A well-rounded city growing out of the stark North Texas prairie, Dallas has a jumble of ultramodern skyscrapers, the largest arts district in the United States, museums of the highest quality and pulsating nightlife.
Whole swathes of the city have been reinvented in recent times, like the Design District breathing new life into an austere neighborhood of warehouses, or Klyde Warren Park, on the former route of a freeway.
But if you’re hunting for old-time Texas trademarks like big steaks, BBQ and honkytonks among the upscale restaurants and high-culture, you’ll find them with little trouble.
Dallas will also forever be tied to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and at Dealey Plaza you’ll discover how the city has come to terms with this tragedy.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Dallas:
1. Dealey Plaza
In Dallas you can visit a place where the course of history was changed forever.
The landmarks at Dealey Plaza, like the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll and Elm Street as it bends down to the railroad tracks, would be unremarkable were it not for the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
The cityscape at Dealey Plaza is mostly unchanged, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. It’s hard not to be moved looking up at the corner sixth floor window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his three shots, seeing the X that marks the spot where JFK was struck by the fatal second bullet and standing on the bank from which Abraham Zapruder took his famous footage.
Tip: start your visit with the Dallas City Highlights Tour
2. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
All the context you could want about the assassination of John F. Kennedy is available at this thorough and even-handed museum housed in the former Texas Schools Book Depository and opened in 1989. As you work your way up to Lee Harvey Oswald’s sixth-floor roost you’ll find out about JFK’s career and the landscape in the early-1960s, taking in the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.
The deed itself is covered in great detail, with hundreds of photographs from the scene and analysis of the Zapruder film (the Zapruder family donated the copyright to the museum in 1999). Inevitably there’s also background on the myriad conspiracy theories swirling around the assassination, to the point where even obsessives may pick up a new titbit.
Finally, Lee Harvey Oswald’s vantage point, preserved behind glass, is as cluttered as it was when he fired his shots in November 1963.
Recommended tour: JFK Assassination and Sixth Floor Museum Tour
3. Arts District
Dallas lays claim to the largest urban arts district in the United States, on 20 square blocks to the south-east of Uptown, and with a rare concentration of cultural attractions.
We’ll visit plenty of the attractions in this area, like the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Klyde Warren Park and the Winspear Opera House.
Respected venues and institutions are shoulder-to-shoulder in the Arts District, from the vaunted Dallas Black Dance Theatre in the east to the Dallas Museum of Art in the west.
There’s also tons of architectural interest, in monuments like the neo-Gothic Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin Guadalupe (1902), with a 68-meter spire and 100 stained glass windows.
If you really want to get to know the Arts District’s cityscape there are 90-minute walking tours on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10:00.
Related tour: 1.5-Hour Dallas Sightseeing Tour by Segway
4. Dallas Museum of Art (DMA)
One of the top art museums in the country sends you on an international journey through 5,000 years of history, from antiquity to contemporary art.
Art-lovers can leap across time periods and civilizations, inspecting 1,700-year-old Buddhas, a Greek funerary relief from 300 BCE, ancient American art in gold and a Nok terracotta bust from Nigeria dating back 2,000 years.
The American and European art collections are as rich as you’d hope, with works by O’Keeffe, Hopper, Childe Hassam and masters like Canaletto, Courbet, Monet, van Gogh and Piet Mondrian.
Every post-war trend from Abstract Expressionism to Installation Art has a place in the comprehensive Contemporary galleries, featuring Sigmar Polke, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and many more.
Founded in 1903, this is one of the ten largest art museums in the United States, with ten concurrent exhibitions, and a program of talks, tours, concerts , film screenings and workshops.
Included in: Dallas CityPASS
5. Perot Museum of Nature and Science
An exceptional attraction and head-turning new landmark for Dallas, the Perot Museum of Nature (2012) has 11 permanent exhibit halls on five floors.
This extraordinary building is designed as a large cube over a water garden, while the facade evokes the drought-tolerant grassland of North Texas.
It would be impossible to sum up this multifaceted museum in one paragraph, but as with any state-of-the-art science attraction, you can be sure that there’s lots of interactivity and hands-on activities.
You can experience an earthquake, make music in a sound studio, build your own robot, smell the beeswax of the Blackland Prairie, compete against world-class athletes and take a whirlwind trip around Dallas in miniature.
No natural history museum would be complete without dinosaur skeletons, and the “Life, Then and Now Hall” is ruled by gargantuan Alamosaurus and T. rex fossils, but also has a superb Paleo Lab where you can watch the museum’s cutting-edge dinosaur research on screens in real-time.
Included in: Dallas CityPASS
6. Klyde Warren Park
A patch of Downtown Dallas in the Arts District was completely transformed in the early 2010s when the Woodall Rodgers Freeway moved underground for three blocks to make way for this innovative public park on its route.
Dreamed up as a central public gathering space for Dallas, Klyde Warren Park has a big lawn fringed by a tree-lined pedestrian promenade, and comes with a restaurant, children’s park, botanical garden, reading room, dog park, performance pavilion and urban games area.
The park opened in 2012 and is named for the son of billionaire Kelcy Warren who donated $10 million for its development.
