The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is home to a cluster of powerhouse museums, many of which rival anything you’d find on either coast. Dallas’s art scene, in particular, is one of the best in the country, with the sprawling downtown Arts District featuring a slew of award-winning museums, galleries, and festivals. The city also boasts several other excellent museums that span aviation history, nature and science, and African American heritage, as well as the historic Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which chronicles the life and assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Discover something bold, new, and different at each of these Dallas-area museums.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
The eye-catching architecture of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science will make your jaw drop. Designed by famed architect Thom Mayne, the building eschews the normal bounds of traditional form, featuring a 54-foot, continuous-flow escalator contained in a glass-encased, tube-like structure. It’s a wonder to behold. Inside, five floors house 11 permanent exhibits that include the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall, Discovering Life Hall, the Moody Family Children’s Museum, the Rose Hall of Birds, and so much more—visitors can go on an interactive stargazing adventure, study ancient animal bones, peruse gems and minerals, and play around in a 3D animation lab. Leave ample time to check out the Perot; you’ll need it.
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 in 2012. With more than 22,000 works that span 5,000 years of history, this vibrant, diverse museum is easily one of the best in Texas. Apart from their permanent global collection which includes works by Pollock, Rothko, O’Keeffe, Cezanne, Monet, and Van Gogh, the museum is a bustling hub of weekly activities and events, holding regular lectures, dramatic and dance presentations, concerts, and more. The DMA has long been the best museum in the city; don’t leave town without stopping here.
Nasher Sculpture Center
Conveniently situated just across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, in the booming heart of the Arts District, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, one of the most stunning collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world. Visitors can marvel over 300 masterworks by Picasso, Rodin, Ernst, Giacometti, Miro, Moore, and dozens of other world-renowned artists. In addition to being a fabulous museum, the Nasher is a lovely space. Raymond and Patsy Nasher wanted the museum to feel natural and open, so there are pieces scattered around the immaculate gardens as well as indoors. If your visit takes place between May and October, the ‘til Midnight program is worth checking out—the museum stays open late for outdoor concerts, film screenings, and visual art performances.
Crow Museum of Asian Art
Just a stone’s throw from both the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher (you could knock out all three museums in one day!), the Crow Collection of Asian Art features a growing permanent and rotating collection that truly demonstrates the diversity of Asian art. There are over 1,000 works from Japan, India, China, and Southeast Asia here, spanning the ancient to the contemporary (including scrolls, paintings, gorgeous Chinese jades, objects of metal and stone, and large architectural pieces), along with a library of over 12,000 catalogs, books, and journals. The gem of the Crow is the serene sculpture garden, with its maze of maple, bamboo, and pine trees.
The world-class Dallas Contemporary is a non-collecting (meaning there's no permanent collection) art museum that consistently fills its space with envelope-pushing, unique sculptures, paintings, and photography. Richard Phillips, Eric Fischl, and Mary Katranstzou are just a few of the lauded artists who’ve shown their work here. The Contemporary also holds regular special events ranging from life-drawing sessions to summer classes to conversations with the artists. Members get access to the show-opening parties, and, best of all, entry to the museum is always free.
Dallas Holocaust Museum
The Dallas Holocaust Museum functions as a space of peaceful remembrance, and a center for moral and ethical teachings against prejudice. Founded by Holocaust survivors in 1984, the museum houses a permanent exhibition hall with hundreds of photographs and artifacts (including a restored Nazi-era boxcar), as well as personal testimonies from local survivors and liberators. Far from just a sobering look at a horrific atrocity, the Dallas Holocaust Museum aims to educate and inspire visitors to combat inequality and injustice in their own lives. (Note that the museum will be relocating in September 2019, to a 51,000-square-foot building across from its current location; the new space will feature an expanded library and a 250-seat theater.)
African American Museum of Dallas
The only institution of its kind in the Southwest, the African American Museum of Dallas boasts an impressive collection of African and African-American art, including one of the biggest folk art collections in the country. 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 is made up of black renaissance paintings, contemporary art, African art, and more. Firmly dedicated to the preservation of the rich heritage of black art and culture, the African American Museum of Dallas is a true treasure.
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Equal parts fascinating and chilling, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza examines the life, assassination, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Prepare to be enmeshed in history and the social and political landscape of the early '60s, as the museum is located in the former Texas School Book Depository—the spot where evidence of a sniper (Lee Harvey Oswald) was found following JFK’s assassination. The permanent exhibits here include news reports, photos, and footage, in addition to the sniper’s perch. You’ll instantly feel transported. The Sixth Floor Museum is educational, emotional, and thought-provoking; there’s no other museum quite like it.
Frontiers of Flight Museum
Calling all aviation nerds: Just a short jaunt from the Love Field airport, the Frontiers of Flight Museum explores the history and progress of aviation and space flight. There are over 30 different kinds of aircraft and space vehicles alone (several of which were built in the North Texas area), along with 35,000 historical artifacts and 13 galleries and exhibits, from the Early Flyers to Space Flight. Some of the most popular exhibitions include the Apollo 7 command module, the World War II exhibit, and the iconic Chance Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake.” Aviation buffs will have a field day at the Frontiers of Flight.