Irving, Texas is sometimes referred to as Dallas’s little brother, but there is much about Irving that makes it second to none. With its close proximity to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex and DFW International Airport, visitors are minutes away from the best dining, attractions and entertainment the Metroplex has to offer. Irving’s business districts (Irving is home to the global headquarters of five Fortune 500 corporations and more than 45 Fortune 1,000 companies) include the Las Colinas community, one of the first master-planned developments in the United States.
Irving’s convenient location to two major airports and its sprawling urban business districts are major attractions to the corporate world. Irving is not all about business though, there are unique historic sites, outdoor recreation, museums and parks. Here are the best things to do in Irving, Texas:
1. Irving Arts Center
The Irving Arts Center is a performing and fine arts facility located in a complex designed to accommodate a wide range of cultural and civic needs. The center features two fully-equipped theaters; four galleries; meeting, classroom, reception and rehearsal facilities; and a sculpture garden. The Arts Center has performing and visual arts space, including the 707-seat Carpenter Performance Hall and the 253-seat Dupree Theater. The Sculpture Garden features commissioned sculptures by James Surls, Jesús Moroles and Michael Manjarris; the monumental mosaic Irving Centennial Mural created by artist Francisco Mendoza with Irving youths; and ’03 Politicized Democracy by John Brough Miller. The Sculpture Garden also features rotating sculptures by Texas and national artists, including a sculpture by American artist Reuben Nakian, on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
The Arts Center offers guided gallery tours on Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm and on Sundays at 2:30 pm.
Irving Arts Center
Address: 3333 N MacArthur Blvd, Irving, TX 75062
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 9 am–5 pm, Saturday10 am–5 pm, Sunday 1 pm–5 pm
Website: Irving Arts Center
2. Founder's Plaza Observation Area
If you are an aviation buff, head over to Founder’s Plaza Observation area and watch the planes landing and taking off from DFW Airport. It’s a beautiful park-like setting with benches, picnic tables, and grassy areas where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and spend some free time or wait for a flight. Telescopes are provided so you can get an up close view of the runways. A radio broadcasts live air traffic control communications that announce the arrival of planes. Historic information about the airport is available as well as a commemorative monument. Ample parking is available too.
Founder's Plaza Observation Area
Address: 2400 Aviation Drive, DFW Airport, TX 75261
Website: Founder’s Plaza Observation Area
3. Gondola Adventures
When you think of taking a romantic gondola ride, Irving, Texas is probably not the first place that comes to mind. There are actually two options, a cruise on Lake Carolyn or through the Mandalay Canal in Las Colinas. Gondola Adventures offers romantic dinner, sunset cruises or fun trips with family and friends on paddle or electric gondolas. The relaxing cruises take you to private inlets and waterfalls. Local restaurants cater the dinner cruises and the gondoliers will serenade guests.
Cruises can be customized for special occasions such as weddings, parties and corporate events. Flotillas can be arranged for large groups. There are several cruise options: Classic Cruise, Appetizer Cruise, Breakfast, Lunch and Gourmet Cruises, and Dessert Cruises. The Classic Cruise is a good introduction to the gondola experience. Guests are treated to gourmet chocolates and sparkling cider or hot cocoa.
Address: 357 W Fork, Irving, TX 75039
Website: Gondola Adventures
4. Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center
Three museums comprise the Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center and tell the story of the Bear Creek Community, an African-American enclave in Irving’s Bear Creek. Located in west Irving, Bear Creek is one of the oldest Dallas County African-American communities. The community became predominately African-American after former slaves relocated there after emancipation. Jackie Townsell lived in the community and served on the Irving City Council for 18 years beginning in 1977. Bear Creek Heritage Center chronicles the history of the Bear Creek Community and of the African-American experience, from emancipation through racial segregation and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-60s.
The three museums are The Bear Creek Masonic Lodge, which served as a community center to all masons, not only the African-American; The Green House, the home of Sam Green, a long-term leading community resident; and the J.O. Davis House, a walk-through museum of the Bear Creek community. The center also has a Native Plant Garden.
Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center
Address: 3925 Jackson St, Irving, TX 75061
Opening Hours: Second Saturday of the month1 pm to 4 pm, also open by appointment
5. Mustangs of Las Colinas and Museum
The Mustangs of Las Colinas is a magnificent bronze sculpture of nine wild mustangs galloping across a granite stream. It is the largest equestrian sculpture in the world and forms the centerpiece of William’s Square in the Las Colinas Urban Center. Dallas businessman Ben H. Carpenter converted his family’s ranch into the Las Colinas Center and commissioned African wildlife artist Robert Glen to create the sculpture that commemorates the importance of the mustang in Texas’ history. The sculpture draws tourists from around the world.
Adjacent to the sculpture, in the East Tower of Williams Square Plaza, is the Las Colinas Museum that features exhibits and additional sculptures by Robert Glen. There is also a short film about the designing, molding and mounting of the sculpture. Admission is free to the museum.
Mustangs of Las Colinas and Museum
Address: 5221 North O’Connor Road, Suite 110E, Irving, TX 75039
Website: Mustangs of Las Colinas
6. Walk the Mandalay Canal
Walking the Mandalay Canal in Las Colinas is a peaceful escape from the urban cityscape above. It’s just steps below the urban area, but worlds away in atmosphere and feel. It is a stroll through old-world style and unique architecture lined with office buildings, upscale restaurants and shops. The tree-lined path was designed by a carpenter to reflect the area’s native setting of streams and waterfalls. If you enjoy bird watching, you will see a large variety of waterfowl. The walkway is pet friendly so take you dog for a stroll. It a perfect spot to bring a picnic, relax and enjoy an ambiance of romantic Venice.
Address: 215 Mandalay Canal, Irving, TX 7503
Website: Mandalay Canal
7. National Scouting Museum
The National Scouting Museum is the official museum of the American Boy Scouts Association. The museum houses scouting-related memorabilia from the 100 year history of scouting, and has interactive exhibits such as campgrounds, indoor caves, laser tag galleries, a Cinemascope theater, and pinewood derby race track, making it a great place for families to visit. Other exhibits include High Adventure, National Scout Jamboree, Order of the Arrow, Scoutcraft, Scout values and historical documents all showcasing the extraordinary influence scouting has had on American youth and culture.
The museum also has two art exhibits of paintings by Norman Rockwell and Joseph Csatari. Working for the Boy Scouts of America was Norman Rockwell’s first job as an artist and the museum has the largest collection of his Scouting-related paintings. Joseph Csatari is considered Norman Rockwell’s successor as the official artist for the Boy Scouts. Like Rockwell, Csatari completed Boy Scout calendar illustrations and covers for The Saturday Evening Post and Boys’ Life magazine. Admission is free.
National Scouting Museum
Address: 1329 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, TX 75038
Opening Hours: Monday: 10 am-5 pm, Tuesday - Wednesday: Closed, Thursday - Saturday: 10 am-5 pm, Sunday: 1 pm-5 pm
Website: National Scouting Museum
Irving, Texas: cosmopolitan flair with old world charm
There is much to do in Irving, Texas and much of it is free. Irving is just large and modern enough to have a cosmopolitan feel, but small enough to have a small town ambiance. They coexist in downtown Las Colinas where an urban cityscape sits just above a meandering canal with old world charm.
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