If you’ve ventured to this complex only for the annual Texas State Fair, you’re missing out—there’s much more to this National Historic Landmark. Spread out over 277 acres east of downtown, Fair Park does have fairground roots (it was built in 1886 for the Dallas State Fair), but by the early 1900s, it had become the city’s second public park. Its time in the spotlight came in 1936 when, in preparation for the arrival of the Texas Centennial Exposition, the city built a number of art deco buildings throughout the grounds. Set around the peaceful Leonhardt Lagoon, several of these structures have been restored in recent years, and continue to serve as prime examples of the deco style. Both these original buildings and a few newer additions now house notable cultural institutions, including the African American Museum, dedicated to works by African American artists; the Hall of State, operated by the Dallas Historical Society; and the Texas Discovery Gardens, focusing on native horticulture. There are also several performance venues—from the 5,000-seat Fair Park Band Shell amphitheater to the Music Hall at Fair Park, home to the annual Dallas Summer Musicals series—as well as the Cotton Bowl stadium, which hosts the annual rivalry game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. The Texas Skyway is an art deco–styled gondola ride that whisks you 65 feet aboveground, while the Texas Star is one of the largest Ferris wheels in the country. But of course, the arrival of Big Tex and his gang is still the park’s biggest draw: Each fall, the grounds are transformed into the lively, 24-day State Fair, with rides, games, livestock competitions, countless spots to eat and drink, live music, and more—all watched over by the iconic 55-foot grinning cowboy.
By Sandra Ramani, AFAR Contributor
Walk into the bronze and gold festooned Hall of State at Dallas' Fair Park and you'll feel that you've died and gone to Art Deco-heaven. The centerpiece of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition, the Hall of State was designed by Donald Barthelme and design consultant Paul Cret, and is a masterpiece of modernism. Strolling through the building's Great Hall, Hall of Heroes and mural-filled Texas rooms, you'll see why: gold, bronze and painted treasures are everywhere, and the 11-foot statue of a Tejas Indian set in a cobalt blue mosaic niche is one of the building's finest examples of making bling sing.
An Outdoor Art Deco Museum in Dallas
Fair Park is an off the beaten path art deco treasure located in Dallas, Texas. The Esplanade was built for the Texas Centennial Celebration in the 1930's and most of the buildings and sculptures are still there - restored in 2007. It's a fantastic walk through history and a must for architecture, history, and art deco lovers. Hopefully you can go when the fountains are on and playing music. I take all visitors to Dallas here and they all love it.
By Penny Sadler
1121 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210, USA