Autumn at the Arboretum {Family Fun in Dallas}

It's Pumpkin Time at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden!  Everywhere you look you are surrounding by autumn beauty.  There are pumpkins and beautiful fall plantings throughout the garden.  

However, the highlight of the Arboretum is Dallas' most anticipated fall festival, Autumn at the Arboretum.  For the 12th year, Autumn at the Arboretum includes the nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village featuring pumpkin houses and creative displays utilizing more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash, along with hay bales and cornstalks.  The Pumpkin Village theme this year is “Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds, Oh My!” based on the beloved book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  How fun!

It all begins at Autie Em's house which was picked up by a tornado and plopped down in Munchkinland.  My daughter had us all act out the story as we went along.

The house landed on top of one of those mean wicked witches.  These witch feet are just the cutest touch!

The best part?  We got to travel through Pumpkin Village on an actual yellow-brick road, spiraling through Pecan Grove with stops at each major occurrence in the story of Dorothy and her adventures in the Land of with pumpkins, squashes and gourds!

We met the Scarecrow.

We met the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.

But watch out!  The Flying Monkeys captured us and flew us to the Witch's Castle.

We finally made it to the wonderful land of Oz which greeted us with more pumpkins.

We pretended to ride in a carriage carried by the colorful horses of Oz.

My kids both had fun re-living the magical story of Dorothy and her friends as they were surrounded by pumpkins.  What a delightful fall festival.  You really must check it out but have fun with your kids while you are there and let your imagination take you away to Oz.

Over the bridge that crosses the river of pumpkins and swan-necked gourds, lies more pumpkins galore and a great setting for those obligatory pictures of your kids surrounded in a sea of orange.

There really are pumpkins everywhere you look.

And there are more than a few great spots for posed family pictures.

I love that the displays of squash, gourds, and pumpkins are educational.  There are several of each kind so you can see variants in their appearance and they are nicely labeled.  Spend some time here with your kids.  Ask them what differences they notice between them in color, size, and texture.  Ask them why they think they are named the way they are.

Ask your kids which is their favorite and why.  Let them think about whether any of the squash, gourds, or pumpkins remind them of something else?

I asked my kids to look around the grounds and find the most unique item to show me.  Nicholas found a scary spider looking one and Rachel found one that looks like a tulip.  These kids are so very different from each other...and I love it!

Here are some fun stats on this year's Pumpkin Village.  Challenge your kids to look for some of these during your visit:

150,000: Fall blooming flowers and plants
90,000: number of pumpkins, gourds, and squash that make up the Pumpkin Village
12,000: Bricks along the yellow brick road
2,000: Square Feet of the Yellow Brick Road
3,000: Ears of corn
1,500: Corn stalks in the Pumpkin Village 900: Bales of hay 48: number of workers it takes to decorate the garden for Autumn Festival
22: number of pumpkin types
21: the number of days it takes to build the Pumpkin Village
17: number of types of squash
7: number of gourd types
4: number of pumpkin houses
3: Flying Monkeys
1: number of acres in the Pumpkin Village
Emerald City: Green Hexagon Pumpkin House
Witch’s Castle: Square Pumpkin House accented with dark plants
Munchkin Land: Circle Pumpkin House

Auntie Em’s House: Small Pumpkin House 

This little squirrel found his favorite pumpkin and was chewing heartily away at it!

The Arboretum will even amaze you in the parking lot....look at this giant oak leaf Rachel found!

A myriad of activities take place throughout the garden on weekdays and weekends during Autumn at the Arboretum:

Cool Thursdays Concerts
Thursdays, September 7 - October 26
7-9 p.m.
Dallas' premier outdoor concert series, presented by Wells Fargo, returns this fall with a fabulous band lineup. Gates open at 6 p.m. All concerts include some of Dallas/Fort Worth's favorite food trucks. Concerts are already beginning to sell out. To purchase tickets and view the band lineup, visit the Cool Thursdays Concerts page.

Oktoberfest Garden
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Café on the Green
The menu at Café on the Green features traditional German cuisine, including various kinds of sausage and beer. Take a break and enjoy a delicious Octoberfest-inspired meal through November 22.

Mommy & Me Mondays and Tiny Tot Tuesdays
Mondays & Tuesdays through November 21
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sponsored by: Kimberly-Clark
Enjoy fun, kid-friendly activities in Pecan Grove, adjacent to the pumpkin village. Activities include face painting, a petting zoo, silhouette artist and music by KinderMusic.

