They say everything is bigger in Texas and the sprawling Dallas – Ft Worth area certainly holds true to that claim. Referred to as “the Metroplex,” which also includes Arlington, there are a ton of fun things to do in Dallas and also things to do in Fort Worth that you should not miss!
At a Glance
- Area: 9,286 sq mi.
- Population: 7,573,136
- Highest elevation: 1,368 ft.
- Commerce: Home to 24 Fortune 500 companies
- GDP: $620.6 billion in 2020
- Religion: ranked largest Christian metropolitan statistical area in the U.S.
Here’s a list of my ten favorite things to do in Dallas – Ft Worth:
10 Find the Eyeball
Unbeknownst, many people are startled when they happen upon the 30-foot tall eyeball that’s been plopped down in the middle of downtown Dallas.
Created in 2007 from fiberglass by artist Tony Tasset, the gleaming three-story bloodshot baby-blue eye (purportedly modeled after his own eyeball) on Main Street is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. Tasset claims the sculpture has no hidden symbolism, but rather, he chose an eyeball because it’s an intriguing image that’s been used throughout history.
The “Eye,” as it’s called by locals, has turned into a kitschy roadside attraction as well as a big hit on social media.
9 Get Some Boots
No state symbolizes cowboys more than Texas. And their boots are made for walkin’.
Cowboy boots are an important part of the American heritage, from the function of Wild West past to present-day hip.
The contemporary style began in the mid-1800s when cowboys requested boots that would function better and incorporate a sturdier instep, higher heels (to stay in stirrups), rounded toes for comfort, and a slimmer design.
The romantic image for boots first started to take hold in Hollywood movies between the late thirties and late sixties, when westerns were the most popular genre, played by stars such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
The movement of cowboy boots as a fashion statement came during the “Texas chic” movement of the eighties, due to the popularity of the Dallas television series and Urban Cowboy movie.
You’ll find no shortage of places to purchase cowboy boots, ranging in every color imaginable, with options ranging from $150 a pair to thousands of dollars for custom-made.
8 The 6th Floor Museum
Whether you’re a history buff or a conspiracy theorist, you’ll find the Sixth Floor Museum fascinating. Overlooking Dealey Plaza on the sixth floor of the former Book Depository in downtown, the museum examines the life, assignation, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
The museum encompasses some 45,000 exhibits including historic films, photographs, and artifacts that document the tragic event.
There’s a Plexiglas enclosure area where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have shot and killed JFK on November 22, 1963 and a webcam with a live view from the sniper’s post.
7 Southfork Ranch
If like me, you were a fan of the iconic ’80s television show Dallas, you’ll want to make a pilgrimage to the iconic Southfork Ranch in the suburb of Parker.
You won’t find a trace of J.R. or any of the other backstabbing, lustful scoundrels, but you can take a tour of the Ewing “mansion” and museum which includes the gun that shot J.R., take a horseback ride on the grounds, or admire the longhorns that roam the range.
6 Perot Museum
The Perot Museum is a place where young and old alike can gather to ponder the vast mysteries of science.
The 5-floor, 180,000-square foot building combines collections and interactive exhibits from natural history to earth geology, and paleontology, to man’s scientific and technological accomplishments.
Note: If you’re wondering where to stay, there’s no shortage of wonderful places, including these hotels with rooftop pools in Dallas.
5 Eat BBQ
Oh, yummy yum yum! A longtime fan of my Carolina-style BBQ, I could not wait to try and compair the legendary Texas variety.
Barbecue in its current form originated in the South, where the mouth-watering slow-roasted meat is more than just a style of cooking, but a subculture unto itself with a fierce rivalry between styles and areas.
Carolina barbecue is probably the oldest form of American BBQ. Rubbed with a spice mixture before being smoked over hickory wood, the Carolina Gold sauce consists of a mixture of yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, and other spices.
Texas Barbecue originated from European meat-smoking traditions were brought by Czech and German immigrants during the mid-19th century. Butchers would smoke leftover meat to store longer without spoiling.
Below is a brief description of the different styles of Texas barbecue:
- East Texas – marinated in a sweet, tomato-based sauce and then slow-cooked over hickory wood until it is “falling off the bone.”
