Tours & Attractions - Dallas, Texas

Tours & Attractions - Area Overview

If your passions run to urban delights, spend your time in Dallas and Fort Worth, friendly rivals with utterly different personalities. Dallas, the ninth-largest city in the nation, is the showy and chic retailing and financial industry giant with every ethnic dining offering imaginable, while the easygoing, cattle-driving Fort Worth, the 13th-largest city in the country, is home to a national historic district and a surprising stash of world-class art museums.

A thriving metropolis on the edge of the Great Plains that has been embracing visionaries, dreamers, and pioneers for more than 150 years, Dallas merges Southern hospitality with modern sophistication. The landscape has changed dramatically from the 1800s, when trappers, traders, cowboys, and westward-bound pioneers pulled into town, but Dallas remains a place where enterprising people gather to share their grand ideas and stake claims on new frontiers of business and enterprise.

In Fort Worth, there’s a popular barbecue-and-beer joint where servers wear T-shirts declaring, “Life’s too short to live in Dallas.” The slogan captures an attitude held dear to longtime residents of Cowtown, although they will admit to enjoying a shopping, dining, and nightlife trip to Dallas. Newcomers pay little mind to the friendly sparring, finding that the laid-back attitude in Fort Worth strikes a happy balance with the progressive daily pace that characterizes Dallas.

The similarities between the two include a stunning rate of business and population growth, in spite of a sluggish recent economy; a shared passion for their pro sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, whose new billion-dollar stadium is now in Tarrant County instead of Dallas; and a great pride in being Texan. In truth, a lot of Dallasites and Fort Worthians realize that the two cities go hand-in-hand, each offering essential parts that add up to a grand whole.

Tours & Attractions - Attractions

It’s only fitting that explorations in Dallas should begin downtown, where one of the most striking visions is that of Old Red, the Romanesque Revival–style courthouse built in 1892. Its gargoyles and intricate detail indicate a gothic idea, and its proximity to the first pioneer’s cabin and to the Texas School Book Depository, where President Kennedy’s assassin fired fatal shots, remind you that Dallas history is rooted right at its physical center.

As your wanderings take you through the rest of downtown, you can’t help but be impressed by the balance of old and new Dallas. There’s handsome Union Station, a showplace and transportation center since 1916, and the lovely old Magnolia Hotel building, topped by the city’s emblem, the flying red horse called Pegasus. The larger-than-life bronze cattle and cowboys that fill Pioneer Plaza recall a rough-and-tumble era while also posing a striking contrast to the angular, contemporary City Hall building, one of five downtown Dallas buildings designed by the modern master architect, I. M. Pei.

Pei also designed the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, a cornerstone in the renowned Dallas Arts District, known as the largest urban arts district in the nation. Alongside the Meyerson are other Arts District buildings designed by fellow Pritzker Prize winners, such as the Nasher Sculpture Center, a Renzo Piano creation; the Annette Strauss Artist Square, by Sir Norman Foster; and two landmark structures in the spanking-new Performing Arts Center, the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, also by Sir Foster; and the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by Rem Koolhaas.

The downtown dichotomy continues with the Majestic Theater, a beautiful piece of yesteryear, and the very modern, very kid-friendly Dallas World Aquarium. Other important places to see downtown include the Dallas Farmers’ Market and the original Neiman Marcus, both of which you’ll find described in the Shopping chapter, page 85. You’ll see the contrasts continue as you wander to East Dallas and explore the Art Deco spread of Fair Park and the spectacular gardens at the Arboretum, and as you roam northward to see the classic Southfork Ranch and the very modern Texas Sculpture Garden.

As you head west to Fort Worth, you’ll note a more pronounced look of the Old West, particularly in the Stockyards National Historic District on the north side of town, in Sundance Square in downtown, and at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in the Cultural District. It’s not strictly a giddy-up scene in Cowtown, however; you’ll see a remarkable wealth of art museums, here, too, as well as exquisite rose and Japanese gardens within the city’s Botanic Garden complex, also found in the Cultural District.

Tours & Attractions - Kidstuff

When you realize that the whole Six Flags concept was born in the Dallas–Fort Worth area—remember, the prototype was Six Flags Over Texas—you understand that this is a place where kids have been having fun for ages. But as any seasoned parent knows, you don’t have to take your child to an amusement park to find enjoyment. Thanks to abundant good weather that’s mild most of the year, the great outdoors supplies plenty of spaces for families to play together.

For guidance about places such as the Dallas Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, and science and history museums—you know, all the places that make learning fun for children and adults alike—turn to the Attractions chapter (see page 106). In this chapter, however, you’ll find a bounty of destinations designed specifically for kids’ entertainment or for helping them learn how to have more fun by being active and expanding their own creative talents. If you’re searching for ways to get your young ones off the couch and away from video games and TV, here’s where to start in the Dallas–Fort Worth area.

