Dallas is famous for many things; artistic and commercial, pleasant and poignant, and just for simply being big! Big thinking, big ideas, big success.
One can’t really hear the name Dallas without thinking of any of those things, especially from the oil and cotton industry point of view and, on a lesser but just as relevant scale, the memory of the country’s beloved president, John F. Kennedy, whose life was so very sadly shortened on a visit to this great city.
There are also some wonderful things to enjoy, explore and experiment here, so let’s have a look at the best things to do in Dallas!
1. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
For a lovely family day out in the fresh air, drop into Dallas’s gorgeous Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The 66 acre gardens offer lots of interest, especially for the younger family members, including the amazing 8 acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden with its fun play and exploration area as well as the Children’s Garden Café.
If you want to bring your own refreshments instead, there are plenty of picnic areas too. The gardens are proud of being a quiet retreat with well manicured grounds (in other words, to protect the exotic plants, no active sports are permitted).
2. The Sixth Floor Museum/Texas School Book Depository
Most people will make this poignant visit when they visit Dallas. The Sixth Floor Museum documents the much loved President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and legacy, housing many facts about the tragic day as well as covering the President’s early life and presidential policies.
Each admission comes with a self guided audio tour which makes the visit that much more educational. Even more poignant is to be able to stand at the corner window where those fateful shots had been fired. There is also an award winning gift shop offering a considerable selection of books and films as well as a nice café filled with freshly brewed coffees, teas, pastries and sandwiches.
3. Perot Museum of Nature and Science
The Perot Museum is very popular with children of all ages, in particular because of its interesting hands-on learning experiences.
The museum is home to five floors of 11 permanent exhibit halls that contain state-of-the-art video and 3D computer animation with awesome, life-like simulations, educational games and interactive kiosks.
There is also a children’s museum, outdoor play space and courtyard! In particular the kids will love the 35 foot Malawisaurus fossil, one of many, as well as the robots.
The museum has really perfected a great mix of scientific data and approachability for the kids.
4. Klyde Warren Park
Klyde Warren Park is unusual in that it sits over a freeway; the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, in fact!
This 5.2 acre public park opened in 2012, and named for Klyde Warren, the young son of billionaire Kelcy Warren.
This unique park is easily accessible as it sits right in the middle of uptown Dallas, with food trucks and restaurants along its perimeter.
The kids will be kept busy at the child size amphitheatre and storytelling tree, and there is a putting green, chess and ping pong area and dog park as well.
It’s worth checking the park’s calendar of events too, as it also hosts concerts and dance lessons. There really is something for everyone here!
5. Dallas Museum of Art
Treat the family to a stop at this wonderful museum! Home to over 23,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of humanity from all cultures, this entrance fee free museum is home to a permanent collection of masterpieces which include Picasso, Rodin, Monet, Gauguin and many more, as well as constantly changing galleries which showcase the many areas of World Art from Greek and Roman to African, American, Asian and Western European.
There is even an area in which the rooms of a southern French villa once owned by Coco Chanel have been recreated!
6. American Airlines Center
This multi purpose arena is home to the Dallas Stars (NHL) and Dallas Mavericks (NBA) as well as being used for lots of other exciting live entertainment and concerts.
American Airlines is very proud of its establishment and with good reason! The facilities are kept super clean, and offer a comfortable seating of up to 21,000 which are also handicap and access available. With plenty of snack bars selling ample varieties of snacks and drinks, a fun time is guaranteed for all!
7. White Rock Lake Park
White Rock is a very popular park, offering an ample variety of special events and runs, and is loved for the fact it has managed to offer a natural area with plenty of wildlife right in the middle of an urban setting. It is also a wonderful day out for all the family as there is so much you can do here.
From bird watching to kayaking and canoeing where you can enjoy paddling around the lovely lake, and with 9.33 miles of hiking and bike trails, along with picnic areas, wetlands, dog park, and plenty of space for kids to play and ride their bikes, it’s the perfect place to ‘decompress’ from city life, or simply have some family outdoor fun.
8. The Texas Theatre
A visit to this historic theater to watch a movie or special event will have the family feel as if they have stepped back in time.
This is a piece of Dallas history that has been brought back to life, having gained historical fame as being the location of Lee Oswald’s hideout and consequent arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and killing of police officer J.D. Tippit on November 22, 1963.
It was also the first Dallas theater to offer air conditioning along with many state of the art luxuries, and which to this day offers authentically furnished, comfortable seating, a well stocked refreshment area and a really comfortable, friendly atmosphere, with even a vintage Pac Man game to play in the foyer!
