Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Dallas’ Most Architecturally Significant Structures

Explore the Dallas Arts District on foot for the best vantage of the city’s famous buildings.

Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas
Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas. | Photo by typhoonski/Getty Images
Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas. | Photo by typhoonski/Getty Images

On a brisk Saturday morning, a smattering of individuals begin to congregate in front of the Dallas Museum of Art—the original ceremonial entrance on Flora Street, not the modern, added-for-car-traffic entrance. It’s the perfect place to begin a walking tour, whether you want to explore more of your own city or are visiting and want to see Dallas by foot.

The DMA is the fountainhead of the Dallas Arts District, which as the name suggests, is a district in the downtown area with a concentration of museums and performing arts centers. (Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is located here, too, and counts Norah Jones and Erykah Badu among its talented alumni.) And so, fittingly, this is where The Dallas Arts District Architecture Walking Tour starts.

The Architecture Design Exchange runs such tours, rain or shine, with a trained tour guide who strolls a small group through the architecturally significant neighborhood on foot. The tour weaves through the city’s vast mixture of architectural styles—some historical, but mostly modernist, post-modernist, and contemporary. Dallas has four Pritzker Architecture Prize laureates—essentially the Nobel Prize of architecture awards—with works represented throughout the district. Among them, I.M. Pei, whose conch-like Meyerson Symphony Center anchors the performing arts section of the district.

Early on in the tour you’ll cruise past the Nasher Sculpture Center. It was designed in the early aughts by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, who counts the Pompidou Centre in Paris among his famous works, in collaboration with landscape architect Peter Walker. Travel further back in time along the tour’s route.

Briefly stop by the early 1900s-era Sparkman-Holtz-Brand funeral home, now known as the Belo Mansion, where the funeral of Clyde Barrow was held. Yes, that Clyde—one-half of the infamous outlaw duo Bonnie and Clyde. Across the street, peer at the newly christened National Shrine Cathedral of the Virgin of Guadalupe in its epic High Victorian Gothic style. Dallas’ oldest Catholic parish, built in 1902 by Nicholas Clayton (Galveston, Texas’ own famous architect) is among the nation’s busiest with some 13,000 parishioners attending services in both Spanish and English each weekend.

It’s a walk through time as much as a walk through the most architecturally rich parts of Dallas. Tours can be booked on the first and third Saturdays of each month and they begin at 10 am (sorry no walk-ups).

Walk time:

90 minutes

dallas museum of art
Inside the Dallas Museum of Art | Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

More things to do in the Arts District:

Well, beyond strolling around the neighborhood and admiring the art of the architecture, you can admire more art. This is the museum-concentrated part of downtown after all. Make your way back toward the DMA, where you can catch exhibits such as Picasso’s Muses: Between Inspiration and Obsession and Afro-Atlantic Histories, an ambitious exhibition that charts the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies in the African Diaspora. Other very closeby museums include the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center. For more of a live art experience, the AT&T Performing Arts Center has an ever-packed lineup of both indoor and outdoor shows throughout the seasons.

a neon sign that says god save the rodeo bar
Courtesy of Rodeo Bar/The Adolphus

Where to eat and drink in the Dallas Arts District:

For a pre-walking tour bite, stop by Berkley’s MKT on Ross Avenue for coffee, a freshly pressed hot sandwich, or grab-and-go options. It’s right around the corner, so you won’t be late to your 10 am start time. The Dallas Arts District is home to plenty of great restaurants: Tei-An is a lauded Japanese restaurant known for its handmade soba noodles; nestled on Klyde Warren Park, Mi Cocina on the Park serves up classic Tex-Mex dishes; Sloane’s Corner, located near the museum trinity (DMA, Crow, Nasher), is another great spot for lunch or dinner. Next door, Pizza Leila has some of the best, Detroit-style pizza in town. If you’re visiting and staying at the Adolphus, a visit to Rodeo Bar is a must. Its throwback saloon vibes and dialed-in fancy Fair food menu hits every time.

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