On a given day there will be ten or more licensed food trucks here, and the park’s website will tell you who they are and what they’re serving up.
7. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Dallas has many plus points, but verdure isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Even so, there’s a botanical garden to match the best, in 66 acres on the south-east shore of White Rock Lake, only 15 minutes from Downtown Dallas.
We’ll talk about this reservoir in more detail later.
There are 19 named gardens at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden, like the 6.5-acre Margaret Elisabeth Jonsson Color Garden, with vibrant seasonal beds of more than 2,000 azalea varieties (one of the largest in the United States), as well as tulips and daffodils.
The Palmer Fern Dell, where a brook is edged by ferns, azaleas, camellias and mature trees, is a godsend in the searing summer months, when mist sprayers lower the ambient temperature by several degrees.
The big event on the calendar is Dallas Blooms, from the start of February to mid-April, with more than 100 varieties of spring-blooming bulbs including 500,000 individual tulips.
8. Reunion Tower
One of the towers that make Dallas, Dallas arrived to the south of Dealey Plaza in 1978. Also known as The Ball, the 171-meter Reunion Tower is four narrow shafts (one cylindrical and thee rectangular) crowned with an openwork geodesic dome illuminated at night by 259 LEDs.
The elevators are in the three rectangular shafts, and on the 68-second ride to the GeO-Deck you’ll get a stirring view of Dallas through shaft’s outer glass panel.
And once you reach the GeO-Deck you can brush up the city’s story and changing skyline on interactive screens, peer through telescopes and feel the breeze on the outdoor platform.
There are also two rotating eateries up here, at the Cloud Nine Cafe and Wolfgang Puck’s posh Five Sixty, with an Asian-infused menu.
Book online: Dallas’ Reunion Tower GeO-Deck Observation Ticket
9. AT&T Stadium
For many sports fans the name Dallas is almost always followed by “Cowboys”, 24-time division champions, five-time Superbowl champions and the most valued team in the NFL as of 2019. The Cowboys are tied in second with most Superbowl appearances in history and are currently on a run of sold-out regular and post-season games that has stretched since 2002. In 2009 the franchise moved to the 80,000-capacity (expandable to 105,000) At&T Stadium, located 20-minutes west in Arlington and claimed to be the largest domed building in the world.
One of many astounding things about the stadium is its public art program, which has left it with museum-quality pieces of contemporary art by the likes of Olafur Eliasson and Doug Aitken.
You don’t need game tickets to see the AT&T Stadium up close, as there’s a menu of tours, from self-guided visits to a special VIP Guided Tour with extra tour stop and field access, all with an expert guide.
Book online: Dallas Cowboys Stadium Tour with Transport
10. Nasher Sculpture Center
Raymond Nasher (1921-2007), the developer behind the NorthPark Center mall, was a voracious art collector, and together with his wife Patsy assembled a jaw-dropping sculpture collection.
Much of this was put on display at the mall (some still is), until a more suitable permanent home could be built.
At the turn of the 21st century the Nasher Foundation put up the funds for a Renzo Piano-designed museum with a two-acre garden to make these riches available to the public.
The Nasher Sculpture Center is all the more extraordinary against the cityscape of downtown Dallas.
The center’s collection is a who’s who of modern sculpture, furnished with pieces by Alexander Calder, Giacometti, Hepworth, Henry Moore, Matisse, Gauguin, Joan Miró, Picasso, Claes Oldenburg, Richard Serra and Rodin.
Only a fraction of the foundation’s holdings can be displayed at one time, so the center’s exhibition is refreshed every few months.
Included in: Dallas Art District & Museum Of Art Walking Tour
11. John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza
The understated John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza was inaugurated in June 1970, beside the red sandstone towers of the Dallas County Courthouse.
The monument at its core was designed by architect Philip Johnson, a friend of the Kennedy family, and was personally approved by Jacqueline Kennedy.
Conceived to represent the “freedom of John F. Kennedy’s spirit”, the memorial comprises a square room without a roof, with concrete walls 15 x 15 meters long and 9 meters high.
These walls are composed of 72 concrete columns, supported by two legs at each corner and so appearing to hover over the ground when illuminated at night.
In the room is a granite square carved with JFK’s name, painted in gold to catch the light from the walls.
12. Meadows Museum
The oil baron Algur Meadows (1899–1978) made repeated trips to Madrid in the 1950s, and in that time he fell in love with Spanish art at the Museo del Prado, resolving to create his own “Prado on the prairie” back in Dallas.
This became the Meadows Museum at the Southern Methodist University campus, home to one of the largest assemblages of Spanish art outside of Spain.
The art here dates from the 900s to the present, comprising Renaissance altarpieces, massive Baroque canvases, liturgical polychrome images, graphic art, Impressionist landscapes, abstract painting, sketches and sculpture.
Among the many great artists featured are Velázquez, El Greco, Murillo, Ribera, Zurbarán, Goya (six works), Sorolla, Rodin, Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Henry Moore and Giacometti.
In 2019-20 there were fabulous short-term exhibitions for Sorolla and the great Spanish Renaissance sculptor Alonso Berruguete.
13. Deep Ellum
If you’re out for live music, great food, awesome bars or one-off shops then Deep Ellum is the place to go, just on the other side of the I-345 from Downtown Dallas.
