More than the State Fair of Texas, experience this historic landmark year-round.
WORDS BY ASHLEY TURNER
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of VisitDallas The Magazine. To see the entire issue and read other features, click here.
When corny dog season ends and the State Fair of Texas closes its gates every fall, Fair Park continues to offer plenty for visitors to see and do. Home to more than 20 architecturally significant buildings and plenty of annual events, the massive park's historic charm is a draw in any season. Today, Fair Park is an ideal destination for all kinds of explorers, from the inquisitive history enthusiast to the youngest sea life seeker.
Architecture and Art
Located in South Dallas and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986, Fair Park is home to the nation's largest collection of publicly owned Art Deco buildings in the U.S. and one of the largest collections of 1930s art. Grab your camera and explore on your own or take a guided tour (AD EX offers a great one – dallasadex.com).
The centerpiece of the park, the Esplanade Fountain, is a 700-foot reflecting pool built for the 1936 Texas Centennial. The daily water shows – set to music – offer stunning photo ops and a relaxing respite.
Art is incorporated throughout the park, you can hardly turn a corner without stumbling into a sculpture or mosaic, but the Woofus might be the most unique. The sculpture presents the Texas livestock of the fair as one mythological creature – the mane and neck of a horse, a turkey tail, pig body, duck wings, a sheep's head, and of course, a pair of Texas longhorns.
From Texas to Vietnam
The grand Hall of State building was constructed in 1936 to commemorate the Texas Centennial and today serves as the home of the Dallas Historical Society. With a vast permanent collection of more than three million Texas and Dallas artifacts and rotating exhibits, there is a wealth of knowledge for anyone wanting to dive deeper into Texas, and Dallas, history. From the Hall of Heroes to the Great Hall of the Six Flags, the building alone is an impressive study in the Texas way of life.
A little-known landmark, even among locals, the Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial?stands in Fair Park and honors?Texans who served the U.S. in the Vietnam War. Former President George H. W. Bush dedicated the memorial in 1989 and a soothing waterfall flows alongside the memorial, known familiarly as simply "The Wall."
Musicals to Metallica
From balcony seating at Music Hall at Fair Park to BYOB (bring your own blanket) at Dos Equis Pavilion, there is a musical moment for everyone in Fair Park. The historic Music Hall plays host to touring Broadway musicals, from Wicked to Waitress, and does so in high style. It made its theatrical debut in 1925 and the Spanish Baroque style building is still a jewel of the city's performing arts venues today.
Across the park, Dos Equis Pavilion is the city's premiere outdoor concert venue. It hosts national touring acts - think Kesha, Keith Urban and Journey - and whether you have a seat under the pavilion or toss a blanket on the sprawling lawn, it's always a good time.
The Children's Aquarium at Fair Park is a small but impactful space with hands-on experiences for the little ones. Don't skip the opportunity to hand-feed a stingray; kids delight as the graceful and gentle creatures suck a fish right out of their fist. There's not another experience like it in Dallas.
If butterflies and flowers are more your speed, head on over to the Texas Discovery Gardens. The seven-and-a-half acre garden is a showcase of both native and adaptive plants with the goal to teach visitors sustainable living and growing practices. In fact, it's the first public garden in the state to be certified organic. The star of the garden is the two-story Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium, which transports visitors to a tropical rainforest, complete with hundreds of free-flying butterflies.
Leonhardt Lagoon, a more natural counterpart to the pristine Esplanade Fountain, is home to native Texas plants and birds. Take a nature walk around the lagoon to learn more, or paddle your way around the water in one of the pretty swan boats (offered seasonally).