Putting together an itinerary for seeing all the best sights in Dallas this vacation? Or are you planning a Dallas "staycation" for the family this holiday season? Perhaps you've got a few hours to kill between business meetings, and want to know the best stuff to see, or you're putting together a comprehensive weekly plan. Either way, our 10Best list should have you covered. While there are always great things to experience, there are typically things you wish you would have passed on as well. Don't worry - stick to our list and your Dallas vacation will be a hit!
Many of our favorite spots are located in the Downtown Dallas area. Start off your day by heading downtown and kicking off your sightseeing extravaganza with a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which gives history buffs a unique look at the JFK assassination. Then lighten the mood by delighting the kids with a trip to the Dallas World Aquarium, just around the block. This hidden rainforest features free-roaming monkeys, jaguars and a shark tank.
If you want to see some of Dallas' newest sightseeing spots, go to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Or, if you want to get a real Texan experience, make plans to attend the Mesquite Rodeo or tour Southfork Ranch, where "Dallas" is set.
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. (214-515-6500)
"Dallas" was possibly one of TV's most popular shows, and Southfork Ranch provided the setting for the Texas intrigues of J.R. and the Ewings. The 300-acre, once-working ranch is now a popular Dallas tourist stop and attracts some 400,000 visitors annually. The one-hour tour includes a stop in the studio, which plays clips from the famous television show. Visitors can drop by the Oil Baron's Ballroom, shop at the Ranch RoundUp, or grab a bite at Miss Ellie's Delicatessen. The ranch hosts more than 1,400 private events every year. It is located about 25 miles northeast of Dallas in Parker, Texas. (972-442-7800, 800-989-7800)
Oil and cattle made Dallas what it is today, and the sculpture that distinguishes this plaza celebrates the city's history. Located adjacent to Dallas Convention Center, Pioneer Plaza measures 4.2 acres and features a world-renowned bronze. The life-sized sculpture, considered the largest of its kind, is by Robert Summers and showcases a 19th-century cattle drive. Portrayed are three cowboys on horseback and 49 steers -- an impressive sight to behold! This bronze replica of a cattle drive covers a small hill and even crosses a stream. The life-like appearance of the statues - some are even galloping - is worth the trip to this wonderful (and FREE) Dallas attraction. (214-939-2724, 214-939-2700)
Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park
Step back in time at this quaint, Victorian-era park and attraction. Created in 1976, the complex sits on 13 acres and features almost 40 historic buildings. Visitors can tour a blacksmith shop, a general store, and even the inside of a teepee. The facility also features a Victorian bandstand and a church. Dallas Heritage Village offers an intriguing look at what life in North Texas was like over a hundred years ago. Even better, living history interpreters bring the era to life with informative commentary and experiences. Kids will love the general store where they can put on an apron, play with a real antique register and wrap their gifts in brown paper and twine. (214-421-5141, 214-428-5448)
Nasher Sculpture Center
Located just across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center is a carefully-planned indoor/outdoor sculpture museum in the heart of Downtown Dallas in the Arts District. The fabulous collection features many works by greats like Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons - and the list goes on and on. Visitors can unwind and relax in the quiet little garden that features Dallas skyline views. This is a perfect outing for art lovers of all ages, and a great place to host a wedding reception. (214-242-5100, 214-242-5118)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald was during the JFK assassination, is the perfect museum for history buffs and conspiracy theorists alike. This museum features around 400 photographs, interviews, artifacts, interpretive displays and award-winning videos that chronicle the historic chain of events that preceded and surrounded JFK's assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Visitors receive audio devices and can watch movies, listen to radio broadcasts and view evidence from the fateful day. The museum also features a small model of the building and the presidential motorcade route, along with the trajectory of the three bullets that hit the president. (214-747-6660, 888-485-4854)
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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