Harvest Tea
Monday-Friday (September 25-November 22)
11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Elegant seated tea service served inside the beautiful historic DeGolyer House, includes a seated, three-course high tea experience, while taking in the breathtaking fall displays. Tea prices begin at $49 per person and also include garden admission and parking. Add champagne service for $59 per person.  Reservations required.  Book online at or call at 214-515-6511.

Zumba in the Gardens
Wednesday evenings (September 27-October 11)
6:30-7:30 p.m.
Martin Rutchik Concert Stage & Lawn
Join high-energy Zumba instructor, Martha Palacios, for a one-hour Zumba class.

Dallas County Master Gardners in the Garden (NEW)
Thursdays (September 29-November 16)
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Members of the Dallas County Master Gardeners are on-site to answer any questions guests may have regarding what's growing in the garden.

Every weekend:
Beer Tastings (NEW)
Saturday, September 23 and 30: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Sunday, September 24 and October 1: 12-3 p.m.
Café on the Green
Enjoy a beer tasting at Café on the Green, located centrally in the garden.  It is the perfect spot to take in the beauty of the garden while enjoying a beer. $10 per tasting, which allows each guest to try four 2 oz. pours of each beer.

Live Music
Saturdays: 12-3 p.m.
Sundays: 1-4 p.m.
Musicians specializing in a variety of music, such as Spanish guitar and folk guitar, play throughout the garden every weekend during autumn. Bring a picnic and relish in the music. Check the website for specific locations, line-ups and artists' bios.

Garden Sized Games (NEW)
Saturdays & Sundays
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Pecan Grove
Enjoy giant-sized games like Connect Four, Yardzee, Corn-Hole and Jenga in Pecan Grove. Games are available to play on a first come, first served basis.

Special Weekends:
Urban Wildlife Photography Workshop
September 23 & 24
11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
Pecan Grove
Back by popular demand, Urban Wildlife photographer Chris Jackson will be conducting two workshops per day. No reservation is necessary and this activity is free with paid garden admission.

NEW Chula Hoop Performance and Class
September 30 & October 1
11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. & 3:00 p.m. each day
Chula Hoop USA Performance & Hoop Jam
Hoop Jam: Terrace at the Camp House
Join internationally renowned hula hoop group, Chula Hoop USA, for an Oktoberfest themed hula hoop performance, followed by a hand's on class on the Terrace at the Camp House.  While most hulahoops are one size fits all, Chula Hoop gives garden guests the unique opportunity to find the perfect fit, along with instruction from a seasoned professional.  This activity is free with paid garden admission.

Columbus Day Weekend
Eddie Coker Children's Concert
Monday, October 9, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Eddie Coker, sponsored by Dallas Child, performs children-friendly music on the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage.  Family fun activities, Friday-Monday, 10 a.m. - 2p.m, face painting and petting zoo in the Pecan Grove.

Live Music:
Randy Vradenburg, Saturday, October 7, 12-3 p.m.
The sounds of pop, country, rock, jazz, blues, adult contemporary, and classical. 

Tomás Sclar, Sunday, October 8, 1-4 p.m.
Named "Best Flamenco Guitarist in DFW" by The Dallas Observer 2012.
Pumpkin Carver Weekend (NEW)
Saturday, October 21 & Sunday, October 22
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Martin Rutchik Concert Stage & Lawn
Master Piece Pumpkins' Gene Granata carves pumpkins for all ages through live demonstrations. Purchase pumpkin carving kits in the Hoffman Family Gift Store and pumpkins at the Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch.

Family Fun Weekend
Saturday, October 28 & Sunday, October 29
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Celebrate Halloween with trick-or-treating throughout the garden, face painting, a petting zoo, and a magician in Pecan Grove. Guests are encouraged to bring their own trick or treat bag.

Ghoul's Night Out (NEW)
Wednesday, October 18
6-8 p.m.
Crape Myrtle Allee
Join the Dallas Arboretum "Ghoul's Night Out," featuring fun activities such as palm readings, handwriting analysis and a caricature artist drawing guests in a "ghoul-y" fashion. No "Ghoul's Night Out" would be complete without wine, live music and food trucks. Wine will be available for purchase, and three food trucks will be on-site. Guests are also welcome to bring a picnic.

North Texas Gourd Association Demonstrations
Every Thursday in October, and November 2
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Crape Myrtle Allee
The North Texas Gourd Association creates items, such as jewelry and decorative accessories, with gourds.

National Pumpkin Day
Thursday, October 26
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
There is no better place to celebrate National Pumpkin Day during the fall festival. Celebrate this holiday by indulging in pumpkin flavored foods at select dining areas; visit the website for more specific items.