This has been an entertainment district since the 1880s, and blues legends like Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson all entertained the crowds in the 1910s and 1920s.
The name comes from the neighborhood’s main artery, Elm Street and crops up in the old blues song Take a Whiff on Me, and the song “Deep Elm Blues”, made famous by the Grateful Dead.
The lineup of clubs and live venues is too long to list here, but features Trees Dallas, played by Radiohead, Nirvana, Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam.
For concept bars you’ve got a slew of craft breweries/distilleries, and the trailer park themed Double Wide.
By day you can check out the street art and pick from ramen (Oni), tacos (Tiki Loco), sushi (Nori) or southern comfort food (Brick & Bones, Get Fried) for lunch.
Recommended tour: Dallas Deep Ellum Beer & Cider Tour
14. Dallas Zoo
Across the Trinity River from Downtown Dallas, the Dallas Zoo would be a worthwhile family outing even without its greatest attraction.
But the Giants of the Savanna habitat is not something you’ll come across very often.
This $32.5-million habitat, unveiled in 2011 has reticulated giraffes, zebras, impala, ostriches and guinea fowl sharing the same large space.
In the same zone is the zoo’s herd of African elephants, as well as African lions, South African cheetahs, warthogs and African wild dogs.
The Gorilla Research Center, opened in 1990, is another feather in the Dallas Zoo’s cap, a lush recreation of the Congo Rainforest, with enough space for two troops of gorillas, each separated by a wall.
The Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari takes you on a 20-minute, mile-long narrated monorail ride past hippos, okapis, Grévy’s zebra, Thomson’s gazelle’s and some giant birds, from great white pelicans to Goliath herons.
Book online: Dallas Zoo – General Admission
15. Dallas World Aquarium
In the West End Historic District, this aquarium in a reworked warehouse from 1924 has more than just fish.
Mundo Maya keeps ocelots, American flamingos and a variety of colourful passerine birds and owls to go with its vibrant angelfish and axolotls.
The upper floor is taken over by a reproduction of the Orinoco Rainforest, inhabited by sloths, giant river otters and primates like pygmy marmosets and red howler monkeys, as well as dwarf caimans, poison dart frogs, toucans, mata mata turtles and electric eels.
The ten main tanks are on the lower level, where you’ll come within inches of aquatic life from all over the world from giant Japanese spider crabs to brilliant Percula clownfish, tangs, angelfish, butterflyfish and moon jellyfish.
Outside the South Africa exhibit keeps a playful colony of black-footed penguins, numbering only 50,000 in the wild.
16. Pioneer Plaza
The city’s rugged early days are remembered at this park laid out in 1994 in front of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, just south of downtown.
Rendered in bronze by artist Robert Summers is a marvellous sculpted ensemble – the largest bronze monument in the world – depicting an everyday scene on the old Shawnee Trail.
Crossing the plaza are 49 longhorn steers and three trail riders on horseback, all in an environment of ridges and cliffs, planted with trees and plants native to North Texas, a flowing stream and waterfall.
Each steer is a little larger than life, at just under two meters high.
Related tour: 75-Minute Small-Group City Highlights Tour
17. Fair Park
This 277-acre outdoor complex on the right shoulder of Downtown Dallas has a history as a fairground going back to 1886. The space was transformed to lift spirits in the Great Depression, when Dallas hosted the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. Architects George Dahl and Paul Cret turned Fair Park into a magnificent exhibition of Art Deco design.
Plenty of the attractions on this list can be found right here, and the park holds more than 1,200 events a year, from concerts to sporting events.
For 24 days from the last Friday of September, this is the venue for the Texas State Fair, attended by over two million people each year and presided over by the iconic Big Tex.
One of the main events is the annual college football game between Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns, at the 92,100-capacity Cotton Bowl.
A centerpiece during the fair is the Texas Star, a Ferris wheel 65.8 meters tall, with 44 gondolas.
18. Hall of State
Fair Park’s mainstay is the Art Deco Hall of State, which is a formidable landmark, even if the exterior is showing its age.
There are few better examples of Art Deco architecture in Texas, and it’s bewildering to think that this regal edifice got built in the depths of the Great Depression.
What draws your eye outside is the semicircular recess at the entrance, with limestone pillars rising 23 meters dividing bands of blue tiles evoking the state flower, the bluebonnet.
On the frieze are the names of 60 historical figures with an important role in Texas history.
The monument has belonged to the Dallas Historical Society since 1938, and its radiant interior holds the Hall of Heroes, with six bronze statues representing Stephen F. Austin, Thomas Jefferson Rusk, Mirabeau B. Lamar, Sam Houston, James Fannin and William B. Travis.
During the Texas State Fair in 2019 there was a wonderful exhibition on the history of the state in cinema.
19. Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park
This compact but ever-popular aquarium opened with the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936, but was given a modern makeover in 2009. There are six main exhibits at the Children’s Aquarium: Freshwater Zone, with red-bellied piranhas and Australian rainbows; Intertidal Zone, for sea stars and sea urchins; Shore Zone, inhabited by seahorses, batfish and home to a Caribbean reef; Near Shore Zone, which has Moray eels, clownfish and porcupinefish, and the Offshore Zone, where you’ll see the ominous-looking Queensland groupers and zebra sharks.
