48 hours in Dallas: a family-friendly itinerary

Texas is home to four massive cities, and since we moved here, we’ve had our mind set on exploring all of them. We live in Houston, and we have visited Austin twice. It was time to head to the Big D, known by y’all as Dallas.

Before beginning my research, the only thing that came to my mind was that President Kennedy was assassinated in this Texan city. Without doubt, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza was going to be one of our stops. Later, I discovered there is an endless list of places to visit, including: the arboretum, parks, museums, Reunion Tower, restaurants, food trucks, and much more. To avoid exhausting ourselves, we picked and chose what best suited our family.

Knowing that some of the things we wanted to see were in the area, we chose to stay at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, near the Reunion Tower.

Friday afternoon: Dallas Arboretum

After a four-hour drive from Houston to Dallas, our first stop was the Dallas Arboretum. From the moment we stepped into the 66-acre park, we knew we wouldn’t be disappointed. With each step, we were not only overwhelmed by the burst of colorful flowers, manicured plants and trees, but also the smells, sounds, and flavors.

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

The arboretum is a showcase. Colors, colors, and more colors! From white and pink to magenta, yellow, red, purple, and orange flowers, the grounds were like a color wheel. Entranced by the displays, we walked the paved pathways surrounded by tulips, peonies, delphiniums, magnolias, and fuchsia. Fountains and waterfalls added a special touch. From time to time, squirrels and rabbits dashed between bushes, while birds soared peacefully over our heads. Did I miss anything? Oh yes, free tastings of vegetables grown in the garden added even more flavor to the place.

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

Two hours passed and we had seen only half of the Arboretum. In spite of the March heat, we kept going. With plenty of shaded benches and grassy areas where we could stop and rest, we slowed our pace and continued to stroll through the gardens. Truly, at every turn, there was something beautiful and attractive to see. The Women’s Garden, Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, Sunken Garden, and the Crape Myrtle Allee, a beautiful natural tunnel, was one of my favorite places.

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum

Dallas Arboretum - Women's Garden

Dallas Arboretum - Crape Myrtle Allee

Busy, but still peaceful, the place was hot for sure. I was glad we were prepared with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and water. We explored for about three hours, but we could have definitely stayed longer. Designed to connect people with nature, the Dallas Arboretum is indeed a spot that cannot be missed.

Friday evening: The Grape Restaurant

Dallas may not have the same culinary reputation as Austin and Houston, but the city certainly offers excellent possibilities. Our first dinner was at The Grape Restaurant. Boy oh boy, we were glad we checked this place out. As a nice touch, they added a birthday sign for our table as we were celebrating my husband’s birthday.

The place had great atmosphere and a lot of character. Instead of having a big meal, we ordered small dishes and shared everything. Quite honestly, I don’t think anyone can go wrong with anything from the menu. We had the Bistro Style Mussels, Baked Brie, Flash-Fried Calamari, and Bistro Steak Frites. Everything was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

At the end, they treated my husband with a chocolate dessert. My apologies, I totally forgot to take pictures of all dishes. This is the only one I managed to get.

Saturday morning: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Born and raised in Brazil, I never studied US history at school, but I knew a bit about President Kennedy’s assassination and the conspiracy theories surrounding the crime. I couldn’t skip the chance to learn more about it, but also introduce this chapter of history to the 5th grader we have at home.

President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Back then, the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration Building in downtown Dallas was the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald worked, and from where it was said he had shot the President. Today, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is a thrilling walk through history.

The Sixth Floor Museum

The museum shows Kennedy’s life and legacy leading up to the trip to Dallas, his agenda in the city, the shooting itself, the race to the hospital, his death, the funeral, the hunt for Lee Harvey Oswald, and of course, the conspiracy theories. We saw films, artifacts, and photos related to the assassination. Additionally, an audio tour— included on the ticket price—guided us throughout the museum and extended the information seen on the displays.

At the end of the tour, in the corner, was a display of the spot from where Oswald had fired and where the three bullet shells were found. The replacement boxes are displayed exactly like the originals on the day of the crime. A glass wall around the area protects the original flooring and lights.

The 7th floor of the Museum is one large room. Walking to the far corner, it was surreal to stand directly above the spot from where Oswald had shot the president.

