Fair Park was the site of the grand 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition and it’s best known for its 100-plus years as the site of the gigantic State Fair of Texas each October. Fair Park makes things easy for visitors by concentrating its diverse and fascinating mix of museums, exhibit halls, parks, plazas, sports facilities, theaters, parking lots, and livestock facilities in one 300-acre complex.
The park’s centerpiece is the stunning Hall of State, a National Historic Landmark building offering Texas history exhibits along with tours and stage performances providing additional insight into this remarkable art deco structure. Also on the grounds is the 1930 Cotton Bowl, the legendary stadium that served as the first home of the Dallas Cowboys and currently hosts the Cotton Bowl Classic and highly anticipated “Red River Rivalry”—the traditional University of Texas vs. University of Oklahoma football game each October.
Texas Museum of Automotive History
Texas Museum of Automotive History (1221 Midway Plaza Dr., 214/543-7047 or 469/554-7340, www.tmah.org, Tues.–Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., $10 adults, $6.50 seniors and students, $5 children ages 2–11) is the newest addition to Fair Park’s collection of museums, revving up the engines of car aficionados of all stripes, from commuters to professional racers. Opened in late 2010, the museum highlights the relationship between commercial vehicles and race cars, showcasing their design, engineering, and technology. Visitors will marvel at the fancy international race cars as well as the unique creations developed for everyday drivers over the decades. The museum plans to move to a permanent location within Fair Park by 2013, so check ahead to see where you should set your own car’s GPS system.
Children's Aquarium at Fair Park
Children's Aquarium at Fair Park (1462 First Ave., 214/670-6826 or 469/554-7340, www.oceansofadventure.org, daily 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., $5) houses thousands of marine and freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates, in its original art deco building from the Texas Centennial. The aquarium reopened in September 2010 after an $8 million restoration.
The aquarium features a good sampling of some of the world’s more bizarre aquatic animals, such as the “fishing” anglerfish, poisonous stonefish, albino alligators, and species from popular movies and books. Kids and adults will also enjoy the daily fish feedings at Stingray Bay, where they can interact with rays and small sharks.
Museum of Nature and Science
The Museum of Nature and Science (3535 Grand Ave. and 1318 S. 2nd Ave., 214/428-5555, www.natureandscience.org, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 P.M., Sun. noon–5 p.m., $10 adults, $9 seniors, $7 children 2–11, and $3.50 for the planetarium) is a combination of the former Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Science Place.
The natural history component offers more than 200,000 items related to mammals, reptiles, marine life, birds, and insects. Covering approximately 1.7 billion years of earth history, the museum’s collection includes mounted animals, four diorama halls featuring Texas wildlife, the Texas Dinosaurs Hall, and regular traveling exhibits.
The Science Place portion has more than 200 permanent hands-on exhibits related to physics, astronomy, health, robotics, and nature, and features a public planetarium and IMAX theater.
Texas Discovery Gardens
Texas Discovery Gardens (3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 214/428-7476, www.texasdiscoverygardens.org, daily 10 A.M.–5 P.M., $8 adults, $6 seniors, $4 children ages 3–11) strives to teach ways to conserve nature in urban environments with a focus on sustainable and organic gardening. The site’s 7.5 acres includes the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium, where guests can meander down a canopy walkway as they view hundreds of free-flying tropical butterflies and plants.
The African American Museum
The African American Museum (3536 Grand Ave., 214/565-9026, www.aamdallas.org, Tues.–Fri. 11 A.M.–5 P.M., Sat. 10 A.M.–5 P.M., free admission) showcases African-American artistic, cultural, and historical materials, and features one of the largest African-American folk art collections in the United States. The 38,000-square-foot structure is made of ivory stone and built in the shape of a cross. To evoke preindustrialized cultures of the African continent, the museum uses natural materials and design motifs throughout the building. Four galleries feature the cultural heritage of African-American art and history along with a research library, theater, studio arts area, and classrooms. The museum’s permanent collections include African art, African-American fine art, and historical and political archives.
The Women’s Museum
The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future (3800 Parry Ave., 214/915-0860, www.thewomensmuseum.org, Tues.–Sun. noon–5 p.m., $5 adults, $4 senior citizens and students, $3 children 5–12) showcases accomplishments of American women through exhibits, galleries, and programs.
The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, uses technology and interactive media to tell the stories of women—both famous and common—who impacted American culture socially and politically. The museum’s permanent and traveling exhibits showcase diverse artwork from women across the globe, and its outreach programs provide education and support for women.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition