Get a Texas good time on your Mesquite family getaway
The more we travel as a family, the more we’ve come to understand a crucial rule: Always let a place surprise you. In Mesquite, Texas, just east of Dallas, we found a small city that balances having plenty on offer with being welcoming and easy to get around. There are so many things to do with kids in Mesquite: parks, tacos, a downtown market, BBQ, sushi, diverse locally owned businesses, incredible indoor and outdoor play spaces.
The Official Rodeo Capital of Texas has a whole lot of heart. The people we met enjoyed seeing a family exploring the city, and as a traveler with a disability, Jodie could get around pretty easily. We got to spend an amazing week exploring and enjoying—though, funnily enough, we wound up not going to a rodeo that had been part of our reason for coming.
We want to thank the Mesquite Convention and Visitors Bureau for sponsoring our visit. However, this article about things to do with kids in Mesquite reflects our own personal opinions and experiences.
Things to do with kids in Mesquite: See what Mesquite is all about
Why this small city east of Dallas is a great place for a Texas family vacation
The more we learned more about Mesquite and things to do with kids in Mesquite, the more we saw that this city could be such a fun, approachable, budget-friendly place for families to visit. With nearby DFW as an airport hub, getting to Mesquite is easy. Mesquite itself is only about 15 minutes east of Dallas. Plus, with a population of about 158,000, Mesquite is big enough to offer lots to do, but small enough to feel homey—not to mention get to anything you want to do in around 10 or 15 minutes by car.
A little real talk about that Texas weather
While Anthony hadn’t been to Texas before, arriving reminded him of an anecdote he had once come across: A newly arrived preacher was struggling to motivate his congregation of lifelong Texans. It turned out that heaven didn’t impress them—and hell didn’t scare them.
Depending on the time of year you visit Mesquite, the weather can be beautifully warm, and it can also be downright hot. Hats, sunscreen, and hydration are all good travel companions, especially when planning things to do with kids in Mesquite that are outside.
We landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on a mid-September evening. On the way to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Dallas Mesquite, our driver told us he had moved from New Jersey to Mesquite, in no small part because of the year-round warm weather. September in particular was often a fine time to visit: The city cooled down from the worst of the summer heat, but didn’t have the potential chills that can accompany winter months.
He also told us something we would hear again and again, from the clerk at the front desk, the folks serving up barbecue at Mesquite’s oldest restaurant, and even the guide showing us a historic prairie settlement:
“It’s been so much cooler lately!” they would tell us, with radiant pride and glee. “The temperature’s only getting into the nineties!”
Mesquite: The official rodeo capital of Texas
Throughout the year in 38 states (and 4 Canadian provinces), you can treat yourself and your family to your choice of 650 rodeos. However, between June and August in Mesquite, you could go to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo every single Saturday. For over 60 years, Mesquite’s rodeo scene has offered the best of traditional rodeo. The enclosed, air-conditioned Mesquite Arena can also be dressed out for concerts, formal dinners, soccer games, and other events. (When needed, the dirt can even be shifted out, exposing the concrete floor underneath.)
The Mesquite Rodeo is a proving ground, where rookies can build up for lifelong careers as riders, clowns, or performers. Country stars such as George Strait and Reba McIntyre got their start here. Mesquite’s rodeo also used to be broadcast on TV, and was one of the most watched rodeos ever aired.
For things to do with kids in Mesquite, part of what drew us was that not only does the city offer its mainstay weekly summer rodeo, but special annual rodeos too. For years Mesquite has been the welcoming home to other rodeo events, such as the Hispanic Rodeo (complete with Jaripeos, a traditional form of bull riding), the International Gay Rodeo Finals, the Hip Hop Cowboy Spring Rodeo, and the Cowboys of Color National Finals Rodeo.
What to do in Mesquite when you’re not at the rodeo
While we hadn’t been able to come out to these other events, we’d timed our own family getaway to Mesquite to coincide with the Heritage Fall Rodeo. Unfortunately, that particular event got canceled. Even though our plans changed, our week in the Official Rodeo Capital of Texas was still full of fun, food, family adventures, and lots of things to do with kids in Mesquite.
Parks and outdoor spaces
ADA accessible KidsQuest
We have taken our kids to parks in different cities, states, and countries. Never have we seen as many children in one playground as we did one evening at KidsQuest in Debusk Park. Along with golden late-summer sunlight, the air was alive with excitement (and more than a few squeals, possibly with an assist from our own children).
More than that though: The safest places are where kids run freest. With children of all colors and backgrounds romping about fearlessly, KidsQuest felt safe, loved, and free. For things to do with kids in Mesquite, KidsQuest was clearly a much loved space while children could be free spirited.
All the better? When the original, all-wooden KidsQuest needed to be replaced, the community came together and prioritized accessibility for the new space. The brand-new KidsQuest re-opened in 2019 as an ADA accessible playground.
