Dallas Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Dallas

America's maverick city, Dallas is bigger, brasher, and glitzier than other cities and proud of it. In a mere five generations, what used to be a small group of primitive cabins on a muddy riverbank became a huge, sprawling metropolex of skyscrapers and modern offices that rise out of the prairie like a mirage, visible for miles.

You can adventure quite a bit on this self-guided walking tour, exploring many remarkable landmarks that are both historic and cultural symbols of the city's heritage. These include but are not limited to: Pioneer Plaza, Reunion Tower, Old Red Couthouse, Dealey Plaza, and the Sixth Floor Museum.
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Dallas Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Dallas Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Dallas (See other walking tours in Dallas)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Pioneer Plaza / Cattle Drive
  • Reunion Tower
  • Old Red Courthouse
  • John F. Kennedy Memorial
  • Dealey Plaza / Sixth Floor Museum
  • Dallas World Aquarium
  • Perot Museum of Nature and Science
  • Klyde Warren Park
1
Pioneer Plaza / Cattle Drive

1) Pioneer Plaza / Cattle Drive (must see)

Pioneer Plaza is a 4.2-acre open space – the largest in the central Dallas business district – where a natural setting of native Texan plants, with a flowing stream and waterfall, all combine to memorialize the hundreds of cattle drives that took place at this old junction once known as the Shawnee Cattle Trail. The photo-ops are numerous, and you can wander in through the herd to see how much attention to detail was put into each individual longhorn, from facial expression down to hooves. Created by Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas, this is the largest bronze monument of its kind in the world.

The plaza and its accompanying cattle drive were the idea of real estate developer Trammell Crow, who wanted an iconic "Western" sculpture in the city of Dallas and assembled a group to donate the works. The first bronze longhorn was unveiled September 21, 1993, along with the trail boss and his horse; the entire project was completed in 1994. With the striking Dallas skyline as its background, this has become an iconic new landmark in downtown Dallas, and is free to visit.

Tip:
The adjacent Pioneer Cemetery is interesting to walk through, surrounded by tombstones that date back some 150 years.
2
Reunion Tower

2) Reunion Tower (must see)

Reunion Tower has been a fixture on the Dallas skyline since 1978. At 561 feet tall, it was one of the tallest structures in Dallas, and it is one of the city's most recognizable features at night. Described by one reporter as a "giant dandelion", the building is surrounded by a superstructure in the shape of a sphere that has over 250 lights placed at all the joints.

Inside the three outside legs that hold up the sphere are elevators that will give visitors a ride to the 50th-floor observatory as well as the restaurant and café that make up the top floors. The ride takes about a minute and the elevators have a windowed front that allows for spectacular city views. The high-end rotating restaurant, called Five Sixty (a nod to the building's height) was opened by Wolfgang Puck in 2009 and the food has a very definite Asian flair.

The Reunion Complex – which consists of Reunion Tower, Reunion Arena, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel – was seen as a tremendous boost to downtown Dallas and civic pride. The long-awaited opening on April 15, 1978, featured a spectacular light show on the tower and a massive fireworks display that brought freeway traffic all over the city to a halt.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 6–9:30pm; Sat, Sun: 2–9:30pm
3
Old Red Courthouse

3) Old Red Courthouse

No, you haven't walked into the land of Hansel and Gretel, but you are looking at the massive red sandstone building that served as the fifth seat of government in Dallas County. Built in Romanesque Revival style with gigantic rounded arches, this courthouse was completed in 1892, replacing an earlier structure that burned in 1890.

The Old Red Courthouse, as it is known, was constructed of Arkansas gray granite and Pecos red sandstone. The lower portion is made of blue granite that is also used on window trims, providing a pleasing contrast with the red stone.

The actual design is dominated by eight circular turrets. Notice the acroterium (gargoyle-like figures) on the roof. A clock tower, complete with a 4,500-pound bell, originally topped the building but was removed in 1919. The clock tower bell was so large that it had to be cut into three pieces and lowered to the ground. A few Dallas youngsters particularly felt the loss, because they were accustomed to playing in the tower and causing the clock to ring 13 hours at 1:00.

After having undergone several renovations, the building houses a museum on the 2nd floor, which is set up in quadrants, each separated by era, and covers a wide range of issues, including segregation, Jim Crow laws, the successful locomotive story, the wide array of Texas consumer smash products, the cowboy/cowgirl rugged outdoor culture and much more. If you have some free time, you can probably spend an interesting hour or so learning about the culture, history, education, and politics from different periods in the city's history. The iron staircase is a real work of art from 120+ years ago, too!

Why You Should Visit:
Opens a window into the history of Dallas like no other museum does! The architecture is stunning, and the interior layout/design makes it very easy to walk through without missing a thing.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm
4
John F. Kennedy Memorial

4) John F. Kennedy Memorial

Two blocks east of Dealey Plaza, in the Dallas County Historical Plaza, lies a tribute to J.F. Kennedy who was assassinated 200 yards away on the day of November 22, 1963. Dedicated seven years later, this open-roofed monument pays tribute to the man with a simple black granite slab bearing his name in gold letters. It's a sensible accompaniment to the Sixth Floor Museum nearby, which is housed in the building where Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have fired the fatal shot.

