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Arts District Walk (Self Guided), Dallas

The Dallas Arts District spans twenty square blocks of art museums, performance halls, public parks, educational facilities, homes and businesses, and historic churches. Five of the buildings here were designed by architects who won the highest honor in their field — the Pritzker Prize. Aesthetically pleasing, it's a street photographer's paradise. Everything you love to see, listen to and experience is likely to be located here and, best of all, most activities are free!

Engage yourself on this self-guided tour of the nation's largest contiguous urban arts district and its main cultural powerhouses: the Winspear Opera House, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Meyerson Symphony Center.
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Arts District Walk Map

Guide Name: Arts District Walk
Guide Location: USA » Dallas (See other walking tours in Dallas)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.5 Km or 0.3 Miles
Author: sylvia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Nasher Sculpture Center
  • Crow Museum of Asian Art
  • Meyerson Symphony Center
  • Wyly Theatre
  • AT&T Performing Arts Center
  • Winspear Opera House
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Dallas Museum of Art

1) Dallas Museum of Art (must see)

The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) provides the heart for downtown's vibrant Arts District, and its large new "home" since 1984 is a work of art as well. Designed by famed architect Edward Larabee Barnes and heralded as a masterpiece, the building has 159,000 sq-ft (14,800 sq-m) of exhibition spaces, ranking among the largest art museums in the United States.

The sheer size of the facility allows for a variety of comprehensive collections: its European collection includes ancient Mediterranean gold, Renaissance, and Baroque paintings alongside a strong collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissaro, van Gogh, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec; the African collection shows works from numerous sub-Saharan tribes and the Egyptian section displays important sculptural pieces. One of the strongest collections – the "Art of the Americas" – includes pieces from many of the world's vanished civilizations, among which Olmec and Maya stone sculpture, Chavin and Nasca ceramics, and Paracas and Chimu textiles.

Students of art should stop by the breathtaking Mayer Library, which, in addition to the thousands of volumes on hand, also provides a wide selection of rare periodicals (including catalogs from Christie's and Sotheby's).

Thursdays are special days with live music, talks and extended hours; also, one Friday a month, the DMA is open until 11pm (Late Night tickets are required after 5pm). A variety of lectures, films and presentations round out the calendar.

Operation Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 11am–5pm; Thu: 11am–9pm
Free admission, except for a select few exhibits
2
Nasher Sculpture Center

2) Nasher Sculpture Center (must see)

An exciting addition to the Dallas Museum of Art, this 2.4-acre (9,700 m2) Sculpture Center opened in 2003 as a free public park including both indoor and outdoor galleries. Its modern sculpture collection includes more than 300 masterworks by Harry Bertoia, Constantin Brâncuși, Alexander Calder, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin, among others. Raymond Nasher credited his late wife Patsy as his partner in collecting such remarkable works.

Whether it's day or night, sunny or rainy, visitors can get an interesting perspective of Nasher's permanent collection and special exhibits. The architecture housing the sculptures – designed by the world's most prolific museum designer, Renzo Piano – is no less amazing, with interior large window panels that allow for natural lighting, thus enhancing the shadows of curves and indentations of each piece of work.

The gardens are a wonderful retreat in the middle of a bustling downtown area, and that makes the Sculpture Center even more special. There is seating around in areas and the excellent café on site has a lovely patio as well.

Opening Hours:
[Sculpture Center] Tue-Sun: 11am–5pm
[Café] Tue-Sun: 11am–3:30pm; beverage services until 4pm
3
Crow Museum of Asian Art

3) Crow Museum of Asian Art

Located across from the Dallas Museum of Art, this museum was truly a labor of love for Dallas couple Trammell and Margaret Crow, who amassed their fortune in real estate ventures. They started collecting Asian art in the mid-1960s and continued to do so for over 30 years, much of it having been bought by the lot to decorate various offices and hotels that they managed and owned.

