Do as visitors of nearly a century ago and begin your downtown Dallas experience at (1) Union Station, a grand 1916 landmark served today by DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) and Trinity Railway Express, the latter connecting you with DFW Airport. Immediately behind you to the west is (2) Reunion Tower, where glass-walled elevators will take you to the top for an extraordinary view of the city and surrounding areas. But as you exit Union Station toward the east, turn left on Houston Street and walk two blocks to the (3) Old Red Courthouse, a recently restored Richardson Romanesque relic from the 1890s, complete with fabulously scary gargoyles on the upper corners. Look inside for a museum dedicated to Dallas County history.
In front of the courthouse, see a replica of the original Dallas settler’s home, (4) John Neely Bryan’s cabin, dating from the 1840s. One-half block to your right (south), at the corner of Market and Commerce streets, see the (5) John F. Kennedy Memorial, an austere place for contemplation designed and erected by architect Philip Johnson in 1970 to honor the president slain scarcely a block away. Backtrack to the courthouse and continue north on Houston Street to see (6) Dealey Plaza on your left (west), where the crowd was gathered to see the motorcade when President Kennedy visited on November 22, 1963. He was shot here, with his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald firing from the building directly to the north, the Texas School Book Depository Building, now the (7) Sixth Floor Museum, which details the life and presidency of JFK.
Leaving the museum, turn south on Houston again for five blocks. Turn east on Young Street and continue three blocks to (8) Pioneer Plaza. This four-acre spread is home to an enormous bronze sculpture of longhorns on a cattle drive, which moved near here along the Shawnee Trail in the mid-1800s. Also in the park, find the Pioneer Cemetery, final resting place of several leaders in the early Dallas community. Continue east along Young Street two blocks, and then turn south on Akard Street one block to (9) Dallas City Hall, an I.M. Pei design from 1978. Movie buffs may recognize its triangular design from the film Robocop. In front of the building is a massive three-part sculpture, “The Dallas Piece,” by famed artist Henry Moore.
Walk north along Akard Street four blocks to Commerce Street, where you’ll find the magnificent (10) Hotel Adolphus, a 1912 baroque building that beer magnate Adolphus Busch built. Turn right one block along Commerce and see (11) the original Neiman Marcus store, the pinnacle of American luxury retailing, now a century old. Walk another block east on Commerce and turn left (north) on St. Paul Street, walking two blocks to Elm Street. Turn right and find the (12) Majestic Theatre, a grand dame dating from 1921. Return to St. Paul and walk north one block to Pacific Avenue, turning left (west) one block to (13) Thanks-Giving Square. Here the interfaith chapel with its swirling design is another offering from the hand of architect Philip Johnson. A museum, meditation garden and fountain are within the complex.
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!