Dallas, Texas, is a place where east meets west. The metropolitan city has exploded in size as international companies move in and take advantage of a well-educated and willing workforce. Fort Worth, on the other side of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, has embraced its Texas Cowtown persona while Dallas is less stereotypical Texas than not. With a sizeable business and cultural sector, growing arts and music districts, and historic districts all mixed together, you can always find something to do in the city limits. Thanks to the milder weather, most of the sites are open year-round. Here’s a list of 30 (or more) things to do in Dallas, Texas.
If you can’t find anything to do specifically in Dallas, just look around the area. The Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex at 9,286 square miles is 31 times as big as New York City at 301 square miles. In this post, we’re just sticking to activities within the greater Dallas City Limits (and its little villages). You can find everything from national and state parks to rodeos to more shopping centers per capita than any other city in the U.S. Just choose your days wisely as traffic can vary. I chose a cloudy/rainy Sunday morning to head downtown and there were still small crowds. They were manageable though. Have fun ya’ll!
With the construction going on downtown, parking can be tricky. I am starting at the Sixth Floor Museum not because of the history, specifically, but rather for the parking lot. Located behind the museum, it is about $10 per day where you can park and walk to many of the nearby sites. Be prepared for the crowds around Dealey Plaza, especially on weekend mornings during the Summer months.
The Sixth Floor Museum documents the life, times, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The museum houses many facts about the tragic day, and each admission comes with a self-guided audio tour. You can stand at the corner window where the fateful shots were fired. The museum is also the former home of the Texas School Book Depository Building, a 7-story structure built in 1901 by the Southern Rock Island Plow Company. A school textbook distribution firm leased the building in 1963, and Lee Harvey Oswald was an employee of the Depository at the time of the assassination.
A short walk down Elm Street, past Houston and right on N. Record Street is the Dallas Holocaust Museum (211 N Record St #100, Dallas, TX 75202 currently). The museum is dedicated to teaching the history of the Holocaust and combating prejudice, hatred, and indifference. The museum is going to close on July 31 for moving and will be relocated to 300 N. Houston Street, which is still in this area.
After visiting the museum, walk over to Dealey Plaza and see where John F. Kennedy was assassinated while visiting Dallas. Dealey Plaza is also home with several buildings in the historic district. A museum store and café about the area can be found at the Dal-Text building and Annex at 501 Elm Street.
The Dal-Text Building and Annex (501 Elm Street) sits across from the Texas School Book Depository. Constructed in 1902, a nearby three-story annex was built in 1904. The Dallas County Criminal Courts Building (501 Main Street) was built between 1913 and 1915. Dallas County Records Building (509 Main Street) is now part of the Founders Plaza to the east, and the Gothic building was completed in 1928. The Old Dallas County Courthouse (100 S. Houston Street) was constructed between 1890 and 1892. It’s also known as the Old Red Courthouse or Museum.
Old Red Museum (100 S Houston St, Dallas, TX 75202) was formerly merely the Dallas County Courthouse. Made of red sandstone (native to the area), the structure was built in 1890. Today, you can visit the museum to learn about Dallas’ first settlement in 1841 and view other artifacts from the prehistoric to the present day. It’s currently undergoing heavy construction (again, park at the Sixth Floor Museum and walk it), but the museum itself is open.
John Neely Bryan arrived near this site in late 1841 from Tennessee and built a log cabin in 1842. The area’s first school and the church were built of logs in Farmer’s Branch in 1845. Many of the original settlers of Dallas came to this “Three Forks” area of the Trinity River as members of the Peters Colony after 1841. This cabin was built of cedar logs before 1850 and was moved from its original site, about 7.5 miles east, and rebuilt at several locations. It was moved to this block in 1971.
