled with the freshwater fish and mammals that call the Orinoco home.  One of the neatest things to see there is their manatees which this is the only aquarium that we have been to where we have had the chance to see them.
17270383966 0556afa74f z Great Aquarium Exhibit: Orinoco Rainforest
Our whole family really enjoyed our visit to the Dallas World Aquarium and a big part of that was seeing their Orinoco Rainforest.  We like the fact that the flora and fauna were well blended in to the surroundings creating a more realistic job of simulating a trek through a rainforest.  While we enjoyed it our 2 year old loved getting to see the large variety of animals that close up.  Months later she still takes pretend vacations to the aquarium running around the house pretending to see the different animals.  The Orinoco Rainforest is a world class exhibit and one of the worthwhile things to see at the Dallas World Aquarium.

To see our reviews of other great animal exhibits click here

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Dallas World Aquarium
1801 N Griffin St Dallas, Texas
Hours of Operation – March through August 9:00 to 5:00 and September through February 10:00 to 5:00 closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Admission as of this Posting: Adults as of 2015 (Over 12) $20.95, Seniors (Over 60) $16.95, Children (2 -12) $14.95
For more information check out their website at http://www.dwazoo.com/

Apr 13

Fort Worth Botanic Garden: Fantastic Freebie

17141886165 333a7c8c02 z Fort Worth Botanic Garden: Fantastic Freebie
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is a free attraction located on the southwest side of Trinity Park.  It is Texas’s oldest botanic garden and one of the largest in the state at 109 acres.  Whenever Karen and I are traveling we are always on the lookout for well-done free attractions and it does not get much better in both of those categories then the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
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Though our particular visit took place at the beginning of spring and many of their 2500 plus native and exotic plants were not in bloom we enjoyed our stroll around the place.  While over 90% of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is free they do charge admission to their 10,000 square foot tropical conservatory as well as their 7 acre Japanese garden.  On this particular trip to the Fort Worth-Dallas area we bypassed on the two pay areas.  Instead we just used the garden as nice little hike with our 2 month old and 2 year old.
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The grounds of the garden were well kept and the variety and types of gardens they had on display were pretty amazing.  We have been to a variety of gardens and have paid to see most of them so getting in for free to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden were a real treat for us.  My wife and I plan on coming back at some point in the future to see the garden at the peak of its season.
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The Fort Worth Botanic Garden has 21 themed gardens that will just about cover every variety and type of fauna out there. From elevated platforms that show off Texas hardwoods, ponds and streams to a variety of perennial and annual gardens the Fort Worth Botanic garden has a lot for any visitor to see. What we enjoyed about our visit was the way that gardens flowed from one to another. Instead of making us feel like we were in a botanical garden it made it seem like just one continuous stroll. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden was well laid out for our taste.
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Another great thing about the Fort Worth Botanic Garden was that it was very informational.  Not only about the types of plants, but also about the fauna that would typically go with those plants.  Our 2 year old is very inquisitive and any sign we see she wants it read out loud to her.  Having all the flip up charts and information boards was a real treat for her and us. Overall, we really enjoyed our early evening stroll through the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.  We definitely plan on going back when the outdoor garden season is a little bit better.

To read our reviews of other Botanical Gardens click here

16521717783 a136b166cd z Fort Worth Botanic Garden: Fantastic Freebie

Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Located at 220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, TX
Hours of Operation: Monday through Sunday 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. the paid admission areas have different set times.
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at http://fwbg.org/

Apr 08

Frank Buck Zoo: Good Stop for our Little One

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Frank Buck Zoo is a nice little children’s zoo that will keep the five and under crowd entertained.  As we were traveling south into Texas we saw signs for the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville and decided it might be a good place to get out and stretch our legs.  We did not have high expectations going in knowing that Gainesville is a small town, but were pleasantly surprised at their nice little zoo.
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Located in Leonard Park, which has a lovely little playground area and a swimming pool for the hot summer months in Texas, the Frank Buck Zoo is nice capstone to a great small town park.  The park and zoo even have a train ride. It made for a nice little place to get out of the car, stretch our legs, eat our lunch, and take a walk through the zoo.  All-in-all we were quite pleased with our decision to stop.
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The Frank Buck Zoo is laid out in a small circular path which is just the right size for small children.  Pre-teens and older might not like it, but my two year old did.  There were enough animals of different types to keep her entertained and she was just as delighted to see bunnies or Shetland ponies as she was to see the more exotic giraffes, zebras, and flamingos.  Seeing her smile and talk about the different animals that she saw made it a fun visit for us.  Besides the animals already mentioned some of the other animals you can see at the Frank Buck Zoo are black and brown bears, camels, American alligators, kangaroos, and a variety of farm animals you can hand feed.
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Now obviously one cannot compare the Frank Buck Zoo to zoos located in much bigger cities, but there were a few things that they did have that we found quite nice.  We liked the fact that giraffe and zebra yard was nice and big and had an elevated platform to give a great view of the animals.  Karen and I also thought the flamingo and alligator habitats were well put together.  Another thing that we noted was that they seemed to be doing some new renovations to exhibit areas which shows they are looking to improve their zoo.  The only downside to the Frank Buck Zoo that really stood out to us was the size of the black and brown bear areas hopefully that will be something that they can change in the future.
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Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Leonard Park and taking a stroll at the Frank Buck Zoo.  It was the perfect little hour or more stop on our long road trip through Texas.  Our girls enjoyed there time there and a contented little girl sure makes for a much better travel companion than one that is grumpy.

