First Favorites: Dallas, Texas

In a matter of days, we’ll be jetting off to Texas for this year’s holiday celebrations with my family. We’ll be spending most of our time in San Antonio, hopefully with a day trip or two to Austin, but we’re ending our trip with a couple of days in Dallas. I last visited Dallas about 14 months ago, and it’s pretty unusual for me to return to the same place twice in two years. Especially because this will be Lawrence’s first time there, I’m finding myself thinking about what my favorite places were from my own first visit and which locations I’d like to return to this time.

Here are my top five attractions (and an honorable mention) from my Fall 2016 visit to Dallas:

Old Red Museum

Especially during a first visit, I love learning about the history of where I am, and the Old Red Museum in downtown Dallas provided a charming, accessible, and detailed look at the origin and development of Dallas, from prehistory through its early growth as a railway crossroads to its commercial and cultural maturation in the 20th century. Split over four time periods, each section of the museum featured artifacts, interactive exhibits, and a short film. The building itself, formerly the Dallas County Courthouse, was also lovely. For anyone interested in history, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend a better introduction to Dallas than Old Red.

That X on the ground marks the spot where JFK was shot.

Dallas Heritage Village

I love examining the layouts and interiors of houses, so I often find myself gravitating toward historic homes and buildings. Dallas Heritage Village was home to not just one but a whole array of them, originating from a variety of times and places and collected together in a single park. During our visit, my mother and I meandered from pioneer cabin to stately Victorian home, from chapel to general store, from farmhouse to schoolhouse. We learned about horseshoes from a blacksmith, befriended a goat who followed me around a building and across a field, and were even on hand to witness the celebratory arrival of the park’s new donkeys.

These were the old donkeys. They were tired.

Katy Trail

As a small town girl turned New York City transplant, I’m constantly looking for the green spaces in metropolitan areas. The Katy Trail was Dallas’s incarnation of the urban hiking trail, and it felt like a vibrant oasis in a concrete desert. While we didn’t cover its entire distance, my mother, sister, and I enjoyed several miles of invigorating walking starting and ending at Reverchon Park. The two attractions above helped me to connect Dallas’s past with its present, but the Katy Trail gave me a sense of the way its sprawling neighborhoods connected with one another. It was the type of place I’d frequent if I lived there.

This is the path in Reverchon Park we took to access the Katy Trail.

Dallas Museum of Art

I’m usually tepid when it comes to art museums, but I found myself unexpectedly enchanted by the free Dallas Museum of Art. Its expansive interior space complemented its similarly expansive global collection, and moving through it felt like the sort of exploration in which you could get lost and then found again. As someone who’s perpetually drawn to period rooms (see: Dallas Heritage Village, above), it’s no surprise that my favorite exhibit was the recreated Mediterranean home of Wendy and Emery Reves, Villa La Pausa, in the namesame Wendy and Emery Reves Collection.

This long hallway in the Dallas Museum of Art almost felt like an optical illusion.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

I freely admit that the Dallas Arboretum enjoyed the advantage of my first visit falling in October, but I fell head over heels for this botanical garden during its annual pumpkin extravaganza. Nearly a hundred thousand pumpkins lined its every path and filled its breathtaking centerpiece, the Pumpkin Village. It was a pumpkin patch crossed with a fairy tale. There were so many pumpkins. Pumpkins everywhere. Endless pumpkins. How could anywhere else in Dallas compete?


Honorable Mention: Sixth Floor Museum

The Sixth Floor Museum, located in the former Texas School Book Depository, is the site from which the fatal bullet was fired that killed President John F. Kennedy. Now, an audio tour leads visitors through a meticulous reconstruction of the final days and moments of Kennedy’s life and places his assassination in its cultural, political, and spatial context. The experience was of excellent quality, informative, and somber. Within our deeply divided political climate, a memorial that educates us about our country’s terrible history of political assassination is unquestionably important. But unlike every other place on this list, I can’t say that I enjoyed the Sixth Floor Museum, and I wouldn’t choose to visit it twice in two years.