Finally, the outdoor Stingray Bay is most people’s favorite part, where you can touch and feed cownose rays and watch black tip ref sharks in an ample outdoor tank.
20. Frontiers of Flight Museum
Head to Dallas Love Field Airport to be awed by this Smithsonian Affiliate museum in the airport’s south-east corner.
The Frontiers of Flight Museum has more than 30 aircraft and space vehicles on show, a portion of which were built in the North Texas area.
There are also 13 galleries and exhibits to ponder, including artifacts from the Hindenburg, lots of detail about aviators like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, and a full-size model of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Wright Flyer.
As for preserved aircraft, make sure to see Apollo VII, used for the first manned flight of the Apollo Space Program in 1968. Also indispensible is the last surviving Texas-Temple Sportsman monoplane (1928), a de Havilland Tiger Moth (1940), a Bell 47 (of M*A*S*H fame) and jet fighters and bombers including an F-16b (1977), an LTV A-7 Corsair II (1967), a Republic F-105D (1958) and a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (1950).
21. Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park
The tree-shaded sidewalks of the Dallas Heritage Village are lined with the largest ensemble of historic buildings in the city.
These properties, dated between 1840 and 1910, are arranged as an outdoor museum in 20 acres, where the only hint of the passage of time comes from the Downtown Dallas skyline over the trees.
City Park was the first public park in Dallas, plotted in the 1870s and the site of the first city zoo and weekly outdoor concerts in the 1880s and 1890s that would resemble the performances given here today.
The park was at risk of being redeveloped until the late-1960s when the Millermore plantation house became the first of 21 historic buildings to find a new home here.
Each building is decorated with period-specific furniture, tools and ephemera, and a team of role-playing interpreters helping the whole village to life.
22. Texas Discovery Gardens
Also at the historic Fair Park, the Texas Discovery Gardens is a botanical garden in 7.5 acres, growing native and exotic plants from around the world that have adapted to the difficult soils and climate of North Texas.
This is the first public garden that has been certified 100% organic by the Texas Organic Research Center, and is irrigated via sustainable water conservation methods.
The gardens’ plants have also been selected for their ability to provide habitats for wildlife, including birds and butterflies.
Outside you can saunter through the Native Butterfly Habitat, Shakespeare Garden (with plants mentioned in the Bard’s plays and sonnets) and the Master Gardener’s Garden, showing how you can get the most out of drought-tolerant plants.
Children will be wild for the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium, where you can even watch butterflies shake out of their chrysalises at the Emergence Chamber on the lower level.
There are also 20 species of venomous and non-venomous native snakes at the Snakes of Texas exhibit.
23. American Airlines Center
Two big-time sports franchises share this multipurpose arena in the Victory Park neighborhood.
Most famous are the Dallas Mavericks, who clinched the NBA Championship in 2011, led by Dirk Nowitzki, who had just retired in 2019 after a 21-year spell.
The Mavericks are renowned for their passionate fans, and at the time of writing were going through a home-game sell-out streak that had continued since 2001. Owner Mark Cuban’s strategy is to sell off unsold tickets at big discounts or give them away to charity.
At roughly the same time of year, this is also home rink for the Dallas Stars, who last lifted the Stanley Cup in 1999. American Airlines Center has hosted up to 20 major concert dates a year since it opened in 2001. Elton John, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Eagles and Celine Dion were all on the program in 2019-20. Food-wise, there are lots of choices for Tex-Mex (Mesero), Southern-style cuisine (House of Blues), pizza (Olivella’s) and sushi (Imoto) within a five-minute walk of the arena, and ample concessions inside, from tacos to hot dogs.
24. Design District
North-west of Downtown Dallas, the Design District has taken root on the regenerated floodway of the Trinity River.
Where before there were old showrooms and warehouses from the 1950s, there’s now an eclectic but upmarket neighborhood of art galleries, men’s and women’s fashion boutiques, swish interior design shops, a slew of fine dining establishments and brand new high-end residences.
One of the many things to love about the Design District is that it has developed naturally, and the low, almost nondescript warehouses that had been here for decades remain, accompanied by dazzling new architecture.
No massive mixed-use developments, national chains or wholesale demolition has been allowed here.
Related tour: Dallas Design District Brewery Tour
25. Crow Museum of Asian Art
The real estate baron Trammell Crow (1914-2009) was a keen collector of East and Southeast Asian Art, and even put his son to use as an art purchaser in Tokyo to enhance his inventory which grew to 7,000 pieces.
In 1998 almost 600 pieces were donated as a gift to the people and visitors of Dallas, at this museum that opened in the Dallas Arts District.
The museum is organized into three main spaces: Gallery I featured Japanese works by master ceramic artists, marvellous prints and a samurai suit of armor.
Gallery II, for Chinese art, holds one of the largest collections of jade in the United States, as well Qing Dynasty snuff bottles, mostly from the 1700s.
Gallery III holds works from across India and Southeast Asia, comprising two Mughal baradari gazebos and highly ornate pieces like the gilded Nepalese Seated Manjushri Dharmadhatsuvajisvara buddha from 1823. Linking Gallery II with Gallery III is the glass Skybridge, commanding a privileged view of the Trammell Crow Center and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
26. African American Museum
The Hall of Negro Life at the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 was thought to be the first recognition of African-American culture at a world’s fair.