Dia de los Muertos (NEW)
Wednesday, November 1
6-8 p.m.
Celebrate the "Day of the Dead" with activities located throughout the garden including, a face painting competition, a henna tattoo artist, a DJ and mask-making. Wine and beer are available for purchase, along with three food trucks. Guests are welcome to bring picnics.
Día de Los Muertos Face Painting Competition
Guests are encouraged to paint their faces in the style of the holiday at home and then celebrate the Day of the Dead by entering a face painting competition. Judges assess all competitors present by 6:30 p.m. and the winner is announced at 7:30 p.m. First place gets a great, Mexican-themed gift basket. See website for full competition rules and details.

Hoffman Family Gift Store Book Signings/Events:
Book Signing-Saturday, September 23
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Join the creator of The Round Top Collection, Jeff Krause, to purchase a signed piece of art from this popular line of gifts and home décor.  Additional book signings and highlights include gourd craft demonstrations, Imported Gourmet Foods and Eating Well Seriesbook signings.  Visit website for full list of Gift Store events.

Book Signing--Saturday, September 30
11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Join author Diane Box for a book signing of Fred's Texas Stampede.

Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden:
Children's Adventure Garden Fourth Birthday Celebration
Friday, September 22
6-8 p.m.
$10 General Admission
Celebrate the Children's Adventure Garden's Fourth Birthday with a special guest, an OmniGlobe presentation, lively music and a Birthday Lab.

Evening Trick-or-Treating in the Children's Adventure Garden
Friday, October 28-Sunday, October 30
6-9 p.m.
$10 General Admission
Come in dressed in a Halloween costume for a spooky maze tour, glowing programs and a Halloween-themed Lab.

Johnny Appleseed Weekend
September 23 & 24
Throughout the Children's Adventure Garden
8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day with a Johnny Appleseed puppet show, apple-themed programs, and a special apple tasting.

TECH Truck
September 30 & November 11
The Moody Oasis
1-3 p.m.
Tinker, Engineer, Create, Hack! Join the TECH Truck staff from the Perot Museum for a hands-on experience where there is no limit to creativity.

Dinosaurs Rock
October 22
The Glade
11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m. & 2 p.m.
Explore the prehistoric world with DINOSAURS ROCK®! Get up close with life-size dinosaur fossils, eggs, skulls and skeletons. Learn amazing facts about the history behind these fascinating creatures.

National Chemistry Week
October 22-28
Throughout the Children's Adventure Garden
12 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
Enjoy an entire week of chemistry magic in the Children's Adventure Garden. Explore the Plant Lab for Milk Macromolecules and a different chemistry program every afternoon.

BOGO Wednesday and Arboretum After Hours
Wednesdays (September 27-October 18)
9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Buy one, get one free admission every Wednesday; offer is valid for Arboretum After Hours.

C.C. Young Senior Thursdays
Thursdays (September 28-November 16)
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Seniors can enjoy $11 admission and a 20 percent discount at the Hoffman Family Gift Store. Discount is only available at the ticket booth.

$2 State Fair Discount (September 29-October 22)
Present ticket stub for $2 off general admission.

Tom Thumb $1 off General Garden Admission (September 23-November 22)

Tom Thumb offers $1 off general garden admission tickets, available at area Tom Thumb and Albertson's locations. 

About the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden:  
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is located on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218. The Dallas Arboretum is also the home of the internationally acclaimed Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The Arboretum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for children 3-12 and free for Arboretum members and children two and under. There is an additional cost of $3 per person for entrance into the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. On-site parking is $15; pre-purchased online parking is $8.

Honoring My Mom for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

My mom was diagnosed with Stage IIIC ovarian cancer in early winter 1997. I remember I had been happily wrapping Christmas presents when I learned the news.  The tumor was found on a routine exam.  She had not noticed any symptoms but the tumor was the size of a baseball.  

There are only a few noticeable symptoms of ovarian cancer.  According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the most common symptoms are:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation or menstrual changes
Too often women don't pay attention to these symptoms and as a result, ovarian cancer is often not diagnosed until it is already in the later stages. My mom's tumor was quite large when it was discovered and had already started to spread to surrounding tissue.  She was given a 35% chance of surviving 5 years.  I am so happy to say that this year will mark her 20th year of being cancer free!

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month so the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition has a 5K walk each year in September to raise awareness and funds for research in the field of ovarian cancer.  I have participated in their walk a couple of times in the past.  In 2007, Mom had been cancer free for 10 years and I made up shirts for Nicholas and me to wear to celebrate her.

Nicholas was only 3 years old at the time.  Look how little he was!!

