Visitors Guide - Dallas’ West End

The West End of Downtown Dallas is known for its rich history. It is a popular destination in Downtown Dallas. More than 7 million people visit the West End each year, making it one of the leading tourist attractions in the city of Dallas. The district is comprised of century-old brick warehouses that have been refurbished into urban residences, restaurants and shops. The West End has a historic aesthetic and charm, that features attractions, live entertainment, museums, dining, and shops. Here are our recommnedations:

The Old Red Museum

The Old Red Museum is a Dallas staple. Long before it was a museum, the building acted as a Dallas County courthouse, and you can still see a restored version of one of the courtrooms on the fourth floor. The building’s architecture was designed in the Romanesque (Or Richardsonian) revival style, and is one of the only remaining buildings of its kind in Texas. You can marvel at the gargoyles and wyverns standing guard on the roof and stare at the clock tower from outside, but we still recommend going into the museum.

The Dallas County Courthouse, built in 1892 of red sandstone with rusticated marble accents, is a historic governmental building located at 100 South Houston Street in Dallas, Texas. Also known as the Old Red Courthouse, it became the Old Red Museum, a local history museum, in 2007. It was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture by architect Max A. Orlopp, Jr. of the Little Rock, Arkansas based firm Orlopp & Kusener. In 1966 it was replaced by a newer courthouse building nearby. On December 12, 1976, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside you’ll be greeted by Dallas’ most famous icon, the “Flying Red Horse” which once flew over the Magnolia Hotel (at one point the tallest building in Dallas). The Pegasus stands in front of a staircase which leads to the main body of the museum, which will walk you through the prehistoric to the modern history of Dallas. Be sure to enjoy the large floor map (which you can step on) depicting Dallas as well as the smaller, revolving exhibits back downstairs.

Dealey Plaza

On November 22, 1963, the world was shocked by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Had it never occurred, the entire country may have never heard of Dealey Plaza, or terms like “the grassy knoll”. Despite the tragic history of the small green space, the Plaza was originally meant to be a peaceful area honoring George Bannerman Dealey, one of the city’s most influential men. He was the publisher of the Dallas Morning News (still alive and growing today) as well as the owner of the A. H. Belo Corporation. 

Though the space is filled with lovely fountains and trees, you can still find people on the knoll and around the plaza moved to tears by the story of what happened that fateful day. You can follow the historical plaques which line Elm St. to see exactly where the shots would have hit and how the events of those few tragic seconds unfolded.

The Sixth Floor Museum

The Sixth Floor Museum will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Kennedy Assassination. Though they don’t dive into the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the event, they do acknowledge them, and you can see how they were explored over the years. The museum has an audio tour which guides you through the main exhibit, where you can see what the sniper’s nest must have looked like on that day.

The museum isn’t artifact heavy, but the few items spattered here and there really tell the story of that day in vivid detail, such as the place setting at the luncheon President John F. Kennedy was meant to attend after the motorcade. You can also see a forensic diorama, the sort of tool used for investigations such as this before the age of computer imaging, which show how the shots would have hit from the window of the old Texas School Book Depository building, where the museum is now housed.

The Record Grill

The Record Grill is a rather small, understated building that you might pass by if you had no clue what it was. Walking along the outside, it seems like any another mom-and-pop burger shop, but true Dallas history buffs know better. This is where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Warren, that dynamic, murderous duo, first met. You can still sit down and have lunch where Clyde Warren would have, before skipping his check, causing Bonnie Parker to come after him and demand he pay his bill. Ironic, isn’t it?

The two would later go on to become one of the most infamous couples in history, robbing banks and gas stations, and killing four civilians and nine police officers along the way. They captured media attention during the Great Depression, and once the famous 1967 film came out, they were romanticized for many years. It has come to the light, however, that Bonnie and Clyde, as well as their gang, were not so much like the rumors of the movie, but simply criminals who pulled off enough heinous acts to gain public recognition.

Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse

The Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse is the place to get some fantastic goodies fresh off the griddle. They use a method similar to the technique ranch hands have been using for over 100 years to cook their steaks and cuts of wild game. All of their meats are topped off with their special secret sauce that keeps people coming back for more.

The steakhouse’s wild game selection is one of the best in the city. They source from their land, the historic Y.O. Ranch, which was one of the first in this area. You can try different types of bird, venison, and one of their most popular dishes, the buffalo filet mignon. The building itself is polished and refined, giving you a traditional steakhouse experience, just a little more dressed up. They also have a bar and outdoor seating for a fantastic summer night out.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum tells the story of the Holocaust, the emergence of international human rights following the war, and the development of human and civil rights in America.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum was founded by 125 holocaust survivors located in the Dallas area, which banded together to form the Holocaust Survivors in Dallas organization in 1977. You walk into the museum through a boxcar, imported from Belgium, which was used to carry Jewish people to ghettos and concentration camps under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.

The museum is far quieter than any other in the historical district. There is a solemnity about walking through the same doors people exited through to greet the place they would later perish, that makes one take an involuntary moment of silence. There is an entire room dedicated to a memorial, which lists the names of the lost relatives of the Dallas survivors on plaques around the walls of the room. You can grab a tour, led by holocaust survivors, or you can simply wander the space and take it all in on your own time.

Dallas World Aquarium

The Dallas World Aquarium and zoo is located in the West End Historic District. It aids conservation and education by housing many animals that are threatened or endangered.Despite the title of “aquarium,” the Dallas World Aquarium is more like visiting a zoo. The aquarium certainly houses a number of sea creatures, but the building is also home to land animals like sloths, toucans, and vampire bats.

The aquarium was first opened inside an old rubber warehouse which had been gutted and repurposed, then they later bought another warehouse next door, which had previously been used as both a Venetian blind factory and a restaurant called the “Tejano Rodeo”. This became the “Orinoco” exhibit, separating the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems within the main aquarium. Expansions were later added to include and aviary and a rainforest habitat, among others, which resulted in the fantastical zoo-like experience visitors from around the world now come to see.