Read on here to learn about places where your children can pursue music, theater, art, and cooking, as well as reading programs, horseback riding lessons, and nature study. Several area museums offer exhibits of interest to young patrons, of course. There are camps, too, that cover all the familiar, general interests, and there are specialized camps for kids who want to focus on zoology, art, acting, singing and dancing, or the environment. Kids who like arcade games will find plenty of places to spend their allowance, too.

Sporting events are easy to find in our area, as well, with professional sports aplenty. The Dallas Cowboys play football and the Texas Rangers play baseball next door to one another in Arlington, Fort Worth’s neighbor in Tarrant County, and the Dallas Stars play hockey and the Dallas Mavericks play basketball in the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

For extensive coverage on what to do with the kids in Texas, be sure to pick up our sister guide, Fun with the Family Texas, which offers hundreds of ideas for family fun and vacations throughout the state of Texas.

Tours & Attractions - Day Trips And Weekend Getaways

When the daily stress of carpools, deadlines, and traffic pile up, nothing cures like a road trip. Getting away from the concrete jungle means heading down two-lane highways, losing and finding yourself on a hiking trail, or waking up to the sound of nothing in a small country inn.

Some of these trips can be done in a day and a night, but why not stretch that out over three to four days? After all, it takes time to find restoration, and besides, you’ll want to go at a leisurely pace as you gaze through all these windows to the past.

Before setting out on your road trip, make a list of everything you and your travel companions want to do, and be sure to note the order of importance. For some, finding the best food and wine are at the top of the list. For others, going on the best hike possible outweighs all other activities. Some will put shopping above all else. And so on.

Then do your homework. Scour the blogs and travel Web sites for information on your destination. See if postings on,, and steer you toward or away points of interest, hotels, or restaurants.

Get out a road map, plan your path, and print it out; you can’t always trust your GPS not to put you into a lake. Or call AAA (please, if you’re not a member, join already!) and ask them to route your drive. Just be sure to ask for the backroads, because the interstate will generally bore you to tears. How many cookie-cutter shopping centers do you need? None! Find the local color that sits on smaller highways; chances are, by skipping the interstate traffic, you’ll get where you’re going just as quickly.

Bear in mind that crowds will typically be larger in the afternoon and that can be a buzz kill. Several of the more popular state parks (like Enchanted Rock and Lost Maples, see below under Hill Country) will limit entry when the day is busy, so early arrival may be imperative. And if you put more active pursuits on the morning schedule, leave the latter part of the day free for massages, followed by eating and sipping.

Find out if the spas and restaurants you’re most eager to visit require booking well in advance. And if you’re staying at an inn with personalized service, ask the staff to help with those reservations. But take care to not over-plan. By leaving air in the schedule that allows for discovery and impromptu adventure, you could find yourself doing your best Lucy impression in a grape-stomp at a winery or getting a behind-the-scenes tour at an artist’s new studio. And remember to enjoy yourself, not just check things off a list.

1. Dallas Heritage Village At Old City Park

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 421-5141
Address: 1515 South Harwood St.

Description: On the south side of downtown, find a 13-acre spread that’s a living history museum. Throughout the collection of historic buildings and authentic furnishings, you’ll explore the period lasting from 1840 until 1910. Shady and quiet, the setting filled with furnished log cabins, century-old shops, a Victorian bandstand, a drummer’s hotel, and southern mansions is a welcome break from our rushed, concrete world of today. Programs include educational events geared for diverse audiences.

2. Dallas World Aquarium

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 720-1801
Address: 1801 North Griffin St.

Description: A fantastic ecosystem of plant and animal varieties thrives in an urban jungle, offering a rich escape from downtown life. Thrills come from exploring Borneo through the presence of Matschie’s tree kangaroos; Orinoco, thanks to birds, a 40-foot waterfall, manatees living in a 200,000-gallon river, a crocodile, and red howler monkeys; a predator aquarium stocked with green moray eels and sharks; a British Columbia exhibit starring a giant Pacific octopus; the Maya exhibit, with hummingbirds, owls, jaguar, sharks, and rays; and the Cape of Good Hope, with its little blue penguins. Onsite, find three restaurants and a great gift shop.

3. Dealey Plaza

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions

Description: This is the area through which the motorcade was passing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At this National Historic Landmark you can always find tourists looking at important sites within the parklike setting, pointing up at the Texas School Book Depository building (now the Sixth Floor Museum) where the assassin was perched and at the famous grassy knoll. The 1940 WPA park is presided over by a statue of early Dallas Morning News publisher George B. Dealey.

4. Kennedy Memorial

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 653-6666
Address: 500 Main St.

Description: In the Dallas County Historical Plaza, to the immediate east of Old Red, this open-air place of reflection was designed by architect Philip Johnson, a Kennedy family friend. In marked contrast to the ornate old courthouse and the elaborate skyscrapers around it, this white square contains a granite block with the inscription, “John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

5. Majestic Theatre

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 880-0137
Address: 1925 Elm St.

