The city of Dallas has a rich history rooted in ranching, farming, and oil production, growing rapidly as a trade center after the introduction of the railroad in 1873. After WWII, the city became home to numerous insurance corporations and banks, making it an important business and financial center - perfect fodder for that most famous of soap operas about power, money, and intrigue: Dallas.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Dallas
1. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Forever etched in infamy, the former Texas School Book Depository at the intersection of Houston and Elm Streets in Dallas is now home to a museum dedicated to remembering one of the nation's most tragic and defining moments: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Visitors to the museum are first introduced to the historical context with multimedia exhibits that describe the political climate of the early 1960s and then go on to highlight President Kennedy's trip to Texas in November of 1963 and the last days of his life. Just past here, you will see the sniper's perch in the corner window from which Oswald took the deadly shots, recreated to match the original photos from the crime scene.
The remaining exhibits walk you through the tense hours following the shooting. These include recollections of the state of shock that enveloped the nation and the world, the investigations that followed, and JFK's legacy. Exhibits also include historical artifacts, like a replica of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found at the crime scene, the scale model of Dealey Plaza used by FBI agents during the investigation, forensic evidence, and items such as Lee Harvey Oswald's wedding ring and Jack Ruby's hat.
To get more from your visit, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza tour includes admission to the museum and a guided audio tour that expands upon the information in the exhibits. The tour includes narration by Pierce Allman, as well as audio clips of actual radio broadcasts, eyewitness reports, and police statements from the event and the days following the tragedy.
2. John F. Kennedy Memorial
Located just a few blocks away from Dealey Plaza, across from the city courthouse, stands the John F. Kennedy Memorial. This imposing yet understated monument to President Kennedy was designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson, and its construction was completed in 1970 after years of controversy.
Resembling a cenotaph, the open tomb concept was designed by Johnson to represent what he saw as Kennedy's free spirit. Standing some 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide and made from large marble slabs, it's certainly an impressive site. Be sure to read the two epitaphs located at the entrances to the monument; they contain a thought-provoking remembrance of the President.
3. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Located just minutes from downtown Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden sits on 66 acres along the southeast shore of White Rock Lake. The property's fourteen world-famous displays showcase seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees, and plant collections. The gardens also host seasonal outdoor festivals, concerts, art shows, and educational programs, and guided tours of the property are available.
Although conceived in the early 1930s, this splendid tourist attraction didn't become a reality until 1984, when the park was laid out on the grounds of a mansion built in 1939. Adding to the fun are the exquisite sculptures and fountains in areas with names like Toad's Corner, Texas Town, and Pecan Grove.
Be sure to do a little exploring around White Rock Lake Park, too. Surrounded by 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, this huge lake covers an area of over 1,000 acres and is known for its excellent bird and wildlife spotting, as well as fishing and sailing experiences.
4. Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Housed in a massive architectural masterpiece designed by Thom Mayne, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a top Dallas attraction for families and curious tourists.
The building itself was designed with sustainability as a foremost goal. Innovative eco-friendly design features include summer water conservation with the use of recaptured condensation from air conditioners and drip irrigation, the use of recycled and locally sourced building materials, and solar-powered water heaters.
The museum is divided into thematic areas with interactive educational stations, games, and high-tech displays. These themes include engineering and innovation, energy, evolution, earth sciences, and more. It also features a 3D theater, the Moody Family Children's Museum and playground, and a 54-foot escalator that overlooks the property from within a glass enclosure.
5. Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art has been a long-standing institution in the city since it opened in 1903. One of the 10 largest museums in the United States, it has a collection of more than 24,000 works from the Americas and around the globe, including everything from ancient artifacts to contemporary art.
Highlights from the collection include Classical art and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, paintings by Claude Monet in the European art gallery, and several contemporary pieces by Jackson Pollock. In addition to the permanent collections, temporary exhibits highlight the work of prominent artists, explore thematic topics, and display historic collections.
Another art exhibit worth catching is the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. Housed in a recreation of the Reves Villa, highlights include Impressionist paintings, antique carpets, Chinese porcelain, and early Renaissance and 17th-century European furniture.
6. Dallas World Aquarium
Conveniently located within easy walking distance of the city's historic downtown core, Dallas World Aquarium is a fun and educational excursion for young and old alike. Housed in some 87,000 gallons of saltwater are a vast array of sea life including bonnethead sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, sea turtles, giant groupers, and rare leafy seadragons, all living in natural reef settings.
A fun highlight is the Orinoco Rainforest exhibit. This fun attraction comes complete with numerous free-flying birds, such as toucans, along with tree sloths and aquatic species such as Orinoco crocodiles and poison dart frogs. Be sure to check the feeding schedule before arrival for a chance to see the animals at their most animated, as well as for details of upcoming talks and lectures.
7. Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures at Pioneer Plaza
Pioneer Park, maintained by the adjacent Dallas Convention Center, is designed to resemble a section of the Shawnee Trail, a major Texas cattle drive route in the 19th century. It's a beautiful, large green space in Dallas's central business district that's fun to wander, and even features a stream that falls over limestone cliffs.
But its most remarkable features are the 49 larger-than-life bronze sculptures of Texas Longhorn cattle that are being herded through the park and across the creek by three mounted cowboys. Designed by artist Robert Summers, the park is landscaped to reproduce the scene of the iconic industry that defined early Texas.
8. Dallas Zoo
The Dallas Zoo is a 106-acre park housing more than 2,000 exotic animals from 406 species in a variety of different habitats. Always popular with families, this fun attraction - just three miles away from the city center - was established in 1888, making it one of the oldest zoos in the United States.
Focusing on two major regions - ZooNorth and the Wilds of Africa - the zoo includes highlights such as Giants of the Savanna, the Otter Outpost, the excellent Wildlife Amphitheater with its displays of birds in flight, and the Endangered Tiger Habitat with its forest-like setting.
The newly refurbished Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail takes park visitors on a journey through the Great Rift Valley and habitats of African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Another attraction kids will love is the Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park. This fun theme park features enough bungee jumps and free-falling rides to keep them amused for hours.
9. Reunion Tower
While not the tallest building in Dallas, the Reunion Tower is undoubtedly the most distinguished and most recognizable. Completed in 1978 and appearing as a geodesic ball perched atop five cylindrical concrete poles, its 560-foot length is spectacularly lit up at night, emphasizing its unique outline.
After renovations in 2011, the Reunion Tower now boasts a revolving restaurant with 360-degree views over Dallas. Other highlights include the GeO-Deck observation level, home to an informative interactive display providing details about the building and notable landmarks.
10. The Nasher Sculpture Center
Opened in 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center has a collection of modern and contemporary sculpture and contains exhibits exploring the history of the art of sculpture. Located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and just steps away from the Dallas Museum of Art, it also features a number of large outdoor sculptures on display throughout the tree-lined grounds.
Highlights of its interior exhibits include pieces by Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, and Andy Warhol. The museum and sculpture park also regularly host events, including lectures and concerts.
Another gallery worth visiting is the nearby Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art. Located in the University of Texas at Dallas, this art museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia.