The saying “Everything is bigger in Texas” rings true when it comes to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) attractions. The metroplex’s attractions are loud, large, big, and exciting, keeping visitors entertained and engaged. Whether it’s enjoying the luscious outdoors, flying fast on thrilling rides, or getting your two-step on, here are the top 20 things to do in the DFW.
State Fair of Texas
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The State Fair of Texas is known for creative foods, entertainment, and its cowboy greeter, Big Tex | Courtesy of VisitDallas
The State Fair of Texas is the event of the year in Dallas, a major festivity with a long tradition that goes as far back as 1886. The fair is held in Fair Park, a larger-than-life venue featuring an impressive number of entertainment venues, amusement rides, museums, gardens, landmarks and more. For about three weeks every year, Fair Park is swept over with visitors enjoying the most diverse forms of entertainment, from food tastings to art exhibitions, and live music shows to livestock competitions. Unique highlights are a grand, full-fledged car show, and the so-called Red River Shootout, a football game played by the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas. All of this is overseen by Big Tex, the event’s 55-feet-tall iconic mascot installed in the park.
Located near the Convention Center on the south end of downtown, the Fort Worth Water Gardens is a unique urban oasis surrounded by high walls and shade-providing trees. The urban plaza was designed by Philip Johnson and includes 4.3 acres of three pools, waterfalls, and fountains. Though there are three separately designed pools, the best known is the active pool featured in the 1976 sci-fi film Logan’s Run. As you descend the terraced steps, you can feel the force of falling water all around you. Be sure to check out the gardens at night; they are illuminated until 10 p.m.
Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is one of the biggest and most reputable places to see art in the Texan city. Next to its program of rotating exhibitions, the museum offers its visitors a varied and international range of permanent art collections. The African Art collection focuses on artwork from the Sub-Saharan region, and the Contemporary Art collection showcases an impressive selection of paintings and sculptures from contemporary artistic movements such as abstract expressionism and minimalism; the Pacific Islands Art collection consists of sculptures and textiles made in Indonesian islands. A number of other collections, both permanent and temporary, are on display, demonstrating an impressive grasp on international — and American — art.
An authentic Texas cowboy experience can be found in nearby Fort Worth, approximately an hour’s drive from downtown Dallas. The Fort Worth Stock Yards are situated in a national historic district, which retains the feel of a Western movie set and even hosts a twice-daily cattle drive. Complete with brick walkways and wooden corrals, this is the place to visit if you’re looking to step back in time. Daily rodeos, horse-and-cart rides, the world’s largest honky-tonk, and a choice of BBQ joints make this the Texan experience many tourists are looking for.
Thom Mayne, a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate designed the astoundingly beautiful Perot Museum of Nature and Science. There’s 11 permanent exhibit halls at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science that offer hands-on science experiences for kids, the likes of which include activities that focus on minerals, geology, energy, fossils, and technology. Architecture tours, speakers, and family experiments are other ways the Perot Museum engages visitors.
On the fateful day of November 22, 1963, 35th president John F. Kennedy was assassinated at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Now, Dealey Plaza has been converted into a memorial for the late president and houses the Sixth Floor Museum, a place to learn all about that historic day, and the life and death of the president. Watch short films, see photographs, hear first-hand testimonies, discover artifacts, and more. The museum also has a full library and reading room for more literature on the subject in addition to information about other Dallas history. Be sure to check out the educational, youth, and teaching programs that are available.
Cedar Ridge Preserve is a place that is dedicated to the land and wildlife. It’s maintained by the Dallas Audubon and is free to the public. There is a lot of hiking going on here, and many people come and let their dogs get in on the challenge with their trails. With nine miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult, there is something for everyone. It’s quiet and cool from the shade of the trees. Many people also come to bird-watch year-round. It’s a great attraction for locals and tourists alike.
The Kimbell Art Museum has a permanent collection of 350 pieces of art | Courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
Even casual art fans will appreciate the breadth of the Kimbell. From ancient art to 20th-century pieces, the Kimbell’s display is world-class. It contains Michelangelo’s first painting as well as works from Rembrandt, Picasso, and Monet, making it one of the country’s best small museums. Recognized as a prime example of modern architecture, the building itself has an open-floor plan and is filled with natural light. The Kimbell’s permanent collection is manageable in one visit, while high-profile traveling exhibits are worth returning for. Enjoy lunch at the museum’s well-prepared buffet of sandwiches, salads, and quiches, and sit in the manicured courtyard of one of the city’s best museums.
A classic theme park, but an ultimate goody. Located in Arlington, about 15 miles outside of Dallas, Six Flags Over Texas offers thrilling roller coasters, great entertainment shows, carnival-style games and plenty of restaurants. From rides like the Titan and the Texas Giant for teens and adults to softer rides like Daffy Duck Bucket Blasters and Bugs Bunny Boomtown for toddlers and small children, there is something for everyone. With over 45 rides, including five water rides, be sure to grab an all-access THE FLASH pass to enjoy all of Six Flags Over Texas has to offer.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden features 66 acres of gardens, from the ornamental to the sunken and colorful. This beautiful serene place is a year-round attraction that’s fun for all ages. Children are sure to enjoy over 150 activities in the 8-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden that features The Texas Skywalk, The Moody Oasis, a Walk in the Clouds, and much more. Grab lunch to-go from one of the many restaurants and have a picnic on the lawn while soaking in the sun, or sit back and relax at a summer evening concert. With plenty of family activities including indoor and outdoor learning galleries, a scavenger hunt, and tons of interactive exhibits, find out why the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is one of the best family-friendly attractions in Dallas. Don’t forget the camera, as there are plenty of photo ops.