Fair Park’s African American Museum was built on the exact same plot as that hall and opened in 1993, although its history as an institution goes back to 1974. The museum has amassed a vital collection of African and African-American art, historical artefacts and decorative arts, presented across four vaulted galleries.
In the collection are pieces by luminaries like Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Clementine Hunter and Larry D.
Alexander, but the museum is also engaged in a vibrant and enlightening program of music performances, dance, lectures and book fairs.
A thrilling ongoing exhibition, Facing the Rising Sun, investigates North Dallas (now Uptown), displaying found objects, historical documents, photographs and firsthand accounts at special interactive kiosks.
27. Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
This educational museum recounting one of the pivotal events of the 20th century and its repercussions opened in 2019 in a high-impact modern building by Dealey Plaza in the West End Historic District.
The attraction’s origins lie in an organization founded by 125 Holocaust survivors in 1977. The Holocaust/Shoah Wing tells the 3,000-year story of the Jewish People, covering their persecution over many centuries before Hitler’s rise to power and the murder of six million Jews in the Second World War.
There are testimonies by survivors and liberators throughout this wing, and devastating artefacts like a genuine boxcar from a concentration camp train.
The Human Rights Wing goes into the progress made since the Holocaust, while the Pivot to America Wing is optimistic and highly interactive, celebrating diversity, encouraging people to confront their own biases and recreating a Civil Rights-era sit-in.
28. Welcome to Dallas 3-Hour Small Group Tour by Van
If you have limited time in Dallas or just want a comprehensive introduction to the city, this three-hour tour on GetYourGuide.com is just the ticket.
Even more so if you visit in summer, as you’ll travel in an air-conditioned van to see all the obligatory landmarks and areas.
This whistle-stop trip takes in Dealey Plaza, Old Red, Founder’s Plaza, Pioneer Plaza, the Dallas Arts District, Deep Ellum, Swiss Avenue, and Klyde Warren Park, all in the space of three short hours.
29. Magnolia Hotel
The Magnolia Petroleum Company (merged to form Mobil in 1959) built itself a majestic Beaux-Arts headquarters in the early-1920s.
Exceeding its neighbor, the Adolphus Hotel (1911), the Magnolia Building briefly became the tallest in the state at 122 meters.
The tower is 29 stories, with its two wings connected by an arch about three quarters of the way up.
In 1934 the Magnolia Building was given its most iconic feature: A rotating neon Pegasus, which became a symbol for Dallas even after the tower became crowded out on the skyline, and was re-made for the new millennium.
You’ll see it best approaching Downtown Dallas from the south.
Mobil moved out in the 1970s and the tower was sold off to the city, later becoming a luxury hotel.
30. Dallas County Courthouse
On the south-east side of Dealey Plaza is a formidable Romanesque Revival building, built from a warm, rusticated red sandstone with rusticated marble for its first floor and window openings.
Affectionately known as Old Red, the courthouse, impossible to miss for its turrets and soaring central tower, dates to 1892 and lost its governmental role when a new courthouse building was completed close-by in 1966. Since 2007 this grand building has held the Old Red Museum.
On the second floor the permanent exhibition walks you through the city’s past, from prehistory to the present, showing off fossils, items relating to 19th-century trade, war weapons, sports paraphernalia and the people who have put Dallas on the cultural map.
Included in: Dallas and Southfork Ranch Small-Group Combo Tour
31. Giant Eyeball
Heading along Main Street on the edge of the Dallas Arts District you’ll find yourself being stared down by a humungous blue eye.
This 9.1-meter fiberglass sculpture by multimedia artist Tony Tasset, was completed in 2007 for an installation in Chicago before finding a new home in Dallas.
The enclosing astro-turf lawn is owned by the arty Joule Hotel across the street, and is usually fenced off from the public, but there’s a clear line of sight to a work that has become a bit of a modern emblem for Dallas.
32. Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
World-famous architect Santiago Calatrava’s contribution to the Dallas cityscape is this startling cable-stayed bridge spanning the Trinity River and named for the oil heiress and philanthropist Margaret Hunt Hill.
The bridge, easily recognized by its 120-meter central arch pylon, opened in 2012 and was part of a large-scale project to redevelop the Trinity River.
Connecting the underside of the arch to the roadway is a system of cables that seem to intersect in different ways depending on your perspective.
That arch is visible for miles and stands out on the riverbanks, that have been left mostly clear of development.
The Trinity Skyline Trail passes along the river below and you can get a great perspective not far south at the Trinity Overlook park off N Beckley Ave.
33. Trinity Groves
In the same program, a new 15-acre shopping, dining and entertainment destination has sprouted up by the bridge on the western bank of the Trinity River.
Trinity Groves has made a name for its cutting-edge dining, thanks to a Restaurant Concept Icubation Program, allowing entrepreneurs to test drive restaurant concepts to see if they are ready for an expansion.
Because of this constant process of trial and error, no two visits will be the same.