One of the most well-known Dallas landmarks, the 561-feet Reunion Tower is a great place to get a 360-degree view of the city. The tower’s observation deck, called the GeO-Deck, allows you to get panoramic views from 470 feet in the air. Inside the Reunion Tower lobby, you can view interactive digital exhibits featuring Dallas landmarks, the tower, the assassination of JFK, and high-definition cameras. You can also get a meal at Wolfgang Pucks’ Five Sixty restaurant at the top of the tower, although it can get expensive. There is also a Cloud 9 café so that you can get something cheaper to eat.
Reunion Tower is only about 1000 feet from Dealey Plaza, so one suggestion is to park nearby and walk around the area. A cheaper parking garage is just down the hill, and you can park there and walk up, either way, it’s not a bad way to spend the day. If you live in DFW or are staying in a hotel near a DART station, take the train to Union Station, which connects to the Hyatt Regency by an underground tunnel that also connects to Reunion Tower.
Built in 1916, Dallas Union Station is a stunning example of Beaux-Arts style. Architectural details include original chandeliers and 48-foot arched windows. The ballroom is a popular place for private events and weddings. You can walk through the underground tunnel from Reunion Tower and the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion into the station. From here, you can catch one of the DART trains throughout the city or even an Amtrak train to places unknown.
Life-size bronze sculptures of a cattle drive surround Pioneer Plaza, the largest public park in the central business district. It’s one of the few places in downtown Dallas that has more of a Western feel than the majority of the city. Pioneer Plaza commemorates Dallas’ beginnings by celebrating the Shawnee Trail that brought settlers and Texas longhorn to Dallas.
Located just behind the cattle drive sculptures, the cemetery contains many of the earliest settlers of Dallas. The graves buried on this grassy hill date back between 1846 and 1850) and include six Dallas mayors, War of 1812 veterans, Texas Revolutionary heroes, judges, Civil War veterans, and more. The site initially had a view of downtown and the Trinity River to the west. The last burials took place between 1921 and 1928.
[There are parking places beside the Pioneer Plaza that have a time limit, but are free. If you park there and walk up the steps, you’ll walk through the cemetery towards the sculptures.
The Majestic Theater opened its doors on April 11, 1921. The theater hosted a variety of acts from Bob Hope to Mae West to Houdini. The theater is the last remnant of Dallas’s historic entertainment center, Theater Row.
After visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, continue exploring the history of November 1963 by visiting this historic theatre which was the hideout of Lee Harvey Oswald and the location of his subsequent arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Texas Theater opened in 1931 and was made entirely out of concrete to be “fireproof.” Also, the theater was the first Dallas movie theater to offer air conditioning. The theater also provides authentic seating, a refreshment area, and entertainment.
Dallas Heritage Park is a 20-acre living history museum located on the grounds of Dallas’ first city park that was established in 1876. Explore buildings and attractions that allow you to see and experience 19th-century life during the pioneer and Victorian eras. Watch how crops were grown, how animals were cared for, and how the community functioned in Texas over 100 years ago. The collections of buildings and furnishings represent the period from 1840 to 1910.
The Dallas landmark hotel was built in 1911 in a baroque, Beaux-Arts style. One of the most luxurious hotels in Texas. The hotel, which is still in use, has over 422 guestrooms in total, including 12 luxury suites and 127 executive rooms. It’s more of a short drive-by for architecture geeks like me, but it’s still a must-see in Dallas (just hard to get a picture in traffic).
The Dallas Farmers Market is a 26,000-square-foot market that has been operating since 1941. The full market includes restaurants, gift stores, and a flower shop. The Market Shops are open seven days a week. On Fridays through Sundays, the weekly farmer’s market with local produce and artisanal goods can be found in The Shed, an outdoor, open-air pavilion. Vendors serve a variety of ready-to-eat cultural flavors at the market during the weekend.
Bishop Avenue, Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX 75208
In addition to art galleries, The Bishop Arts District, in North Oak Cliff, is home to more than 60 restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and boutiques. The city’s busiest trolley stop, circa 1930, is also located in the Bishop Arts District. It’s also known for its diverse nightlife and colorful street art.
