For many of us around here, the new school year starts Aug. 23. And that means we have just three more precious weeks of summer to enjoy before the kids get crammed into classrooms for another nine months.
So get out there and make the most of them. We've come up with 10 ways you can celebrate summer in the time you have left. Grab your calendar (and a glass of lemonade) and make some plans to fill these dwindling summer days with fun and family memories.
1. Check out some family theater
Take the whole crew to one of these plays designed for young audiences.
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Thursday-Sunday: In the Zone at Scott Theatre
Kids Who Care offers up this original musical about auditioning for a play; it explores all the hard work and exhilaration that goes into performing on stage. $15-$18. 817-737-5437; www.kidswhocare.org.
Tuesday-Aug. 5: Berenstain Bears at CATS
Every kid who can read (or be read to) knows the Berenstain Bears. CATS in Arlington brings some of the Berenstain adventures to the stage. $4-$7. 817-861-2287; www.creativearts.org.
Aug. 7-Sept. 25: Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr. at Artisan Center Theater
Artisan Center Theater's Artie's Playhouse in Hurst offers up a musical stage version of Disney's take on the Lewis Carroll classic. It shows at 10 a.m. Saturdays. $5. 817-284-1200; www.artisanct.com.
2. Hit the museums on Family Day
You've been meaning to take the kids to the museum all summer. And before school starts, a couple of the museums have designated afternoons that are devoted to families.
Saturday: Family Festival at the Kimbell Art Museum
This month's family fest is called "Michelangelo, Matisse and Me." There will be activities and children's films, plus a performance by the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra that will teach visitors about styles of jazz. Festival is 1-4 p.m. Free. www.kimbellart.org.
Aug. 8: Family Funday at the Amon Carter Museum
The Carter is a museum of American art, but this family day is called "International Adventure." Kids can see art from North and South America, learn some words in Spanish and Portuguese, and reinforce what they've seen and learned with an artmaking activity. (There'll be a story time and refreshments, too.) 1-4 p.m. Admission's free, as always. www.cartermuseum.org.
3. See a movie outside
Warm evenings are a summer luxury. So is watching a movie out under the stars. Some options:
Friday and Aug. 6: Dive-In movies, North Richland Hills or Mansfield
Two final Dive-In movies are set for NRH
Aug. 5: Check out an old-fashioned drive-in movie
You can watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 film) from your car at the University of Texas at Arlington. The free movie starts at sundown (about 8:45 p.m.) in Student Lot 33, northwest of the Maverick Activities Center. You can stay in your car or set up lawn chairs on the lot. Popcorn is free; you can buy soft drinks and candy. www.uta.edu/events.
4. See a movie inside
If you require air conditioning with your film experience, check out one of these options that will keep you entertained without a trip to the multiplex.
Aug. 6: See a classic in a classic theater
Grapevine's Palace Theatre features 2001: A Space Odyssey as its First Friday film for August. Start time is 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $7.50. The theater's at 300 S. Main St. in Grapevine. 817-410-3100; www.palace-theatre.com. And check out the Palace summer movie series, too, which offers classics and favorites (including Bringing Up Baby and Disney flick The Rescuers) Aug. 9-20.
Aug. 10-12: A film festival designed for kids
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's Summer Flicks Series presents an assortment of films for children. Because many of the selections are short and experimental -- some just two or three minutes long -- the Modern has grouped some of them together, showing several in one session. Admission is free, but seating is limited to 250. Films include Harold and the Purple Crayon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. For a full schedule of film showtimes and descriptions, go to www.themodern.org/summer_kids_flicks.html.
5. Ride a train
Take an old-fashioned train ride and let time slow down a bit while you still can. Here are some options for short trips, whether you want to spend a weekend or just an afternoon.
Aug. 14: Take the bubble train
Grapevine Vintage Railroad pops a bit of fun into its regular rail run with the Hubba Bubba Bubble Train. The train leaves Grapevine at 1 p.m. and goes to the Fort Worth Stockyards and back. On this ride, each child is given a bubble-maker to use as the train glides along. Tickets are $10-$20 (more if you want a seat in the air-conditioned caboose). Find more details -- and read about other special train events, including the train robberies that are staged on weekends -- at www.grapevinetexasusa.com.
Tuesdays-Sundays: Ride the mini-train
Take a short ride on the Forest Park Miniature Railroad, which starts in Forest Park and continues across Interstate 30 into Trinity Park for a 35-minute round trip. Trains start at 9:30 a.m. and leave every 20 or 45 minutes, depending on the day. Note: If the temperature gets above 100 degrees, the railroad sometimes closes. Call to hear a recording of the day's schedule. It's $2.50-$3 to ride, cash only. 817-336-3328; www.fpmt.us.
Daily or weekends: Take a longer trip north -- or go east
Check out the Heartland Flyer, an Amtrak train that takes you to Oklahoma City in the evenings. The train leaves Fort Worth in the late afternoon and returns from Oklahoma City in the morning, which means you'll want to stay overnight -- two nights if you want a full day to explore Oklahoma City. Go to www.amtrak.com for a schedule and to buy tickets.
You can also take a short trip on the Texas State Railroad, which travels through parts of East Texas. A round trip between Palestine and Rusk takes about 4 1/2 hours, including a long stop for lunch. Trips are scheduled every weekend. www.texasstaterr.com.