9. Reunion Tower
To get a really great view of Dallas, why not visit Reunion Tower? This is one of the best known Dallas landmarks, reaching the dizzy height of 561 feet, making it the city’s 15th tallest building.
The family can enjoy a 360 degree view of the city as the Tower’s platform revolves.
There is also the legendary chef Wolfgang Pucks’ Five Sixty restaurant at the top of the tower if you’re in the mood to enjoy a meal.
The staff are very friendly and informative, and happy to answer any questions about the Tower.
10. Adventure Landing
This is an exciting complex offering lots of fun games for both kids and adults, which including three mini-golf courses, a laser tag room, monster Video and Redemption Gaming Arcade, & speedway go-karts (which they can stay on for a very reasonable amount of time!).
There are also bumper boats which the kids are bound to enjoy! Adventure Landing’s staff are friendly and helpful, with the venue offering very clean bathrooms. There are plenty of on site food services and snack bars where you can replenish your energy, too!
11. Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures
This is definitely one for the kids! These amazing life size sculptures are dotted around Pioneer Plaza which is the city’s largest public park area, and a very popular tourist site.
The idea for these iconic “Western type” sculptures came from Trammell Crow, a very imaginative real estate developer, and the end result is really fascinating, with realistic statues and sculptures of horse back roping cowboys, large longhorn cattle and trail drivers.
It is certainly worth a brief stop when you’re in town.
12. Highland Park Village
Dallas is well known for its glitter and glam, and dropping into Highland Park Village will give you a taste of how the other half live, for sure!
The venue was also America’s first self contained shopping center and is well known for the first class upscale plaza that it is today.
From Hermes to Christian Louboutin and from Chanel to Alexander McQueen, the mall is filled with snazzy designer shops.
And even if the family budget isn’t on the same level as the Kardashians, you can still mingle with the rich without spending a lot by stopping by one of the many restaurants or cafes!
13. Bishop Arts District
Take a walk; even have a meal, in this fun, interesting area of Dallas! Home to more than 60 restaurants, bars, coffee shops and individual boutiques as well as out of the ordinary art galleries, Bishops Arts District makes for an appealing day or evening out for the family.
It’s actually quite historic too, known for being the site of the city’s busiest trolley stop, circa 1930s!
For those family members interested in antiques, (especially those of a military nature) drop into Mantique’s and enjoy an interesting browse around the shop!
14. Katy Trail
The Katy Trail follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (known simply as MKT) and is a popular walking, jogging, bicycling and even inline skating trail.
It’s one of the best loved places for those of an active nature, so bring your family along to enjoy a fun, energetic time! There are very good lanes for walkers and runners and separate paths for bikers so everybody can easily stay independent.
There are also several options to stop and enjoy some delicious food and drink in the nearby restaurants situated off the trail at trail level or just below, on the street level.
15. Food Tours of America
Getting to know a location you’re visiting doesn’t just stop at sight-seeing, it should also include taste-seeing!
Food Tours of America offer an in depth tasting tour of the best cuisines that Dallas has to offer, from mouth watering Mediterranean dishes at Baboush restaurant, then dropping into Shell Shack to experience their special crawfish and delicious sauce, then next on the list to The Rustic for cactus fries and goat cheese, moving on to Bisous Bisous to indulge in some light as a feather French macaroons, and finally finishing off at Mutt’s Canine Cantina to treat yourselves to some delicious ice cream and, would you believe, dog watching!
16. Old Red Museum
This is a really interesting venue to take the family to. The red sandstone courthouse was built in 1890 and firstly served as a courthouse, and is now a museum exhibiting some fascinating artifacts, from the prehistoric to current day.
The family can learn all about Dallas’s first settlement in 1841 and the kids in particular will love looking at the museum’s display of a mammoth tusk and some shark teeth!
And not forgetting the rest of the family, some other exhibits to enjoy include memorabilia from past and present sports figures, the handcuffs that had been worn by Lee Harvey Oswald and even ‘Dallas’ J.R. Ewing’s Stetson!
17. Frontiers of Flight Museum
For all aviation fans, a trip to the Frontiers of Flight Museum is a must do!
The Museum has an awesome collection of over 30 aviation and space flight exhibits, which encompass 13 galleries of displays of hundreds of small aircraft models, a dozen or so full size planes includes a full size model of the Wright brothers 1903 Wright Flyer, and the stories of trail blazers such as Charles Lindbergh, Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart, then moving on to World War I, World War II and Cold War military aircraft and finally space flight, which includes an Apollo pod.