Built in 1898, The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe was the second location of Dallas’s first Catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, established in 1869. The original church was constructed in 1872 at the corner of Bryan and Ervay Streets and its congregation soon outgrew the original facilities. The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1898. It’s also near one of the oldest churches left in that district, St. Paul United Methodist Church (1816 Routh St, Dallas, TX 75201), part of the arts district for 145 years.
In the Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art is home to over 24,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of humanity from different cultures. Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is one of the 10 largest art museums in the country in its 370,000-square-feet building.
Across the street is the Nasher Sculpture Center (2001 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201), a 2.4-acre site with a collection of modern and contemporary sculpture.
The Crow Museum of Asian Art includes exhibits dedicated to the arts and cultures from individual Asian regions from 1000 B.C. to the 20th century. The museum is always free, although donations are appreciated. One permanent exhibition includes Fierce Loyalty: A Samurai Complete, a collection devoted to the art and culture of the Japanese samurai.
A popular walking, jogging, bicycling trail for Dallas residents, the Katy Trail follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT). On the northern end of the trail, the best place to park is near Knox Street (cattycorner to Travis Street). Closer to downtown on the Southern end of the trail, you can park at Reverchon Park near the baseball fields.
E Lawther Dr, Dallas, TX 75218
White Rock Lake is a relaxing park with a large natural area of over 1,254 acres set in an urban setting. Construction of the lake began in 1910, and the park itself was developed in the early 1930s. Over 9 miles of hiking and bike trails circle the area, along with picnic areas, wetlands, a dog park, and benches to sit and enjoy the water. You can walk off into a section of woods for a picnic or take your dog to the on-site dog park.
The 66-acre gardens of Dallas’s beautiful Arboretum and Botanical Garden offer plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts year-round. The Arboretum is located on the shores of White Rock Lake and feature events throughout the year. One new exhibit is the fresh vegetable and herb garden called A Tasteful Place, which allows you to get a free seasonal snack. Go ahead and buy your parking ahead of time and plan your itinerary as well.
5803 E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 75231
Book lovers unite! You can easily spend hours in this flagship store, one of the biggest bookstores in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex. Half Price Books buys and sells secondhand books, movies, and music of all types. Entertainment is available on the first Fridays of each month, and the café serves great pastries and coffee.
47 Highland Park Vlg, Corner of Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75205-2727
Highland Park Village is a luxurious, Mediterranean Spanish-style shopping plaza with a legacy as the first open-air shopping center of its kind. Historic architecture, premiere retail, and fine dining can be found in this small center. Typical of Spanish plazas, the central fountain is surrounded by ten acres of brick paths and walkways, landscaping, trees and benches, and timeless architecture. The center opened in 1931 and deteriorated for a few years before being redeveloped in 1976 into a luxury shopping destination. The landmark Village Theatre opened in 1935 and was the first luxury suburban theater in Texas—the theater is still open and has been renovated.
Located on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus, the 14,000 square foot George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum showcases the career of former President George W. Bush. Exhibits include themes and subjects relevant to the early 2000s, such as the financial crisis, education reform, the global war on terror, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. White House exhibits also showcase what life was like for the first family and visit an exact replica of the Oval Office in scale and design. Freedom Hall is a one-of-a-kind, massive 20-foot tall LED screen showcasing various multimedia clips. The Dallas museum is also located next to a 15-acre, prairie-inspired urban park, with Native Blackland Prairie grasses and seasonal wildflowers.
Freedman’s Cemetery was established in 1861 as a burial ground for Dallas’ early African American population. A memorial was built in late 1990 to commemorate the site and significant contributions made by African Americans to the growth and development of Dallas. One bit of advice is to park at Walmart and walk across the street.
