It was actually the installation of three painted pianos in downtown Dallas that inspired this article. I wondered how many out of the ordinary collections and displays I could find around DFW, and it turned out to be quite a few. Use our links and maps to see these offbeat art pieces and artifacts.
A Quirky Assortment
If you’ve lived in North Texas, you’ve heard of a few of these, but I also found some that may surprise you. All of these goofball (but sometimes serious) collections are must-see sights for DFW locals and visitors alike.
Painted Pianos in Historic Downtown Mansfield
I was pretty surprised to learn that Mansfield has painted pianos too. Called the Mansfield 88 Piano Project, there are currently 9 painted pianos located in various parts of the city’s historic downtown. “Downtown Mansfield” is the name of a free app you can download (iOS or Android) to guide you to the pianos and other public art plus services, shopping, dining and more in Mansfield.
400 Cowboy Hats Art Piece in Fort Worth
Around here, star-shaped art is moderately commonplace. This particular star is definitely not your ordinary art. It’s 28 feet wide and suspended from the ceiling at the Fort Worth Convention Center. What makes it a collection is the fact that the star is covered with 400 cowboy hats – all donated by the local, locally famous, or nationally known people who wore them. Artist Donald Lipski named the piece Intimate Apparel and Pearl Earrings. It’s free to view if you’re in the convention center when there’s not a scheduled event.
Five Recreated Entire Rooms from World-Renowned Art Collectors in Dallas
Almost every museum in existence contains a few oddball art pieces or exhibitions, and the Dallas Museum of Art is no different. For over 30 years, a 16,500-square-foot wing has been the home of an actual home. Well, it’s not really a home, but it’s a recreation of five rooms where Wendy and Emery Reves lived in the south of France.
The villa was designed by Coco Chanel, and over a thousand art pieces were displayed there. In the recreated bedroom, dining room, salon, library, and hall, you will see over a thousand art pieces including works by impressionist painters Cézanne, Gauguin, Manet, and Monet. Their collection also included sculpture by Auguste Rodin and even some artwork by Winston Churchill, who was a frequent guest in their home.
This exhibit is part of the permanent collection at the DMA, so it’s all free to see.
A Park Decked with Teddy Bear Statues in Highland Park
The Turtle Creek Dam bridge and its surroundings are part of a beautifully landscaped city park in Highland Park. The park has been listed so many times in “hidden places in Dallas” articles that it’s no longer a secret of any kind, but it’s still a fun place to hang out.
You see, amid the mature trees and near the Read Memorial fountain you’ll find four (much) larger than life statues – of teddy bears! The biggest one is taller than most adults – stand beside it, hug it, or sit on its lap for an iconic Dallas selfie.
The Chairy Orchard in Denton
Chairy is not a typo here – this is no grove of cherry trees, but a mini orchard full of chairs. I said mini, because when you go, if you’re looking for a huge field or a park-like place, you’ll drive right by it. The Chairy Orchard was dreamed up by two Dallas businesswomen who are also neighbors. It occupies a vacant lot between their houses in a residential neighborhood.
The lot sits back from the street a ways, but you can definitely see it when you arrive. Walk through the lawn a few yards, and you’ll be surrounded by an incredible assortment of all kinds of chairs, mostly donated by the people of Denton. The collection of crazy chairs just keeps growing, and it’s a truly magical place for a professional or an impromptu photo shoot.
This unique attraction in Denton is free to visit, but you can purchase a pen or a cup on-site or a T-shirt online to support the project. Its Facebook page tells us there are exciting improvements ahead and mentions that they are working with Valley Quest Design – a local landscape architecture firm.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not and its Free Outdoor Sculpture Garden in Grand Prairie
It would be hard to argue against Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the wackiest collection in DFW. Its Odditorium and Wax Museum are just two of the five attractions on site. Prices vary, and combo tickets for multiple attractions are available.
Parking is free at the Ripley’s, and before you head inside (or even if you don’t), you can wander through their outdoor sculpture garden. It’s got a giant ball of barbed wire, a set of three chromosaurs (dinosaurs modeled out of chrome auto parts), and an oversized gorilla (also made of auto parts.) Add in a few more oddball statuary and you’re in for a fun time and some unbelievable photos!
Japanese Samurai Armor in Dallas
This collection isn’t wacky, but it’s a little bit crazy that the largest collection of Samurai armor outside of Japan is right here in Dallas. The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum is on the second floor, directly above Saint Ann restaurant, so the location is a bit quirky as well.
The armor and other artifacts come from the Barbier-Mueller’s personal collection in which they amassed over a thousand treasures over the last 25 years. Many of the helmets, masks, and horse equipment objects are on display at the museum, while others are loaned to traveling exhibits, and still more are displayed in lobbies of the Dallas real estate developer’s buildings.The museum (like most others in DFW and nationwide) is closed on Monday, but has public hours six days a week and is free. (Tuesday evening cocktail events require a small admission fee and include a tasty beverage.)
