The Best Things to Do in Dallas
Nature, history, art, culture. Dallas offers them all up in, of course, a big way. Some of the city’s top museums include The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, The Dallas Museum of Art, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which focuses on the assasination of President John F. Kennedy. Or if you just want to saunter and explore a neighborhood or two, head to the Bishop Arts District, downtown Dallas, or the Dallas Arts District. Want to soak up some sun? Klyde Warren Park is your go-to.
1717 N Harwood St, Dallas, TX 75201, USA
Since its founding in 1903, the DMA (as locals call it) has grown to become one of the top 10 largest museums in the country, with a permanent collection of over 24,000 works culled from around the globe and spanning over 5,000 years of history. Works by boldface Western names like Renoir, van Gogh, Warhol, Rothko, O’Keeffe, and Wyeth lead to extensive collections dedicated to art and antiquities from Africa, Asia, and South America; in between, limited-run exhibits might focus on Native American works, Asian textiles, or emerging contemporary artists. In addition to hosting popular events that engage the whole family, the museum is also committed to supporting Texas artists via foundations and special programs, and offers a searchable Texas artists database to help spotlight these native sons and daughters. Dine on casual, gluten-free Mediterranean fare at the plaza-side Socca, or head to the ever-popular DMA Cafe—set in a striking atrium—for globally flavored dishes inspired by works in the permanent collection.
8525 Garland Road
Set on the banks of White Rock Lake, this 66-acre sanctuary offers scenic trails, blooming gardens, and peaceful green spaces for when you want some quiet time with nature—plus kids’ areas, holiday events, and a packed calendar of festivals and concerts for when it’s time for something a bit livelier. Take in the vibrant hues of the Jonsson Color Garden, Crape Myrtle Allee, and gardens dedicated to roses and camellias, or do some contemplating in the Palmer Fern Dell or the McCasland Sunken Garden. Opened in 2017, A Tasteful Place is a 3.5-acre garden focusing on fruit, veggies, and edible herbs and flowers; tastings, demo, nutrition sessions, and cooking classes are held throughout the year. Don’t miss some of the main section’s events, too, such as the annual Dallas Blooms fest and summer concert series.
2201 North Field Street
Named for Dallas-based billionaire entrepreneur (and sometime politician) Ross Perot and his wife, Marjorie, this engaging center is actually split into two campuses: one on the grounds of Fair Park in East Dallas, and the other in Victory Park, near the Dallas Arts District. It’s the latter that garners the most attention—perhaps thanks to the 35-foot Malawisaurus fossil that greets you in the lobby. Earning immediate raves when it opened in 2012, the center woos kids of all ages with its cutting-edge ways of celebrating topics like engineering, conservation, and technology. Past that lobby figure, find five floors of galleries (including 11 permanent exhibit halls) filled with interactive kiosks, games, and lifelike simulations; there’s also an education wing and children’s museum. In addition to all the content, the museum has garnered worldwide attention for its ecoconscious design. Under the direction of Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne, the 180,000-square-foot building features touches like a 54-foot continuous-flow escalator, solar-powered water heating, LED lighting, and a rainwater collection system.
2001 Flora St
It seems wrong to call this Renzo Piano–designed complex a museum—it’s more like a “sculpture safari,” on which you get to experience the pieces in their intended habitat. Opened in 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center is a two-acre homage to modern and contemporary sculpture that was founded upon the private collection of the late Raymond and Patsy Nasher, then grew to include new acquisitions and special exhibits on loan from other institutions. Wander the peaceful indoor and outdoor galleries and gardens to spot works by artists like Giacometti, Moore, Serra, Rodin, Picasso, Calder, and de Kooning; many of the larger pieces invite interaction. The lush setting and bold pieces create an idyllic backdrop for the center’s year-round calendar of events (which include movie nights and family-friendly fun)—and make it a top pick for weddings, too.
Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX, USA
One of Dallas’s earliest neighborhoods, this formerly industrial area just east of downtown has a long history as an entertainment hub, from its days as a hotbed of blues and jazz clubs in the 1920s, to the 1980s, when local bands like the New Bohemians, Butthole Surfers, and Old 97’s were launched from its clubs. Today, the area is not quite as counterculture as in the past, but it’s still got an indie steak, with vibrant street murals and public art providing the backdrop for a host of independent galleries, shops, bars, breweries, cafés, tattoo studios, and over 60 restaurants and 30 live music venues. Among the most iconic music spots are Club Dada and Trees, both of which have been revamped in recent years, as well as The Door, the Prophet Bar, jazz/blues favorite the Free Man, and the century-old Sons of Hermann Hall. As it has grown, the area has also become more family friendly, particularly during events like the annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which features stalls from around 200 juried visual artists, and five stages hosting 100 musical acts.
