Ten Awesome Things to See and Do in Downtown Dallas
BY ILENE JACOBS
DALLAS LOCAL EXPERT
They say that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and that couldn’t be truer than in Downtown Dallas where you can find some of the biggest and best attractions in the country.
First up is the Dallas Arts District– the largest urban arts district in the country. Covering 68 acres and 19 continuous blocks, the District boasts a slew of world-class visual and performing arts venues as well as everything from restaurants and sculpture gardens to one of the world’s largest collections of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects. Also, in the Arts District is Klyde Warren Park, a lush slice of green space stretching 5.2 miles across a sunken freeway. And at the opposite end of the park is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, another architectural gem featuring five floors of mind-blowing exhibit halls.
Of course, a visit to Dallas isn’t complete without a trip to the top of Reunion Tower. It’s the best place in town for a photo-op of the city’s skyline.
Need more ideas on what to see and do in Downtown Dallas? Then keep reading, we’re sure there’s something on this 10best list to please every type of visitor.
10 DALLAS FARMERS MARKET DOWNTOWN Photo courtesy of Dallas Farmers Market
Tucked in on the east side of downtown, the Dallas Farmers Market (founded in 1941) is widely recognized as one of the largest markets in the state. Not only will you find over 150 vendors showcasing seasonal produce, naturally raised meats, cheese, eggs and honey in an open-air pavilion (the Shed), but there’s also a massive indoor hall (the Market) boasting everything from artisanal food stalls to an eclectic mix of shops. In addition to shopping and eating, the Farmers Market hosts regular activities, ranging from yoga classes and cooking demonstrations to live musical performances and fun seasonal events.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Dallas Farmers Market is a terrific place to taste international food and pick up souvenirs.
Ilene’s expert tip: There are a variety of parking lots and metered parking spots available nearby. Visitors can also get here via the complimentary the Dallas Farmers Market free shuttle, which can be booked by calling 469-445-0720 for pickup up at Akard and Main & Akard and Commerce. at 469.445.0720 for pickup at Akard and Main, and Akard and Commerce.
Read more about Dallas Farmers Market →
9 DALLAS WORLD AQUARIUM WEST END Photo courtesy of Brandi McComb Photography
Nestled inside a massive refurbished warehouse in Dallas’ Historic West End District, this privately-owned aquatic wonderland is home to countless varieties of marine life from all over the world. In addition to stingrays, piranhas, electric eels, poison dart frogs and Orinoco crocodiles, the aquarium boasts a 20,000-gallon walk-through exhibit which includes a forty-foot long glassed-in tunnel filled with sharks that circle overhead. Visitors can also check out a lush three-level recreated South American rain-forest as well as get up close and personal with manatees, giant river otters, three-toed sloths, penguins and more.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Dallas World Aquarium is a must-see for animal lovers of all ages.
Ilene’s expert tip: As of April 2021, the Aquarium is offering priority to guests who purchase timed-entry tickets online in advance. Tickets are also available on-site. Face coverings are still required for all employees and guests.
Read more about Dallas World Aquarium →
8 MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS WEST END Photo courtesy of Museum of Illusions
Recently opened in downtown’s West End, this edutainment-based museum brings forth a dizzying array of optical illusions designed to offer an insight into why the eyes can see things that the brain cannot explain. The museum, which is part of a global franchise that started Zagreb, Croatia in 2015, is an Instagrammers dream come true with over 60 exhibits featuring everything from holograms to installations and interactive illusion rooms. Visitors can expect to find a vortex tunnel, a reverse room, a tilted room, an infinity room and a Beuchet chair as well as a smart playroom filled with a variety of puzzles, brain teasers and mathematical games. If you’re looking for an attraction that will appeal to a variety of ages, this emporium of mind-bending fun is the place to go.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Museum of Illusions is a fantastical experience for all ages.
Ilene’s expert tip: Currently, MOI is operating under COVID safety protocols which include limiting capacity by requiring visitors to purchase tickets online in advance of coming.
Read more about Museum of Illusions →
7 SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA WEST END Photo courtesy of DCVB
Whether you’re a history buff or a conspiracy theorist, you’ll find the Sixth Floor Museum an interesting source of information about the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The museum’s exhibits contain over 45,000 items, ranging from artifacts to home movies and video footage, documenting Kennedy’s presidency through to his final days. One of the highlights of the tour is the Plexiglas enclosed area where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have fired the fateful shot. After visiting the museum, be sure to go down to the grassy knoll to gain more perspective about what transpired that tragic day.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Sixth Floor Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Dallas.
Ilene’s expert tip: As of April 2021, all tickets must be purchased in advance, and face coverings are required for all visitors over the age of two.