You don’t have to be a Cowboys fan to tour the Dallas Cowboy Stadium. The AT&T Stadium is full of endless fun and facts as the world’s largest domed structure. Tour the locker rooms, walk through the tunnel, or simply admire its contemporary art. Guests have the option of choosing from four daily tours: Self-Guided, VIP-Guided, Art Tour, or an Educational Tour. Enjoy a quick bite at the café, shop the Official Dallas Cowboys Gift Shop, or toss the football around (bring your own) on the actual field for as long as you want. The AT&T Stadium located in Arlington is an experience sure to appeal to everyone.
The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff is a gem and stands as the location that Lee Harvey Oswald sought out for a hiding place after murdering Officer J.D. Tippit. He was then arrested. Oswald would later assassinate JFK. It has survived the times and has become a charming and renowned theater for the avid filmgoer. A director’s hall of fame shines beautifully in the lobby of the theater, of distinguished directors both old and new. In fact, it’s almost a mini film museum, showcasing old cameras and classic relics. The theater shows independent movies, film festivals, independent screenings, documentaries, old classics and 35mm films. Any movie buff would feel understood here. They also have a full-service bar that serves smaller batch boutique products, offers cheap Texas and Mexican beers, and a slew of homemade cocktails inspired by films that you can take into the theater with you.
At 561 feet (170 meters) tall, the Reunion Tower is an observation tower with 360-degree views of the city of Dallas. The observation deck level features interactive and digital experiences, including information about Dallas history, the Reunion Tower itself, and more, and there are also numerous telescopes to get a close-up view of the skyline. Pop into the Cloud Nine Café for a snack or refreshing drink or eat at Five Sixty, a Wolfgang Puck fine dining restaurant located on the top, rotating floor. Eat a delicious gourmet meal while enjoying incredible views that overlook the city. The tower is also connected to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, so it’s perfect for visitors who want to stay close by to this Dallas attraction.
Most parks are just open green spaces for people to stroll around for fresh air, but not Klyde Warren Park! This public space is located on top of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and hosts a hub of activities and events all year long. For the body, enjoy Sunday morning yoga, Wednesday night Zumba, or Saturday afternoon Tai Chi and boot camp. For your mind, attend a pleasant outdoor meditation or take a guided tour of the city skyline, while learning historical facts about Dallas. For your appetite, there are a variety of food trucks at the park nearly every day, including an ice cream truck! You can also take a free art class or listen to a concert, and if you want a more traditional park experience, you can relax in the sun, play chess, bring your dog to the dog park, or participate in a group sport.
The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory hosts concerts, stand up, and other entertainment | Courtesy of Toyota Music Factory
Toyota Music Factory is set to be one of the most thriving entertainment concepts in Dallas Fort Worth. The Pavilion is the centerpiece, a concert stage that has hosted big name acts and speakers like Ringo Starr, Hillary Clinton, and Trevor Noah. There’s also 25 restaurants and an Alamo Drafthouse. Big Beat Dallas will be a major aspect of the Toyota Music Factory, offering live music daily, a morning farmer’s market, an open container beverage policy between Big Beat Dallas restaurants, and late-night hours.
Once a privately owned reservoir located on over 1,000 acres of land, the lake (and adjacent park) is an amazing place to spend the day. The lake is a popular site for mild water activities, such as kayaking and sailing, and the park has a 10-mile hiking and biking trail, in addition to it being a great site for bird watching. This spot features both a dog park and picnic areas, and the lake is in very close proximity to the White Rock Lake Museum, Bath House Cultural Center, and Dallas Arboretum. Rent a pavilion to have a private family event or stay active by taking a stroll around the scenic waterfront.
Pioneer Plaza is a park that’s home to trees and man-made cliffs, but the centerpiece of the park is the life-size sculpture that recreates a cattle drive, complete with bronze longhorn cattle and three cowboys on horses. Visitors often hike around the cliffs, take photos with the longhorn sculptures, and marvel at the waterfall.
Opened in 2008 along the banks of the Trinity River, this center is at the entry of the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest. The Trinity River Audubon Center offers each of its visitors a chance to discover miles of trails that feature local birds, vegetation, and wildlife and features public programs like guided hikes, bird watching classes, and the chance to learn more about the four breeds of owls that are native to Dallas. In addition, there is an indoor exhibit hall that showcases native animals like fish, snakes, lizards, and more. Visitors also have the option to tour the architecture of the eco-friendly buildings, taste local honey from the six beehives, and watch a movie about the Trinity River and its history. The center also offers school field trips, like the four-hour eco-investigations that feature a pond study, guided hike, and nature study. There is a two-hour guided float trip down the Trinity River, which is perfect for a short weekend adventure. The Trinity River Audubon Center serves to educate Dallas residents about the natural environment and the fragility of the ecosystem of the largest urban forest in the United States. With the educational opportunities, scenic wooded trails, and extensive visitor activities, the Trinity River Audubon Center is a great place for field trips, volunteering, and fun.
Horse races bring out crowds of fans at Lone Star Park | Courtesy of Lone Star Park
While casinos are illegal in Texas, Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie offers some gambling fun with a Class 1 horse track. It receives 800,000 visitors per year and offers horse races on weekends during the season, a sports bar, and year-round events like concerts, weddings, and meetings. With seating for 8,000 people and a one-mile track, the odds are good that you’ll have a great time here.
Seeing a bison up close and personal is possible at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, a fantastic area that offers 3,000 acres of forests, wetlands, and prairies full of wildlife, including a fenced-off section for bison. Hike for hours, launch a canoe in the river, or spy a herd of bison — at a safe distance, of course. It’s well-worth the price.