Best Things to Do in Dallas

The Top 10 Must See Attractions in Dallas

Dallas may be the state’s third most populous city, but in terms of visitor destinations, it ranks among the top in the nation. Which should come as no surprise, considering the city has so much to offer.

To start, Dallas is home to the largest concentrated urban Arts District in the nation, boasting 19 blocks of world-class performance halls, museums and eateries. Then there’s the Dallas Arboretum, a nature lover’s utopia featuring sixty-six acres of endless seasonal plants in a serene setting overlooking White Rock Lake.  

Of course, one of the city’s most visited attractions is the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, where visitors can get a glimpse into the life, death and legacy of John F. Kennedy. Speaking of presidential history, the George W. Bush Presidential Center is located here, too.

And these are just a few of the city's many attractions. Read on to see the essential ones you won’t want to miss.


Reunion Tower
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. Keep an eye on the website's calendar for ongoing special events, ranging from sunset yoga to wine tasting and painting sessions.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Reunion Tower is Dallas' most iconic landmark and offers some of the best views of the city.

Ilene's expert tip: For $5 more than the general admission, consider purchasing a day and night ticket which allows you to visit during the day and come back at night to experience the city lights.

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George W. Bush Presidential Center
Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

Second in size behind Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, this stunning complex on the Southern Methodist University campus encompasses not only a library and museum but also the George W. Bush Policy Institute and the George W. Bush Foundation. However, most visitors will only see the museum, which features 14,000-square-feet of exhibits and interactive displays, including a 22-foot tall ravaged steel beam from the World Trade Center and a full-scale walk-through replica of the Bush Oval Office. Also on view are some of the gifts given to the President and First Lady from foreign Heads of State.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a great place for history buffs of all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: There is a parking lot adjacent to the library or if it's full there are several parking garages located a short walk away on the SMU campus. This venue is included in Dallas CityPASS. Weekday afternoons are the least crowded.

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Dallas Zoo
Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo

Boasting over 2,000 animals from roughly 400 species, the 106-acre Dallas Zoo is the largest and oldest zoological park in the state. But there's more going on here than your usual walk-through animal exhibits. Most of the enclosures have been constructed to replicate the animals' natural environments. Among them include the 11-acre Giants of the Savanna, the only zoo exhibit in the United States to mix elephants and other species in the same habitat. There's also a children's zoo, giraffe feedings, daily animal demonstrations, a miniature train and a carousel. Take your zoo experience to the next level by reserving a spot on the 90-minute backstage safari.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Dallas Zoo has been nationally recognized by numerous publications as one of the top zoos in the country.

Ilene's expert tip: All guests are required to reserve tickets online prior to visiting. Admission is only $8 on the first Tuesday of each month.

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Klyde Warren Park
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 a butterfly garden to special areas allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing games. The park also offers a broad range of year-round programming, including daily fitness classes, yoga, children's story times, musical performances and even film screenings. Did we mention this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline? The food trucks parked along the side are a big draw, too.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Klyde Warren Park offers an endless supply of free things to do.

Ilene's expert tip: Park for free in the West Village off McKinney Ave and hop on the free trolley to get to the park.

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Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Photo courtesy of Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden Facebook page

Set along the shores of White Rock Lake, this 66-acre oasis boasts endless seasonal flowers and plant displays as well as an 8-acre, interactive children's garden featuring everything from cascading waterfalls to a treetop canopy walk and two-story treehouse. In addition to educational programs for children and adults, the Arboretum hosts a variety of public events, ranging from art shows to concerts and seasonal festivals. Speaking of festivals, try to plan your visit in the spring for Dallas Blooms, where over 500,000 blooming bulbs and annuals blanket the entire park with a vibrant display of color.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Dallas Arboretum is one of the most visited botanical gardens in the country.

Ilene's expert tip: Admission is only $3 in August. Save $4 on parking by purchasing your parking ticket online. Bogo Wednesdays: On select Wednesdays, guests can score one free admission with one paid admission. See under discounts on website for details.

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Dallas World Aquarium
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 that 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 Best Attractions & Activities because: The World Aquarium is jam-packed with enough exhibits and interactive features to keep both kids and adults engaged for hours.

Ilene's expert tip: The Aquarium has implemented a timed-entry system for tickets, though walk-in admission is still welcome. Presently, the feeding sessions are closed to the public due to social distancing requirements. Be sure to check the website for updates.

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Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
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 Holocaust survivors. Note that the museum is recommended for ages 12 and over.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Dallas Holocaust Museum is a first of its kind to honor both human rights and the memory of the Holocaust.

Ilene's expert tip: Bank of America cardholders receive free admission to the Museum on the first full weekend of every month. Be sure to check in with guest services upon arrival to reserve a time slot for the Dimensions in Testimony Theater.

Read more about Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum →

Perot Museum of Nature and Science
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 Best Attractions & Activities because: The Perot Museum is the best place in Dallas for science nerds to geek out.

Ilene's expert tip: The museum is enforcing timed-ticketing for guests to enter. It's highly recommended to purchase your tickets online in advance of coming. You can also save on admission to the Perot Museum with Dallas CityPASS. Best time to come is after 2 p.m. weekdays.

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Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
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 Best Attractions & Activities because: The Sixth Floor Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Dallas.

Ilene's expert tip: All timed-entry tickets must be purchased in advance. The free D-Link bus stops directly outside the Museum at Houston & Elm.

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Dallas Arts District
Photo courtesy of Nigel Young/ Foster & Partners

Spanning 68-acres and 19 contiguous blocks, the Dallas Arts District is considered the largest urban arts complex in the nation. Not only does the District offer several superb performance venues, including the nationally acclaimed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, plus 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 and a half-acre sculpture walk adjacent to KPMG Plaza.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Between the museums, the architecture and the public art, the Dallas Arts District is the best place to get your fill of eye-candy.

Ilene's expert tip: The best way to fully explore the district is to take one of the 90-minute architecture walking tours offered on the first and third Saturdays of the month. More information is available on the website. Note that there is free admission to the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Dallas Museum of Art.

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Meet 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. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene