When you think of Dallas, the Cowboys—and their cheerleaders—might first come to mind, but the city is recognized as the cultural center of the state.
Downtown is rich in history and the city pays homage to both good and bad with its museums, parks and even its stores. Pioneer Plaza celebrates the trails that brought settlers to Dallas while Dealey Plaza and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
To really soak in culture, traverse the 19-block section called the Dallas Arts District. Outdoor plazas, parks and green spaces await with art at every turn as you make your way to the Dallas Museum of Art or the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
The following are the essential things to see on a trip to Downtown Dallas.
A National Historic Landmark District since 1993, Dealey Plaza is a reminder of one of the most tragic events in U.S. history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The fountain and JFK Memorial are popular sites to visit on the plaza.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Just north of Dealey Plaza is the former Texas Schoolbook Depository which now pays homage to JFK.
"John F. Kennedy and the Memory of a Nation" is the main exhibit on the sixth floor, the floor from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot. Special exhibits and programs are found on the seventh floor.
Just south of Dealey Plaza is Reunion Tower with some of the best views of the city.
A part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel complex, the tower rises 560 feet. Stop on the GeO-Deck at 470 feet for 360-degree views magnified by zoom cameras and telescopes. For casual dining, Hit the Cloud Nine Café on the way in or out. For fine dining, ride all the way up to 560 feet to the distinctive glowing ball marking the top of tower to indulge in Asian food at Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty.
The Dallas central business district celebrates the trails that brought settlers to Dallas in Pioneer Plaza, the district's largest public open space adjacent to the Convention Center and Omni Hotel. A bronze re-creation of a cattle drive—along with two cowboys driving the pack—marks the space populated by native trees and a stream. Get up close to see the historic detailing on the sculptures while enjoying man-made cliffs and a waterfall.
This inspirational square was fully opened in 1977 as a place to emphasize that gratitude is a common root of religions, cultures and traditions around the world. It has historical exhibits, artwork and spiritual spaces to explore.
Distinct pieces in the square include a large reproduction of Norman Rockwell's "Golden Rule," the 90-foot high Chapel of Thanksgiving and its "Glory Window," one of the largest horizontally-mounted stained glass windows in the world.
Main Street Garden Park
Green space in the heart of Dallas—owned by the city—is the perfect spot for locals and visitors with a wide variety of interests.
Young ones will enjoy the toddler play area, dog owners can let their pooches off the leash at the dog run and public art installations capture attention. Find refreshments at City Park Cafe and don't worry about being out of touch, there's Wi-Fi.
Neiman Marcus Flagship Store
The flagship store of the sophisticated chain has been serving Dallas for over a century.
Come in to where it all started and find styles for men and women, home decor, accessories and so much more from classic and contemporary designers such as Jonathan Adler and Ralph Lauren.
Relax and recharge with lunch from The Zodiac, its legendary restaurant, with its signature Mandarin Orange Soufflé and popovers with strawberry butter.
Dallas Farmers Market
Dallas Farmers Market: Between Klyde Warren Park and the Winspear Opera House on South Pearl Expressway, this open-air market is the place to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables and the best in local and international products.
Also on-site is The Shed, an open-air pavilion, open Friday through Sunday, a place where vendors sell their wares in addition to chef demonstrations and live music. The Market is a huge food hall and vendor's market open seven days a week.
Dallas Arts District
The Dallas Arts District spans 19 blocks in the northeast part of Downtown and represents many mediums.
Dallas Museum of Art: It's free admission to collection galleries and most exhibitions, which is a plus, as the DMA is one of the largest art museums in the country with over 24,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years.
Take your time to experience ever-changing galleries as the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Get a unique look at the museum with programs like Off the Wall ($5), where pop culture meets fine art from the permanent collection and the DMA's latest exhibition.
The Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art: The Crow's love of the applied arts of Asia are on display and feature historical and contemporary works from China, Japan, India, Korea and Southeast Asia.
In addition to housing its own collection, the museum has become an art repository from other collectors and museums.
Show up on Saturdays at 1 pm to take a docent-led tour.
Nasher Sculpture Center: Over 300 sculptures, combined with 20th century paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, help make the Nasher Sculpture Center one of the preeminent museums in the world.
See works from artists such as Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin and Pablo Picasso. In addition to the art, enjoy programs that include film series, live music performances and Target First Saturdays which presents family-friendly programming and free admission for kids.
Klyde Warren Park: A versatile spot covering five acres in the Arts District, the park is open to all manner of activities from 6 am to 11 pm each day.
Take a 20-minute "standing" tour and become an expert on Dallas skyline architecture, engage in a yoga session or enjoy a live performance at the Muse Family Performance Pavilion.
Hall Texas Sculpture Walk: Between Ross Avenue and Flora Street, the half-acre Hall Texas Sculpture Walk is next to HALL Arts, a multi-use destination development and future home to a boutique hotel and luxury high-rise.
The heart of the walk is contemporary sculpture and artwork from the HALL Collection. Over 50 percent of the works are from Texas artists using steel, stone, aluminum, limestone, granite, bronze and clay to create their pieces.
One Arts Plaza: This skyscraper combines many things into 24 stories including businesses, residences, offices and stores.
Its outdoor plaza is home to the largest digital art installation in North Texas and is a perfect place to start before a night out in the Arts District with its four restaurants offering up selections from gourmet omelettes and upscale burgers to authentic Japanese soba.
Winspear Opera House: Just one of the venues at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the majestic, horseshoe-shaped Winspear Opera House was built for opera and musicals with stages able to handle ballet as well.
See shows from its Broadway Series or attend the annual "A Night to Remember" event, with proceeds supporting its mission of feeding the hungry, healing the sick and housing the homeless.