Dallas is the third largest city in Texas, sitting in the north of the state. It forms part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which is the largest metropolitan area in the southern US. The entire area has more than 7.8 million people, with Dallas itself housing 1.4 million of them. Despite what you’ve heard, Dallas isn’t all cowboys, though. It’s a major transport hub and is the base of some of the most recognizable businesses in the world. These include ExxonMobil, JC Penney, and American Airlines. Not too shabby at all.
The city is nicknamed ‘The Big D’ because; well…it’s really big. And big cities mean lots of things to do. So, let’s explore all the great things to do in Dallas on your visit.
Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum
It might sound a little odd to some, but one of the top things to do in downtown Dallas is visit the site where President John F Kennedy was shot. Dealey Plaza is the downtown park the Presidential Motorcade made its way through during Kennedy’s visit to the city on November 22nd, 1963. The Plaza has since been preserved as a National Historic Landmark. A block east from Dealey is JFK Plaza, which houses a specially commissioned cenotaph for the former President.
The Texas Book Depository sits on the corner of Dealey Plaza. It was from here (apparently) the fatal shots were fired that wounded Governor Connally and killed JFK. The sixth-floor window used by Lee Harvey Oswald still lies open. The building has been turned into a museum about that day, and the aftershocks felt in the US and around the world.
Everyone who has visited Dealey Plaza will tell you that, even on your first time, you’ll instantly recognize the scene. And it’s true. Due to the heavy coverage over the years, it’s somewhere that feels so familiar. It’s quite an eerie feeling to stand in the Plaza and stare at the Book Depository window, or stand on the Grassy Knoll and transport back to that afternoon in 1963. This might not be a great thing to do in Dallas with kids, but it’s incredibly popular with adults.
Tickets required for Sixth Floor Museum, $14-$18
Dallas World Aquarium
A visit to the Dallas Aquarium is also a great thing to do in downtown Dallas; particularly if you have ankle biters. At first, it seems like an odd location for an aquarium but, to be honest, that just adds to its charm. The upper level of Dallas World Aquarium is a complete replica of the Orinoco Rainforest, with an amazing range of colorful birds. The DWAs lower level allows visitors to explore a range of sea creatures, coral and jellyfish. There’s also a huge 12m high tunnel you can walk through to enjoy aquatic life from as far afield as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, The Bahamas, and The Solomon Islands. Dallas Aquarium is the only place in the United States that you can see three-toed sloths and Antillean Manatees.
Tickets required, available from the ticket office, $12.95-$20.95
This 171-meter-high tower is yet another top thing to do in downtown Dallas. The tower is in the grounds of the Hyatt Regency, although it is a stand-alone structure. Reunion Tower has a large globe on top, which earned it the nickname ‘The Ball.’ The building has three floors, with an observation deck, gift shop, and cafe. Celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, is the name behind the tower’s high-rise restaurant, ‘Five Sixty.’
The height of the observation deck gives great panoramic views across the city and beyond, so it’s a popular place. If you have time, though, visit at night, when the tower’s 259 LED light fixtures light up the downtown sky. Also, dinner at Five Sixty surrounded by the twinkling city lights is a pretty romantic thing to do in Dallas with your SO.
Tickets required, available online or at entrance, $17-$22
Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas Museum of Art is one of the ten largest museums in the world. Situated in the city’s fashionable Art District, it’s yet another of the many amazing things to do in downtown Dallas. Dallas Museum of Art has more than 24,000 pieces, covering areas, such as African, South Asian, European and American painting and sculpture.
As well as the collections and exhibitions inside the Dallas Museum of Art, the museum also offers some really soothing outside spaces. The Wall Sculpture Garden – voted by the Dallas Observer as one of the best Dallas attractions and the best free garden in the city – offers a bit of calm in a city of chaos. It has fountains, water pools and live oaks, and its high walls and running water helps to mask the sounds from outside. Sitting in the shady garden, you’d swear you were a million miles away from downtown Dallas.
Admission to the museum is free of charge.
Dallas Zoo is located in Marsalis Park, just south of Downtown. It’s been a fixture of the city since 1888 and covers 106 acres of real estate. It is the biggest and oldest zoo in the state of Texas. It’s an excellent trip if you’re looking for things to do in Dallas with kids.