Other Mesquite parks, outside events, and outdoor spaces
Looking for more outdoor things to do with kids in Mesquite? The city abounds with other playgrounds, parks, outdoor spaces, and special outside events, such as:
Stop at the entrance for a family selfie with the huge old tractor, then enjoy the best of the Texas prairie: green grass, trees, and ponds, along with an iconic red barn and a small playground.
Along with sports fields and picnic tables, disc golf fans can take advantage of the 9-hole disc golf course. If we’d been visiting in October, we would have headed here for the Butterfly Trail, full of native plants and a great spot to observe monarch butterflies on their annual fall migration.
The devil went down to Georgia, but the zombies took Texas. Our visit coincided with this fun (and slightly scary) 1.5-mile walk/run event, on a wooded path in Rorie-Galloway Day Camp. Aster and Anthony solved timed challenges and dodged zombies leaping from the trees. But at the end we had to face a zombified Jodie and Connor!
Edible (and drinkable) Mesquite
Family Night Cooking Classes at Mesquite’s Culinary Community Kitchen (CCK)
Running a meat grinder together can really nurture sibling bonds.
When we first heard about Culinary Community Kitchen, or CCK for short, and their Family Night cooking classes, we were intrigued. Created by wife and husband chef team Brooke and Mike Kelley, CCK has become a space not only for culinary professionals who need access to a pro kitchen. CCK’s cooking classes draw in laypeople, like us, who want to raise their cooking game and have fun doing it.
What really makes Family Night stand out though? During our evening with Chef Mike, it wasn’t just how his pro kitchen tenure steered us through preparing deep-fried onion rings and millionaire bacon-topped steakhouse burgers. More importantly, as he guided our 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son through slicing onions, grinding beef, and even gently plopping a battered onion ring into a deep fryer, Chef Mike’s patient, engaging demeanor as a dad shone.
Dine on food, BBQ, tacos & more
There’s enough incredible food in Mesquite to make you wish for more meals in a day. But what also really stood out to us? Not only does Mesquite have a thriving small business scene, many of these local entrepreneurs are women or people of color.
- Mesquite BBQ: At Mesquite’s oldest restaurant, the scent of hickory greets you at the door.
- La Salsa Loca Tacos and More: The trompo (marinated crispy pork) and soft, savory, and flavorful barbocoa are taco standouts.
- King Noodle and Sushi: Peek over the open counter to see your noodles being made by expert hands.
- Taqueria Taxco: Plate menus offer an array of tacos, gorditas, chile rellenos, and a lot more.
- El Rio Grande Latin Market: La comida increíble. Along with Hispanic-focused grocery options, we enjoyed the extensive prepared foods, including various agua frescas, fresh corn tortillas (warmed on a griddle before serving), and an extensive selection of fillings.
- El Tejas Twist: Tamales, elites, nachos, and quite possibly the largest, cheesiest quesadillas we have ever encountered.
- Doss Taste Budz Food Truck: Excellent burgers, loaded fries, and packed burritos, but also vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Tip: Mesquite has a large, proud Hispanic population. In some restaurants, you may need to bust out your Spanish, a translation app such as Google Translate, or the traveler’s classic: pointing, gesturing, and smiling until everyone figures it all out, with a heaping side of laughter. We got by just fine with a combination of all three. People were always patient with us, and every order both worked out fine and tasted delicious.
Drinks & treats
With so much good food to eat in Mesquite, it’s only natural that as we adventured we also worked up a thirst… and a need for dessert.
Fruterías are juice bars that specialize in ice cream, Mexican-style desserts, and drinks (and often American-style simple meals too, great for a kid-friendly dinner). A mango drink with a rim covered in lime-tangy spicy Tajín? You bet. A caramel sundae with a churro inside? Thank you, don’t mind if we do. A couple fruterías we loved were The Ice Cream Bar and Mango-liciousss.
An Anthony-approved americano, plus sweetly decadent, kid-approved drinks. There are sugar-free and vegan options as well, along with an extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, such as the plant-based breakfast sandwich, meatball Italian sub, and the BBQ jackfruit sliders.
The imaginative, expansive menu elevates the cinnamon bun with dozens of flavor combos. Stand-outs for us? The pecan-and-pie-crumble topped Caramel Apple Pie Roll, or the Cookie Monster, piled high with cookie dough and cream cheese frosting, and finished with chocolate chips and a spread of chocolate sauce.
Anthony has an ironclad rule that the first time he goes to a new coffee shop, he orders an americano. Until he heard the words “horchata latte.” With balanced sweetness and coffee bitterness, plus a lovely silky texture from the rice, it was worth breaking the rules. This welcoming, cozy space is right in downtown and has a wonderful beverage menu for adults and kids alike.
