There are plenty of stereotypes to go around about my hometown, Dallas, Texas. Many people think of BBQ and cowboys—both the football kind and the calf-roping kind. In fact, people from other places used to ask me if I rode a horse to school when I was growing up…in a major metropolitan city of 1.2 million people. The truth is that Dallas is about BBQ, football, and all kinds of cowboys, but there’s so much more to it than that. Thanks to the city’s size and numerous nearby suburbs, there are so many fun things to do in Dallas that it’s often difficult to choose. Check out one of the unique Dallas hotels like The Joule or Hotel ZaZa and get ready for a weekend of fun.
Fun Things to Do in Dallas
Explore Deep Ellum
Just east of downtown, the Deep Ellum neighborhood has been around as far back as the 1870s and has been a hub of music and art throughout its history. Now there are more than 60 restaurants and dozens of shops and music venues. During your weekend in Dallas, stop by Rocket Fizz to try out some truly unusual sodas and find candy you haven’t seen since childhood. Then swing by Zatar for Lebanese tapas and hit up any of the great bars on the street. Whatever you do, don’t miss the fabulous street art throughout the neighborhood—it’s part of the 42 Murals project to beautify the area and preserve its unique character.
Try out local craft beverages
Dallas has a booming craft beverage scene. In the Design District, Peticolas Brewing Company is a stand-out, and Deep Ellum Brewing Company in (you guessed it) Deep Ellum is not to be missed either. Bishop Cider Co. is also one of our family favorites. At their location in the Bishop Arts District, you can try a variety (usually at least a half-dozen) of their offerings, ranging from sweeter, more apple-y varieties to ones infused with hops. For wine, head to Main Street in Grapevine for a group of great wineries. For the harder stuff, there are some great distilleries in Texas, too. Check out Witherspoon Distillery a few minutes away in Lewisville or Firestone & Robertson Distilling if your travels are taking you to Fort Worth, too.
Hang out in Klyde Warren Park
The unique Klyde Warren Park sits over a freeway, but if you weren’t paying attention you might not even notice—there are so many other cool things to pay attention to in this urban oasis. First, there’s free wifi, so you can hang out and work or play online all day, if you want. There are even better choices, though. Check out the gastropub, bring your pup to the dog park (or just watch the cuteness), or try out one of the many awesome food trucks that visit all the time. There’s also live music some days, a kid’s park, and an area for ping pong. Visiting Klyde Warren Park is one of the most fun things to do in Dallas.
Stop and smell the flowers at the Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is one of the best places to visit in Dallas in almost every season (but you may want to stay inside if it’s 107 in August). It goes well beyond the typical garden. As the seasons change, so do the intricate displays. In the spring, there are gorgeous tulips everywhere, beautiful topiaries, and grand displays. In the fall, it’s a destination for family photo shoots for good reason—the fabulous marigolds, the spectacular pumpkin exhibits, and colorful gourds spilling around the property. Whether you’re alone, on a date, or with your family, the Arboretum is a great place to enjoy the environment or even stop for a picnic if you’re so moved.
Boutique hop in the Bishop Arts District
The Bishop Arts District is an excellent place to while away your day. A newly-revitalized neighborhood, this fun area is home to more than 60 restaurants, boutiques, and bars. It’s one of our favorite places to visit because it didn’t exist when I was growing up, and there always seems to be something new and fun to check out. There’s fantastic pizza, elaborate Bloody Marys, a few murals, and enough cool shops to occupy you for several hours. Brunch at Hattie’s is a must, but if you’re just looking for a snack, you must try Emporium Pies. Stop by Ephiphany (for women or men) for unique clothing and jewelry items.
The South is renowned for its food for good reason, and there are so many great options in Dallas, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s brilliant Southern food, BBQ to write home about, Tex Mex, and much, much more. The Mansion Restaurant at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is praised as the best restaurant in Texas. If you’re looking for something fun and more relaxed, try Stampede 66 for Frito Pie and a frozen prickly pear margarita made with liquid nitrogen or go to Pecan Lodge for kick-ass BBQ. Some of the best restaurants in Dallas are Tex Mex. Don’t expect fancy (or the prices to match), but the enchiladas and combination plates at Dallas restaurants like El Fenix and Mi Cocina are legends for a reason. If the rooftop bar scene is more to your liking, there are many great spots along Lower Greenville or in the Knox Henderson neighborhood.
Find a festival
One of my favorite things about my hometown is that there is a festival almost every weekend in Dallas. And thanks to all the close suburbs, if you’re willing to drive up to a half-hour, you’re sure to find at least two or three interesting events. There are food and beer fests constantly like Taste Addison and Grapevine’s Main Street Fest where you can wander happily among tasty vendors. Deep Ellum hosts a popular three-day arts festival, and the many wildflower festivals are also stand outs. One of my favorite annual events is the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie. The costumes of the lords and ladies of the land are fantastic, and there are dozens of shops, performances, and food options to keep you busy and entertained regardless of your age.
Also not to be missed if you visit Dallas in October is the Texas State Fair. The biggest state fair in the country is filled with tons of cool things to do. From the rides to the games on the midway, the pig races, and the auto show, the options are basically endless. Plus, the Texas State Fair is home to deep-fried everything. It may be super unhealthy, but you know you want to try it!
Get cultured at a Dallas museum
Dallas is home to one of the best art museums in the country…and it’s free. The Dallas Museum of Art (locally referred to as “the DMA”) has over 23,000 works spanning 5,000 years of human history. There are Pre-Columbian pieces, Renaissance works, and plenty of modern creations, too. The permanent collection features works from artists including Monet, Picasso, Rodin, and many more. The DMA also hosts concerts on some evenings and afternoons. For something more hands-on, check out the Perot Museum. It features interactive exhibits on topics like ecosystems, archaeology, sports, and space.
Head to the Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards celebrates the city’s tradition as part of the cattle industry. The historic district has lot of great restaurants and shops if you only want a taste of the cowboy life. But if you’re looking to dig a little deeper, you can visit the Stockyards Museum in the former Livestock Exchange or the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Either way, don’t miss the twice-daily cattle drives through the heart of the historic district.
Take the field at Cowboys Stadium
Texas and football pretty much go hand-in-hand, but whether or not you’re a big football fan, AT&T Stadium is a fun place for a tour. The largest domed stadium in the world, it has all the splendor you would expect from Texas. It’s an event space with a massive behind-the-scenes network of passages and spaces and an art gallery with 58 works of art, 16 of which were commissioned specifically for the stadium. It’s also a shopper’s delight, and, of course, a football lover’s paradise. If you visit on a day the field is open to visitors, you can dance, play, and even throw the football around a little.
Browse the farmers market
Even if you don’t need groceries, a trip to the Dallas Farmers Market is one of the more fun things to do in Dallas. Farmers, artisans, and vendors gather here to sell their beautiful foods and produce in “The Shed” and “The Market,” depending on the day of the week. There are all types of fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, honey, and hundreds of other products. You can talk with the producers themselves, watch culinary demonstrations, and practically make a meal out of all the delicious samples.
See Dallas from above at Reunion Tower
One of the most recognizable structures in Dallas, Reunion Tower soars over 560 feet in the air and provides beautiful views of the city below. Check out the GeO-Deck on the observation level where you can gaze out at the skyline and even learn a little bit about Dallas landmarks and Reunion Tower itself. For a meal with a view, head up to Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty on the tower’s rotating top level. Sip a cocktail, savor a steak, and take in a 360-degree view of Big D.