As well as the day-to-day zoo experience, there’s always the promise of something uniquely Texan within. And the zoo does NOT disappoint. One of the main stars of Dallas Zoo is Winspear the cheetah. Not only is he popular in his own right but he draws in visitors because his best friend is a dog. Yep, Winspear is besties with a Labrador retriever called Amani. The duo even does a free show called ‘Cheetah Encounter.’ If this isn’t conclusive proof that cats and dogs can get along, I don’t know what is.
Tickets required online or at entrance 14 is $17
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
The 66-acre Dallas Arboretum is located on the shores of White Rock Lake. It has more than 20 separate gardens, including Pecan Grove, which is home to 100 Japanese Cherry Blossom Trees. The Martha Brooks Garden features 200 camellia plants, and the Boswell Garden is filled with numerous varieties of roses. One of the main highlights of a visit is the color garden, where more than 2,000 varieties of azaleas, tulips, and daffodils produce enough color to brighten up even the dullest of days.
You could easily spend a day exploring Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and still not have time to cover it all. However, if your walk takes too much out of you, don’t fret. All you need is a sunny spot, a blanket and some snacks and you can while away the hours, letting the world pass you by. Looking for romantic things to do in Dallas? We (and the Dallas Arboretum) got your back.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $5 to $15
George W Bush Presidential Center
The Presidential Center is a fairly new thing to do in Dallas in that it was only opened in 2013. The center is part of a larger complex, which includes the Presidential Library, Policy Institute and Museum. As the title suggests, the center honors the life and work of the 43rd President of the USA, George W Bush and his wife, Laura. It’s in keeping with the legacy of all US Presidents these days that, once their terms have been completed, a Library is built in their honor. This is always located in their home state, so Dubya’s is in Texas, y’all.
Irrespective of your political affiliations, this is a fantastic attraction. A visit really gives you an insight into the good work GWBs Foundation has done in the years since he left the office. There’s also a really moving exhibition called ‘The World Under Attack,’ detailing 9/11 and the aftermath. The 15-acre garden surrounding the complex is filled with flowers and plants native to Texas. Also, who doesn’t want to see the Dallas attraction that holds 43,000 gifts he and Laura received when in office?? Everyone makes a beeline for gifts given by their home country in the hope they weren’t totally lame.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $10 to $21
If you’re all about off-beat and unusual things to do in Dallas, hit up the ‘Eye’ sculpture in downtown. What could be more quirky than having your photo taken next to a massive fiberglass eye? Nothing, right? Just think about those ‘gram likes…
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About Dallas
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Dallas. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all the best Dallas attractions.
What are the fun things to do in Dallas, Texas?
There’s always a laundry list of fun things to do in Dallas! White Rock Lake is one of the most popular parks. You can walk, hike, run, fish, sail, or just slow down and chill out. Alternatively, go on a tour of AT&T Stadium, the home of the famous Dallas Cowboys. It’s the largest covered sports stadium on the planet (in terms of capacity), so, you know, the tour might take a while.
What Can I Do In Dallas When It Rains?
Head to the Escape Room and put your brain to the test in a 60-minute challenge for the whole family! Opt from a range of games, such as Gold Rush or Prison Break, and see if you can beat the system. If you’d rather be indoors but can’t take the pressure, hit up the Frontiers of Flight Museum. This huge collection of aviation memorabilia and aircraft is the perfect place for lovers of flying. Even when it rains, there’s no shortage of things to do in Dallas.
What Can I Do in Dallas for Free?
Take a stroll along the beautiful Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge across the Trinity River. The bridge is 1870ft long, with the central arch reaching 400ft high. The bridge is particularly pretty when lit up at night. Not only is it a free city attraction, but it’s also a romantic thing to do in Dallas. Two birds, one stone. Klyde Warren Park is a popular space in the middle of the city. It’s a great place to simply chill-out and go for a stroll. If you’re up for something a bit more adventurous, you can opt to join a local boot camp and burn off some energy.
If you’re looking for things to do in Dallas with kids, take them to the park’s amazing Imagination Playground. Here you can let them run around, building whatever they please with the help of some massive playground blocks. You’re welcome to play with them, too.
Dallas is a great place to visit, with diverse cultures, great weather, and top attractions. Dallas has a great mix of modern and progressive, along with its traditional Southern charm. Accommodation is plentiful and the city is serviced by one of the world’s largest and busiest airports: Dallas Fort-Worth International. We promise you won’t regret taking advantage of all the things to do in Dallas. A trip to the Big D should feature in everyone’s plans!