For fans of the TV show Dallas, no visit to the area is complete without making a pilgrimage to this iconic ranch located 25 miles north in the Dallas suburb of Parker. Sure, J.R. is gone and the series is no longer being filmed, but Southfork Ranch, home to Big D's fictional first family, the Ewings, is nonetheless still a major tourist attraction. Daily tours depart from a welcome center which also contains a museum filled with everything from the gun that shot J.R. to Lucy's wedding dress. From there, you can explore the interior of the Ewing home, grab a bite in Miss Ellie's deli, pick up souvenirs from the gift shop and walk around the grounds where horses and longhorns roam on the range.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: For fans of the TV show Dallas, Southfork Ranch is a must-see.
Ilene's expert tip: Southfork Ranch also offers trail rides, chuckwagon dinner experiences and personalized group tours.
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, 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 Sightseeing because: Reunion Tower is Dallas' most iconic landmark and offers some of the best views of the city.
Ilene's expert tip: You can have a drink and eat in the lounge of Wolfgang Puck's Five-Sixty restaurant without reservations or an admission ticket. Just be aware of the dress code--it's business casual. For GeO-Deck visitors, there is also a cafe located above the observation deck that stays open until 3 p.m.
Looking for the quintessential Texas experience? Then head to the official Rodeo Capital of Texas in Mesquite (14 miles east of Dallas), where you can witness the thrills and spills of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo every Friday and Saturday night throughout the summer. Since 1958, the rodeo has been drawing in fans from all over the world-- and for good reason: From steer wrestling and barrel racing to bull riding and mutton busting, there's no shortage of non-stop, family-friendly action. And it's not only the activity on the dirt that keeps crowds entertained, there's also a posse of other attractions to enjoy, including everything from headliner concerts and laser shows to face painting, pony rides, petting zoos and even taking a spin on a mechanical bull. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, but you can avoid service charges by purchasing them directly at the box office.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Mesquite Rodeo is the ideal place to get a true Texas-style experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Purchase a $15 Adult Roping reserve ticket, and an $8 Kids ticket at any O'Reilly Autoparts Location in the MetroPlex. You can also go to any Bootbarn Western and Work Store in the Metroplex to score a $10 off voucher to the Rodeo. Limit 4 per person, no purchase necessary.
They say everything is bigger and better in Texas, and the State Fair of Texas-- going strong since 1886-- is no exception. Held for three weeks every fall, the fair not only is one of the largest and longest-running fairs in the nation, it also touts the largest Ferris wheel in North America. But there's more to Fair Park than the annual fair. The 277-acre complex is a treasure trove of early twentieth-century architecture, boasting one of the largest collections of Art Deco structures in the United States. In addition to architectural eye-candy, the park houses a variety of year-round venues, including the Children's Aquarium, the African American Museum and the Texas Discovery Gardens. Be sure to keep an eye out for festivals, events and concerts too.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Along with hosting the State Fair of Texas, Fair Park boasts a variety of museums and performance venues that are open year round.
Ilene's expert tip: Before planning your visit to the State Fair, be sure to check the website for ways to score deals and discounts on admissions, midway rides and admissions. More discount coupons, for Texas Discovery Gardens and Fair Park's Music Hall can be found at visitdallas.com.
Nestled along the shores of White Rock Lake, this oasis of horticultural magnificence is arguably one of the most enchanting as well as most visited botanical gardens in the country, welcoming nearly a million visitors to its grounds each year. And with 66-acre acres of endless seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees and exotic pants, there's plenty to marvel at. Families with younger children will want to also explore the Rory Meyers Children Adventure Garden, an 8-acre garden of delights boasting everything from cascading waterfalls and a treetop canopy walk to a two-story tree house and more than 150 interactive science exhibits. Along with 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 presents Dallas Blooms, the largest floral festival in the Southwestshowcasing more than 500,000 blooming bulbs and annuals.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Arboretum is one of the most enchanting places in Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Check the website for discounts on everything from parking to admission to special events.
There are few better places in Texas to experience the Old West than at the Fort Worth Stockyards, a former Chisholm Trail cowboy outpost and livestock market that has been transformed into one of the state's premier entertainment districts. Not only does the district offer an array of western-themed shops, restaurants and bars, it's also home to the world's largest honkytonk (Billy Bob's Texas) and the world's only twice-daily cattle drive (at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Oh, and there's also a petting zoo, a 5,400 square foot cattle pen maze, a mechanical bull and even a vintage railroad featuring one-hour rides along the Trinity River. Try to time your visit for a Friday or Saturday when you can catch the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, held at 8 p.m. inside Cowtown Coliseum.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Stockyard Historic District is the best place to get a taste of cowboy culture.
Ilene's expert tip: The best place to view the cattle drive (The Herd) is on E. Exchange Avenue in front of the Stockyards Visitors Center. Also note that street parking is free along East Exchange Avenue.
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 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. But there's much more to see here, including a host of powerful images, documents, artifacts, video footage and home movies. 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 Sightseeing because: The Sixth Floor Museum is one of the most visited attractions in Dallas.
Ilene's expert tip: Pick up a visitor's guide from the Old Red Museum for a $2 off admission coupon. Avoid the lines by visiting during the week or by purchasing tickets online. The museum is also featured on the CityPASS.
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. 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 the panoramic views of downtown Dallas.
Recommended for Sightseeing 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.
There are only thirteen (soon to be fourteen) presidential libraries scattered across the United States and Texas is fortunate enough to be home to three of them, one of which is the 226,000-square-foot George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, situated on the Southern Methodist University campus. Second in size behind Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, the stunning complex 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 everything from numerous state-of-the-art interactive displays to a full-scale walk-through replica of the Bush Oval Office and a 22-foot tall ravaged steel beam from the World Trade Center. Also, on view are items like the Glock pistol Saddam Hussein had when he was captured, the bullhorn Bush used when he visited ground zero after 9-11 and some of the 43,000 gifts given to the President and First Lady from foreign Heads of State.
Recommended for Sightseeing 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.
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 to be 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 Arts District houses one of the world's largest collections of Pritzker Prize-winning buildings in one contiguous location. And as if that's not enough, the district also touts one of the nation's premier urban playgrounds: the Klyde Warren Park--a 5-acre deck park featuring a myriad of year-round programming, ranging from daily fitness sessions to musical performances and film screenings.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The Dallas Arts District is considered to be the largest urban entertainment district in the nation.
Ilene's expert tip: It's always 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.