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10 cool attractions in downtown Dallas

Longhorn steer statues at Pioneer Plaza. Longhorn steer statues at Pioneer Plaza. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

Visitors staying in downtown Dallas have access to varied attractions, from a world-class aquarium to a legendary leathercraft store. Here are 10 great places to see in downtown Dallas and 12 AAA-approved restaurants to check out.

1. Dallas Farmers Market

In the shadows of skyscrapers, the Dallas Farmers Market sticks close to its 1941 roots as the place to find wagonloads of fresh local produce. Through the years, it’s more than quadrupled in size, serving today as a place to browse for artisanal foods (think bakery, espresso, and cheese) and shop for jewelry, housewares, skin products, folk art, and clothing. Ready to dine? Sit down for pizza, Indian, Mexican, sushi, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, and other dishes at market cafés.

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: ride share

2. Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

A gallery at the Dallas Museum of Art. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

One of the nation’s largest, the Dallas Museum of Art exudes a fresh, modern vibe thanks to its soaring ceilings and ample use of natural light. The more than 24,000 works from around the world illustrate 5,000 years of history, with collections from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Islamic nations; and a wealth of work from familiar artists including Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rothko, Pollock, O’Keeffe, and Alfredo Ramos Martínez (pictured).

Plan to spend: 2 to 3 hours

Getting there: M-Line Trolley

You may also like: Texas museums with jaw-dropping outdoor art spaces

3. Dallas World Aquarium

Dallas World Aquarium

Penguins at Dallas World Aquarium. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

This stunning, serene showplace occupies a pair of 1920s warehouses in the West End District. One of several jaw-dropping moments comes in walking beneath the channel connecting the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems, built in the alley that adjoins the 2 buildings. In addition to watching sharks, stingrays, and fish in a coral reef, you’ll see black-footed penguins in the South Africa environment; ocelots and tree frogs in Mundo Maya; and tree kangaroos and shoebill storks in the Borneo area.

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: DART Orange line

4. Sixth Floor Museum

The site of President Kennedy’s assassination brings hundreds of visitors daily, who look up at the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. That building now houses the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, where the president’s life, death, and heritage are detailed in a remarkable educational and historical exhibit in photography, artifacts, documentary films, and an audio tour. A block east, a stark memorial by the lauded late architect Philip Johnson is a cenotaph honoring President Kennedy.

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: DART Orange line

You may also like: Texas attractions you may not know about

5. Deep Ellum

Mural in Deep Ellum

A mural in Deep Ellum. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

Beginning in 1873, this music quarter’s stages has hosted blues and jazz luminaries such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, and Bessie Smith, making Dallas a magnet for early Black entertainers and their audiences. Today, Deep Ellum brings diversity in music to Sons of Hermann Hall, where you can take swing dance lessons, and Adair’s Saloon, a destination dive for local country bands and great burgers. Among abundant outdoor art, Traveling Man: Walking Tall is a smiling steel robot that stands almost 40 feet high near the light rail station. He’s one in a trio from Dallas sculptor Brad Oldham.

Plan to spend: 2 to 3 hours

Getting there: ride share

You may also like: Take a music road trip across Texas

6. Margarita Mile

Margaritas at Meso Maya

Margaritas at Meso Maya. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

Naturally, the city credited with giving the frozen margarita to the world offers an official margarita tour. Downtown, find Margarita Mile stops at Meso Maya, known for its frozen Mango Sangrita; and Fearing’s Rattlesnake Bar, where Dean’s Signature Margarita is made with oak-aged añejo tequila. (Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.)

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: M-Line Trolley

7. Neiman Marcus

One of the most iconic American retail institutions, Neiman Marcus’ origins remain solidly at the heart of Dallas. The original and flagship store, founded in 1907, is a mecca for serious shoppers, and it’s just fun to look around even for those who aren’t into spending sprees. Noted designers from around the world are represented here, and even the window dressings are special.

Plan to spend:  1 to 2 hours

Getting there: ride share

8. Pioneer Plaza

Statue of a cowboy at Pioneer Plaza Dallas

A statue of a cowboy at Pioneer Plaza. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

This remarkable park is one of the city’s most noteworthy photo op sites. As a celebration of the cattle trails that brought settlers to Dallas and cowboys through the area en route to northern markets, Pioneer Plaza showcases a life-size cattle drive cast in bronze, by artist Robert Summers of nearby Glen Rose. Three cowboys herding 40 longhorn steers cover a hilly expanse accented by a waterfall, flowing stream, and native trees and plants.

Plan to spend: ½ to 1 hour

Getting there: ride share

9. Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck

Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck

The view from Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck. | Photo courtesy Visit Dallas

Distinguishing Dallas’ skyline from all others, the huge, twinkling ball atop Reunion Tower is far more than a sparkly object. A bird’s-eye view like none other is found from 470 feet high in the sky. With your 360-degree panorama—seen from an indoor/outdoor deck—comes Halo, the interactive digital information system that tells you about city landmarks you’ll see.

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: DART Blue line

10. Wild Bill’s Western Store

A Dallas legend for more than 6 decades, Wild Bill’s Western Store comes from a multigenerational leathercraft family with vintage, signature leather tooling patterns figuring into the beautiful cowboy boots and belts made with years of tradition and care. Great cowboy hats are fitted and shaped to your liking while you browse the inventory of pearl-snap shirts and shiny belt buckles.

Plan to spend: 1 to 2 hours

Getting there: DART Orange line

You may also like: The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District’s renovation puts a swanky new shine on ‘cowtown’

12 AAA-approved restaurants to try

  1. Ascension CoffeeCoffee/Tea | $$. (469) 941-4542.
  2. Cane RossoPizza | $$. (214) 741-1188.
  3. CBD ProvisionsAmerican | $$. (214) 261-4500.
  4. Fearing’sSouthwestern | $$$$. (214) 922-4848. 
  5. The French RoomFrench | $$$$. (214) 651-3615. 
  6. The HenryAmerican | $$. (972) 677-9560.
  7. Hotel St. Germain, French | $$$$. (214) 871-2516. 
  8. Meso MayaMexican | $$. (214) 484-6555. 
  9. NobuJapanese | $$$. (214) 252-7000. 
  10. Pecan LodgeBarbecue | $$. (214) 748-8900. 
  11. Tei-AnJapanese | $$$. (214) 220-2828.
  12. Zodiac RestaurantAmerican | $$$. (214) 573-5800.

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