Texas

8 Unique things to do in Downtown Dallas

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated October 23, 2019

As one of the USA’s ten biggest cities, you might expect Downtown Dallas to have plenty in store for the curious visitor, and you’d be right. But what some may not know is that this is an incredibly cultured city too, with plenty of unique attractions.

A nighttime view over Downtown Dallas (Photo: Cliff Baise via Flickr)

Downtown Dallas has undergone something of a transformation over the past decade, with many of its once empty buildings and desolate sidewalks revamped into a major hub of culture and entertainment. Today the district continues to grow, and every week there seem to be new green spaces, arts institutions, fine dining venues and upscale shops added to the burgeoning landscape. As a consequence the area is now almost as busy at night as it is during the day.

Yet the gentrification that has taken place here is only one part of the story. In short, Downtown Dallas is so much more than the sum of its contemporary parts and it is also blessed with a wide array of perennially popular landmarks and attractions, all of which combine to make Downtown Dallas such a unique place to visit. We’ve picked out eight of the best for you here.

Discover what happened to JFK on that fateful day in US history

Iconic former President John F. Kennedy will be remembered for many of the great achievements he made during his lifetime, but it’s difficult to come to Dallas and disassociate the man from his death. While it may be considered dark tourism, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza and the infamous grassy knoll assassination site are fascinating and informative trips. Located in the plaza is a monument to the great leader, while the Sixth Floor Museum nearby has excellent exhibits detailing JFK’s presidency and the events before and after the assassination here. For a more comprehensive guide to this region and particular slice of history, consider hiring a local expert guide. To have a look at some of the JFK tours available in Dallas, please click here.

Plaza: 646 Main St.

Museum: 411 Elm St.

Elm Street where JFK was assassinated (Photo: Jerome Strauss via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Learn about our relationship with the skies

The Frontiers of Flight Museum is an ode to the pioneers of flight, and to those who continue to push the boundaries of what is possible when we get airborne. Although not the only flight-related institution in Dallas (American Airlines is headquartered at Dallas Fort Worth), this museum’s thousands of exhibits examine the history of human flight, from a replica of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 plan the Wright Flyer, to the landing pod of an Apollo spacecraft, at the forefront of what humanity is now trying to accomplish. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute, this can be considered the great institution’s aviation wing (pardon the pun).

6911 Lemmon Ave.

Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm

An Apollo space mission pod at Frontiers of Flight (Photo: Neuwieser via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take a tour of a city neighbourhood with a local via Getyourguide

If you’d like to get to know the Downtown area of Dallas better through the insight of a local guide, then there are plenty of walking, minivan and food tours available in the city. Tours are an ideal way for larger groups and families, who prefer to let somebody in the know take care of the smaller details and planning, get to know the city. There’s also the invaluable chance to get a unique local perspective on Dallas that might not be garnered from the guidebooks. For a look at some of the best locally-guided tours of Downtown Dallas, including restaurant hopping and a tour of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, among others, take a look at the list on Getyourguide here.

See who blinks first at the Giant Eyeball

Plonked outside a sleek, modern, upscale hotel, passers-by are perpetually performing double takes as they catch sight of this gleaming orb resting in a lush garden. The giant, ultra-realistic, fibreglass eyeball sculpture was created by artist Tony Tasset in 2007 as part of a temporary Chicago public arts display before being mothballed for several years. When it emerged, it spent some time in St. Louis before pitching up in Texas in 2003, when it was purchased by the hotel as part of their expansive art collection. Get close enough and you’ll notice the impressive attention to detail that went into its design, including the lightning-like complexity of the blue iris and its blotchy red veins.

1601 Main Street

Eye Sculpture

The Giant Eyeball sculpture sitting in snow (Photo: Luis Tamayo via Flickr)

Look out over the whole city from Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck

Viewing platforms are ten-a-penny in cities across the world, but the GeO-Deck at Chicago’s Reunion Tower is a little different. From 470 feet (143 metres) up visitors can take in the breath-taking 360-degree panoramic views using a variety of state-of-the-art technology including high-definition zoom cameras, touch screen monitors, and augmented reality telescopes. This interactive experience, enhanced by technology, is a perfect way to spend an afternoon with the family. Alternatively they offer special date packages to visiting couples. Visitors can also add their name and geographical information to a star, create an avatar and record their experience with creative illustrations. They also run a series of after hours events that bring common pastimes like bingo and yoga up into the sky.

300 Reunion Boulevard East

Daily 10am-9.30pm

Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck

Inside the high-tech observation deck at Reunion Tower (Photo: Reunion Tower)

See Asian art through the ages at Crow Museum

The Crow Museum of Asian Art is one of the most unique cultural venues in the Downtown Dallas district. Whether it’s pioneering forms of painting from contemporary artists, to centuries-old carved jade sculptures or suits of Samurai armour, there are many marvels from the East on exhibition. Both permanent and rotating exhibitions of arts from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia are showcased, as well as a busy programme of wellness classes, yoga and meditation, lectures and gallery talks. Be sure to check out the pristine sculpture garden too, home to 15 contemporary and historical pieces.

2010 Flora Street

Tue-Sun 11am-5pm

Origami cranes at the Crow Museum of Asian Art (Photo: Michael Cornelius via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Catch a show at Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

For a slice of Dallas’s high society, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, hosts orchestras and big names in the classical music world. The acoustics of this magnificent hall have often been compared to the great concert halls of Europe, and with good reason; anyone who has attended a concert here will likely have been mesmerised by the rich sounds that reverberate all around, for which we can give thanks to world-renowned acoustician Russell Johnson. Every detail was designed, in unison between Johnson and Pei, to achieve the highest acoustical quality, and the result is extraordinary. Concerts are held at least weekly throughout the year, with tickets available for public purchase.

2301 Flora Street

Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 12pm-8pm, Sun 12pm-4pm

Morton H Meyerson Symphony Center (Photo: joevare via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Cosy up with a drink at the Grapevine Bar

There’s no shortage of watering holes in downtown Dallas, but none are quite as unique as The Grapevine Bar. In many ways it’s a quintessential dive bar, and yet it’s so much more than that. Sunshine’s out? Head to the rooftop bar to soak up the rays and sip on refreshing cocktails. Tired after a hard day’s sightseeing? Sink into one of the cosy couches while the well-stocked jukebox plays some soothing tunes. Fancy something a little more energetic? Shoot some hoops on the Basketball half-court on the asphalt patio outside. There’s also a pink-railed, black-felt pool table, mismatched chairs and glassware, and a drinks menu as long as your arm. But more than anything else, this is a great friendly bar to head to if you don’t know anyone in town.

3902 Maple Avenue

Mon-Sat 3pm-2am, Sun from noon

Night-time at the Grapevine (Photo: Courtesy of The Grapevine Bar)