Cultural, historical & educational opportunities for family field trips and homeschooling
Opal Lawrence Historical Park
Our travels always include educational opportunities for us parents and for our homeschooled kiddos. We prioritize helping the children learn about the world around them, and the people who came before their own time.
In Mesquite, we enjoyed both the fresh air and the fresh perspective that the Opal Lawrence Historical Park had to offer. The former prairie settlement is preserved today as an educational space. Inside the original one-room 1840s cabin, the children ran their fingers along the gray mortar between the logs, as our guide explained that the time of its original construction, the gaps between timbers would have been filled with a mixture of clay, horse hair, and hay.
The iconic house was built in the 1870s, on a homestead that was originally 640 acres (a full square mile) and today is 14 acres. We wondered how much hay the 1886 barn could have held, and the kids stared for ages at the various hand tools on display in the wash house.
As one of the first places we visited in Mesquite, the Opal Lawrence brought alive an area that was new to us, and gave us insight into the lives of people who came here to brave the Texas prairie and try to make a life for themselves.
Other educational and culture spots in Mesquite
Mesquite has an array of other historic and cultural sites, perfect for some learning, or for a quiet interlude in the day:
- Art exhibitions, concerts, and other events at the Mesquite Arts Center (such as the Leo Castillo Dream Dimension, which we visited as part of Mesquite’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month)
- Live theater at Mesquite Arts Theatre and The Corner Theatre
- Tours and hands-on learning at the Florence Ranch Homestead
- Local produce and crafts, live music, and fresh-cooked food at the Downtown Mesquite Farmers Market (April through November)
Indoor play spaces
Inside and outside play options for the whole family at Celebration Station
As much as we like to play and romp outside, sometimes it’s nice to take that sort of thing inside. On a hot afternoon where the kids had some energy to burn, we made our way to the indoor and outdoor play spaces at Celebration Station.
Downstairs, we bounced back and forth between various video games, from racing games and shoot-em-ups, to a fun piano game that had Jodie and Aster giggling with every note. Outside, we considered the batting cage and miniature golf, but the go-karts won us all over. Connor reveled at being big enough and old enough to drive his own cart, and Aster laughed as Anthony zig-zagged around the course.
Inside, though, we found exactly what we needed that afternoon: laser tag. The kids decided that we would play children (team red) versus parents (team green). In the first round, the bouncy kids managed to eke out a victory. But we parents rallied in the second round, putting together a strategy that, if we do say so ourselves, blew the children’s previous high score all the way back to base.
Other indoor play spaces
When we travel, along with playgrounds and parks we give the kids as many opportunities as we can for romping free play. Along with Celebration Station, here are two other indoor play spaces that not only made good respites from the Texas heat, but helped the kids move and get some energy out.
The netted, enclosed play structures gave both kids chances to climb, build, maneuver through obstacle-laden passages, and catch some air on the tall, steep purple slide. We parents could relax (and plan the day) in the large café-style seating area, while also keeping good sightlines on the kids.
The evening before we left Mesquite, we knew it’d be a good idea to give the kids one more chance to bounce, fly, and romp.
At Urban Air, they scrambled through play tube structures and bounded across a field of trampolines. While they considered the rope course and climbing wall, the enclosed American Ninja-style warrior course captivated them, and both kids took turn after turn seeing if they could master the three obstacle courses—or fall into the pit below, full of milky balls that made the course look like it was over a bubble bath. It was just the finale our family needed before the long travel day to come.
Where to stay in Mesquite
We stayed at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Dallas Mesquite, complete with a comfy suite, sunny fitness center, outdoor pool, and an ample breakfast bar (not to mention excellent oatmeal mix-ins like pecans and dried cherries). TownePlace was also near major roads that helped us get anywhere we wanted to go in Mesquite in less than 20 minutes.
Mesquite’s lodging options keep you close to the city’s activities, including other popular destinations such as the Town East Mall, Antique Gallery, and Western wear shop Boot Barn (which, we understand, can also be a good place to seek out discount rodeo tickets). Check out the map above for a few other accommodation ideas too.
The rodeo is just the beginning of amazing things to do with kids in Mesquite, Texas
Things to do with kids in Mesquite, rodeo or no rodeo? Yes indeed.
But we still didn’t get to go to a rodeo.
Mesquite welcomed us not only with warm Texas weather, but with genuine warm hearts. It’s a small city that’s approachable and easy to get around, with lots to do—but also plenty of ways to take it easy. Since DFW airport isn’t far, it’s easy to fly in and out of the area too.
That’s why we’re already looking at the calendar to figure out another trip to Mesquite. Not only do we parents have fond childhood memories of rodeos, we want Connor and Aster to experience one, and where better than in Texas? Plus, coming back to Mesquite means we get to check out all the taco shops and fruterías we didn’t get to the first time around.
And next time, Mesquite, it’s rodeo time, y’all hear?