403 N Bishop Ave, Dallas, TX 75208, USA
Home to warehouses and bustling trolley stops in the 1920s and ’30s (with the warehouses becoming artists’ studios and storage facilities in the ’70s), these few blocks in South Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood were designated a National Historic Landmark in 199O—right around the time the area was experiencing a decline. In the new millennium, however, there’s been a revival: Today the area’s brick buildings and charming former homes hold over 60 independent shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, and galleries. Grab a coffee or glass of wine and browse the tomes at the Wild Detectives bookstore, shop for furniture and local artwork at Neighborhood, and find unique gifts and design items at Bishop Street Market and We Are 1976. Foodies also flock to top spots like Hattie’s for Southern low-country–inspired fare; the much-acclaimed (and often hard to reserve) Lucia for Italian fine dining; Eno’s Pizza Tavern for thin-crust pies; Tillman’s Roadhouse for Texas- and Southwest-flavored favorites; and the legendary Lockhart Smokehouse for pit BBQ. Save room for artisan sweets from Dude, Sweet Chocolate (which has garnered national acclaim) and a slice of fresh-from-the-oven pie from Emporium, where the menu changes seasonally. With the area now firmly enjoying “features on travel TV shows” status, and private residences still lining the side streets, parking here can be tricky—especially on the weekends, or during a festival or one of the regular wine, art, or jazz nights.
1444 Oak Lawn Avenue
What was in the mid-20th-century just an inexpensive area to build warehouses and showrooms along the Trinity River has evolved into a vibrant live/work community that’s home to noted restaurants, trendy hangouts, upscale apartment buildings, and—true to its name—a wide array of design-focused businesses. Whether you’re in the market for a French impressionist painting or an edgy installation, the galleries along Dragon Street have got you covered, while Slocum Street is the place for antiques, decorative pieces, and midcentury furnishings, and Howell Street is a treasure trove of vintage and thrift shops. Enjoy an upscale meal at Oak, a beer at the Meddlesome Moth or Texas Ale Project, a cold treat at Pop Star Handcrafted Popsicles, or a cooking class–meets–dinner party at The Cookery. Keep an eye out for Eagles co-founder Don Henley, who built a private recording studio in the area.
2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy, Dallas, TX 75201, USA
In the mood for an outdoor yoga session, concert, or movie, a scenic run, or just some time with nature in the midst of the urban sprawl? Head to this 5.2-acre green space, which hangs like a deck over the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway, between Pearl and St. Paul streets, and between downtown and Uptown. In addition to bringing some much-needed nature to the area, the park is dedicated to providing the city with a host of free leisure and educational programming, and being something of a town square for the surrounding neighborhoods. So along with a packed calendar of events and classes, there are areas for croquet, chess, pétanque, and ping-pong, a designated dog park, a putting green, a children’s park, fitness spaces, and even a reading and games room. In between, there are still acres of undeveloped green space just calling out for a blanket and picnic baskets.
1300 Robert B Cullum Boulevard
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.
2301 Flora St
Opened in 1989, this pioneer of the Dallas Arts District was envisioned by renowned architect I.M. Pei to be a temple to both design and sound. A striking exterior of overlapping geometric forms leads to interiors that play upon the changing perspectives of light and movement. In the concert hall are more geometric shapes and forms, but these were meticulously placed with acoustics and unobstructed sight lines in mind; the result is what has been called one of the top performance spaces in the world, seating 2,062 concertgoers over four floors. The center is the home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Chorus, and also hosts an array of local and visiting performers, including noted youth orchestras and children’s choirs. Before or after a show, take time to check out the pieces from the center’s art collection that are displayed throughout the halls, including Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue Green Black Red: The Dallas Panels and a portrait of George Gershwin by Andy Warhol.
3200 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX 75201, USA
Centuries ago, the railroad helped contribute to the birth of Dallas—and now it’s playing a part in keeping the city green. Built over abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas line railroad tracks that once bordered the downtown core, the Katy Trail is a 3.5-mile-long green space with landscaped pedestrian areas, drinking fountains (for humans and pets), benches, and trails for jogging, cycling, and in-line skating. Lined with native trees and plants, the adaptive-use space offers a car-free link from the American Airlines Center in downtown’s Victory Park all the way to the Mockingbird Station retail complex near SMU’s campus. Since launching in 2000, the trail has also elevated the property values of neighborhoods along the trail, and transformed the lifestyles of area residents, who now have easy access to fitness trails—and can even bike home from a Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center.