To see all of our zoo reviews click here

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Frank Buck Zoo
Located at Leonard Park 1000 W California St, Gainesville, Texas
Hours of Operation Spring and Summer 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fall and Winter 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost as of this Posting Adults 13 and over $6.50, Seniors 55 plus $5.50 and Children 1 to 12 $4.50
For more information visit this website at http://www.gainesville.tx.us/index.aspx?nid=108

Apr 04

Cockrell Butterfly House: Little Wings over Texas

Butterfly houses like the Cockrell Butterfly House in Houston are a fun family vacation spot.  Traveling with two little ones, finding fun educational things is a priority for us wherever we go.  We also look for places where we can see lots of things without traveling very far and Hermann Park in Houston definitely fit that description.

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Being home to the Houston Zoo as well as the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Cockrell Butterfly House we knew exactly where we wanted to go on our short trip to Houston.

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So after visiting the zoo in the morning, we next headed over to the Cockrell butterfly House.  Our oldest girl just loves butterfly houses and seeing all the butterflies flying around is a real treat for her.  Also now that she is older, about two and half when we visited the Cockrell Butterfly House, she took a real interest in the interactive exhibits they had on display.  It was also a treat for us to see our three month old follow the butterflies with her eyes as they flew close to her.
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The Cockrell Butterfly House, located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is a living butterfly habitat centered on a 50 foot waterfall.  It is a stunning three story facility with floor to ceiling glass walls filled with exotic plants and of course hundreds of colorful butterflies.   In addition to their replicated rainforest the Cockrell Butterfly House is also home to the Brown Hall of Entomology, an educational center with interactive areas and tanks filled with a variety of insects.
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We really enjoyed our visit to the Cockrell Butterfly House and would have to say it is one of the prettiest ones that we have been to with their large waterfall.  We were also impressed with the variety of butterflies they had on display.
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Karen and I have been to several different butterfly houses but have never seen one with a greta oto or glasswing butterfly.  The greta oto has transparent wings so that was pretty neat for us to see.  Our eldest child enjoyed the educational areas as well as seeing the butterflies so we thought it was well worth the admission price.

17036004272 44c4b2c741 z Cockrell Butterfly House: Little Wings over Texas
Karen and I recommend that you make a day out of it and visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science as well as the Cockrell Butterfly House.  By buying a combined ticket you can save a few dollars.  The science museum was fun, but we both enjoyed the butterfly house more.  It made for a great end to a long day at Hermann Park.
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To see our reviews of other Butterfly Houses click here
16830041467 a9af16ebc4 z Cockrell Butterfly House: Little Wings over Texas
Cockrell Butterfly House
Located at 5555 Hermann Park Dr. Houston TX
Hours of Operation: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 7 days a week
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 12 and over $8.00, Children 3 to 11 $7.00 and Seniors 62 and over $7.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.hmns.org/

