Ten Terrific Things to See and Do in Downtown Dallas

They say that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and that couldn't be truer 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– the largest urban arts district in the country. Covering 68 acres and 19 continuous blocks, the District boasts a slew of world-class arts venues along with everything from eateries and sculpture gardens to a slew of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects. Also located in the Arts District is Klyde Warren Park, a lush slice of green space stretching 5.2 miles across a sunken freeway. And at the opposite end of the park is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, another architectural gem featuring five floors of mind-blowing exhibit halls.

Of course, a visit to Dallas isn't complete without a trip to the top of Reunion Tower where visitors are treated to a panorama view of the city's skyline.

Need more ideas on what to see and do in Downtown Dallas? Then keep reading, we're sure there's something on this 10best list to please every type of visitor.


Dallas Farmers Market
Photo courtesy of Dallas Farmers Market

Tucked in on the east side of downtown, the Dallas Farmers Market (founded in 1941) is widely recognized as one of the largest markets in the state. Not only will you find over 150 vendors showcasing seasonal produce, naturally raised meats, cheese, eggs and honey in an open-air pavilion (the Shed), but there's also a massive indoor hall (the Market) boasting everything from artisanal food stalls to an eclectic mix of shops. In addition to shopping and eating, the Farmers Market hosts regular activities, ranging from yoga classes and cooking demonstrations to musical performances and seasonal events.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Dallas Farmers Market is a terrific place to taste international food and pick up souvenirs.

Ilene's expert tip: There is onsite parking as well as a variety of lots and metered spots available nearby.

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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. Note that at present, animal feeding events have been canceled to ensure social distancing guidelines are met.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Dallas World Aquarium is a must-see for animal lovers of all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: The Aquarium has implemented a timed-entry system for tickets, though walk-in admission is still welcome.

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Museum of Illusions
Photo courtesy of Museum of Illusions

Located in downtown's West End, this edutainment-based museum brings forth a dizzying array of optical illusions designed to offer an insight into why the eyes can see things that the brain cannot explain. It's also an Instagrammers dream come true with over 60 exhibits featuring everything from holograms to installations and interactive illusion rooms. Visitors can expect to find a vortex tunnel, a reverse room, a tilted room, an infinity room and a Beuchet chair as well as a smart playroom filled with a variety of puzzles, brain teasers and mathematical games. If you're looking for an attraction that will appeal to a variety of ages, this emporium of mind-bending fun is the place to go.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Museum of Illusions is a fantastical experience for all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: Purchasing tickets online is highly recommended to guarantee entry, especially on weekends.

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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 Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions 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.

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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 Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Dallas Holocaust Museum is one of only 21 museums of its kind in the nation.

Ilene's expert tip: Bank of America cardholders can score free admission on the first weekend of the month. Best times to visit is on weekdays after 1:00 p.m. or on weekends.

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Dallas Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

The sprawling 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art 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-- encompasses 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. 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. And with the exception of certain exhibitions and events, general admission to the museum is always free.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The DMA boasts world-class art and offers a slew of activities for every age to enjoy.

Ilene's expert tip: Free general admission entry to the DMA requires a ticket for entry. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets online in advance, but walk-ups are also able to be accommodated.

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

Ilene's expert tip: Save on admission to the GeO-Deck with Dallas CityPass. Children under 3 are admitted free.

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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 panoramic views of downtown Dallas.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Perot Museum is particularly entertaining for kids ages 3-15.

Ilene's expert tip: Avoid the lines by securing your timed-entry tickets online beforehand. You can also save on admission Dallas CityPASS.

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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 entertainment district in the nation. Filled with more buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects than any other location in the world, the District is home to several superb performance venues, including the renown Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center as well as three prestigious museums: The Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Other not-to-be-missed gems include the nineteenth-century Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Klyde Warren Park, and a half-acre sculpture walk adjacent to KPMG Plaza.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Dallas Arts District is where to find most of the city's main attractions.

Ilene's expert tip: It's always free to visit the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. The Arts District offers 90-minute architecture walking tours on the first and third Saturdays of the 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 food trucks and a butterfly garden to special areas allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing games. As if that weren't enough to keep everyone busy, the park also plays host to myriad year-round programs, ranging from daily fitness sessions to children's entertainment, musical performances and even film screenings. Did we mention this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline?

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: Klyde Warren Park is a terrific place for to while away a sunny day.

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

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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