411 Elm Street
When President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas in November 1963, the world was introduced to the Texas School Book Depository building, which became the primary crime scene for the assassination. It was from a sixth-floor window in this brick warehouse that the shots are said to have rung out toward the Grassy Knoll and the motorcade along Dealey Plaza—and it’s that same floor that now houses this excellent museum dedicated to the event and its aftermath. The engaging permanent exhibits focus on everything from the political climate of the era and the actual assassination to the immediate chaos, the investigations, and even the conspiracy theories; you’ll also have the chance to watch and analyze the Zapruder film, and stand at the famous window itself. Rotating temporary installations may showcase topics like artwork inspired by the event, while a library and reading room offer opportunities for a deeper dive.
1 AT&T Way, Arlington, TX 76011, USA
As locals say, “It’s Jerry’s world—we just live in it.” For proof of the power of the legendary Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, look no further than this planet-size stadium, which has served as the home of the Cowboys since 2009, and hosts the annual Cotton Bowl Classic. Featuring a retractable roof and seating for 80,000 cheering fans (or over 100,000 if it’s standing room only), the stadium (which calls itself the largest in the country) is state of the art all the way, with high-def screens, plush suites, and even a Jones-commissioned in-house art collection with painting and sculptures by 53 contemporary artists. As with most stadiums, parking is a nightmare, and concertgoers have mixed reviews about the acoustics for live shows (though that hasn’t stopped everyone from Beyoncé to U2 from playing here), but the thrill of seeing a sports game live—whether football, basketball, or soccer, professional or college—can’t be beat. Note that while this is the home base of the Dallas Cowboys, the stadium is actually in the city of Arlington, set between Dallas and Fort Worth.
300 Reunion Blvd E, Dallas, TX 75207, USA
Though Dallas’s downtown skyline has evolved over the last decades, as more gleaming, angular towers have been added to the mix, you’ll still always know you’re looking at the Big D thanks to one iconic structure. Dubbed The Ball, the dome-topped Reunion Tower is a 561-foot observation structure that opened in 1978, along with the adjacent Hyatt Regency Dallas. Renovated in 2008, the tower now features a 68-second elevator ride up to the GeO-Deck observation floor, where interactive screens, high-def cameras, telescopes, and indoor/outdoor areas all showcase the 360-degree city views from 470 feet up. There’s also the casual Cloud Nine Café on the same deck, as well as celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty higher up. The latter has separate areas for fine dining and slightly more casual meals, as well as two glass-fronted bars—one rotating, one stationary—that serve an impressive wine and sake selection along with the incredible views. At night, the whole dome is lit up with hundreds of LED light fixtures, making for an even more special experience.
Trinity Groves, Dallas, TX, USA
Food, fun, and entrepreneurship come together at this 15-acre hub at the base of west Dallas’ Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The complex was designed as an incubator to nurture and support startups in the worlds of dining, art, entertainment, and retail, allowing emerging businesses to connect with each other and the community. As a result, tenants may come and go, but you’re always sure to find a diverse selection of wares and eats; recent restaurants, for example, have spotlit sushi, kebabs, “next gen” Mexican, and vegan dishes, while shops have peddled handmade chocolates, Korean snow cones, Southern-style cakes, and works by emerging painters. Most of the spots have indoor seating, but it’s more fun to grab some favorites and sit out on the patio, looking out on the city skyline. Be sure to check the site for info on upcoming events like live music, trivia nights at the brewery, “pizza on the patio” evenings and more.
2010 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201, USA
As the patriarch of one of the most prominent real estate empires in the country, Trammell Crow’s work took him all over the globe—including on frequent trips to Asia, during which he and his wife, Margaret, developed a passion for Asian art. Over three decades beginning in the 1960’s, the Crows amassed a deep and diverse collection of important works from all over the region, from a six-foot Ming Dynasty-era seated Buddha and stellar examples of 18th-century jade sculptures to intricately-carved panels from Indian temples. For many years, these pieces were scattered between family properties and commercial buildings, until they all came together under one roof in 1998, with the opening of this Arts District museum. Featuring open galleries framed by natural light and greenery, the jewel box museum is a serene space in which to contemplate pieces from the ever-growing permanent collection, which now includes over 1,000 works from a dozen countries, as well as a library of over 12,000 books and journals; along with all the treasures inside, don’t miss the 15 sculptures in the garden, which span from the ancient to the 20th century. Temporary exhibits might highlight specific techniques (like lacquer work or miniature painting), genres (like the art of the Japanese samurai), or the works of contemporary Asian artists and sculptors. Entrance to the collection is always free; additional fees may apply for tours, talks, or events like yoga and meditations sessions. In 2019, the entire museum was donated to The University of Texas at Dallas, which will continue operating this original location, as well as a future outpost slated for the UTD campus.