Dallas, Texas, is on the come up and it’s about time. This dynamic city has tons of fun things to do: the most shopping centers per capita, jaw-dropping museums, and an ever-growing arts community. But it doesn’t stop there. Dallas’ food scene is getting national attention these days and who could blame them? Tex-Mex and barbecue are the reigning queen and king of the restaurant scene, but Dallas surprises people with great Asian food, steakhouses, and killer bars and coffee shops (which are sometimes coffee shops with bars).
We’ve gathered all the best things to do in Dallas to have a memorable time. Check out everything on this list and you’ll finally stop asking “Who killed J.R.?” and instead wonder, “Why did I not experience Dallas sooner?”
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Best things to do in Dallas
The whopping majority of Americans (61 percent) still believe that Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of President Kennedy was part of a bigger conspiracy. If you’re one of them, then you’re in the right place. The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the life and assassination of JFK from a historical, social, and cultural perspective. Poke through more than 60,000 artifacts and stand in the exact window that Oswald fired from. Afterwards, head to the Grassy Knoll to see the “X” in the middle of the street where JFK was fatally shot, before making your way to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza a few blocks away.
Celebrity chef Dean Fearing's restaurant is a sophisticated affair set within the stylish Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Treat yourself to fine dining in seven indoor and outdoor settings with the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine.” The larger-than-life chef specializes in hearty traditional food with a twist, so expect unusual (but delicious) flavor pairings. Highlights include Dr. Pepper braised short ribs, chicken-fried Maine lobster, al pastor street tacos, and grilled cheese with house smoked chopped BBQ brisket. If you’re short on time, grab a drink from the Rattlesnake Bar during its specialty Social Hour.
Get to know Dallas the traditional way—from horseback—at Texas Horse Park. The 302-acre park sits within the Great Trinity Forest, an area once owned by Davy Crockett and his wife. With riding lessons, trail rides, and hippotherapy, the Texas Horse Park is a tribute to Texas' equestrian history. Channel your inner cowboy or girl as you ride along the Trinity River amid ancient trees, freshwater springs, and a large Native American archaeological site.
In addition to plenty of pick-up trucks, Dallas is home to a historic trolley, which trundles up and down the lively McKinney Avenue in Uptown and the downtown Arts District. Founded in 1983, it usually operates 365 days a year and is free of charge. Hop on and off for a quirky bar and food crawl featuring some of the best pubs in town. Highlights include The Standard Pour, known for barrel-aged cocktails, and The Trophy Room, with its famous mechanical bull sitting malevolently in the middle of the bar. Or jump on the trolley in Uptown and hop off at Klyde Warren Park or the Dallas Museum of Art to see what Downtown has to offer.
The long, narrow Klyde Warren Park opened in late 2012 on top of the Woodall Rogers Freeway and it's already one of the most popular spots in Dallas. This 5.2-acre park staples the city’s Uptown and Arts Districts together and is beloved for its playground, stage that hosts live concerts, and food trucks that line one side of the park and two restaurants, Savor and Relish, that line the other. Throw in dozens of free daily activities including table tennis, badminton, chess, ice-skating, concerts and yoga and it’s easy to see why Klyde Warren Park is everyone’s best friend.
Shopping is pretty much a local sport in Dallas, so if you want to play ball with your credit card, you’ve come to the right place. The first outdoor shopping center in America is as renowned for its Spanish-influenced architecture as its haute couture (think Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen). Shop among the newest luxury lines at Highland Park Village stores like Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, and Cartier before grabbing a bite at Bistro 31 and a film at the Village Theatre. If you’re on the hunt for further style points, Dallas is also home to the epic NorthPark Center, an award-winning citadel of style blending over 235 stores with contemporary art and a 1.4-acre garden with water features.
No trip to Dallas would be complete without a visit to the most famous white house west of Washington, D.C. Home to the dysfunctional Ewing clan of the Dallas TV show, Southfork Ranch is an easy 40-minute drive from Downtown Dallas in the small suburb of Parker, Texas. As a functioning ranch, you can take horseback riding lessons or hit the trails with a guide. You can’t miss a chance to join a guided tour to explore the house, taking in everything from J.R.’s bedroom to the gun that shot him—as well as plenty of costumes, clips and props from one of the longest-running shows in TV history.
Ask anyone in Dallas where to get barbecue and they’ll point you to the Pecan Lodge, Dallas’ most award-winning barbecue joint. The pit-smoked food at this restaurant in the hip Deep Ellum neighborhood is absolutely out of this world—as evidenced by the lines out the door, around the corner and into the parking lot. The handmade jalapeño sausages, ribs, and beef brisket with southwestern seasoning are particularly excellent, while the “hot mess” (sea salt-crusted sweet potato topped with barbacoa and chipotle cream) is deliriously good.
