You may not think of Dallas as a hotspot for top musical entertainment, opera, art exhibitions, and fine dining, but take a closer look. Dallas is home to the largest arts district in the country. Hidden within the impressive architecture of the area are Picassos, Beethoven performances, Italian opera, the works of Rodin, and Tony-Award-winning theater.
Don’t be daunted by the size of the area; it’s all much more accessible than it appears at first glance. In fact, not all the art is indoors. I’ve put together a short list of some of the top places you should visit in the Dallas Arts District.
1. Klyde Warren Park
Klyde Warren Park is a deck park built over a recessed freeway connecting two Dallas neighborhoods, Uptown and the Dallas Arts District. It is an amazing work of engineering -- exactly what you’d expect in a city that prides itself on innovation and big ideas.
The 5.2-acre green space includes over 300 trees and indigenous plants and fountains, creating an urban oasis in the middle of the glass and concrete downtown district. Klyde Warren Park is often referred to as the town square of Dallas.
All events in the park are free and include daily fitness and wellness programs like yoga, dance classes, Zumba, and more. The space provides a setting for exercise, relaxation, and community.
2. Dallas Museum Of Art
There are three distinct art museums within steps of each other in this highly walkable section of the arts district.
The Dallas Museum of Art opened in 1984 -- the first important museum and building to open in the arts district. It houses 23,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years. A defining feature of the museum is its slate of programs for all ages, including Arts and Letters Live, now in its 30th year, and Jazz Under The Stars. Arts and Letters Live features performances by both literary and visual artists such as author Anne Lamott and David Sedaris.
The museum is free, but special exhibitions and events may have an entrance fee. All of the public galleries are accessible to wheelchair and mobility device users. There are several entrances to the Dallas Museum of Art; the prettiest is on Harwood Street, and the most convenient is from the parking lot. Allow two to four hours to fully enjoy the Dallas Museum of Art.
3. Nasher Sculpture Center
One of my favorite museums in the Arts District is the Nasher Sculpture Center, designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano.
Perhaps my fondness is colored by the many events I have attended which were hosted in the beautiful outdoor gardens. Somehow, in spite of the humidity of a Texas summer, the gardens remain a welcome, green oasis.
Indoors, the space is located on two floors and flooded with natural light. The collection includes works by some of the most well-known artists of the 20th century, such as Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Matisse, and Alberto Giacometti. The museum was founded by Raymond and Patsy Nasher.
4. Crow Museum of Asian Art
Directly across the street and in front of the Nasher Sculpture Center is the Crow Museum of Asian Art. The mission statement is to bridge the cultural gap between east and west. Much of the collection is from the private collection of the founders, Trammell and Margaret Crow. The museum also exhibits works from notable private collections.
The museum has hosted numerous community events, seminars, and workshops as well as children’s activities and cultural classes such as Tai Chi, yoga, and meditation sessions. Past Chinese New Year celebrations have included dragon parades, dancers, games for children, and crafts.
This museum is free and open six days a week.
5. Dee And Charles Wyly Theater
If you love great theater, you must plan an evening at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theater. The vertical design of the Wyly is one of the most unique in the country; there are no bad seats. A feeling of connection with the actors on stage is enhanced by a post-performance actors' talk available to all theatergoers. The Wyly is home to the Dallas Theater Center, which, in 2017, won a prestigious regional Tony Award.
6. Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is the home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Designed by I. M. Pei, the building seats 2,062 people in a state-of-the-art performance hall. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, led by Grammy Award-winning Italian conductor Fabio Luisi, performs a wide repertoire of music from classical to pop. A great night out in the Arts District would surely include attending a live music performance in this beautiful venue.
The Meyerson is wheelchair accessible and even offers complimentary wheelchairs, though you will need to reserve one in advance.
7. Winspear Opera House
The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House provides state-of-the-art performance spaces for, first and foremost, The Dallas Opera, followed by the Texas Ballet Theater and Broadway productions. The horseshoe-shaped theater is a classic design that allows the different mediums to translate.
The glass exterior and reflecting ponds under a metal canopy is as stunning as the performance inside. The Winspear Opera is the 2010 winner of the Architectural Awards with the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.
8. Wine And Dine
Whether pre- or post-performance, enjoy fine wine, cocktails, and Napa Valley-inspired cuisine at the new HALL Arts Hotel, the only hotel located in the Arts District. Developed and owned by Craig and Kathryn Hall, surround yourself with art and breathtaking views at Ellie’s Lounge or Ellie’s Terrace.
This stunning hotel is exactly what you’d expect from the dynamic Hall Development Group. It has a variety of room sizes available, from a standard queen room to a 1700 square foot suite. All rooms feature luxury bedding, including Frette linens, and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are also ADA-compliant suites.
Don’t miss the food trucks parked on Woodall Rogers on the east side of the park. Pizza, Italian street food, and ice cream are a few options. Check the website for a schedule of current and upcoming food trucks.
9. KPMG Hall Arts Plaza And Sculpture Walk
The Hall's dedication to bringing great art to public spaces is realized in the outdoor sculpture and art walk. Bounded by Ross Avenue and Flora Street, the sculpture walk includes eighteen pieces of original art from both national, international, and Texas artists.
On Ross Avenue, you’ll find the Cathedral Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has been the seat of the city’s Catholic bishop since 1902. The gothic architecture provides a stunning contrast to the modern office towers and award-winning architecture of the performance venues.
This is a working church with a regular service and mass schedule. For a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, step inside.
While these art and entertainment venues form the core of the Dallas Arts District, the boundaries stretch beyond Flora, Ross, and Harwood streets. The 68-acre district is occupied by stunning office space, Michelin guide restaurants, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and soon, a residential loft development.