Dallas Attractions: A Wonderful Blend of History, Culture and Fun
By Denise Brandenberg
Dallas Local Expert
While everyone knows that Dallas is the place for shopping and dining, discerning travelers can also find a wide variety of attractions and activities in Dallas. As Big D features beautiful weather for most of the year, some attractions offer beautiful outdoor scenery with plenty of pathways and walking trails, such as the Dallas Arboretum and White Rock Lake Park.
Other Dallas landmarks are where significant historical events occurred, and visitors can see them in perfectly restored settings. Culture lovers can visit one of many area museums that feature a wide variety of art exhibits – from the roots of modern art to outdoor sculpture gardens. In fact, the downtown area of Dallas is a constantly-evolving work of art ideal for architecture buffs. If traveling with children (or kids at heart), visit the fun and educational Dallas Zoo and Dallas World Aquarium to see some of nature’s most magnificent creatures up close.
Visitors can choose from a wide variety of attractions to fit their schedules and interests. There are plenty of places perfect for a single free afternoon, while other venues offer so many sights, that the traveler will need a full day (or two or three) to take it all in. No matter where you go, expect friendly, Texas hospitality at all the best Dallas attractions.
10 Mesquite Championship Rodeo
From June through August, the Mesquite Championship Rodeo takes place in 5300-seat, air-conditioned Resistol Arena (renovated in 2009) just east of Dallas. More than 200,000 visitors show up to experience championship rodeo events, including bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, and barrel racing. The rodeo is also a great family activity, complete with mechanical bull, pony rides, and a Western store. Kids can participate in a baby cattle chasing event as well. Each Friday and Saturday, the action starts with a laser and pyrotechnics show. For convenience, competitions are broadcast on jumbo video boards throughout the venue. Remember, when in Texas, do as the Texans do! (972-285-8777)
9 Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, located at historic Dealey Plaza in the former Texas School Book Depository building, examines the life, times, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Its impressive collection includes nearly 40,000 photographs, interviews, artifacts, interpretive displays and award-winning videos that chronicle the historic chain of events preceding his assassination on November 22, 1963. Visitors can also enjoy interactive educational programs on the sixth and seventh floors. If you can't put down your smartphone, use it to explore the museum and Dealey Plaza. After a contemplative walk-through, you'll want to be sure to visit the museum store for keepsakes. (214-747-6660, 888-485-4854)
8 Nasher Sculpture Center
Located next to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center is one of the premier art museums in Dallas, Texas. The center seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor galleries: while it's reminiscent of an archaeological site, it is thoroughly modern, producing a fascinating dichotomy. Plan to spend a morning or afternoon there, as there is much to see. And your kids will even enjoy this type of art! The fabulous collection includes works by greats like Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Joan Miró --- the list goes on and on. (214-242-5100, 214-242-5118)
7 George W. Bush Presidential Center
The George W. Bush Presidential Center is the home of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and the Bush Institute. Visitors can gain access to a wide variety of official records and artifacts from the Bush presidential term, including more than 70 million pages of paper records, four million digital photos and 200 million emails. The museum also features a full-scale replica of Bush's Oval Office, steel from the World Trade Center, and Florida voting chads from the 2000 election. Visitors are invited to scrutinize some of Bush's most controversial choices in interactive exhibits that put them in his position when he faced the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the financial bailout. This Dallas attraction is located on a 15-acre park on the campus of Southern Methodist University in the University Park neighborhood. ((214) 200-4300, (855) 577-4300)
6 Dallas Museum of Art
As its name might suggest, the Dallas Museum of Art is the number one stop among art museums in Dallas, Texas. Its more than 23,000-item collection embraces everything from European paintings to Pacific Island sculptures, from ancient times to the present. Frederic Church's "The Icebergs" and classic Impressionist works by Edouard Manet and Paul Gauguin are just a few of the standouts. Limestone galleries spiral from the museum's center, ensuring easy navigation and outstanding viewing. This museum always has several international exhibitions on display, as well as a wide variety of permanent collections, such as the African collection and the Ancient Mediterranean art collection (214-922-1200, 214-922-1803)
