Dallas is the third largest city in Texas and the ninth largest city in the country, featuring world class shopping, dining, and attractions. Culture lovers can visit one of many area museums that feature a wide variety of art exhibits, which range from the roots of modern art to outdoor sculpture gardens. In fact, the downtown area of Dallas is a constantly-evolving work of art ideal for architecture buffs. If traveling with children, then you’ll want to be sure to visit the fun and educational Dallas Zoo and Dallas World Aquarium to see some of nature’s most magnificent creatures up close. Visitors can choose from a wide variety of attractions to fit their schedules and interests. There are plenty of places perfect for a single free afternoon, while other venues offer so many sights, that the traveler will need a full day to take it all in. It’s a 3½ hour drive from Houston (240 miles), a 4½ hour drive from San Antonio (270 miles), a 7 hour drive to Memphis (450 miles) and an 8½ hour drive to Kansas City (500 miles).
Top 10 Attractions
1. Visit The Dallas Zoo to see animals from around the world in award winning natural habitats at the Dallas Zoo, where you can see bronze giraffes and other incredible features in exhibits like “Giants of the Savannah,” “Primate Place” and “Snout Route,” which presents animals with distinctive noses, like tapirs and anteaters. There’s a children’s petting zoo for the little ones, as well as a fabulous carousel. In addition, the “Wilds of Africa” exhibit contains some 80 species of African animals and they house a total of around 8000 animals representing some 380 different species. Ride the monorail around the zoo grounds, if you come during the summer. General admission ranges from $5 to $15, depending on the time of year.
2. The Dallas Museum of Art features everything from European paintings to Pacific Island sculptures. In fact, more than 23,000 items represent ancient times to the present. Frederic Church’s “The Icebergs” and classic Impressionist works by masters like Edouard Manet and Paul Gauguin are part of the large collection. Limestone galleries spiral from a central area, making for easy navigation and outstanding viewing. General admission is free and special exhibition admission is $16 or less.
3. Dallas World Aquarium – Become surrounded with raging crocs, exotic birds soaring freely overhead, a 40-foot waterfall and Mayan dance performances are just a sliver of the thrilling sights and sounds awaiting visitors in the multi-level rainforest of the Dallas World Aquarium. This fantastically fun, one-of-a-kind zoological park features such incredible highlights as free-roaming New World monkeys, rare Antillean manatees, majestic jaguars, frolicsome otters, car-sized catfish, a 400,000-gallon shark tank and even sloth and penguin feedings. Admission is $20.95 for adults and $12.95 for children.
4. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden is located on White Rock Lake, just outside of downtown Dallas. It features 66 acres of blooming flower beds, manicured lawns and lush trees. The gardens house over 2400 types of azaleas, including the only publicly accessible Huang Collection specimens found outside China. The property also showcases beautiful statuary and the DeGolyer Mansion, an exquisite Spanish-style hacienda commissioned in 1940 by Texas oil baron Everett DeGolyer. It takes a spot on our list of the 12 Best Botanical Gardens In The USA. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children.
5. Six Flags Over Texas has been on forefront of them park entertainment for decades and offers rides, shows, and more to Dallas area visitors. General admission is $64.99 for adults and $49.99 for children.
6. The Ft. Worth Zoo – Exhibits range from Raptor Canyon to Koala Outback, and attractions such as Tasmanian Tower and their virtual safari. Admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children.
7. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame – A one of a kind museum, Fort Worth’s National Cowgirl Hall of Fame features exhibits and memorabilia honoring the ‘gals of the west. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children.
8. The Cowboys Stadium is home to the Dallas Cowboys. They also host a variety of other sporting and entertainment events. But even when there isn’t an event, you can come for tours of this iconic stadium.
9. Sixth Floor Museum – This museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating information on John F. Kennedy’s life, career, assassination and death. Located on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building – the very spot the sniper’s gun was found – the Sixth Floor Museum let’s you gain a feel for how things happened in 1963. Admission is $16 for adults and $13 for children.
10. The McKinney Trolley is a historical trolley system, which recreates how a real trolley system of the early to mid-20th century looked and operated. The trolley is free of charge.
Will you be coming in late September to the middle of October? Well you’re in for a real treat because that is when more than three million people come to attend the annual State Fair of Texas. It’s one of the largest annual expositions in North America, featuring amusement rides, livestock shows, cooking contests, art competitions, college football games, outdoor musical events, and IMAX film screenings. Fair Park, the 277-acre site, is itself a National Historic Landmark and has been hosting the fair since 1886.
The Mesquite Championship Rodeo – From June through August, this classic rodeo is located in the massive 5300-seat, air-conditioned Resistol Arena, just east of Dallas. More than 200,000 visitors show up to experience championship rodeo events, including bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, and barrel racing. The rodeo is also a great family activity, complete with mechanical bull, pony rides, and a Western store. Each Friday and Saturday, the action starts with a laser and pyrotechnics show.
Five Sixty By Wolf Gang Puck – The only revolving restaurant in Dallas is now run by one of the world’s most sought after celebrity chefs. The name comes from it being 560-feet tall, 50 stories above Dallas. They specialize in modern interpretations of Asian dishes, while offering a zen-like atmosphere that allows you to sit back and unwind. Choose from over 400 wines and nearly a dozen brands of sake.
