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 of Dallas in the suburb of Parker. Sure, J.R. is gone and the series is no longer being filmed, but the fictional Ewing family home still lives on as a major attraction. Daily tours depart from a welcome center which contains a museum filled with everything from Lucy's wedding dress to the gun that shot J.R. From there, you can explore the interior of the 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, horseback riding lessons and personalized group tours. Children 5 and under are admitted for free.
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 dine or drink at Wolfgang Puck's famed Five Sixty restaurant at the top, 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: 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). Also note that this venue is featured on CityPASS.
Built in 1886, Fair Park is home to the State Fair of Texas, one of the longest-running fairs in the nation that is held for three weeks in the fall, beginning the last weekend of September. But what many visitors may not realize is that the 277-acre complex also houses one of the nation's largest collection of Art Deco art and structures, many of which were erected for Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The crowning jewel is The Hall of State, a stunning, limestone-clad building that contains an array of murals, statues and artifacts pertaining to the history of Texas. In addition to architectural eye-candy, the park features the Music Hall performing arts venue as well as the Children's Aquarium, the African American Museum and the Texas Discovery Gardens.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Aside from the State Fair of Texas, Fair Park is a must for architecture enthusiasts.
Ilene's expert tip: In addition to the State Fair, the park also hosts a variety of events and festivals, check the calendar on the website for more information. Parking is free to the general public on non-event days.
More unforgettable experiences in Dallas
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 boast an array of western-themed shops, restaurants and bars, it's also home to the world's largest honky-tonk (Billy Bob's Texas) and the world's only twice-daily cattle drive (at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Additional attractions include a petting zoo, a cattle pen maze, a mechanical bull and a vintage railroad offering one-hour rides along the Trinity River. Time your visit for a Friday or Saturday when you can catch the Stockyards Championship Rodeo at the 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.
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. 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 Sightseeing because: The Arboretum is ranked as one of the best botanical gardens in the United States.
Ilene's expert tip: Save $6 on parking by purchasing your parking ticket online before you come. Note that the Arboretum is listed on Dallas CityPASS.
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. Keep an eye out for special exhibits and events throughout the year.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The George W. Bush Presidential Center offers an interesting glimpse into Bush's tenure in the White House.
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.
Recently opened 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 Dallas-area Holocaust survivors as well as 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 Dallas Holocaust survivor, Max Glauben. Note that the museum is recommended for ages 12 and over.
Recommended for Sightseeing 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.
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. Of particular interest 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: 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.
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 Sightseeing because: The Perot Museum is particularly entertaining for kids and teens.
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.
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. Also within the District's confines is Klyde Warren Park, a 5-acre linear green space that features everything from a games area to events like yoga and film screenings.
Recommended for Sightseeing 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.