Downtown Dallas: a cultural Mecca for visitors and locals alike

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 visual and performing arts venues as well as everything from restaurants and sculpture gardens to one of the world's largest collections of buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects. Also, 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. It's the best place in town for a photo-op 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 live musical performances and fun 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 are a variety of parking lots and metered parking spots available nearby. Visitors can also get here via the complimentary D-Link shuttle ( as well as call the Dallas Farmers Market free shuttle at 469.445.0720 for pickup at Akard and Main, and Akard and Commerce.

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

Ilene's expert tip: Be sure to check the website for feeding times and special performances. Also, be aware that 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.

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Old Red Museum
Photo courtesy of Clay Coleman

Built in 1892, the Old Red Museum is housed in a magnificent Romanesque-style building that served as the Dallas County Courthouse from 1892 until 1966. The museum itself is located on the second floor and is comprised of four galleries, each focused on a specific time period in the city's history. Here you'll find over 1,000 artifacts, ranging from a Civil War-era dragoon pistol to a World War I-era gas mask and handcuffs worn by Lee Harvey Oswald. There is also an interactive children's area featuring touch-screen kiosks and reproduction period clothing for kids to try on. Fun fact: the building appeared in director Brian de Palma's 1974 cult classic, Phantom of the Paradise.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Old Red Museum offers visitors of all ages a unique glimpse into Dallas' past and present.

Ilene's expert tip: Admission is only $7 ($10 regularly) for tickets purchased before noon on Sundays. VisitDallas also offers a buy one, get one free admission coupon on its website.

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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: The museum offers timed tickets available online for purchase 30 minutes or more in advance. Also, note that this venue is on CityPass. The free D-Link bus stops directly outside the Museum at Houston & Elm.

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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 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: The Museum is not recommended for children under twelve. Note that the Record Street location will close on July 31, 2019, and reopen at 300 N. Houston St. on September 18, 2019.

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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, 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-- 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 Dallas Museum of Art houses one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation.

Ilene's expert tip: The museum is open until 11 p.m. on the third Friday of the month. Note that Late Night tickets are required after 5 p.m.

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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 it's also one of the most visited. Unless you're coming to eat or drink in Wolfgang Puck's famed Five Sixty restaurant at the top, the only way up is by purchasing a ticket for the GeO-Deck viewing platform. 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.

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: For an extra $5, you can visit during the day and come back at night to experience the city lights. Keep an eye on the website's calendar for special events (think bingo, story time and animal encounters).

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

Downtown Big D has been enjoying a renaissance recently and much of the success can be largely contributed to its ever-burgeoning arts district. Spanning 68-acres and 19 contiguous blocks, the District is considered the largest urban entertainment district in the nation. Along with superb performance venues such as the 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), the easily walkable District houses more buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects than any other location in the world. And as if that's not enough, the district also boasts Klyde Warren Park--a 5-acre swath of green space offering a slew of amenities as well as daily free programming ranging from fitness sessions to film screenings.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: The Dallas Arts District is considered to be the largest urban entertainment district in the nation.

Ilene's expert tip: Note that it's free to visit the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. Also, the Arts District offers 90-minute architecture walking tours ($10 for adults/$5 for students and seniors/free for kids under 12) on the first and third Saturday of the month.

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Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Photo courtesy of 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. 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 of Nature and Science is one of the best science museums in Texas.

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.

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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. It is also flush with year-round programs, including fitness sessions, dance lessons, yoga, children's entertainment, musical performances and film screenings. Did we mention that this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline? No wonder this place attracts more than a million visitors a year.

Recommended for Downtown Dallas' Best Attractions because: Klyde Warren Park is a terrific place to hang out both during the day and at night.

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