Opaque – Dine in complete darkness! Many of the servers are blind (well, even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t do them much good!). The experience is designed to allow you to ignore the atmosphere and solely take in the sounds, feelings, and of course the tastes. It is quite pricey, in fact a three-course meal can cost over $100. But where else can you get such an experience (turn the lights off at home and eat?!). They also have locations in LA, San Diego, San Francisco, and New York.
Medieval Times Dinner Theater – is a family dinner theater featuring staged medieval-style games, sword-fighting, and jousting performed by a cast of 75 actors and 20 horses. It is housed in a replica 11th-century castle.
Hypnotic Donuts – The place that D Magazine and The Observer rank as having “the best donuts in Dallas” and the place that’s been featured on Fox News and in USA Today has become very well known for having an extraordinarily unique selection of donuts, including “The Devil’s Dance,” which is billed as “the world’s spiciest donut.” Also try the “Poppin Berry,” with strawberry frosting and crushed Pop-Tarts, and their “S’more doughnut,” featuring chocolate, marshmallows and crushed graham crackers.
Hard Rock Cafe – Located just blocks from the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, anchors the Southern end of the Victory Park urban development center. The new cafe features more than 8,900-square feet of space, including a 265-seat restaurant, outdoor dining, rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia and a Rock Shop featuring limited-edition Hard Rock Cafe Dallas merchandise. With a menu full of mouth-watering American classics, memorabilia from the biggest names in rock, signature cocktails, and a full complement of city-specific merchandise to memorialize your visit, the Hard Rock Cafe Dallas is one trip you just have to make.
Billy Bob’s – Ya’ll all need to come on over to the “world’s largest honky tonk!” They say everything is bigger in Texas, right? Well this place happens to have nearly 3 acres under one roof. The massive nightclub is host to top country music acts, professional bull-riding, and plenty of dancing.
Rainforest Cafe – Step into this indoor jungle and discover one of the most realistic indoor rain forests ever created, complete with cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation, tropical rainstorms, beautiful aquariums, trumpeting elephants and wild animatronic gorillas, jaguars, and elephants. A “thunderstorm” goes off every now and then, where the “”animals” go wild and thunder and lightning appear to sound off in a dramatic yet exciting experience. The menu includes a wide variety of options, including pastas, seafood, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. Order their “volcano” sundae and they start yelling “volcano” and make quite a spectacle! Pick up a souvenir on the way out at their large, iconic gift shop. Located in nearby Grapevine in Grapevine Mills.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and more than 200 menu selections to choose from. They offer 50 cheesecakes and specialty desserts, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
Buca di Beppo – Owned by Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo specializes in immigrant Southern Italian food. Vintage photographs cover the walls, in fact each restaurant is said to have more than 2,500 pictures. The food is served family style, where each item is shared among the dinner party. A select number of locations have a lunch menu, with individual-sized portions. All restaurants have a Pope table, a large table in a room to iteself, with a bust of the pope in the center. Most locations also have a room right across from the kitchen, where you can watch them cook – chefs even come over and talk to you and even let you sample dishes.
3 Star- The Great Wolf Lodge (Avg. price $223-$390) is expensive, but remains a fantastic way to spend time with the family. Remember that admission to the 80,000 square foot indoor water park is included with your room; day passes aren’t available to the general public. This is the 10th largest indoor water park in North America. The MagiQuest interactive attraction is an additional aspect that sets this hotel apart, this extra-charge experience basically allows players to walk into a video game. This is every kids paradise, enough said. While the Great Wolf Lodge was not quite right for our family, it may be perfect for yours, so consider giving it a try and seeing for yourself! It’s located in nearby Grapevine, TX.
4 Star- Gaylord Texan (Avg. price $189-$335), like the other 3 Gaylord properties (which were recently purchased by Marriott), is a one of a kind destination. This massive 1,511 room hotel offers lovely Southwestern décor and offers rooms that overlook the atriums, which house well kept indoor gardens. Summer 2011 marked the opening of a brand new 10-acre pool and lazy river complex called Paradise Springs, featuring a 27- foot-tall waterslide and private cabanas. Keep in mind that besides the hefty room price, you will also be charged $15 per night for parking ($24 for Valet), and a $15 daily resort fee!! Think the prices are too high? At least come in and take a walk around the atriums to see what you’ve been missing; it’s one of our favorite hotels in the country. Located in nearby Grapevine, TX.
4.5 Star- Omni Dallas Hotel (Rooms from $113 per night) – Ranked by TripAdvisor is the second hotel in all of Dallas and considered by CNN as one of America’s highest-tech hotels, this 23-story, 1,001-room hotel is conveniently connected to the Omni Dallas Convention Center. Interactive reader boards with touch-screens fill the lobby and let you check everything from flight info to area attractions, news, weather, meetings and events. Gadget highlights in the rooms include a 42-inch LCD high-definition television, another TV hidden in the bathroom mirror and motion-sensor LED nightlights underneath the bed. Outside, 4.3 miles of LED building lights surround the LEED Gold-certified hotel’s exterior, allowing it to project brilliant light shows and convention logos.