Nicholas was dancing and skipping and playing along the whole route but he completed the walk just fine.  He has always been a little ball of energy.  It was fun having him along to celebrate mom with me.  The shirts were extra special because not only were we celebrating Mom but I had not realized what a blessing and hope they would be for survivors there who saw them.  I had several women come up to me and talk to me about the shirts and how excited they were to hear how well mom was doing after 10 years.

Life has gotten busy and I haven't participated in the walk in 10 years.  But with this being mom's 20 year anniversary, I wanted to be sure to honor her in any way I can so I signed up to participate in the 5K walk again.  Stuart and Nicholas already had a commitment for the day of the walk but Rachel and I were excited to participate.  

I had planned to make new shirts for this walk and I bought the same t-shirt iron on transfer paper that I used last time.  But when I started to print my graphics on the paper, I realized that it wouldn't work.  The transfer paper will only work with prints from an inkjet printer and we now have only a laser printer.  A laser printer's ink is more permanent on the page so it will not transfer to the shirt when ironed.  I got in touch with a company that prints shirts but it was too late to get my custom order made in time.  

I was sad but then Stuart saved the day.  He suggested that I just use the shirt I had made 10 years ago and update it to read "20 year survivor".  It was a brilliant idea!  It took me quite a while to figure out where I had put the 2 shirts but I finally found them.  I was amazed that Nicholas' shirt fit Rachel just fine.  But she suggested we make them a little fancier so I sewed on a teal tutu to the bottom on the shirts to match the color theme for ovarian cancer awareness.  I found some embroidered teal iron on numbers to add the "20" and then just used a black Sharpie marker to draw a line through the "10". 

We updated the back of the shirt too.

The back of the shirt is always everyone's favorite.

We got up really early on Saturday morning to make it to Lone Start Park in Grand Prairie where the walk was taking place.  We were decked out in our shirts and even had matching teal nail polish!

We each received a shirt for the walk.  You wouldn't believe how many black t-shirts I already have but this one is special to me.

We had time to wander around before the walk began.  A lady offered to take this picture of us.  Thank goodness because I hate taking selfies!

There was a beautiful Corvette all jazzed up to promote ovarian cancer awareness.  On the trunk was a tribute to their loved one who was lost to ovarian cancer.

There was also a boat sponsored by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.  How does one go about getting a sponsor deal like that?

There were snacks and cold water for everyone.  I think this was Rachel's favorite part.

There was a good sized crowd and the weather was perfect.

Rachel and I talked for most of the walk.  It was fun having her with me.....

....until she decided I wasn't moving fast enough for her.  She then turned into a stinker and started running up ahead of me and taunting me to catch up with her.

We had a good time on the walk and we were happy to help support the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to raise funds for ovarian cancer research and promote awareness to women of what symptoms to be on the look out for.  For more information on ovarian cancer, please check out the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition website at

2017 Dallas Heart Walk {and a little fun around Dallas}

This weekend was the 2017 Dallas Heart Walk by the American Heart Association.  Pepsico/Frito Lay were major sponsors for the walk so Stuart registered to participate.  He even got one of their cool Pepsico Dallas Heart Walk t-shirts.  The kids and I walked along with him.  It was fun.

The walk began at the grounds below Reunion Tower in Dallas.  I love the reflections of the blue sky in the windows of the ball.  

We had hoped to arrive earlier than we did so we could check out all of the sponsors tents and do some fun warm up exercises and Stuart was supposed to be in a Pepsico/Frito Lay group photo.  But we lost a lot of time due to a crazy long line at the parking lot so we ended up having just enough time to stop at the port-a-potty and get in line to start the walk.

I couldn't help but notice that LPB had a big truck on the grounds.  Kind of cool (and odd) that they would come here from Louisiana.  I had wanted to ask them why they were there but didn't have time.  The walk was about to start!

We each grabbed a bottled water - donated by Frito Lay.

This was the pack of people slowly moving along towards the big red starting bridge you see in the distance.  The race had actually started about 5 minutes before this picture was taken so this is more the tail end of the crowd.  There were a lot of people there!

I had plenty of time to take a picture of these people.

We are almost there!!

Lots of people were taking selfies at the starting line.  I don't do selfies but Rachel wanted to get a picture with me so I gave it a try.  It's still not my thing.

I loved listening to Stuart talk to the kids about random things while we walked.  He's such an awesome dad!

The course was divided up with two options: 1 mile or 3 mile.  We chose the 3 mile course.

I liked having the total strangers on the side of the road cheering for us.  They had signs that said, "You are Stronger than you Think!" and "The Body Achieves What the Mind Believes!".

Along the walk I found myself taking pictures of architecture and signs.  This was taken at the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas.