Read more about Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza →
6 DALLAS HOLOCAUST AND HUMAN RIGHTS MUSEUM WEST END Photo courtesy of Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Recently re-opened in a larger location in the West End, the Dallas Holocaust museum not only offers visitors a harrowing glimpse into the Holocaust, but it also addresses other 20th century genocides as well as the American Civil Rights Movement. Among the technologically enhanced exhibits are video testimonies from Holocaust survivors, an original Nazi-era boxcar and numerous items recovered from concentration camps. A centerpiece of the museum is the Dimensions in Testimony Theater (one of only two such theaters in the world), which uses holographic imagery to facilitate real-time interactions with Dallas Holocaust survivor, Max Glauben. Note that the museum is recommended for ages 12 and over.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Dallas Holocaust Museum is one of only 21 museums of its kind in the nation.
Ilene’s expert tip: Note that as of April 2021, the museum requires guests to purchase timed-entry tickets online in advance as well as face coverings for everyone over the age of 2 years. Also check opening and closing times before you go. At present, the museum has modified its hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Read more about Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum →
5 DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART DOWNTOWN Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art
The sprawling 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, offers one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation. Its permanent holdings, dating back from the third millennium BC to the present day– encompasses over 23,000 works of paintings, sculptures, jewelry and artifacts from all over the world. Here, you’ll find masterpieces from heavy hitters such as Pollock, Rothko, Monet, Rodin and Picasso to name a few. Beyond the galleries, the museum houses a children’s creative zone, a sculpture garden and a cafe featuring a window of Dale Chihuly’s glass flowers. And with the exception of certain exhibitions and events, general admission to the museum is always free.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Dallas Museum of Art houses one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation.
Ilene’s expert tip: Free general admission entry to the DMA now requires a timed ticket secured in advance in order to maintain limited capacity. Also note that as of April 2021, all visitors and employees are required to wear face masks while visiting the Museum.
Read more about Dallas Museum of Art →
4 REUNION TOWER DOWNTOWN Photo courtesy of Reunion Tower
When you think of Dallas, the first image that comes to mind is Reunion Tower– which has graced the city’s skyline with its flickering orb since 1978. The Tower is not only the city’s most iconic landmark, but its revolving GeO-Deck viewing platform is also one of the most visited. Situated 470 feet above the ground, the attraction features an outside deck as well as an indoor area filled with interactive touch screens and high-definition zoom cameras providing visitors 360-degree views across the city and beyond.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: Reunion Tower is Dallas’ most iconic landmark and offers some of the best views of the city.
Ilene’s expert tip: Save on admission to the GeO-Deck with Dallas CityPass.
Read more about Reunion Tower →
3 DALLAS ARTS DISTRICT DOWNTOWN Photo courtesy of Nigel Young/ Foster & Partners
Spanning 68-acres and 19 contiguous blocks, the Dallas Arts District is considered as the largest urban entertainment complex in the nation. Not only does the District offer several superb performance venues, including the nationally acclaimed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and three world-class museums (the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art), it also houses one of the world’s largest collections of Pritzker Prize-winning buildings in one location. Other not-to-be-missed gems include the nineteenth-century Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Klyde Warren Park, and a half-acre sculpture walk adjacent to KPMG Plaza.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Dallas Arts District is considered to be the largest urban entertainment district in the nation.
Ilene’s expert tip: Note that it’s free to visit the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. Also, the Arts District offers 90-minute architecture walking tours by reservation ($10 for adults/$5 for students and seniors/free for kids under 12) on the first and third Saturday of the month.
Read more about Dallas Arts District →
2 PEROT MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE VICTORY PARK Photo courtesy of Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, this stunning 180,000-square-foot science museum on the outer edge of the Arts District boasts five floors of interactive exhibits focusing on everything from earth and space to geology, paleontology and engineering. Highlights include a children’s museum with a dinosaur dig, an earthquake simulator, and a gallery of gems and minerals featuring a 5-foot geode. A good way to start is to take the external glass escalator up to the top and work your way down while enjoying the panoramic views of downtown Dallas.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: The Perot Museum is the best place in Dallas for science nerds to geek out.
Ilene’s expert tip: As of April 2021, CDC COVID safety protocols are in place, which includes mandatory face coverings for all guests 3+ and purchasing timed-entry tickets online before you visit.
Read more about Perot Museum of Nature and Science →
1 KLYDE WARREN PARK DOWNTOWN Photo courtesy of Klyde Warren Park
Perched atop a sunken freeway in the Dallas Arts District, this 5.2-acre linear park is considered one of Dallas’ premier community gathering spots, boasting everything from food trucks and a butterfly garden to special areas allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing games. It is also flush with year-round programs, including fitness sessions, dance lessons, yoga, children’s entertainment, musical performances and film screenings. Did we mention that this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline? No wonder this place attracts more than a million visitors a year.
Recommended for Downtown Dallas’ Best Attractions because: Klyde Warren Park is a terrific place to hang out both during the day and at night.
Ilene’s expert tip: Park for free in the West Village off McKinney Ave and hop on the complimentary M-Line trolley to get to the park.