Some picks in late-2019 were Souk Kebab House, K’s House (Korean BBQ), Steam Theory Brewing Company, Sushi Bayashi and the mainstay, Amberjax Fish Market Grille, blending a fish and seafood market with a full-service restaurant for po’ boys, seafood boils, gumbo and more.
34. The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum
Completely free to enter and more commonly known as the Samurai Collection, this museum in the Harwood District compiles hundreds of years of Japanese craftsmanship at the former St. Ann’s School.
The collection has been fastidiously amassed by real estate developer Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, his wife Ann and their children.
Objects on show date from the 600s to the 1800s, and include suits of armor, horse armor, masks, helmets and katanas.
The exhibition is reworked twice a year, and the museum has a traveling exhibition that has visited cities around the world.
35. Museum of Biblical Art
This attraction next to the immense NorthPark Center bounced back after a fire in 2005 destroyed its former building along with more than 2,500 works of art.
As the name may tell you, the Museum of Biblical Art collects works inspired by the bible, and the list of artists featured is prestigious.
There’s art by Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, John Singer Sargent and Ben Shahn, just by way of intro.
Since 2014 a whole wing of the building has been home to the National Center for Jewish Art, with a superb array of Judaica (Jewish ceremonial art).
36. Mia’s Tex-Mex
On Oak Lawn’s Lemmon Avenue (4322) is a revered Tex-Mex eatery that has been around since 1981, an eternity by Dallas standards.
It was founded by couple Butch and Mia (Mama Mia) Enriquez.
In these 40-odd years, Mia’s Tex-Mex has become an institution favored by movie and TV stars, Dallas Cowboys and almost anyone who calls the city home.
Specialities include Butch’s Original Brisket Tacos, which come with Monterrey Jack, poblano peppers and grilled onions, and comes with brisket gravy, rice and beans.
Also big are the Homemade Rellenos (stuffed poblano), Mama’s Quesadillas and Mama’s Chicken Lemon (breaded breast with a lemon butter sauce). Don’t forget chips and guacamole, or a round of Mia’s famous margaritas.
37. Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
The seat of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) was completed in 1989 and has a reputation for its supreme acoustics.
The project was a collaboration between the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei and the Artec Consultants, the firm of acoustical expert Russell Johnson, resulting in a shoebox shape with a “reverse fan” configuration at the back of the hall.
Even the most distant seats enjoy a clear line of sight and perfect sound.
Check the DSO’s program for something that might take your fancy, be it symphonies (Prokofiev’s sixth at the time of writing in Nov ’19), movie and musical soundtracks, reworked classic rock and pop, world-renowned soloists and lots of family-friendly performances around Christmas.
38. Wilson Building
Sharing the same block as the Giant Eyeball, wrapping around Main Street, N Ervay Street and Elm Street in an E-shape, is a handsome trace of old Dallas.
A Beaux-Arts office and commercial complex modelled on the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Wilson Building (1904) was constructed for the cattle magnate John B. Wilson.
The main tenant was the Titche-Goettinger Department Store, occupying the basement and first two levels.
At first the building was only on Main Street and Ervay Street, but it was such a success that a new wing was added on Elm Street in 1911. Among its conveniences were two telegraph offices and an artesian well more than 450 meters deep.
The Wilson Building is now residential, but as you pass by you can take a moment to behold its elegant curved corners and the rich carvings on the cornice and window arches on the fifth floor.
39. NorthPark Center
In the top 20 largest malls in the country, NorthPark Center is also praised as one of the top premium shopping destinations in the Southwest.
This was already the world’s largest climate-controlled building when it opened in 1965. But it more than doubled in size in the mid-2000s after an expansion that also gave rise to the CenterPark, a tapestry of lawns and mature trees on crushed granite paths.
Among more than 230 stores are luxury brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Bulgari, Cartier and Versace, as well as more day-to-day retailers from Sephora to H&M, Gap, Macy’s Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
A branch of the wildly popular Eataly Italian market chain is slated to open at the NorthPark Center in 2020. World-class sculpture, by artists like Antony Gormley, Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, has been integrated into the NorthPark Center since it first opened, and you can pick up a complimentary map for a tour.
Included in: Dallas Shopping Tour
40. George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Whatever your opinion on the 43rd President of the United States, it’s a fact that he was in office for some of the country’s most crucial events since World War II.
After Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 George W. Bush settled in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, and his Presidential Center opened on the campus of Southern Methodist University in 2013. One engrossing exhibit is a detailed replica of the Oval Office, but you’ll also see material recovered from Ground Zero, accompanied by Bush’s diary entry on 9/11 and the various gifts given to the president by foreign politicians.
The interactive Decisions Points Theater puts you in the hot seat, and you can see how your response to Katrina differs from what Bush actually did.
On the lighter side there’s a whole exhibit devoted to Bush’s sense of humor.
Outside is the Texas Rose Garden and 15 acres of native Texas prairie with wildflowers and grasses.
Included in: Dallas CityPASS
41. Trinity River Audubon Center
The project to revitalize the Trinity River also encompassed this National Audubon Society nature center down the Trinity River and barely 15 minutes out of Downtown Dallas.
The city will feel very distant here on the edge of the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban hardwood forest in the country.