This was, of course, The Majestic Theater.  I've never been to this theater but I imagine it must be quite majestic.

More strangers with signs. "Sweat now, Shine later!"

For each mile there were these signs to let you know where you were along the course.  There were also stations all along the course where people were handing out bottled water.

The Heart Walk is not like any other 5K walks I've done.  Usually there are a lot of people walking but also many people jogging and trying to work their way to the front of the crowd.  The Heart Walk isn't like this.  You just mosey along the whole time without anyone running past you.  It was a pretty relaxing walk.

We made our way to Woodall Rogers at Klyde Warren Park where all of the food trucks were starting to get set up for the day.  I tried to stop for some pizza but my family just kept walking so I decided to stick with them instead.

I have walked by this building many times while on various field trips in Dallas but I don't think I've ever looked up.  What an unusual design.

Ok this t-shirt wins the day!

We made it back to Reunion Tower and the Finish Line.  We all did fine and had a good time.

There was a live band playing fun music even though most of the people on the grounds now were just the sponsors.

I looked at all the reasons why people participate in the Heart Walk and this one jumped out at me.  My kids are why.  Those little guys are counting on Stuart and me so we have to keep our hearts healthy and strong.

We didn't have time before the walk to go to the Pepsico/Frito Lay tent so we made our way over there afterwards.They were in a special fenced off area with these fancy balloons.

Apparently that was a VIP section for the Platform Sponsors like Pepsico/Frito Lay.

There were more fancy balloons at the Pepsico tent.  Of course, these were in Frito Lay colors!

There were a few people in the tent but you could tell the party was over.  There were some left over bagels, fruit, and some cold drinks.  It was nice to relax in the shade for a while.

By the time we finished our drinks, everyone else had gone and the grounds were practically empty.  We were about to leave but the kids didn't want the giant balloon bouquets going to waste.  Stuart found someone to ask permission and then cut the balloons down.  Look how big they are compared to little Rachel!

They were so proud of their balloons that I think they may have had a little strut to their walk.  Isn't it amazing how magical balloons can be for a kid?  And here these kids had 30 or more each!

On our way back to the car, we walked past the Dallas Morning News.  The front of the building is inscribed with words spoken by George Dealey in 1906 in an address to the employees.

The inscription reads,
We found a B&G which is a part of a #DallasBIG tourism campaign.  You find these B & G's scattered around town and you get to pose as the "I".  Rachel's balloons made quite a statement.

Dallas has many Pegasus statues and sculptures.  Here is one of the cool ones up close.

Nicholas posing as some kind of superhero dude with a giant balloon bouquet that I'm sure is supposed to be some kind of giant ray gun or other cool weapon of some kind. 

We had some extra bottled water so Stuart passed one out to this man that was walking along with us.

We couldn't help but pause at this cool Lexus.  There was much ooo-ing and ahh-ing over it.

We finally made it back to the car but realized that there was no way that we were going to fit all of those balloons in.  Stuart was struggling to just get one set in.  It was funny because when the kids ask his permission to do something, his default answer is always "NO".  But for some reason when the question involved taking 60+ balloons home with us, he says, "SURE" and then jumps up and helps them get the balloons down.

We ended up giving some of the balloons away to some little kids in the parking lot then we let the rest of them float away over Dallas while we watched.

So we had one complete string of balloons inside the car....

And one giant red balloon floating outside the car because they just couldn't bear the thought of getting rid of it.

We were hungry for lunch so we decided to head over to the Dallas Farmer's Market.  We got a few funny looks from people on the street as they watched out big red balloon zoom by.  I took a few pictures along the way.

I'm not sure why this giant dog is on the side of a building. Oddly, there is no advertisement to go with it. It's a little strange but he is a cute pup.

At the Farmer's Market we had lunch at Cajun Tailgators.  The food looked great and it had good Cajun spice but it was no Ralph and Kacoo's or The Chimes.

We spent some time just exploring the unique shops and businesses at the Market.  You could definitely stay for a while just shopping and eating.
Our favorite discovery was Chelles Macarons.  These are not the same as the coconut covered macaroons.  Those are a different yet also delicious treat.  These macarons are like little cakes filled with creamy icing.  They come in lots of different flavors and in a rainbow of colors.  This was the first time we've ever had macarons and they were definitely a hit with our whole family!

We had a great time together on the Heart Walk, exploring Dallas, eating lunch, and shopping at the Farmer's Market.  

On the way home, Nicholas tried to hold to big red balloon in close to the car but as we picked up speed on I-35 the poor balloon just popped from all the force put on it.

But don't worry.  There is no shortage of balloons around here.