- Central Texas – rubbed with only salt and black pepper, then cooked over indirect heat from pecan, oak, or mesquite wood and served without sauce.
- West Texas – grilled over mesquite wood.
- South Texas – marinated in thick, molasses-like sauces that keep the meat moist after cooking.
Every city, town, and street corner in Texas offers BBQ (each one saying they are the best in the area), so you’ll have no trouble finding whichever Texas-style you like.
4 Reunion Tower
Reunion Tower, also known locally as “The Ball,” is a 561-foot tall observation tower and arguably the city’s most recognizable landmark. The iconic tower has graced the city’s skyline with its flickering orb since 1978.
While it’s only the city’s 15th tallest building, the 360-degree bird’s eye view of the cityscape is stunning, especially at sunrise and sunset. Guests have access to interactive touch screens, high-definition zoom cameras, and high-powered telescopes.
A restaurant is accessible from the observation deck with a 360-degree view from behind glass.
3 Magnolia Market
A couple of hours’ drive, Waco makes one of the best weekend getaways from Dallas. I have to say, the magnitude of the Magnolia Market conglomerate was a big surprise. HGTV (Fixer Upper) Interior Designer Joanna Gaines and her personality-plus husband, Chip have employed marketing genius not seen since Jimmy Buffet created a mega enterprise from just one hit song.
What started with their vision for Magnolia Market at the Silos has turned into a sprawling and utterly charming two-block village in downtown Waco, Texas. Anchored by the two recognizable 120-foot high silos, the Magnolia grounds opened to the public in October 2015.
The Magnolia enterprise transformed the town of Waco, revitalizing the downtown and suburbs (with their home makeovers), to the point where Waco is now a tourist attraction complete with tours, and long gone is the unfortunate association with Branch Davidian cult catastrophe.
The 4.9-acre grounds include a retail store, restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, an attractively decorated food truck park with picnic tables, boutique shops, and a garden area. Special events and concerts are held regularly throughout the year.
Magnolia Market Complex draws an estimated 30,000 visitors per week.
Located on the shores of White Rock Lake, the 66-acre Dallas Arboretum has been listed among the top arboretums in the world.
The arboretum is an expansive series of gardens, cascading waterfalls, a treetop canopy walk, and fountains with a view of the lake and the downtown Dallas skyline, plus a life science laboratory. The photo ops are incredible and almost unlimited.
If you visit in the spring for Dallas Blooms, you’ll be treated to an array of over 500,000 blooming bulbs and annuals that blanket the entire park in a kaleidoscope of color.
1 The Stockyard
Fort Worth boasts it is “where the West begins,” and nothing embodies Western heritage better than the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The entire downtown area has been delightfully and colorfully preserved as an old-time Western Town, complete with original brick walkways, historic hotel, wooden corrals, live longhorn cattle drive, to and mouth-watering BBQ, every inch of the Stockyards tells the true history of Texas’s famous livestock industry.
Fort Worth was the last stop for supplies on the Chisholm Trail. Beyond Fort Worth, pioneers and ranchers would be crossing the Red River into Indian Territory. During the mid-1800s, more than four million head of cattle were driven through Fort Worth, earning the town the moniker “Cowtown.”
In 1989, the North Fort Worth Historical Society opened the Stockyards Museum. Today, the museum hosts thousands of visitors from all over the world each year and is constantly growing its facilities and its collection.
One of the state’s premier entertainment districts, there are few better places in Texas to experience the Old West than at the Fort Worth Stockyards; indeed, it was my favorite of the things to do Dallas – Ft Worth area!
Not only does the district boast an array of western-themed shops, cowboy boot boutiques, BBQ restaurants, and bars, it’s also home to the world’s largest honky-tonk (Billy Bob’s Texas), and a popular daily cattle drive (at 11:30 a.m.). Additional attractions include an opportunity to try your skill on a mechanical bull, a longhorn photo op, a petting zoo, and a vintage railroad offering one-hour rides along the Trinity River. On Friday and Saturday, you can catch the Stockyards Championship Rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum.
There are so many things to do in the Dallas – Ft Worth area are fun and accessible for all ages and a great option for a multi-generational vacation. This list is only my ten favorites – there are many more options, such as museums and amusement parks that might interest others.
About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.