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Photograph: Courtesy Visit Dallas

The 20 best things to do in Dallas right now

Here are all the things you cannot miss when visiting the Big D

Written by
James Wong
Contributors
Jonathan Thompson
&
Alex Temblador
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The ‘Big D’ is happening—like, really happening—right now, and the list of things to do in Dallas is getting longer and better every day. Sure, this city always had the chops, but a booming population and a buzzing social scene has made the city hungry for more culture, more glamour, more everything.

That’s great news for visitors—but where should you start? Well, it’s hard to say no to the staples: tickets to the Dallas Cowboys (or the Mavs and Stars, for that matter) are just as hard to resist as a Texas barbecue feast (or two). But beyond the usual icons, you’ll find a new focus on art radiating from Dallas’ downtown Arts District, not to mention worthwhile museum exhibitions and a thriving culinary scene fuelled by a melting pot of cultures.

Craving more? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Dallas.

RECOMMENDED: the best restaurants in Dallas

Best things to do in Dallas

  • Attractions
  • West End

The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the life and assassination of JFK from a historical, social, and cultural perspective. Poke through more than 90,000 artifacts and stand in front of the exact window from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired his rifle. 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.

When uptown, indulge in Dallas’ glamorous side at the swankiest afternoon tea spot in town. Every weekend, Hotel Crescent Court’s conservatory sunroom and courtyard transforms into a quaint English-meets-Texan celebration of tea and scones, with views overlooking the property’s beautifully manicured gardens and grand fountains. Dress to impress, and opt for the “endless champagne” option for an extra dose of glamour.

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Seattle has the Space Needle, New York has the Empire State building, and Dallas has the Reunion Tower. This skyline icon is more than just a pretty observatory, however—partake in permanent and seasonal activities on the deck like yoga, painting, and a revolving restaurant and bar. On the lookout for over-the-top romance? Lovers can also book a “Love Is in the Air” proposal package so they can pop the question with bubbles in a private section.

Pop your rodeo cherry in Fort Worth at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo. Held in the historic 1908 Cowtown Coliseum, this was the site of the world’s first indoor rodeo. Today, it still hosts a variety of events starring the finest cowboys and cowgirls in town. Befriend gregarious Texans while you’re there and hit up Refinery 714 on Main Street for the after party.

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Dallas has more than just pickup trucks—jump on the city’s 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 as you sample the best pubs in town (one particular highlight is The Standard Pour, known for its barrel-aged cocktails), or hop off at Klyde Warren Park or even the Dallas Museum of Art to see what downtown has to offer.

In addition to taking the trolley, you can also hop around Dallas via an air-conditioned van tour.

  • Things to do
  • Greater Dallas

The long, narrow Klyde Warren Park opened in late 2012 on top of the Woodall Rogers Freeway and has since become one of the most popular spots in Dallas. This 5.2-acre park hitches the city’s Uptown and downtown Arts District together. You’ll find a popular playground, a stage that hosts live concerts, and food trucks that line one side of the park. Throw in dozens of free daily activities (think table tennis, badminton, chess, ice-skating, concerts and yoga) and it’s easy to see why Klyde Warren Park is a worthwhile stop on any visit.

While you're at it, check out Southfork Ranch on a tour

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Locals tend to like both kinds of music in Dallas: country and western. The best way to enjoy both? 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.

  • Attractions

There are sports stadiums, and then there are sports spaceships—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 VIP guided tour and you’ll get behind-the-scenes access to everything from the press box to the Cowboys' locker room.

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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. Highland Park Village, the first outdoor shopping center in America, is renowned for its Spanish-influenced architecture as well as its haute couture (think Chanel, Dior, and Alexander McQueen). After shopping, grab a cupcake from Bird Bakery, or catch a film at the Village Theatre to make the most of your trip. Or, if you’re on the hunt for more style points, Dallas is also home to the epic NorthPark Center, an award-winning citadel of style that blends over 235 stores with contemporary art and a 1.4-acre garden.

Want to see more? Book a tour of Dallas

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites

No trip to Dallas is 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 of 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.

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  • Things to do
  • Little Forest Hills

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 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Deep Ellum

There are plenty of top barbecue joints in town, but the one that locals keep going back to is the award-winning Pecan Lodge. The pit-smoked food at this restaurant in the hip Deep Ellum neighborhood is 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 are particularly excellent, while the “hot mess” (sea salt-crusted sweet potato topped with barbacoa and chipotle cream) is deliriously good.

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While the police were on their trail for over two years, you can get a glimpse of Bonnie and Clyde’s time in Dallas in a quick three hours. Both of the infamous Depression-era outlaws grew up in the Dallas area, where their crime and murder spree began before ending in a hail of bullets just across the Louisiana border on May 23, 1934. On an excursion with DFW Historical Tours, you’ll stop at Clyde’s family home, the cafe where Bonnie worked, their hole-ups and crime sites, and finally their graves. The tour includes transportation and a tour guide whose family has been connected to the outlaws for nearly a century.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Equestrian
  • South Boulevard

Get to know Dallas on 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 cowgirl as you ride along the Trinity River amid ancient trees, freshwater springs, and a large Native American archaeological site.

Want to see more? Book a tour

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  • Things to do
  • Greenville Ave

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.

Explore the city's top attractions with a Dallas CityPASS

Dallas boasts the largest contiguous urban arts district in America: a 118-acre 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.

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  • Shopping
  • West End

Ever fancied a Stetson hat, bolo tie, or cowhide boots? Wild Bill’s Western Store will 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 is a Texan bucket list experience in and of itself.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Knox/Henderson

Get a breath of fresh air on this 3.5-mile trail. The route stitches together several Dallas districts and follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, once known as the MKT, or the Katy. While you won’t find any trains along the trail, you will find almost everything else: it’s popular with cyclists, dog walkers, inline skaters, and runners alike.

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Lower Greenville, formerly an area worth avoiding, has recently become the hottest ticket for a good time in town. Shop your way through small gift and clothing shops on the avenue, or have a beer on the buzzing 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 show at the Granada Theater.

  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Greater Dallas

This calming space is nestled within Dallas' 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 a paradise for photographers and Instagrammers thanks to works by Rodin, Henry Moore, George Segal, and more. It also forms an incredible backdrop to the free (but currently postponed) ’Til Midnight at the Nasher, a live music and outdoor movie series that includes admission to the museum.

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