Description: Opened in 1921, this handsome landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted vaudeville shows and performances by the likes of Harry Houdini. A movie house in the 1930s, it was a premiere site visited by John Wayne and other stars promoting films. Today, the renovated showplace hosts performing arts, dance, music, and theater presentations from the Russian ballet to Bill Maher.

6. Old Red Courthouse

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 571-1300
Address: 100 South Houston St.

Description: At Main and Houston, facing Dealey Plaza, this Romanesque Revival structure looks like something conceived in a Hollywood film. The imposing redbrick structure dating from 1892 features gargoyles and other otherworldly details. Extensively updated and remodeled in recent years, it’s a must-see site and home to a Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau information center with 40 kiosks. Traveling history exhibits are always on display, too. An interactive education center lets you “build” a Big D skyscraper and play video history games, participate in mock trials, and learn about Dallas. 

7. Pioneer Plaza

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 953-1184

Description: A 4.2-acre park offers some exceptional, pure Texan photo opportunities. The focal point of this historic site is a larger-than-life-size bronze of cowboys driving more than 40 longhorn cattle along the range. Also in the park, find a historic cemetery, all in the shadows of a modern convention center.

8. The Sixth Floor Museum At Dealey Plaza

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 747-6660
Address: 411 Elm St.

Description: Located in the former Texas School Book Depository, where accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald fatally shot the president, this excellent museum honors the fallen leader and memorializes a seminal event in American history. Self-guided tours are enhanced with an audio unit that explains permanent exhibits and details some 35,000 artifacts relating to the events leading up to and including JFK’s death on November 22, 1963. Private footage is especially interesting. Open daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving.

9. Union Station

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Address: 400 South Houston St.

Description: Opened in 1916, this elegant white-brick building immediately south of Dealey Plaza is a Dallas landmark and was the major portal through which visitors once entered the city. It still serves Amtrak and DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), and it’s a special events center, too, served by Wolfgang Puck Catering.

10. Crow Collection Of Asian Art

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 979-6435
Address: 2010 Flora St.

Description: Housed within the Trammel Crow Center Pavilion, this delightful surprise in a big office building represents a lifetime’s collection by the late real estate tycoon and his wife, Margaret. More than 600 paintings, metal and stone objects, and architectural pieces come from China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. Among rare finds is the sandstone facade of an 18th-century residence from India. A lovely gift shop is on-site, too.

11. Dallas Center For Theperforming Arts

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 954-9925, (214) 880-0202
Address: 2403 Flora St.

Description: Within this stunning new complex, opened in late 2009, are four venues staging myriad entertainment. There’s the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, home to the Dallas Opera and Texas Ballet Theater, as well as touring Broadway shows and the like; the Wyly Theatre, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Rem Koolhaas, serving as home for the Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico; the Elaine D. and Charles A. Sammons Park, a performance space spreading over 10 acres with gardens, trees, and a reflecting pool; and the Annette Strauss Artist Square, another outdoor performance space. Dining options include the Winspear Opera House Café and various concession areas.

12. Dallas Museum Of Art

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 922-1200
Address: 1717 North Harwood St.

Description: Here’s another design from famed architect I. M. Pei. Since 1903, the DMA has been dedicated to collecting and preserving arts from around the globe, spanning times from ancient days to the present. Now a storehouse of more than 23,000 works of art, the DMA is home to pieces from every corner of the world. Among favorite areas is the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection of more than 1,400 works from the Impressionist and post-Impressionist periods, with paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts objects among the treasures.

13. Meyerson Symphony Center

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 670-3600
Address: 2301 Flora St.

Description: Typically there are 325 concert hall events staged annually at this I. M. Pei–designed showplace, which is home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Wind Symphony, and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. The magnificent Lay Family Concert Organ is among the lures. You can dine at Opus, the more elegant restaurant, or at Allegro, offering a buffet.

14. Nasher Sculpture Center

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 242-5100
Address: 2001 Flora St.

Description: Begun more than a half-century ago with the private collection of benefactors Ray and Patsy Nasher, this extraordinary museum offers 54,000 square feet of exhibit space in a building designed by the renowned Renzo Piano. Among 300 pieces in a steady rotation are ones that have been shown at far-flung places like the Forte di Belvedere in Florence, Italy, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It’s hard to believe you’re downtown in this marvelous haven, with indoor and outdoor spaces that transport you. Works range from early modern period to post-war and include those by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, and Henri Matisse.

15. Meadows Museum

City: Dallas, TX
Category: Tours & Attractions
Telephone: (214) 768-2516
Address: 5900 Bishop Blvd. at Southern Methodist

Description: One of the world’s largest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain covers periods from the 10th to 21st centuries. Begun in 1962, the museum houses magnificent pieces that include paintings by Picasso and Miró, as well as first-edition sets of Goya’s four great print series, La Tauromaquia, Los Disparates, Los Caprichos, and Los Desatres de la Guerra. Additional interests are the Meadows’ Renaissance altarpieces, sensational baroque canvases, rococo oil sketches, modernist abstracts, and much more.
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