The center is on what used to be illegal landfill, now a mosaic of habitats for species like scissor-tailed flycatchers, little blue herons and northern harriers.
The LEED certified nature center holds an informative natural history museum, and the Audubon Society arranges lots of programs like bird-watching, conservation treks, night hikes and activities for schools and scouts.
42. Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark
If a break from sightseeing is in order there’s good old family fun at this waterpark where you’ll never have to contend with sunburn.
One thing’s for sure: Epic Waters has not compromised on size, as these slides and pools are contained by a huge, retractable structure.
In fact at 80,000 square feet it’s the largest attraction of its kind in the state, with 11 rides attached to its lofty slide tower.
Three of these are “first in industry” rides, like the Lasso Loop, which is literally a body slide with the tallest loop in the country, or Aquanaut, the first indoor double rider inner tube slide in the country.
There are more sedate attractions like a lazy river, outdoor wavepool and a space for toddlers and smaller children.
There’s hunger-slaying fast food and a big video arcade area with new games and old-time amusements.
43. Cedar Hill State Park
Another open space surprisingly close to Downtown Dallas is this state park protecting a tract of old farmland, on rocky limestone slopes, parcels of prairie and the east shore of the 7,500-acre Joe Pool Lake.
You can get acquainted with this land’s past at the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center, touring reconstructed and original farm buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Dallas Off-Road Bike Association (DORBA) has drawn up a 12-mile trail through the park, made up of three concentric routes ranging from 3 to 12 miles long.
Joe Pool Lake is a major draw for swimmers at the gravel beach and fishers casting off for crappie, largemouth black bass and catfish.
And, if you want to make a weekend of it, there are 350 developed campsites, all with water, electricity and access to hot showers.
44. Globe Life Field
At the time of writing, in the 2019-20 off-season, the new home of MLB’s Texas Rangers was under construction, due to open with the 2020 season.
From 1994 to 2019 the Rangers had played just across the road at Globe Life Park, which was being repurposed for XFL’s Dallas Renegades and the FC Dallas affiliate, North Texas SC.
The brutal summer heat in Texas has always had an impact on Rangers’ attendances.
So, at a construction cost of more than $1.1bn, the new 40,000 ballpark has a retractable roof to protect fans from the glaring sun and also avoid rain delays.
This will be partially transparent, and able to open and close in record time.
If you happen to read this post before the work is completed in 2020, you can watch the progress from the Hilti Observation Deck on the upper right field concourse of Globe Life Park.
45. Dallas Farmers Market
Right next to the skyscrapers of Downtown Dallas is a big public market that has been trading since 1941. Safe to say that things have changed a lot in 80 years, and what started out as a horse-and-wagon wholesale business is now a testament to the changing relationship between North Texans and their food.
The Dallas Farmers Market’s guiding principles are Honesty, Responsibility and Transparency.
The main market is open seven days, and is a bountiful food hall and artisanal vendor market for fresh produce, meat, seafood, flowers, housewares, handmade gifts and a world of snacks, baked goods and delicious meals made on the spot, from tamales to banh mi.
The Shed meanwhile is an open-air pavilion where local ranchers gather on weekends to sell their seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey, eggs, farm-raised meats, cheese and all manner of specialty foods.
46. White Rock Lake Park
A mere 15 minutes in the car from Downtown Dallas will get you to a blissful slice of water and greenery at this 1,250-acre reservoir.
White Rock Lake came about by damming the namesake creek to bolster the city’s water supply at the start of the 20th century.
By the middle of the century the reservoir had lost its main role as a water source and had become a little paradise for recreation.
You can rent paddleboards, canoes and kayaks on the shore, and there are piers and launches for people hoping to land white crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
You may just prefer to wander a piece of the 9.33 mile loop around the water, fixing your gaze on the Dallas skyline, which is all the prettier at sunset.
On your way you’ll be joined by lots of joggers and bike riders, and should see lots of turtles sunning themselves on the rocks.
47. Highland Park Village
Both an abiding piece of American retail history and a place to indulge in some luxury shopping, Highland Park Village became the first self-contained shopping center when it opened in 1931. The plaza, designed as a shopping center that could also serve as a town square, took design cues from Spanish, Californian and Mexican towns, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000. Today’s tenants cater to the top end of the market, and include names like Fendi, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Dior and Carolina Herrera.
The Village Theater was the first luxury movie theatre in the state when it opened in 1935. Much-changed, the theatre plays first-run movies at two state-of-the-art screening rooms with plush seating.
48. Swiss Avenue Historic District
At the start of the 20th century the inventor of the system cotton gin, Robert S. Munger, turned his hand to real estate, developing a big tract of East Dallas for his deed-restricted Munger Place community.
This fifty-block neighborhood possesses America’s largest contingent of prairie-style homes, inspired by the great Frank Lloyd Wright.
For sightseers on foot or by car, the most picturesque part is the four-block, 57-acre Swiss Avenue Historic district, between Fitzhugh Street and a little way north of La Vista.
Along with Prairie School, preserved houses in the district include Colonial Revival and a variety of other opulent historicist styles like Tudor, Italian Renaissance, Spanish, Queen Anne and Craftsman.
Students of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work will notice a strong resemblance at the R. W. Higginbotham House (1913) at 5002 Swiss Avenue.
