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 it's also one of the most visited. Unless you're coming to eat or drink in Wolfgang Puck's famed Five Sixty restaurant, the only way up is by purchasing a ticket for the GeO-Deck, a viewing platform that allows guests to get a bird's eye view of the city with the use of interactive touch screens, high-definition zoom cameras and high-powered telescopes.

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: Be sure to check out Geo-deck's new digital, interactive experience that lets you build your very own constellation, complete with a unique avatar.

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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 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 many gifts given to the President and First Lady from foreign Heads of State. Keep an eye out for special exhibits and events throughout the year.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The George W. Bush Presidential Center is a terrific place for all ages to learn about history and Bush's experiences during his presidency.

Ilene's expert tip: There is a parking lot adjacent to the library or if it's full there is a parking garage located down the street on the SMU campus. This venue is included in Dallas CityPASS.

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Dallas Zoo
Photo courtesy of Dallas Zoo

Boasting over 2000 animals from roughly 400 species, the 106-acre Dallas Zoo, founded in 1888, 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, daily animal demonstrations, and a monorail safari through areas not accessible by foot. Want to take your zoo experience to the next level? Then take a 90-minute behind-the-scenes tour. Check the website for dates and times.

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: Check sites like Groupon for discounted tickets. The Zoo also offers specials in the winter and summer seasons.

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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. It is also flush with year-round programs, including fitness sessions, dance lessons, yoga, children's entertainment, musical performances and even film screenings. In case you work up an appetite after all the activities, there's always a slew of food trucks around or you can dine in style at Savor, the park's chic gastro-pub. Did we mention that this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline?

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

Ilene's expert tip: Valet parking is complimentary if you dine at Savor. You can also park for free in the West Village on McKinney Avenue and hop on the M-line trolley (also free) to the park.

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

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 a two-story tree house. 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. Try to plan your visit during the spring when the Arboretum puts on Dallas Blooms, the largest floral festival in the Southwest.

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

Ilene's expert tip: Save $6 on parking by pre-purchasing your ticket online. Check the website for additional discounts on admission and events.

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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 and animal life (many of which are endangered) from all over the world. In addition to stingrays, piranhas and Orinoco crocodiles, the aquarium boasts a multi-level rain-forest with a waterfall as well as a 20,000-gallon walk-through exhibit filled with sharks. Visitors can also commune with everything from three-toed sloths and manatees to giant river otters, penguins and ocelots. Not-to-be-missed are the animal talks and feeding sessions held throughout the day.

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 manatee and penguin feedings are extremely popular, so plan on getting to the area at least 20 minutes in advance if you want to snag a good viewing spot.

Read more about Dallas World Aquarium →

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Photo courtesy of Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

Founded by Holocaust survivors in 1984, the Dallas Holocaust Museum aims to educate visitors on the history of the Holocaust as well as to promote tolerance and human rights. In addition to traveling exhibits, the museum houses a permanent exhibition hall, which contains numerous photographs and artifacts, including an actual boxcar that was used by the Nazis to transport Jews. As of September 18, 2019, the museum will be relocating to a 51,000-square-foot building across from its current location and will feature three floors of technology-enriched exhibits along with classrooms, an expanded library, a memorial room and a Cinemark XD 250-seat theater.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Dallas Holocaust Museum is one of only 21 museums of its kind in the nation.

Ilene's expert tip: Recommended for adults and kids, ages 11 and up. Check Groupon for discounted tickets.

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Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo courtesy of Perot Museum of Nature and Science

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 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: Avoid the long lines by securing your tickets online beforehand. You can also save on admission to the Perot Museum with Dallas CityPASS. Check the website for more details.

Read more about Perot Museum of Nature and Science →

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

Spanning 68-acres and 19 contiguous blocks, the Dallas Arts District is considered as the largest urban entertainment complex in the nation. Not only does the District offer several superb performance venues, including the nationally acclaimed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center— and 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.

Read more about Dallas Arts District →

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: The museum is also featured on the CityPASS.

Read more about Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza →


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