From early flight to modern space exploration, the Frontiers of Flight Museum has over 30 aviation and space flight exhibits in 13 galleries with over 35,000 artifacts. Included at the 100,000-square-foot museum is a full-size model of the Wright brothers 1903 Wright Flyer, along with exhibits detailing the stories of trailblazers such as Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, and Charles Lindbergh. Artifacts cover the eras of World War I, World War II, Cold War, and space flight, including an Apollo pod. The site also includes a Living History program and a STEM education program.
For something different, head over to the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park for some thrilling adventure. For over 25 years, the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park’s goal has been to be the most extreme amusement park in the world. The Bungee Jump is a seven-story platform designed for bungee jumping. The Skycoaster is a 100-foot hang-gliding/flying simulator reaching speeds up to 60 mph. If that isn’t enough action, try out the towering propeller Skyscraper that pulls 4Gs or the freefalling Nothing’ But Net that works from a 16-story tower.
1300 Robert B Cullum Blvd, Dallas, TX 75210-2364
Fair Park is a historic 277-acre recreational and educational complex that is the location of the State Fair of Texas. The site was initially built in 1889 as an 80-acre fairground for the Dallas State Fair and was also host to the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. The landmark also contains the largest collection of 1930s Art Deco exposition style architecture in the United States. Five museums and ten performance and sporting events are also held at the park. These include the Texas Discovery Gardens, Music Hall, Gexa Energy Pavilion, Band Shell, and the Cotton Bowl Stadium. Fair Park is also home to five museums and ten performance and sporting venues. A 700-foot-long reflecting pool called the Fair Park Esplanade is capped with three fountains, that often give shows set to music.
Opened in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Exposition, the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park has six exhibits and interactive, kid-sized zones. Kids can visit and pet the stingrays, stand in awe at the two shark tanks, and view everything at eye level.
The African American Museum is an art museum founded in 1974 and houses a rich heritage of African art and history in four vaulted galleries. Permanent collections include African art; African American art; and magazine, historical, political, and community archives.
Home to five floors of 11 permanent exhibit halls, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science offers educational state-of-the-art interactive and multimedia exhibits for kids of all ages. The Museum was a merger of the original Dallas Museum of Natural History, founded in 1936, the Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum at Fair Park. It relocated to its current facility in 2012. The children’s museum morphed into the Moody Family Children’s Museum, which includes terrarium animals, a Mini Dallas Farmer’s Market, and a Dallas Skyline Climber that allows kids to climb a playground of tiny Dallas landmarks. Other exhibits include dioramas of Texas ecosystems, exploration exhibits called Being Human, information about engineering and innovation, weather simulations, and so forth.
Kylde Warren Park is a 5.2-acre public park that sits over the Woodall Rogers Freeway. The unique park sits in the middle of uptown Dallas and has an amphitheater, storytelling tree, putting green, chess, and ping pong area, and dog park. Food trucks and restaurants line the perimeter. The park hosts concerts and dance lessons. The Dallas Yoga Center occasionally hosts Yoga classes in the park.
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, TX 75207 / Continental Bridge Gateway Plaza West, Dallas, TX
[Spur 366 Over the Trinity River, Dallas, TX ]
The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and Trinity Skyline Trail are fairly new. The site is slowly becoming an outdoor mecca for people in the area to walk and get a fantastic shot of the Dallas skyline. The bridge opened in March 2012 and connects Dallas’ two riverbanks for easy passage between the downtown area and the neighborhoods of West Dallas. You can park and walk along the bridge to see the skyline and the Trinity River below. Several trails also extend from the parking lot. Great eating places can also be found on the west side of the bridge.
Look for the Trinity Skyline Bridge or something other than the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. If you head West on Highway 366 (referred to as the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge), you’ll find that the road turns into Singleton Boulevard. At the first light (Gulden Ln), turn right. When the road starts turning to the left and turns into Canada Drive, follow a little road to the right. It will take you to the free parking lot beside the trails and the walkway. It can get very confusing if you don’t know what you are looking for.
What are your favorite things to do in the Dallas city limits?