The Sixth Floor Museum

To this day, the assassination of President Kennedy is still intriguing. What about the claims that shots were heard coming from the grassy knoll? Was Oswald acting alone? Why was Lee Harvey Oswald killed?

Saturday afternoon: Klyde Warren Park

Klyde Warren Park, located in the heart of downtown Dallas, is a five-acre public park built on the top of the eight-lane Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Clever idea, eh? When we heard about this place, we made it a mandatory stop.  

Skyscrapers frame the park. Despite it being a weekend, parking on the street was still tough. After driving around a couple times we finally found a spot, though if necessary, parking garages are also available.

 Klyde Warren Park

As we walked toward the playground, several food trucks caught our attention. The variety could easily please everyone and we couldn’t have wished for a better surprise. Nothing like the smell of tacos at Abe’s Flavor Flave when you’re hungry!! The line was quite long, and while waiting our turn, we were slightly anxious while other people walked away with their orders. When we finally sat at one of the tables lining the grass area of the park, we tasted our food and happily realized the wait was well worth it!

 Klyde Warren Park

While eating, we checked out the area which included plenty of seating, walking space, water features, kids areas, and a dog park. Klyde Warren Park had a lively atmosphere with kids running around and playing games. Adults read books, socialized, laid out on blankets, listened to music, or played with their kids. Absorbed by the family-friendly environment, it was hard to remember what was below.

Saturday evening: Reunion Tower

We recognize that we’re the kind of family that must check out the observation decks located on towers in any city we visit. This is probably because from the top we will have an extended view of the area.

The Reunion Tower, one of the most recognizable landmarks in Dallas, was no different. Reaching the Reunion Tower Lobby through the Hyatt Regency Dallas, a 68-second elevator journey took us to the observation deck, located 470 feet above the ground. When we stepped out, the GeO-Deck presented us a 360-degree view of the Big D skyline. On top of that, it rotated. Yes, that’s right, while sitting in one single spot, we could see the city from a vantage point high above it all.

On the inside, we enjoyed interactive exhibits and information about significant buildings visible from the deck, including Dealey Plaza. In addition, the Cloud Nine Cafe—which rotates with the deck—offers comfort food and drinks. From outside we had a better opportunity for photos, but it was very windy, and nearly impossible to stay out there for long.

Dallas Reunion Tower

Dallas Reunion Tower

Having arrived in the late afternoon, we stayed until dark. We relaxed, ate at Cloud Nine Cafe, and watched the sunset. As the night approached and the city lights came on, we agreed that Dallas looked quite different between daylight and dark, but beautiful either way.

Note: Someone at the hotel highly recommended dining at the Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. Because we had no reservations, we couldn’t make it. If that is your wish, make sure to book a reservation in advance.

Sunday morning: brunch at La Duni Latin Cafe

The next day we met up with friends for brunch at La Duni Latin Cafe. The restaurant had a nice decor, a large outdoor patio, and although it was packed, had a reasonable noise level.

If you want an above average breakfast with variety of Latin American dishes, good coffee, and great ambiance, this is your place. Their offerings are quite creative and cover tastes and flavors beyond the traditional, including fresh-squeezed juices, fresh pastries, and delicious hot dishes. As a Brazilian, I was able to experience a bit of my beautiful South American heritage with the fried plantains on the menu. These are always one of my favorite items in Brazilian cuisine.

Pioneer Plaza

Based on a suggestion from our friends, we made one last stop at Pioneer Plaza after brunch.

In which big city in America can we see and touch a herd of cattle? Answer: Dallas. I know, I know, they are sculptures. Nevertheless, still very impressive.

The herd is located at Pioneer Plaza, not far from the Latin Cafe. We had to stop and check them out before saying goodbye to the city.

Remember that everything is bigger in Texas? Sure enough, the 49 large bronze steers and three cowboys make up the largest bronze monument in the world. The large sculpture gives the idea of the cattle being herded down on the hill and across the stream by three mounted cowboys. While walking up the hill along the life-size sculptures, we were thrilled by such beautiful artwork.

Dallas Pioneer Plaza

According to my research, the intent of the artist was for the piece to resemble a section of the Shawnee Trail, a major Texas cattle drive route in the 19th century.

What would you change or add on this itinerary for a first time visit to Dallas? Please share your thoughts.



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