They say that everything is bigger and better in Texas and that couldn't be more true 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– spanning 68 acres on the northern edge of Downtown Dallas. Here, you'll find the Dallas Museum of Art, one of the nation's top art museums, the Nasher Sculpture Center, home to one of the world's finest contemporary sculpture collections, and the Meyerson Symphony Center, one of the world's finest orchestra halls. Also located in the district is the Crow Collection of Asian Art, featuring one of the most exquisite jade collections in the United States.
Situated across from the district is the award-winning Klyde Warren Park, a 5-acre oasis perched atop a sunken freeway.
At the opposite end of the park is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, an architectural gem featuring five floors of mind-blowing exhibit halls.
In the Historic West End, you'll find the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicling the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
And a visit to Dallas isn't complete without a trip up to Reunion Tower's GeO-Deck for a birds-eye view of the skyline that USA Today 10Best named the best in the world.
Dallas Farmers Market
Tucked in on the east side of downtown, the Dallas Farmers Market (founded in 1941) is widely recognized as one of largest markets in the state, especially now after experiencing a recent makeover. Not only will you find over 153 vendor stalls showcasing seasonal produce, naturally raised meats, cheese, eggs and honey in an open-air pavilion (the Shed), but there's also a massive indoor food hall (the Market) here as well. Opened at the end of 2015, this 26,000-square-foot foodie haven features an ever-growing lineup of artisanal food stalls and eateries-- along with shops peddling everything from T-shirts to Mexican imports and antique furniture. The sprawling space boasts both indoor and outdoor seating, plus it offers killer views of the Dallas skyline. In addition to shopping and eating, the Farmers Market hosts regular activities, ranging from yoga classes and cooking demonstrations to live musical performances and special seasonal events. (214-664-9110)
Dallas World Aquarium
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 (many of which are endangered) 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 brimming with hundreds of Indo-Pacific fish-- as well as a forty-foot long glassed-in tunnel filled with sharks circling overhead. But there's more than fish that meets the eye, visitors can commune with everything from three-toed sloths, manatees and giant river otters to penguins, snakes, tree kangaroos and even a few jaguars. There's also a lush three-level (seven stories in height) recreated South American rain-forest-- complete with free-flying birds, pink flamingos, monkeys and a 40 foot waterfall. Not-to-be-missed are the talks and feeding sessions held throughout the day. Speaking of feeding, human guests have several dining options to choose from, including the Aquarium's eighteen-O-one restaurant, which offers international specialties from Mexico, Indonesia, British Columbia, Australia and Fiji. (214-720-2224)
Crow Collection of Asian Art
This stunning museum in Dallas' Arts District contains a carefully curated collection of over 600 master works hailing from Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia. Most of the pieces come from the private collection of local real estate developer Trammel Crow and his wife Margaret. Here, visitors can explore a series of galleries showcasing art objects, paintings, scrolls and large architectural pieces, some of which dates back to the 10th century. The museum also hosts special exhibitions featuring art from renowned collectors, other museums and private institutions throughout the world. Highlights include one of the most exquisite jade collections in the U.S. and a suit of Samurai armor from the Edo period, one of the museum's most valued acquisitions to date. Additional works by artists Liu Yonggang, Wang Shugang and Qin Feng can be found in the museum's gorgeous sculpture garden. Best of all, admission to the museum is free. (214-979-6430)
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
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 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. But there's much more to see here, including a host of powerful images, documents, artifacts, video footage and home movies. After visiting the museum, be sure to go down to the grassy knoll to gain more perspective about what transpired that tragic day. (214-747-6660)
Nasher Sculpture Center
Located next to the Dallas Museum of Art, this outstanding 55,000-square-foot facility, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, showcases the private sculpture collection of real estate developer Raymond Nasher and his wife Nancy. The collection is considered to be one of the most extraordinary assemblages of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world, with more than 300 significant works of art from masters such as Rodin, Brancusi, Matisse, Picasso, Koons, Calder and Miró. In addition to the treasures to behold inside the center, visitors will find around twenty-five more sculptures scattered around a lush 1.4-acre garden that surrounds the complex. The center also offers a variety of year-round programs, including hands-on art classes, lectures, live music and film screenings. (214-242-5100)