5 White Rock Lake Park
Set on the shores of a reservoir constructed in 1911, this city park's grounds in Dallas, Texas offer some of the best outdoor recreation around. White Rock Lake encompasses over 1,000 acres of wooded parkland and features 9 miles of jogging and biking trails perfect for spending the day outdoors. Bird sanctuaries are located on the premises, along with wetland sites endorsed by the Audubon Society. In addition, the park provides scenic views of the Downtown Dallas skyline and some fantastic fishing spots. Pack up a delicious picnic and plan on spending the day at this beautiful, quiet spot that is a favorite of Dallas locals. (214-670-8283, 214-670-8740)
4 Dallas World Aquarium
From the outside, you may not even realize what a fantastic spot the Dallas World Aquarium really is! Frenzied crocodile feedings, exotic birds soaring freely overhead, a 40-foot waterfall and mesmerizing Mayan dance performances are just a sliver of the thrilling sights and sounds awaiting visitors in the multi-level rainforest of the Dallas World Aquarium. This fantastically fun, one-of-a-kind zoological park features such incredible highlights as free-roaming New World monkeys, rare Antillean manatees, sloths, crocodiles, a panther, sea turtles, majestic jaguars, frolicsome otters, car-sized catfish, a 400,000-gallon shark tank and heartwarming sloth and penguin feedings. The aquarium is stroller-friendly, so it's perfect for young families. (214-720-2224)
3 Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Located on the eastern shores of White Rock Lake, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden features 66 acres of blooming flower beds, manicured lawns and lush trees. The gardens house over 2400 types of azaleas, including the only publicly accessible Huang Collection specimens found outside China. The property also showcases beautiful statuary and the DeGolyer Mansion, an exquisite Spanish-style hacienda commissioned in 1940 by Texas oil baron Everett DeGolyer. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden hosts a number of special events and festivals and makes a great stop for a scenic picnic. Visit during the autumn season and spring seasons to see amazing seasonal exhibits. (214-515-6500)
2 Perot Museum of Nature and Science
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is Dallas' newest museum. It is the combination of three already-established museums, the Dallas Museum of Natural History, Dallas Children's Museum and the The Science Place. This new museum is conveniently located near the Arts District and Klyde Warren Park along Woodall Rogers Freeway, between Downtown and Uptown. Opening its doors for the first time on December 1, 2012, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science features a wide variety of exhibits and activities perfect for the whole family, including an IMAX theater; an outdoor plaza; a one-acre science park with water features, giant leap frogs and musical instruments; and a Texas-inspired landscape design. Visitors are greeted by a Malawisaurus dinosaur fossil and "dancing water" molecule exhibit in the museum's lobby. ((214) 428-5555)
1 Dallas Zoo
On a gorgeous day, there are few better places to bring curious kiddos than the Dallas Zoo, home to approximately 8,000 captivating creatures. The renowned "Wilds of Africa" exhibit is always a crowd-pleaser, with highlights including playful chimps, majestic African elephants and relaxing monorail tours. Feed the giraffes and eat lunch overlooking the lion exhibit before heading to the well-loved children's zoo, where young visitors can pet pygmy goats, ride ponies and feed the birds. This popular children's attraction always has seasonal events, like trick or treating at Halloween. Kids will also love the monorail train that whisks visitors through the park. (214-670-6826)
About Denise Brandenberg
Born and raised in Dallas, Denise Brandenberg has been a self-proclaimed “Dallas Ambassador” for out-of-town friends and colleagues for years. Denise started her career as an advertising agency copywriter, recruiter, and manager of online forums for an international meeting planning association. She ventured off on her own a few years ago, to start an adventurous career as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Denise’s other work can be found at Global Road Warrior, USA Today, Chron.com, The Motley Fool, LovetoKnow, The Meeting Professional, and several other online publications.
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