6. Revisit the Wild West
Fort Worth is where the West begins. So get out and celebrate it -- and sneak in a summertime history lesson.
Weekends: Witness a gunfight
At the Fort Worth Stockyards, there's always plenty of boot-wearing and rodeoing. But every weekend through Labor Day, you can also witness an old-fashioned Wild West shootout. Each Saturday and Sunday, the Legends of Texas group puts on a show, staging a dramatic gunfight right inside Stockyards Station. Shows start at 11:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., immediately after the Fort Worth Herd ambles down Exchange Avenue. www.fortworthstockyards.org.
Aug. 13: Celebrate a sharpshooter
Annie Oakley knew how to put on a show, too. Celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The celebration, 10 a.m.-noon, will give you a chance to see this Wild West shooter's travel trunk, which the museum acquired recently. Museum admission is free while the party's going on. 817-336-4475; www.cowgirl.net.
7. Go down the rabbit hole
Daily through Labor Day: Celebrate Alice in Wonderland
Before it's gone, check out SummerFest at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine. Through Labor Day, the hotel is filled with Alice in Wonderland-themed artwork and activities. This over-the-top celebration includes an art exhibit in the hotel's atriums that features Alice-related artwork. The Lone Star Atrium is visited daily by Alice in Wonderland characters. And every day, there are special activities for kids and families: a black-light maze you explore in 3-D, a treasure map that leads you on a search for the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter's Mad Tea Party and breakfast with Alice and Friends, a Queen of Hearts puppet and magic show, and a parade of Alice characters each Friday night that winds its way to the hotel roof, just in time for a fireworks show. The exhibit and some of the activities are free; others require a ticket purchase. For a full list of events go to www.grapevinetexasusa.com (click on "Festivals and Events" and then "SummerBlast!").
8. See a big arena show
Any show seems more impressive when you have to pay a steep parking fee and climb a lot of stairs to reach your seat in a huge venue. Here are two great opportunities to do that:
Aug. 6: Dance with the Wiggles
The Wiggles -- clad, as always, in primary colors -- bring their live stage show to the Verizon Theatre for two performances at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wiggly Circus Live! is an audience-participation sort of show, and kids are encouraged to dress as their favorite Wiggles character. $15-$75. 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.
Aug. 11-15: The circus is in town
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus -- the Greatest Show on Earth, as they say -- swings through the Metroplex every summer. Go see it this time. And don't forget: Show up an hour early, and you can meet the performers, get some autographs and watch an elephant paint. (Yes, paint.) Tickets are $7-$95, half-price with a Press Pass at the Convention Center box office. Buy tickets at the box office or any Ticketmaster outlet, order online at www.ticketmaster.com, or call 800-745-3000.
9. Explore Glen Rose
Get out of town. Make a day of it. What's nearby, great for families and worth the drive? The sites around Glen Rose.
Daily: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
You've always meant to spend a day at Fossil Rim, so make it happen before school starts. Here's how it works: Take a three-hour, 9 1/2-mile drive through the park's 2,700 acres, and along the way you'll spot some of Fossil Rim's 1,100 or so animals. You can feed the animals -- and at the tour's halfway point, you can feed yourself at the Overlook Cafe. This summer, the park has extended its midweek discount to three days: Tuesdays through Thursdays, admission is $7.25-$13.75 (regularly $13.95-$20.95 on weekdays), and weekend admission is $16.95-$22.95. www.fossilrim.org.
On Aug. 20 -- your last Friday night of summer -- check out Discovery After Dark at Fossil Rim. The night program, 7-10 p.m., is a guided after-dark tour that lets you check out the center's nocturnal wildlife. Discovery After Dark is $13.95-$20.95, which also gets you admission to the scenic wildlife drive (either the same day or the next morning). Discovery After Dark is designed for visitors age 7 and older. Space is limited, so call early to register: 254-897-2960. www.fossilrim.org.
Daily: Dinosaur Valley State Park
Go way, way back in time: This 1,500-acre park along the Paluxy River is famous for the visible dinosaur tracks in the riverbed. Learn about the tracks and the three types of dinosaurs that made them, and don't miss the two giant fiberglass dinosaur models (a 70-foot Apatosaurus and a 45-foot Tyrannosaurus rex) that were built for a dinosaur exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York. Park entry is $5. More info and directions: 254-897-4588, or go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife site, www.tpwd.state.tx.us, and search for Dinosaur Valley.
10. Enjoy an evening in the great outdoors
Before school nights take over the bedtime schedule, hang out in the warm weather and spend an evening outside. Some good family opportunities:
Aug. 14: See stars
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History will throw a Star Party. Gather in the museum's parking lot at dusk (about 8:45 p.m.) and use telescopes to examine the night sky, with guidance from members of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society who know what to look for (and where to find it). Free. www.fwmuseum.org.
Aug. 21: Concert in the park
Eddie Coker, a longtime kids' favorite, takes the stage at the summer's final Concert in the Park in Keller's Bear Creek Park. The free concert is 8-10 p.m.; bring a blanket or a lawn chair and enjoy music, bounce houses and games. There'll be concession stands, but you can bring your own picnic, too. More info: Keller's Parks and Recreation office, 817-743-4050, or www.cityofkeller.com.
Alyson Ward, 817-390-7988