Their entire collection – featuring pieces from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia from 3500 B.C. to early 20th century – has been hand-selected and the ~570 works of art on display here are spectacular, ranging from a Tang-dynasty ceramic horse to over a hundred small bits of exquisitely carved jade, part of Trammell Crow's collection of 1,200+ jade items. You may also see lacquered pieces, an incredible samurai suit, a massive sandstone Mughal Wall from an 18th-century Indian home, or contemporary Asian art – and all in <90 minutes.

Visiting the Crow Museum is always a treat, more so now that they've had a major overhaul. With such an impressive renovated interior, the experience is well worth some extra time if you're visiting other places in the immediate area.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 11am–5pm; free admission
4
Meyerson Symphony Center

4) Meyerson Symphony Center (must see)

Angled on downtown's Flora Street, the Morton H. Meyerson Hall is a basic "shoe box" design wrapped in a swirling wall of glass, which contributes to its bold architectural statement. It's pretty hard to miss if you're wandering around in the vicinity. Most notably, there are 211 glass panels that make up the front façade and none of them are alike.

The architect of the world-class hall, I.M. Pei, had a history of cost overruns, and by the time the center opened in 1989, the project had gone from an estimated cost of $50 million to over $80 million, earning Pei a new nickname, "You Will Pay".

Inside, the costly facility features one of the largest mechanical-action organs ever built for a concert hall, fitted with no less than 4,535 operating pipes. The hall's acoustics are quite phenomenal as well, with 74 doors around the concert chamber that can be adjusted according to how much reverberation is needed. Additionally, there are 42 tons of curtains around the top of the stage that can be set to make musical notes arrive to the audience as purely and sweetly as possible.

Why You Should Visit:
The center is the permanent home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony Chorus, as well as the primary performing venue of the Dallas Wind Symphony, plus several other Dallas-based musical organizations. An outdoor plaza and stage is the site for numerous festivals and concerts, so the venue, all in all, is more than just a symphony hall!
5
Wyly Theatre

5) Wyly Theatre

Heralded as one of the world's most intelligently conceived performance centers, the Wyly Theatre is designed to accommodate traditional and experimental performances of music, dance, and cinema in a uniquely rigged space that rapidly transforms to meet various performance requirements. Such a unique interior space called for a similarly unique exterior, with vertical rods on all four sides that are symbolic of the folds of a theater curtain.

One of four venues that comprise the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Wyly is very intimate and, depending on the set, you can feel a part of the play/event. None of the seats feel far away, and the foyer (which typically opens 90 minutes prior to shows) includes a few tables with chairs, a concession area, and large restrooms. The latter are on each side of the concession stand and you may not see them as they blend into the wall treatment.
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AT&T Performing Arts Center

6) AT&T Performing Arts Center

With hundreds of performances every year, four new venues and a ten-acre urban park, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, opened in 2009, is an exhilarating place to experience music, theatre and dance – hosting Dallas' most accomplished artists and performers as well as premier touring productions from around the world. You can always count on a fun evening here, or book a docent-led, free tour (with general information on each venue) at least 7 days in advance.

The Center provides homes for five resident companies – the Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, Texas Ballet Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Ballet Folklorico – in addition to producing original programming that covers a wide range of performances, including music, dance, Broadway shows, concerts and lectures.

The venues itself is very clean, with wonderful sound, comfortable seating, and nice sight lines (unless you are directly to the side). There are a few nice restaurants just a block or two away, too, so it makes a great location for an evening out.
7
Winspear Opera House

7) Winspear Opera House

A 21st-century, state-of-the-art reinterpretation of the traditional opera house, the Winspear seats 2,200 in a circular horseshoe configuration. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Norman Foster, the iconic venue is engineered to suit opera, ballet, musicals and other performing arts. With its sleek red exterior, soaring glass facade and impressive acoustics, it has become the focal point of the city's Arts District, so you really owe it to yourself to make the visit.

In case of attending an event or concert, arrive early to marvel at the LED-lighted chandelier and get your photos, as it will disappear for showtime, retracting into the ceiling. Once retracted, it leaves the impression of a star-lit night, as each constituent acrylic rod has the ability to "twinkle" in the dark. Since 2013, the chandelier's traditional pre-performance ascent has been accompanied by an exclusively adapted piece – "The Light" by American composer Philip Glass.

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