Mar 23

Children’s Aquarium: Perfect for the Wee Ones

16912602855 ef88bb1abc z Children’s Aquarium: Perfect for the Wee Ones
The Children’s Aquarium in Dallas was one of the highlights of our spring break Texas trip because our little 2 year old loved the place.  Seeing her face light up at the different aquarium tanks as she ran from spot to spot makes the trials of a road trip with a 2 wee ones worth it.  Hearing “daddy I touched a sting ray” with a squeal of delight followed by “I touched it again” warmed the heart.  It was more about the experience we were able to have at the Children’s Aquarium versus what they had that made it a great stop on our trip.
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Designed for little kids in mind, the Children’s Aquarium in Dallas is great for little kids in the age range of 10 and under.  The aquarium tanks are built at a height for them to see without somebody holding them up and my 2 year old loved that.  M is a travel-veteran but most places that we go she constantly has to look through bars or be lifted up.  She enjoyed having the freedom to go from tank to tank getting to see everything.
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The Children’s Aquarium is divided into 3 sections.  As you walk in towards your right there is a freshwater tank area filled with animals like an albino alligator, piranha, tetras,  electric eel, and alligator snapping turtle.  In the middle, there is a short hall to the best exhibit at the Children’s Museum where they have 2 large tanks one being a touch tank where visitors have the chance to touch stingrays.  A second larger tank is home to animals like the bonnethead sharks, leopard sharks, and sea turtles. The third area which is just to the left when you enter is for their saltwater fish.  In this part of the aquarium, you will see a variety of ocean going creatures like jellyfish, seahorse, lobster, batfish, clownfish, eels, and turtles.  There was enough variety of animals and fish to make it a nice aquarium.  To describe it I would say it is more in the scope of something you might find at a zoo compared to a standalone aquarium.
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None of the exhibits are earth shattering or will make you want to visit time and time again (unless you have small ones and get a season pass), but for what it is and who it is designed for the Children’s Aquarium does a great job.  So do not expect a walkthrough tunnel with fish swimming all around you or a 500,000 gallon tank filled with hundreds of species of fish.  If you go in with the right expectations that this aquarium is designed for the 10 and under crowd you will have a great time.
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At the time of our visit there was around 2 other families there so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves which was nice.  The next day we visited the Dallas World Aquarium which has great exhibits but standing in the long lines and behind the different school groups hampers that experience.  Being in a place in Dallas and not fighting crowds or standing in line wherever you go sure made the Children’s Aquarium a nice trip for us.
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The Children’s Aquarium is just one of those places that if you have toddlers it is great place to go.  The price was not bad for us because both our kids got in for free, and like I mentioned before getting to touch the sting rays and her excitement from that experience was priceless.  Not having dozen of kids and parents cut in front of you to see inside a fish tank made it much more enjoyable for us.

To see our reviews of other aquariums click here

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Children’s Aquarium
Located at 1462 1st Ave (Fair Park), Dallas, TX
Hours of Operation 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 7 days a week closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Cost as of this Posting Adults 12 and over $8.00 Seniors 65 and over $6.00 and Children 3 to 11 $6.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.childrensaquariumfairpark.com/

Mar 18

Turner Falls: Oklahoma

16663927479 97b3bb9773 z Turner Falls: Oklahoma
Turner Falls located in the Arbuckle Mountains of Southern Oklahoma is nestled in a beautiful park, one that you will appreciate more the less people that are there.  If you do a quick search of the park on Tripadvisor you will see that people love it or hate it and the reviews seem to have one underlying point which is the size of the crowd.  On our particular visit there was 1 other car in the parking lot and we had a great time and loved the falls.  Of course, we went when the water was too cold to swim, got there right when it opened, and left before 11:00 a.m. so the crowd was at a minimum.  We loved our time there.  Our little 2 year old enjoyed looking at Turner Falls for about two minutes and was on to the playground area.   This worked out great for us because we were on our way to Dallas so Turner Falls Park was a nice little spot for us to get out and stretch our legs and burn off a little energy.
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The water drops about 75 feet making Turner Falls the tallest waterfall in the state of Oklahoma.  It is a gorgeous waterfall dropping into a light aquamarine color pool that you can swim in during the warm summer months.  There is also an overlook that gives a bird’s eye look of the falls.  We were there in early March and after a good rain so the water was really flowing.  The weather was on the cool side so we basically had the waterfall to ourselves for a good half hour.  About the time we were leaving around 10:30 there were several families making the short walk up to the falls.
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Besides being the home to Turner Falls, Turner Falls Park boasts 2 swimming holes, hiking trails, caves and other interesting geological features.   It also has a walk-in castle, cabins, and camping opportunities.  For more information about the park visit their website at   http://www.turnerfallspark.com/.   We were only there for a short time, so we cannot give a full review of the park itself, but from what we saw the park was clean, the lady at the admission area was real friendly and the waterfall was better then what I thought it was going to be.
16852542971 d6b580d6c9 z Turner Falls: Oklahoma
Turner Falls
77-Foot Waterfall
Located near the town of Davis Oklahoma exit 51on I35
Short paved Hike from the Parking Lot
Paid Admission to see the Falls.

To see our reviews of other waterfalls we have seen click here

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