When it comes to deciding what to do with our free time, many of us naturally gravitate toward things like concerts, festivals, movies, and the like. When it comes to cultural events, though, the landscape can be trickier. There is no shortage of events, companies, and venues from which to choose, but picking the best ones can be a mystery.
We've combed Dallas-Fort Worth for the best cultural things the area has to offer. Each one is all but guaranteed to up your cultural cred.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
One of three prominent museums lined up in a row along Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, unlike its neighbors, is dedicated to showcasing purely American art. It has multiple exhibits going at any one time, but one of the most notable appearing in 2017 will be "Avedon in Texas: Selections from In the American West," running February 25-July 2. In 1978, noted fashion photographer Richard Avedon was commissioned by the museum to create a portrait of people in the American West, 17 of which will be shown in this exhibit.
Each spring, cities around Dallas-Fort Worth take a weekend to showcase visual and performing arts, as well as music if you need a little entertainment with your culture. The Deep Ellum Arts Festival is first, taking place April 7-9. It's followed in relatively short order by the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival (April 20-23), Denton Arts & Jazz Festival (April 28-30), Mayfest in Fort Worth (May 4-7), Homegrown Music & Arts Festival (May 13), and the Wildflower! Art and Music Festival in Richardson (May 19-21).
Bath House Cultural Center
Located on the shores of White Rock Lake, Bath House Cultural Center was an actual bath house from 1930 to 1953 before being born again as an arts venue in 1981. Every year it plays host to a variety of events, including art exhibits, dance performances, and theater productions. An annual highlight is the Festival of Independent Theatres, a four-week long festival in July that highlights one-act plays from local theater companies.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Not only does the Dallas Arboretum have one of best locations in all of Dallas, set on the shore of White Rock Lake, and floral displays so beautiful they belong in a gallery, it's also become a go-to place for art lovers. This year it will host "ZimSculpt," an exhibition of modern Zimbabwean stone sculptures that will be on display April 15-July 31.
Dallas Chamber Symphony
The bigger symphony orchestras may get more attention, but Dallas Chamber Symphony has consistently shown an interesting variety in their concerts, most of which take place at Dallas City Performance Hall. Among the events left in their 2016-2017 season include one in which they'll play a live-to-film score for Charlie Chaplin's The Kid and another in which they'll accompany the Bruce Wood Dance Project.
Dallas Museum of Art
Even with two notable art museums — Nasher Sculpture Center and Crow Collection of Asian Art — as its direct neighbors, the Dallas Museum of Art stands out thanks to its sheer size, pieces in its permanent collection, and quality of traveling exhibits it attracts. Coming in 2017 is "México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde," running March 12-July 16, a major exhibition exploring 50 years of Mexican modern art that will make its first and only stop in the U.S. right here in Dallas.
Dallas Opera/Fort Worth Opera Festival
The Dallas Opera has already presented two acclaimed productions in its current season, but it will be back in the spring at Winspear Opera House with two concurrent productions — Madame Butterfly and The Turn of the Screw — running March 10-26, and Norma, running April 21-May 7. Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Opera Festival will return to Bass Performance Hall April 22-May 7, featuring the world premiere of Voir Dire, as well as productions of Carmen and Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.
Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society/Allegro Guitar Society of Dallas
When most people think of classical music, they think of full symphony orchestras. But the guitar societies in both Fort Worth and Dallas are out to showcase some of the world's best classical guitarists, holding concerts at both Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and Montgomery Arts Theater in Dallas. Remaining concerts in the 2016-2017 season include the Assad Brothers from Brazil in February, Virginia Luque from Spain in March, and David Russell from Scotland by way of Spain in April.
George W. Bush Presidential Center
President George W. Bush choosing Dallas as the home for his presidential library is a boon in both cultural and historical ways. The center regularly presents exhibits that showcase items from the White House during his presidency, as well as panels, concerts, and more that allow visitors to both examine history and look to the future. This year's major exhibit will be "Portraits of Courage," running March 2-October 1, which will showcase paintings done by Bush himself of members of the United States military who have served our nation with honor since 9/11.
Latino Cultural Center
Located in Deep Ellum, the Latino Cultural Center keeps busy with more than 300 cultural events a year that take advantage of its 300-seat theater, gallery, sculpture courtyards, and outdoor plaza. With a mission of promoting Latino art and culture, one of the center's most popular events is the annual "Hecho en Dallas" exhibit. Taking place April 14-June 30, the juried show showcases the vibrant local arts scene and presents diverse schools of artistic thought.
Located just a few blocks northwest of downtown Fort Worth, the Oakwood Cemetery has been around nearly as long as the city itself. Established in 1879 by Fort Worth pioneer John Peter Smith, the cemetery now encompasses more than 60 acres. There is an annual "Saints and Sinners Tour" that takes place close to Halloween every year, where guests are introduced to famous and infamous people from early Fort Worth.
Pioneer Park Cemetery
Dating back to the late 1840s, Pioneer Park Cemetery hides a ton of history in its location off of Marilla Street, near Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and Dallas City Hall. Two small children were the first people buried there, followed over the next 80 years by six Dallas mayors, three War of 1812 veterans, and 29 Civil War veterans, among many others. Closed to new burials since the 1920s, it is also now the location of the city's Confederate Memorial.
Sometimes some of the best art you can see is that which is right there in front of you when you're out and about. Prominent examples include almost the entirety of the interior of NorthPark Center, the Traveling Man sculptures in Deep Ellum, the Chisholm Trail Mural in Fort Worth, and much more. CultureNow has a searchable, albeit noncomprehensive, database of public art, and Fort Worth Public Art offers self-guided tours of public art in that city.
SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival
Presented by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, this three-week long festival, taking place May 15-June 4, is much more than just classical music. Among the organizations and venues collaborating with the DSO on the festival include the Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Nasher Sculpture Center, Klyde Warren Park, and more.
Sun to Moon Gallery
A high percentage of art galleries in Dallas have established homes in the Design District, with at least 20 located within a block or two of Riverfront Boulevard between Turtle Creek Boulevard and Continental Avenue. While all are worth visiting, Sun to Moon is notable for the group of photographers it represents, including Alan Ross, who was a photographic assistant to the great Ansel Adams.