A well rounded city growing out of the stark North Texas prairie, Dallas has a jumble of ultramodern skyscrapers, the largest arts district in the United States, museums of the highest quality and pulsating nightlife. Whole swathes of the city have been reinvented in recent times, like the Design District breathing new life into an austere neighborhood of warehouses, or Klyde Warren Park, on the former route of a freeway. But if you are hunting for old time Texas trademarks like big steaks, BBQ and honkytonks among the upscale restaurants and high culture, you will find them with little trouble. Dallas will also forever be tied to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, and at Dealey Plaza you will discover how the city has come to terms with this tragedy.
1. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
In Dallas you can visit a place where the course of history was changed forever. The landmarks at Dealey Plaza, like the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll and Elm Street as it bends down to the railroad tracks, would be unremarkable were it not for the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
The cityscape at Dealey Plaza is mostly unchanged, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. It is hard not to be moved looking up at the corner sixth floor window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his three shots, seeing the X that marks the spot where JFK was struck by the fatal second bullet and standing on the bank from which Abraham Zapruder took his famous footage.
All the context you could want about the assassination of John F. Kennedy is available at this thorough and even handed museum housed in the former Texas Schools Book Depository and opened in 1989. As you work your way up to Lee Harvey Oswald’s sixth floor roost you will find out about JFK’s career and the landscape in the early 1960s, taking in the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.
The deed itself is covered in great detail, with hundreds of photographs from the scene and analysis of the Zapruder film, the Zapruder family donated the copyright to the museum in 1999. Inevitably there is also background on the myriad conspiracy theories swirling around the assassination, to the point where even obsessives may pick up a new titbit.
Finally, Lee Harvey Oswald’s vantage point, preserved behind glass, is as cluttered as it was when he fired his shots in November 1963.
2. Arts District
Dallas lays claim to the largest urban arts district in the United States, on 20 square blocks to the south-east of Uptown, and with a rare concentration of cultural attractions. You can visit plenty of the attractions in this area, like the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Klyde Warren Park and the Winspear Opera House.
Respected venues and institutions are shoulder to shoulder in the Arts District, from the vaunted Dallas Black Dance Theatre in the east to the Dallas Museum of Art in the west. There is also tons of architectural interest, in monuments like the neo-Gothic Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin Guadalupe (1902), with a 68 meter spire and 100 stained glass windows.
If you really want to get to know the Arts District’s cityscape there are 90 minute walking tours on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 10:00.
3. The Nasher Sculpture Center
Opened in 2003, the Nasher Sculpture Center has a collection of modern and contemporary sculpture and contains exhibits exploring the history of the art of sculpture. Located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, large outdoor sculptures are on display throughout the tree lined grounds. Highlights include pieces by Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, and Andy Warhol. The museum and sculpture park also regularly host events, including lectures and concerts. Another gallery worth visiting is the nearby Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, a museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia.
4. Reunion Tower
While not the tallest building in Dallas, the Reunion Tower is undoubtedly the most distinguished and most recognizable. Completed in 1978 and appearing as a geodesic ball perched atop five cylindrical concrete poles, its 560 foot length is spectacularly lit up at night, emphasizing its unique outline. After renovations in 2011, the Reunion Tower now boasts a revolving restaurant with 360-degree views over Dallas, and the GeO-Deck observation level, home to an informative interactive display providing details about the building and notable landmarks.
5. Dallas Cattle Drive Sculptures at Pioneer Plaza
Pioneer Park, maintained by the adjacent Dallas Convention Center, is designed to resemble a section of the Shawnee Trail, a major Texas cattle drive route in the 19th century. This large green space in Dallas's central business district has a stream that falls over limestone cliffs, but its most remarkable feature is the 49 larger than life bronze sculptures of Texas Longhorn cattle that are being herded through the park and across the creek by three mounted cowboys. Designed by artist Robert Summers, the park is landscaped to reproduce the scene of the iconic industry that defined early Texas.
6. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Just minutes from downtown Dallas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden sits on 66 acres along the southeast shore of White Rock Lake. The property's fourteen world famous displays showcase seasonal flowers, ornamental shrubs, trees, and plant collections. The gardens also host seasonal outdoor festivals, concerts, art shows, and educational programs, and guided tours of the property are available. Although conceived in the early 1930s, this splendid tourist attraction did not become a reality until 1984, when the park was laid out on the grounds of a mansion built in 1939. Adding to the fun are the exquisite sculptures and fountains in areas with names like Toad's Corner, Texas Town, and Pecan Grove.
Be sure to do a little exploring around White Rock Lake Park, too. Surrounded by 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, it is known for its excellent bird and wildlife spotting, as well as fishing and sailing.
7. Dallas World Aquarium
Conveniently located within walking distance of the city's historic downtown core, Dallas World Aquarium is a fun and educational excursion for young and old alike. Housed in some 87,000 gallons of saltwater are a vast array of sea life including bonnethead sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, sea turtles, giant groupers, and rare leafy seadragons, all living in natural reef settings. A fun highlight is the Orinoco Rainforest exhibit, complete with numerous free flying birds, such as toucans, along with tree sloths and aquatic species such as Orinoco crocodiles and poison dart frogs.
8. Frontiers of Flight and the Cavanaugh Flight Museum
The Frontiers of Flight Museum is home to more than 30 aircraft and has extensive exhibits that display the journey from the roots of aviation from Leonardo da Vinci through modern space exploration. The museum collection includes a full size model of the Wright Flyer; artifacts from the Hindenburg; WWI and WWII aircraft and artifacts, including a fully restored Stearman PT-17 Kaydet Biplane; and the Apollo VII spacecraft. On display at Love Field, the Braniff Gallery and Virgin America exhibit highlight the history of commercial aviation.
9. Soap Opera Superstar: Southfork Ranch
If you were around in the 1980s and owned a television set, read newspapers, or worked in an office, there is little chance you would have escaped the wave of interest that swept the world when Dallas hit the small screen. Now that you know who shot JR, you can visit the location where the series was set: Southfork Ranch. About 25 miles north of Dallas, the ranch welcomes visitors for guided tours of the mansion. Afterwards, you can enjoy an authentic Texan chuckwagon dinner on the grounds.
10. The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo
Texas rodeos have come to epitomize Lone Star culture. Whether it is the glitz of the outfits, the glamour of the dangerous bull rides, or nostalgia for the cowboy past, there is something about rodeos that draws Texans and visitors to Friday night shows. Today, rodeos are a professional industry and a form of sports entertainment. But their tradition traces back to the Spanish and Mexican ranchers of the 16th century. The word “rodeo” derives from the Spanish to “round up.”
In the 19th century, Wild West shows like the kind put on by Buffalo Bill drew a paying audience who wanted to see cowboys strut their stuff and show off their tricks. Over time, those developed into the rodeos we know and love today.
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is the granddaddy of all Texas rodeos. First held in 1896, it is the oldest continuously running livestock show and rodeo in the state. The world’s only year round rodeo every Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 pm in the historic Fort Worth Cowtown Coliseum. The two hour Stockyards Championship Rodeo maintains a strong commitment to visitors looking for an authentic Western Cowboy Experience.The show features bull riding, tie down roping, team roping, barrel racing, bronc riding and break away roping.
I recommend the Reserved VIP Seats: All ages are included. VIP Seats are located up stairs in the Bar, over looking the arena. This is the ONLY place that sells mixed drinks.