Making up over 35,000 remarkable historical artifacts, a visit to this Museum would make for a fascinating time!
18. Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park Dallas
If your family enjoys extreme fun, here’s a great opportunity to get your thrills! Zero Gravity Thrill Park features extreme thrill rides which include the 7 story drop Bungee Jumping, the Skycoaster where you will experience the amazing sensation of gliding above 100 ft, Nothin’ but Net, the 16 story free fall attraction, and Texas Blastoff, with its rocket travelling straight up at 70 mph! Whew!
And if that wasn’t thrilling enough, the Park has a new sensation, the Skyscraper, where you can hit the four G’s.
This has actually been voted one of the top attractions in Dallas, so don’t miss out! Rides are popular with both kids and adults.
The park has a perfect safety record, with friendly and professional staff always on hand and happy to help.
19. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
The 14,000 sq ft gallery is a fascinating permanent exhibit showcasing the career of George W. Bush. It is filled with themes and subjects relevant to its day, and includes interesting information pertaining to the financial crisis, education reform, the global war on terror and the effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
There is so much to see in this well laid out museum, from the serious to the trivial. From the White House replica where you can see and hear crucial interactive decision points, to the tableware and gowns of the First Lady, there is something of interest here for every adult tourist. There is also a small café next to the entrance of the museum.
20. Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park
This aquarium had the fantastic idea of building all exhibits and interactive zones kid size, so everything is to eye level! The aquarium has six exhibit areas from which everyone can learn new and fascinating facts about all of our fishy friends.
The kids will love a visit to the aquarium’s two shark tanks, as well as the area where they can feed and pet the sting rays, together with many more interesting exhibits besides. Stroller tots are able to touch and see, so everyone is happy in the end! The friendly and informed staff are very happy to help.
21. Half Price Books
This family-owned chain of new and used bookstores is North America’s biggest. The company’s motto of “We buy and sell anything printed or recorded except yesterday’s newspaper” is still current, offering the family an enjoyable time searching through the many used books, music, and movies for sale.
The store also has an exciting range of comic books and games! It’s worth checking out their clearance section too, where there are plenty of $1 children’s books. The staff are very friendly and helpful and, if they don’t have a particular item in stock, are always willing to look in their inventory and see if any of their stores across the country have it in stock and, for a small fee, will get it shipped over.
22. Fair Park
Fair Park is a historic 277 acre recreational and educational complex originally built as an 80 acre fairground for the Dallas State Fair in 1889. It has seen plenty of expansion, including being host to the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, becoming Dallas’s second public park. It is now home to a museum as well as the Dallas Music Hall.
The Park hosts events the whole year round, but is worth a visit just to view North America’s biggest collection of Art Deco building and enjoy a family day out taking a stroll through the grounds, have a picnic, feed the duck at the lagoon and drop into the Texas Discovery Gardens. A glorious slice of 1920’s!
23. Bowl & Barrel
Bowl & Barrel is a great place for the whole family, with a nicely decorated restaurant serving more than just your average bowling alley fare – for example, a delicious Greek turkey sandwich served with a side dish of fresh tzatziki sauce! – and much more besides. The bowling alley is pleasantly furnished too, its décor extending all the way beyond, with floor to ceiling glass, giving it an upscale feel.
You will be looked after very well, the attendant bringing bowling shoes to you and organizing which lanes would accommodate the youngsters. You can order from the menu while playing so as not to interrupt your bowling enjoyment. Family friendly and fun for everyone!
24. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
If you’re looking for a fun dinner experience for all the family, spend an evening watching skilled horse-riding competitions, exciting jousting matches and fascinating falconry at a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament!
Within the story, you have been invited to a royal banquet hosted by the king, with entertainment featuring six of the king’s bravest knights in a competition of skills, the winner of course taking the hand of the lovely princess!
You will love watching the character actors dressed in medieval attire acting out the fast paces entertainment while you all tuck into your delicious four course dinner!
25. Dallas Panic Room
For the teenagers and adults of the family, a really fun, challenging experience can be had at The Panic Room, where teams join forces to try and escape a locked and themed room within a given time. The winners get their pictures taken and are ‘immortalized’ on the Survivor Board!
You’re not left completely on your own, as the group team leader is given a walkie talkie to ask questions if and when you are stuck for clues. At the time of writing there are two scenarios to choose from; one concerning Albert Einstein who has created artificial intelligence which, found in the wrong hands, could destroy the world, and the second involving a very exciting hostage situation and museum break in – and that’s all I’m going to tell you! Refreshments are also available.