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National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Dallas
Photo: Courtesy Rhonda Hole

The 13 best museums in Dallas

These must-see museums in Dallas offer a refreshing dose of culture

James Wong
Written by
James Wong
Nick Rallo

If museums aren’t one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Dallas, you’re doing it wrong. The city’s history of cowboy culture, innovative fashion and more lends itself to an exciting history and culture scene, and unlike SF or the Big Apple with their big queues and hefty ticket prices, here you can get up close with some really unique stuff.

Many of its institutions are architecturally stunning (the Perot is one glittering example) and most are located downtown, making it easy to visit multiple in one day. Top tips: if you’re planning on hitting up several museums, take advantage of the CityPASS for discounted prices, or look for free entry days on each museum’s website.

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This guide was written by James Wong, a writer based between Dallas and the UK. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

o do in Dallas

Best Dallas museums

This striking downtown museum – designed like a slate-gray box with a glass-enclosed escalator jutting out from its facade – is an interactive experience for kids and adults alike. Geek out with an array of exhibits that cover dinosaurs, sports, space, and energy. The Perot also hosts a 21-and-up ‘Thursdays on Tap’ event with booze, food trucks, and live music.

Look up from Dealey Plaza and you’ll notice a cracked open window on the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration Building. This is where President John F. Kennedy’s presumptive assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, perched on November 22, 1963 — inside, on the same floor, you’ll find a chilling presentation that chronicles the assassination (high above the conspiracy theorists who still buzz around Dealey Plaza to this day). The museum also frequently exhibits special works tied to the JFK family, such as photomosaics by Chinese-American artist Alex Guofeng Cao.


The first thing to decide at these gardens: snakes or Shakespeare? In the Shakespeare Garden, literature comes to life as you stroll through an array of plants that were featured in the famous playwright’s works. Then, in the “Snakes of Texas” exhibit, you’ll find 20 different species of snakes (some venomous, and some large enough to digest a whole pig). But if you’re the type that wouldn't even hurt a fly, maybe slithering reptiles aren’t your thing — in that case, head to the two-story Butterfly House, a tropical landscape filled with actual butterflies.

In 1998, the esteemed Crow family first showcased a fascinating collection of Asian art to the public, which now sits permanently in the Arts District of Dallas. Entrance to this museum has always been free, which is a humbling gift considering how much cultural intelligence the museum has poured into the city’s arts district over the years. Do check out the museum's blog for event announcements as the artists whose work is shown 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. Entrance is free, and the building sits right by Klyde Warren Park (take note: it makes for a scenic date spot). On the first and third Wednesday of each month, the museum hosts gallery talks of all sorts.

Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, 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, filled with good food, and the chance to hop on a carriage ride.


There’s a notable lack of pretension at the Dallas Contemporary. The exhibits, ranging from the works of Japanese contemporary artists Yoshitomo Nara and Tomoo Gokita to site-specific installations by Mexican sculptor Jose Dávila, enlighten and excite without pomp and circumstance. Nobody will say “shh!” as you talk about art, and no security guard will sneer “no photos!” as you take a quick selfie in front of surrealist works. And the best part? The museum is free.

There are a handful of ways to make your layover at Love Field worthwhile. 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, located just a stone’s throw from the airport. There’s nothing else in Dallas quite like this aviation-and-space nerd house: you’ll find 30 different kinds of aircraft and galleries dedicated to rockets alone.


The National Cowgirl museum is a 33,000-sq-ft building honoring the women who shaped the American frontier west. It’s beautifully constructed with permanent interactive exhibit galleries, a traveling exhibit space, two theatres, a research library, and an archive collection dedicated to around 750 remarkable women. It’s an essential space to visit for those looking to truly understand the real Wild West.

The Multicultural Western Heritage Museum is dedicated to those often overlooked in whitewashed textbooks of state 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 an essential portion of history.


The owner and main collector of the DFW Elite Toy Museum boasts a mind-blowing array of toy cars that includes antique Rolls-Royce models and a section dedicated to oddities. Admission is free and they now showcase dog collectibles, too—bring your pups for added fun times.

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum tells the story of the Holocaust, the post-war human rights movement, and America’s civil rights development. Exhibits feature video testimonials by survivors of the genocide as well as the history surrounding other genocides and human rights abuses. This is, without question, one of the more heartbreaking museum stops, but one of the city’s most important structures.


On the campus of Southern Methodist University, which is beautifully bisected by a symmetrical avenue of trees, you’re near one of the world’s greatest collections of Spanish art that’s housed just off the main drag. Over the years, the museum acquired the early works of Salvador Dali and has showcased the monumental works of Francisco de Zurbarán.

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