Noted American architect and Kennedy-family friend Philip Johnson was selected as the designer, his unique concrete structure taking the form of a cenotaph, or "empty tomb" meant to symbolize the freedom of President Kennedy's spirit. Though misunderstood by some visitors, the designer always envisioned "something very humble and spartan...a memorial for one whose remains lie elsewhere". Several of the columns seem to float with no visible support – an interesting effect.
5
Dealey Plaza / Sixth Floor Museum

5) Dealey Plaza / Sixth Floor Museum (must see)

Dealey Plaza and the high bluff referred to as the "grassy knoll" figure prominently in the Kennedy assassination. It is this site on the north side of Elm Street where the famed Abraham Zapruder film of the assassination was taken and where eyewitnesses to the shooting dropped to the ground, believing they were in the line of fire. The area looks much as it did in 1963, and one will usually see a dozen or more visitors milling about, pointing to the actual (X-marked) site of the shooting, taking photos, or discussing theories about the tragic event, which continues to be a source of controversy today.

There is lots of good signage with extensive historical information throughout the plaza, as well as many commemorative plaques, but to really embrace the full experience, consider visiting the Sixth Floor Museum located on the actual sixth floor of the old Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald fired his fatal shots. Most visitors are fascinated by the tour, which includes a photo maze of the Kennedy family and presidency, as well as continuous videos with never-before-seen footage of JFK's funeral, interviews from witnesses, and evidence used by the Warren Commission on display.

Why You Should Visit:
A visit to this plaza and its museum is truly like going back in time and promises to leave you wondering.

Museum Opening Hours:
Mon: 12–6pm; Tue-Sun: 10am–6pm
6
Dallas World Aquarium

6) Dallas World Aquarium (must see)

The use of "aquarium" in the name is a little misleading, as there is much more than fish and creatures of the water to be found here. Starting out on the 3rd floor, in the reproduced rainforest, you'll get to see a large number of birds, sloths, anteaters, monkeys, reptiles and amphibians; there is even a wild cat habitat that changes every few years. Though somewhat labyrinthine, the layout is quite beautiful, with winding paths and overhanging plants allowing for multiple photo opportunities. With no guiding signs to follow, your best bet is to follow the map in the provided brochure.

Going deeper down the path, the aquarium portion of the facility features ten panoramic windows into 85,000 gallons of saltwater exhibits, each designed to take you to a different aquatic locale: Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, British Columbia, the Bahamas, Fiji, Palau, Southern Australia, Lord Howe Island, and the Solomon Islands. An additional 22,000- gallon walk-through aquarium, recently renovated, puts visitors in the middle of reef life native to the Continental Shelf, including an unusually large number of stingrays. At some point, you will eventually come back out to be greeted by flamingos and stand above a shark tank. It's like a winding maze that leads you through all the levels of this vivarium. Enjoy the adventure!

Tip:
There might be fewer people on weekdays or off-season if you want to explore at a more leisurely pace and really get your money's worth. At other times, arrive early to get a jump on the crowds!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm
7
Perot Museum of Nature and Science

7) Perot Museum of Nature and Science (must see)

The Perot Museum is what one would imagine happening when elementary school textbooks come to life. Everything one sees here is not only interesting, but also educational – and hands on! It's an educational wonder, with no limit to the amount of learning that can take place. While geared towards children, there is still plenty to catch the attention of adults, from the birth of the solar system to modern technological breakthroughs in engineering and energy harvesting.

The architecture alone draws you in to this multi-story learning experience. Designed by 2005 Pritzker Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, the building was conceived as a large cube floating over a landscaped plinth (or base) and is designed to inspire awareness of science through an immersive and interactive environment. In collaboration with Dallas-based landscape architects, the plinth was landscaped with a 1-acre rolling green roof consisting of rock and native drought-resistant grasses that reflects Texas' indigenous landscape and demonstrates a living system that will evolve naturally over time.

By integrating architecture, nature and technology, the building's design demonstrates scientific principles and is used as a teaching tool that provides living examples of engineering, sustainability and technology at work. It also integrates a variety of sustainable strategies including a rainwater collection system that captures run-off water from the roof and parking lot, satisfying 74% of the museum's non-potable water needs and 100% of its irrigation needs.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5pm; Sun: 11am–5pm
Last exhibit entry: 4pm
8
Klyde Warren Park

8) Klyde Warren Park (must see)

Imagine a 5-acre deck park over a busy, recessed eight-lane freeway, in between towering buildings, and you have this charming lovely explosion of green space that was created literally out of thin air. Open since 2012 and beautifully kept, it sits on the edge of the vibrant Uptown neighborhood bumping up against the Arts District and the Downtown area.

There are a few walking trails with good amounts of greenery, but also separate game areas for children and adults, food trucks of every imaginable offering, plus special events and photo-taking backgrounds, all bringing a community aspect that is refreshing when compared to the normal downtown feel. Free WiFi is also abundant, or you could check out the outdoor library with free magazines, books and newspapers to read. Don't worry about finding clean bathrooms, either!

Why You Should Visit:
Perfect both as an active and social gathering place or simply as one to have a picnic on a beautiful day.

Tip:
Those wanting to add to the adventure may consider taking the FREE McKinney Ave trolley – the city's "secret" transport gem stopping at both ends of the park on its trip through the Arts District and Uptown.

Operating Hours:
Daily: 6am–11pm

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