The police may have been on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde for over two years, but you can get a glimpse of their time in Dallas in a pleasant three hours. Both of the infamous Depression-era outlaws grew up in the Dallas area, where their crime and murder spree began before eventually ending in a hail of bullets just across the Louisiana border on May 23, 1934. DFW Historical Tours takes you from Clyde’s family home and the cafe where Bonnie worked, through their hole-ups and crime sites, to finally their graves. The tour includes transportation and a tour guide whose family has been connected to the outlaws for nearly a century.
This 66-acre botanical garden is one of the top botanical gardens in the world, offering spectacular nature exhibits throughout the year such as the largest floral festival in the southwest, Artscape, an arts and crafts show, and jaw-dropping pumpkin and Christmas holiday displays in the fall and winter. Wander along the ‘Texas Skywalk’ for spectacular views, relax on the rooftop of the ‘Moody Oasis’ and walk under a waterfall at ‘the Cascades’. Children can also enjoy the Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden, where there are botanicals and water-features galore.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but it’s actually a fascinating treasure trove of early 21st-century history. In addition to a significant exhibit on the 9/11 attacks, the museum also includes an exact replica of the Oval Office, plus incredible insights into the Bush dynasty. The standout attraction, however, is the strangely addictive “Decision Points Theater”, where you sit in front of a big screen to make decisions based on genuine evidence the President had at his disposal. As you might've guessed, it's harder than it looks.
It's easy to see why Tacos Y Mas is so popular—Texans love eating tacos. While everyone seems to agree on that fact, there’s considerably less concurrence when it comes to choosing the best taco in town. Make up your own mind by tasting the beloved tacos at our frontrunner, Tacos Y Mas. What began as a makeshift tent outside a grocery store, Tacos Y Mas now has four mouthwatering locations around the city.
Dallas boasts the largest contiguous urban arts district in America: a 19-block expanse crammed with museums, restaurants and theaters. Get your bearings of the Arts District on a scavenger hunt or walking tour before deciding where to invest your time. Highlights include the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Crow Museum of Asian Art, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, a multi-venue music and theater complex centered on the striking drum-shaped Winspear Opera House.
If y’all have ever fancied a bona fide Stetson, bolo tie, or cowhide boots, Wild Bill’s Western Store can hook you up. Situated in Dallas’ historic West End, the iconic store has welcomed everyone from Bon Jovi to Mick Jagger. Just going into the store—20-foot longhorn and all—is a Texan experience in itself. Bask in the big Texas welcome of the staff who will help you find the perfect Western gear.
This calming space is nestled within Dallas's Arts District and is home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. The lush two-acre sculpture garden is tantalizing for photographers and Instagrammers, thanks to works by the likes of Rodin, Henry Moore and George Segal. It also forms an incredible backdrop to the unique “’Til Midnight at the Nasher,” a free live music and outdoor movie screenings series that includes admission to the museum.
Folks tend to like both kinds of music in Dallas: country and western. The best way to enjoy it? By two-stepping, naturally. With six bars, karaoke, a pool room, and a large dance floor, don your cowboy boots and get ready to boogie at Round Up Saloon. This glitzy gay bar and dance hall offers popular line-dancing lessons nearly every night of the week, so get ready for box-steps and partner-swinging galore.
Get a breath of fresh air on the 3.5-mile route that unites several Dallas districts. Popular with cyclists, dog walkers, inline skaters and runners alike, it follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was known as the MKT, or the Katy. It has become such a well-known workout spot that the Dallas Observer once quipped: “The trains don’t run here anymore… Dallas does.”
This little restaurant tucked away on North Henderson has quickly become a favorite of those in the know, thanks to its exceptional chef and unconventional hours of operation (this joint is open until 1am!). After a night out at the theater or the movies, you can comfortably cab it over to Gemma and enjoy a midnight feast of fine dining—with a menu including grass-fed fried Texas quail, halibut, braised rabbit, and fried castelvetrano olives. The airy, coastal restaurant's exceptional wine list is a bonus.
There are sports stadiums, and then there are sports spaceships—and The Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium is undeniably the latter. Nicknamed ‘Jerry World’ after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, this incredible $1.15-billion gridiron cathedral seats upwards of 100,000 fans and has won multiple awards for its innovative design. Jump on the “America’s Team” guided tour and you’ll get behind-the-scenes access to everything from the 59 pieces of contemporary art dotted about the stadium to the Cowboys' locker room.
Lower Greenville used to be an area to avoid but has recently become the hottest ticket for a good time in town. Mingle with hip Texans at some of this neighborhood's coolest venues. Shop among the small gift and clothing shops on the avenue and have a beer on the coolest outdoor patio at the Truck Yard. Head a few steps down the street for dessert at Steel City Pops, which serves a mind-boggling selection of gourmet popsicles, then finish the evening with cocktails on the lively roof terrace at HG Sply Co or a live concert at the Granada Theater.