The Big D may be best-known for sky-high hair, upscale malls, and cowboy culture (plus the actual Cowboys), but there's more to Dallas than those stereotypes. The city is home to a world-class arts scene and a slew of iconic museums, like the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Outdoorsy types will love exploring the lush gardens at the Arboretum and walking the trails at White Rock Lake. There are several cool, walkable neighborhoods with unique eateries and shops, too, in stark contrast to the rest of Dallas's car-centric nature. Travelers should plan to spend ample time walking around Deep Ellum, Uptown, the Bishop Arts District, and the Dallas Arts District.
In the heart of the design district, the Dallas Contemporary is a non-collecting contemporary art museum that showcases work from emerging Texas artists and influential national and international artists. Richard Phillips, Eric Fischl, and Mary Katranstzou are just a few of the noteworthy artists who’ve shown their work here. The Contemporary also holds regular events, like life-drawing classes, embroidery sessions, conversations with artists, and educator-led tours for parents and kids. And, best of all, entry to the museum is always free.
Extending from the American Airlines Center near downtown toward Southern Methodist University’s campus, the Katy Trail is a 3.5-mile hike-and-bike trail that’s fully protected from traffic and relatively shaded—it’s one of the most important public spaces in Dallas. The scenic location and 12-foot-wide concrete path make the trail a popular destination with cyclists, joggers, walkers, and inline skaters alike.
African American Museum of Dallas
The only institution of its kind in the Southwest, the African American Museum of Dallas, boasts a vibrant collection of African and African-American art, including one of the country's biggest folk art collections. The museum was originally founded in 1974 as a part of the Special Collections at Bishop College, a Historically Black College that closed in 1988. Today, there are four vaulted galleries, plus a research library; the permanent collection comprises of Black renaissance paintings, contemporary art, African art, and other works that chronicle the African-American experience.
Klyde Warren Park
The crown jewel of Dallas’s urban park scene, Klyde Warren Park is the city’s best communal gathering space. This 5.2-acre deck park is built over the freeway between St. Paul and Pearl streets, and it’s a very active space—providing daily free programming in the form of yoga classes, outdoor concerts, book signings, movie screenings, and more. Klyde Warren also has areas for croquet, chess, a dog park, a children’s park, and ping-pong; plus, when it’s time for lunch, there are multiple restaurants nearby and a rotating selection of gourmet food trucks on the premises.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Fascinating and undeniably a little morbid, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza examines the life, assassination, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who was murdered in this exact spot on Nov. 22, 1963—the museum is located in the former Texas School Book Depository, where evidence of a sniper (Lee Harvey Oswald) was found following Kennedy’s assassination. Visitors will be swept up in the history and political landscape of the early ’60s; the museum’s permanent exhibits include news footage, photos, and artifacts from the era.
Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art became the first-ever museum in America to offer free admission and free membership—and with more than 22,000 works that span 5,000 years of history, this stunningly diverse museum is easily one of the best in Texas. Apart from the permanent global collection that includes works by Renoir, Pollock, Rothko, O’Keeffe, Cezanne, Monet, and Van Gogh, the museum is a hub of activities and events, holding regular lectures, dramatic and dance presentations, concerts, and more.
Nasher Sculpture Center
Conveniently situated just across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, one of the most impressive collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world. Visitors can marvel at over 300 masterworks by Picasso, Rodin, Ernst, Giacometti, Miro, Moore, and dozens of other world-renowned artists. Raymond and Patsy Nasher wanted the museum to feel natural and open, so there are pieces scattered around the immaculately-landscaped gardens as well as indoors.
White Rock Lake
Just a few miles east of downtown, White Rock Lake Park is definitely Dallas’s most well-known park. There’s so much to do here, you’d need a whole weekend to be able to discover it all—in fact, the park is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. White Rock Lake Park features a scenic, 9.33-mile hike-and-bike trail that circles the lake, numerous picnic areas, playgrounds, an Audubon Society-designated bird-watching area and wetlands site, fishing piers, a cultural center, and a dog park.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Nestled the shores of White Rock Lake, just a few minutes from downtown, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden has been named one of the top arboretums in the world. This 66-acre urban oasis is replete with colorful display gardens, spacious stretches of lawn, and thick groves of pecan trees, magnolias, cherry trees, and azaleas. Spring and fall are perfect times to visit the Arboretum—in springtime, Dallas Blooms is the biggest floral festival in the Southwest. During the annual Autumn at the Arboretum, there are creative displays everywhere using thousands of pumpkins, gourds, and squash.
Dallas Farmers Market
Established in 1841 as a municipal farmers market, the bustling Dallas Farmers Market is chock-full of vendors selling farm-fresh produce and naturally raised meats, cheese, eggs, and honey at the new “Shed” open-air pavilion. The Shed also hosts a variety of arts and crafts vendors throughout the year. Stop by the Market, a 26,000-square-foot food hall, to grab some local grub and enjoy the views of the city skyline.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
Formerly the Dallas Nature Center, the Cedar Ridge Preserve is a 600-acre natural habitat featuring 9 miles of walking trails, butterfly gardens, wild grasses, native trees, and flower-dotted picnic areas. Though it’s located just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, the park feels like a world away from the city’s chaos and traffic. Bird-watching is a popular activity here; the preserve is home to the rare black-capped Vireo and a wide swath of other wildlife.
Bishop Arts District
In recent years, Dallas’s Bishop Arts District, in the heart of Oak Cliff, has undergone a significant transformation. It’s a fun place to explore on foot, as it's one of the most walkable areas in the city, and there are over 60 independent shops, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and art galleries scattered around.