Best museums in Dallas
The downtown Dallas museums that’s shaped like a cube—it’s the slate-gray box with an elevator running up its East side like a Kryptonian engine—hosts 21-and-up events with booze on some nights that are worth a trip to the premises in and of themselves. Expect an interactive museum that excites both adults and kids. This summer, the venue is host to an exhibit about dinosaurs that includes a Giganotosaurus.
There’s a merciful lack of pretension at the Dallas Contemporary. The exhibits, ranging from the azalea prints of artist Mary Katrantzou’s runway designs to the unnerving, Videodrome-esque works of a Ukrainian photographer, enlighten and excite without pomp and circumstance. The museum is free. Nobody will shush you and no security guard will sneer “no photos!” as you take a quick selfie in front of a weird-as-hell surrealist work. Pro-tip: Grab some fried chicken at Slow Bone, near the Design District, for an unapologetically Dallas meal experience either before or after visiting the museum.
The first thing to decide at the gardens: snakes or Shakespeare? In the Shakespeare Garden, an array of plants that’d you’d find in the playwright’s works are hanging around. Then, there’s the poisonous snakes. The “Snakes of Texas” exhibit features 20 different species, some venomous and some large enough to digest a whole pig. If slithering reptiles aren’t your thing, then maybe you’d like to have a tea party in the Butterfly House. There are actual teas and butterflies.
Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, you can disappear at the Dallas Heritage Village. How? You can time travel to a pre-Instagram world and end up in one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods, the Cedars, just as it was in the late 1800s. Every December, the museum hosts an annual “Candlelight” event, during which the village is literally aglow with candlelight and filled with good food and the opportunity to enjoy carriage rides.
Skip the conspiracy theorists buzzing around Dealey Plaza and ignore the horrifying autopsy photos of JFK on the Grassy Knoll: the chilling timeline presentation chronicling the assassination of President Kennedy in on November 22, 1963 is found on the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration Building. Look up from Dealey Plaza and you’ll notice the cracked open window. The museum also recently opened an exhibit dedicated to Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King—a must-see indeed.
The National Cowgirl museum is a 33,000-square-foot building honoring the women who shaped the American frontier west. It’s beautifully constructed—a nearly $6 million renovation that will expand the galleries to include a detailed story of the partnership between the women and horses was announced in February—and an essential space to be visited by those looking to truly understand the real wild West.
There are a few ways to make your layover at Love Field not suck. One option is to induce a meat coma at the original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse, a local barbecue institution. Another way is to pay a visit to the Flight Museum, which is a stone’s throw from the airport. There’s nothing else in Dallas like this aviation-and-space nerd house: find 30 different kinds of aircraft and galleries dedicated to rockets alone. The best part? It’s just down the street from the Mockingbird Diner, serving an oh-so-delicious chicken-fried steak.
The Multicultural Western Heritage Museum is dedicated to the Texas that's often overlooked in whitewashed textbooks of the state’s history: the American Indians and Cowboys of Color that have shaped the metroplex. The venue stands out as a humble, unsensational view of the real frontier, highlighting a very important portion of history.
One of Dallas’ most awesome museums has recently undergone a pretty exciting expansion. Entrance also happens to be free, which is a humbling gift considering the museum’s years of outpouring of cultural intelligence into the city’s arts district. Do check out the site’s blog for event announcements as the artists whose work is exposed here happen to host events beyond the walls of the venue as well.
This has long been one of the best museums in the city: you’ll lose yourself in the works on display here, from Renoir’s light-dappled dancers to the Hopi people. On the first and third Wednesdays of each month, the museum hosts gallery talks of all sorts.
Once you’ve entered the campus of Southern Methodist University, beautifully bisected by a symmetrical avenue of trees, notice this gentle reminder that one of the world’s greatest collections of Spanish art is housed off the main drag. In 2016, the museum acquired the early works of Salvador Dali and, in 2017, the staff proudly began showcasing the monumental works of Francisco de Zurbarán. In other words: keep an eye out for the Meadows Museum’s future acquisitions, sure to blow the socks off your feet.
You know what you need? A break from the modern world in the form of a house of toys. The owner and main collector of the DFW Elite Toy Museum boasts a mind-blowing array of toy cars, including antique Rolls-Royce models, and a section dedicated to oddities that’s as unpredictable as it is actually odd. Oh, and admission is free.
This fall, the only museum dedicated to the Holocaust in North Texas is opening in a new facility. The updated exhibits will feature video testimonials by survivors of the genocide and also chronicle the history surrounding other genocides and human rights abuses. This is, without question, one of the most heartbreaking storytelling centers for understanding the horrors of the past and one of the city’s most important structures.