Like many Americans, the pandemic dramatically changed how we lived for a year. After receiving our vaccinations, we were eager to venture out into the world again. Our son, a Chicago resident, met us in Louisiana. Together, we drove eight hours to Dallas to see friends and reconnect as a family.

Planning the itinerary for our May trip took more effort than it did in the past. Many attractions, even those that were free, required a timed ticket for entry. Some attractions were completely closed due to the pandemic and others had discontinued some services, such as on-site museum dining. 

Must-see art attractions in Dallas

Three weeks prior to our trip, I reserved tickets to two of the most popular art attractions in Dallas: the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

The Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Museum of Art collections spans some 5,000 years of human creativity. Located in the Arts District of downtown, plan to spend several hours at this delightful attraction.

The Dallas Museum of Art collections spans some 5,000 years of human creativity. Plan to spend several hours at this delightful attraction.

One of the largest art museums in the country, DMA, located in the downtown Arts District, owns more than 25,000 works of art. Highlights include: Sheaves of Wheat (Vincent van Gogh), Watch (Gerald Murphy), The Guitarist (Pablo Picasso), and Art Beauty Shoppe (Isaac Soyer). One could easily spend hours at this museum which offers a variety of tours and gallery talks.

Nasher Sculpture Center 

At the Nasher Sculpture Garden, Bronze Crowd by artist Magdalena Abakanowicz asks questions about the human condition and draws from her experience living in Poland during the Nazi invasion.

At the Nasher Sculpture Center, ‘Bronze Crowd’ by Magdalena Abakanowicz asks questions about the human condition drawing from the artist’s
experience in Poland during the Nazi invasion.

For a less overwhelming art experience, plan a visit to the Nasher Sculpture Center next door. The outdoor area is serene with weeping willows, cascading water, and an impressive collection of contemporary sculpture. 

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden 

The peaceful Dallas Arboretum and Sculpture Garden

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden creates a rejuvenating environment and hosts a variety of changing art exhibits.

About a fifteen-minute drive from downtown, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden appeals to nature and art lovers. The gardens encompass 66 acres edging White Rock Lake. During our springtime visit, the gardens were lush with blooming petunias, magnolia, salvia, roses, Mexican plum, hydrangea, amaryllis, and more. Most of the plants are labeled. The gardens contain lovely miniature waterfalls. The abundance of trees creates a shaded park-like setting. Lunch was a leisurely break outdoors at Restaurant DeGolyer with a view of the grounds.  

This summer (May 1-August 8, 2021), modern Zimbabwean stone sculptures are on display throughout the garden. On select days, the artists can be seen working on new pieces. The ZimSculpt collection comprises more than 100 sculptures. 

Other activities and unexpected art attractions in Dallas

For the remainder of our Dallas visit, we tried to be spontaneous—popping into a variety of art galleries, shops, hotels, bars, and restaurants.

After perusing the merchandise in the flagship Neiman Marcus Downtown, an iconic department store, we wandered into The Joule, a luxury hotel located next door. Housed in a 1920s neo-Gothic building, the hotel displays rotating selections from its enviable art collection. Across the street, a 30-foot tall human eyeball sculpture, perhaps the city’s most photographed art attraction, keeps watch on the city from an enclosed garden.

If you’re looking to bring home a work of art as a souvenir, gallery hop along Dragon Street in the Dallas Design District.  

Artful dining in Dallas

Dining in Dallas was an eclectic assortment of wonderful meals from Mexican food at Campuzano and breakfast at San Martin Bakery to lunch at Fearings Restaurant and dinner at Al Biernat’s. 

Elevated comfort food is the star attraction at Good Graces Restaurant inside the Marriott Dallas Uptown.

Elevated comfort food is the star attraction at Good Graces Restaurant inside the Marriott Dallas Uptown

One of our best meals was at Good Graces Brasserie at the Marriott Dallas Uptown. We indulged in smoked butter with bread and a comforting order of rigatoni. For a delicious treat, head downtown to Fluellen Cupcakes on Elm Street; the wedding cake is divine.

While downtown, be sure to sample some of the city’s signature cocktails. The Catbird at the luxury Thompson Hotel has a rooftop bar, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Take a moment to enjoy the David Yarrow photographs near the registration desk. The Midnight Rambler is a speakeasy-style underground bar at the Joule Hotel. At the historic Adolphus Hotel patrons sip on drinks in the classic lounge-style French Room Bar. 

Dallas Skyline

Coveted rooftop views can be found at Catbird, the bar/restaurant is located at the upscale Thompson Dallas hotel

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler? 

  • Centrally located, Dallas is convenient and can be reached in 3.5 hours by plane from almost anywhere in the U.S.
  • Dallas offers an array of cultural attractions; many located within walking distance of each other.
  • Riding the vintage McKinney Ave Trolley to the Arts District or Kylde Warren Park is a fun option.
  • A special treat for visitors to the Dallas Museum of Art: $6 mimosas on weekends at the DMAcafe. 

Take note 

  • Due to the pandemic, most theaters are currently closed, but live performances will gradually resume. Be sure to check the Visit Dallas website for information on attraction closings, changed hours, and timed entry ticket information. Check with specific sites for pertinent info, including hours, fees, and COVID-19 protocols.
  • Although general admission to the Dallas Museum of Art is free, fees are charged for viewing special exhibitions.

All photo credits: Jim Tewardowski

Disclosure:  The authors were guests of Visit Dallas but any opinions expressed in this post are their own.


Previously on GettingOnTravel: 

Life Without Travel: Postcard from Dallas, Texas

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