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-- encompass 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. Especially interesting is Wendy and Emory Reves' collection of over 1,400 objects (jewelry, furniture and paintings by impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist masters), on display in a 15,000-square-foot replica of their villa on the French Riviera. The museum also hosts regular exhibitions and a diverse array of programming. 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. (214-922-1200)
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, it's also one of the most visited, especially since the new observation deck opened in late 2013. Unless you're coming to eat or drink in Wolfgang Puck's famed Five Sixty restaurant, located at the top (560 feet up), the only way up is by purchasing a ticket for the GeO-Deck, a viewing platform situated at 470 feet, offering 360-degree views across the city and beyond. The attraction is comprised of an outside deck equipped with high-powered telescopes and an indoor area filled with informative touch screens and high-definition zoom cameras allowing guests to get up close and personal with the city. (214-712-7040)
Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center
Opened in 1989, this $108-million jewel in the Dallas Arts District ranks among some of the world's greatest orchestra halls – and with reason. Not only is the Meyerson an architectural gem, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect I.M. Pei (who designed the Louvre Pyramid), it's also an acoustical marvel, thanks to the genius of internationally-renowned acoustician Russell Johnson. It's been said that the quality of the acoustics is so phenomenal that you can even hear a whisper. Home to the world-class Dallas Symphony Orchestra as well as the Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Wind Symphony and the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, the center offers a packed schedule of performances (including some that are free) throughout the year. You can also catch shows here by visiting musical luminaries like Itzhak Pearlman and Tony Bennett. Not into classical music? No problem. The Meyerson's diverse programming covers the spectrum from Beatles tributes, jazz concerts and punk rock organ music to family-friendly performances-- complete with an instrument petting zoo before the show. Be sure to keep an eye out for recitals on the C.B. Fisk Opus 4,500-pipe organ--it's always a unique treat. (214-670-3600)
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Whether you're a science buff or just have a curious mind, the world-class Perot Museum offers a treasure trove of goodies that are certain to fascinate visitors of any age. Opened in 2012, this stunning 180,000-square-foot architectural gem, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis-- features five floors of mind-blowing exhibit halls filled with hands-on activities, interactive kiosks and a state-of-the-art multimedia cinema. Highlights include a children's museum with a dinosaur dig, a hall of gems and minerals with a 5-foot geode and an earth hall where you can experience an earthquake. Not to be missed is the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall where explorers can build robots and create their own digital music. 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. (214-428-5555)
Klyde Warren Park
Perched atop a sunken freeway, this nationally acclaimed 5-acre oasis is just one of the examples of what makes Dallas' downtown area so dynamic. The park was opened in 2012 for the purpose of encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic to the area as well as to be a central gathering place for locals and visitors to enjoy. Today, the resplendent space is abound with year round programming, ranging from fitness sessions, dance lessons and lawn games to children's entertainment, musical performances and film screenings. There are also special areas within the park allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing board games. In case you work up an appetite after all of the activities, you can tempt your taste buds at the park's chic gastro-pub, Savor, it's companion kiosk, Relish-- or from a variety of food trucks stationed along the side. (214-716-4500)
About Ilene Jacobs
As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. Ilene got hooked on this wanderlust lifestyle after spending 10 years as a university student in Paris where she spent most of her time eating her way around France.
When she's not writing about the latest happenings in her hometown of Dallas, she's hanging out in Paris and road tripping around Europe with her spunky teenage son.
You can find Ilene's articles about her favorite hot spots and foodie finds at 10Best.com, CBSDFW.com and Examiner.com.
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