49. Winspear Opera House
The sophisticated stage for the Dallas Opera is a Foster + Partners building conceived as a traditional horseshoe opera house re-imagined for the 21st century.
The Winspear Opera House is one of four cultural venues at the AT&T Performing Arts Center and had its inaugural season in 2009/2010. Many agree that this is nation’s finest opera house, and its horseshoe configuration kindles a certain intimacy despite accommodating audiences of 2,200. When you arrive you’ll be met by the Annette and Harold Simmons Signature Glass Facade, more than 18 meters high, while the slatted Sky Canopy gives shade to more than three acres of Sammons Park.
French conductor Emmanuel Villaume has been director of the Dallas Opera since 2013, and in store for the 2019-2020 season were The Magic Flute, The Golden Cockerel, Don Carlo, The Barber of Seville and Pulcinella/La voix humaine.
50. Six Flags Over Texas
The first ever Six Flags theme park was established in Arlington about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth.
In case you were wondering, the name “Six Flags” refers to the flags of the six nations that have governed Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States of America and the Confederate States of America.
This is a day trip not to pass up, especially if you’re in town with children or teenagers.
The littlest thrill-seekers will love the rides and entertainment at Bugs Bunny Boomtown, while bigger adrenaline fiends will have 13 rollercoasters and 3 water rides to take on.
One of the headlines is the New Texas Giant, converted from wood to steel in 2011, with a nerve-shredding 79° drop 45 meters long.
The outlandish Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast, is a high-speed shuttle rollercoaster turned back to front and accelerating from 0-70 mph in 3.8 seconds.
51. Founders Plaza (Dallas County Historical Plaza)
Opposite the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza on Main Street is the unassuming Founders Plaza, which, along with a terrazzo map of Dallas County in the 1800s and a fountain, has a small wood cabin.
This looks much like the one built by John Neely Bryan (1810-1877), who in 1841 founded the settlement that became Dallas after first visiting the area two years before.
Bryan had a busy life, departing for the California Gold Rush in 1849, becoming a delegate to the Texas state Democratic convention in 1853 and shooting a man (non-fatally) for insulting his wife in 1855. In 1860 a fire wiped out most of the city’s original log cabins, but this example, made from cedar, is a rare survivor, dating to around 1850. It has been taken down and rebuilt several times over the last 170 years, and was placed at its current site in 1971.
Included in this tour: Full-Day Small Group Tour of Dallas & the JFK Assassination
52. Dallas City Hall
The current city hall is in the south of Downtown Dallas and was designed by I.M. Pei, also known for the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
This Brutalist, buff-colored concrete building held its first City Council in 1978 and is in the shape of an inverted pyramid, looking a little like a stadium grandstand from Young Street.
That was all a consequence of how much more space was needed above by the offices that ran the government, compared to the citizen services and public areas on the lower levels.
An interesting factoid about the building is that there’s a tunnel on the third level basement that was intended to be used by a future underground rail transit system that was never built.
To movie fans of a certain vintage, City Hall is better known as the Headquarters of the OCP company in the Robocop movies.
53. Bob’s Steak & Chop House
The original Bob’s Steak & Chop House is at 4300 Lemmon Avenue in Dallas.
In the 25+ years since this steakhouse opened its doors, the chain has gone nationwide, but time has stood still at the original location.
The decor has hardly changed, and, amazingly, you’ll still be greeted at the door by founder Bob Sambol . Bob’s Steak & Chop House is all about Texas-sized portions of high-quality cuts, full of flavor and hand-picked from the top 2% of USDA prime beef.
Whether you order prime steak, chops or seafood, every dish is accompanied by Bob’s signature, a single glazed carrot.
Most cuts are butchered at the restaurant, and all are given a five-minute rest before returning to the broiler for Bob’s hallmark hard sear.
54. Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse
This legendary BBQ joint frequented by George W. Bush, Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing) and Jimmy Buffett has a fun backstory.
Sonny Bryan came from a line of Texas restaurateurs going back to his grandfather Elias in 1910. In 1958 he and his wife, a beauty pageant regular, sold their gun collection and staked all their money on a restaurant by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
He ran this location for the next 30 years, selling it to an investor group in 1989. Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse has spawned many more locations, although only seven survive today, and mostly in the Dallas area.
The original, on Inwood Road, has starred in all sorts of food/travel shows, like Man v. Food Nation and Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels.
The interior is as basic as it gets, as Sonny Bryan resorted to reusing old school desks in the 50s.
Needless to say the real story is the brisket, sausage, ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and sides like BBQ beans, potato salad and mac & cheese.
55. Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
Anyone willing to travel a bit further for some natural beauty will be rewarded by this 200-acre park, 20 minutes away in Plano.
At Arbor Hills there’s a trail system adding up to about nine miles, including three miles that are paved.
The park is broken down into three main habitats: Blackland Prairie, Riparian Forest and Upland Forest, sustaining birds like woodpeckers, herons, owls and turkey vultures, as well as coyotes, deer, bobcats and several snake species.
There’s free Wi-Fi in the developed parts of the park, as well as a picnic pavilion and playground for wee ones.
Make for the observation platform for a pleasing view of the landscape and parts of Plano.