Tools of the Funeral Service Trade (Circa Late 1800s) in Grapevine
One of the oldest funeral homes in North Texas, J.E. Foust & Son Funeral Home has been in continuous operation since 1880. On the north end of their property, on Main Street in historic downtown Grapevine, you’ll encounter a small building with glass walls. Inside the display room, you can view a horse-drawn hearse, several coffins, and other items unique to the funereal business. A historical marker outside the display pays tribute to the Foust family and their civic as well as business contributions to Grapevine.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Not to Mention Motorcycles)
The Dallas area has a wide range of activities, museums, and exhibits related to modern methods of travel. These examples have some very interesting collections.
Artifacts from the Hindenburg and Other Dirigibles in Dallas
This exhibit is one of 13 collections at the Frontiers of Flight museum. From the earliest attempts at flight to space flight and much, much more in between, you’ll see some awe-inspiring things here. Open 7 days a week, the museum’s admission fee is modest, and parking is free.
Other Flying Collections
If you love plane-centered museums, DFW has kind of a collection of those. In addition to the Frontiers of Flight Museum, you may also want to check out the CR Smith Museum, the Vintage Flying Museum, or the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison.
Real Railroad Cars and Locomotives in Frisco
DFW has numerous museums surrounding the railroad industry which breathed life into the area and made it what it is today. We even have an operative Vintage Railroad train, and we have the largest permanent model train display in America. I may have to round those up for you in a future story, but for now, let me tell you about the Museum of the American Railroad in Frisco. You can read more about the train fun in DFW here.
Originally opened in Fair Park in 1963, the museum and its contents were physically moved to Frisco starting in 2008. Tours of the rolling stock are still somewhat limited. Please check the website for details before visiting the museum.
Vintage Cars in Weatherford
There are surprisingly few car collections in DFW. (I guess all the cars are on dealer lots or on the freeways!) But in one suburb of Fort Worth, you can view a collection of classic automobiles at the free Vintage Car Museum & Event Center. Even more cool classic cars are on display at the Vintage Grill across the street.
Of course, if you want to make the five-hour drive out to Amarillo, you can stop by the iconic Cadillac Ranch.
Rare Motorcycles in Dallas
There’s a new museum in town, and you’ve never seen anything like it. At age 70, Dallas financier and former National Geographic aerial photographer Bobby Haas has outdone himself yet again. His latest claim to fame is the newly opened Haas Moto Museum in the Design District.
The museum showcases over 100 classic, custom, and vintage motorcycles as well as sculptures and artwork that celebrate motorcycle culture over a span of 12 decades. The cycles are all from Haas’s personal collection which he started amassing after riding a motorcycle for the first time at age 64.
The museum will be closed from until September 3rd to refresh its exhibits, so make plans to visit after Labor Day.
Bonus: It’s not in DFW, but one of a very few things I’d drive to Houston to see is their Art Car Museum.
Before Planes, Trains, or Automobiles
Before the advent of trains made diversifying the area’s economy possible, cattle were a large source of income for many North Texans. The DFW area has its own collection of cattle drive art paying tribute to those days.
Three Cattle Drive Bronze Installations in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco
Pioneer Plaza in Dallas
Texas artist Robert Summers began creating this installation for the city of Dallas in 1992. With 49 six-foot-tall steers and 3 cowboys, it was (at the time) the largest bronze sculpture installation in the world. (It’s still the largest cattle drive sculpture anywhere.) Located in a City of Dallas park near the convention center, the cattle seem to wander over a limestone ridge and through a nearby water feature straight into the heart of downtown.
Trails in Legacy near Baccus Plaza in Plano
Also by Robert Summers, this cattle drive stretches down Bishop street over the course of several blocks. This gives the effect of a realistic trail drive with some riders and cattle lagging behind the others.
The Shawnee Trail in Frisco
The smallest of the three installations, this one is also in the most scenic setting. Set within the water feature and fountain in Central Park, this Created by Anita Pauwels in 2003 depicts cowboys at rest and steers in motion.
The Mustangs of Las Colinas in Irving
If you like horse statues better than cow statues, you may like The Mustangs in Las Colinas by African wildlife artist Robert Glen. It even has a museum dedicated to the artist’s time designing and building it.
Dallas has a couple of beautiful architectural collections too.
Art Deco Buildings at Fair Park in Dallas
172 Fountains at the I. M. Pei Fountain Place in Dallas
There are a number of online collections related to North Texas, and I picked a couple to share with you. One is simply a huge repository of interesting information and the other was a long-time public display in Dallas that’s now available to tour online.
This is a collection of collections available courtesy of the University of North Texas. It contains reference material on thousands of subjects from agriculture to wrestling.
The Adrian E. Flatt, M.D. Hand Collection – Online Only
Frequently mentioned in lists of quirky or obscure attractions in Dallas, this public exhibit may have been permanently closed. Formerly located at Truett Memorial Hospital, now part of Baylor University Medical I couldn’t confirm any of its details on an official website or Facebook page. However, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) has created a virtual exhibit of over 100 bonze-cast hands. Dr. Flatt created these casts of famous people from all walks of life – musicians, athletes, politicians, artists and more.
And of course FunCityStuff.com!
Of course, we hope your favorite online collection is the FunCityStuff.com website. We love to collect and share stories and tips about fun places, fun food, and fun stuff in North Texas. Let us know how we’re doing in the comments or on our Facebook page.