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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 many 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 what’s available and get ready for a weekend of fun.
Fun Things to Do in Dallas
Shop in Bishop Arts District
The Bishop Arts District is an excellent place to while away your weekend in Dallas. 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 in Dallas 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.
Wondering where to stay in Dallas?
Elegance and comfort: Hotel Crescent Court
Luxury near downtown: Hilton Anatole
Stylish boutique hotel: Hotel ZaZa
Resort near the airport: Gaylord Texan
You’ll find more details about where to stay in Dallas at the end of this article.
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. The neighborhood has been revitalized in the last several years, and there are now so many things to do in Deep Ellum. Try out the more than 60 restaurants and dozens of shops and music venues.
During your weekend in Dallas, stop by Rocket Fizz to sample some truly unusual sodas and find candy you haven’t seen since childhood. Then choose from Lebanese tapas, Tex-Mex specialties, or some of the city’s best BBQ, and hit up any of the great bars in Deep Ellum. 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.
Hang out in Lower Greenville
Once one of the grittier neighborhoods in Dallas, Lower Greenville is now a fun spot for going out because of its many restaurants and bars. We love it because there are lots of places to choose from and because it’s fun without being too crazy.
We love settling in for a cocktail on the rooftop terrace of HG Sply Co., which has great views of downtown Dallas. Another family favorite is Terilli’s where you can try their Italchos (Italian nachos, of course) and a martini by the piano in the bar or by the fireplace on the roof. It’s hard to go wrong with the choices in Lower Greenville.
Visit 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 that help make it one of the top Dallas attractions.
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.
Try 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 fabulous distilleries in Texas, too. Check out Bendt Distilling Co. (formerly Witherspoon Distillery) a few minutes away in Lewisville or Firestone & Robertson Distilling if your travels are taking you to Fort Worth, too. There are lots of options in the DFW area.
See the Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is one of the best things to see 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.
If you’re planning to visit the Arboretum, Reunion Tower, or other fun places in Dallas, consider the Dallas CityPASS to save time and money.
Visit Six Flags Over Texas
The first park in the Six Flags group, Six Flags Over Texas has been a favorite of mine since I had to prove I was tall enough to ride the “big kid rides.” It remains one of the most popular Dallas attractions because it’s constantly innovating—developing new, different, and unique rides.
You can ride classic coasters like the Texas Giant, spin 400 feet in the air on the SkyScreamer, or opt for tamer adventures on the Judge Roy Scream. I particularly love Six Flags during holidays—the haunted attractions during Fright Fest and the seasonal decorations, food, and activities during Holiday in the Park are outstanding.
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 Dallas 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! A visit to the fair is definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Dallas in the fall.
See a play at the Pocket Sandwich Theater
The Pocket Sandwich Theater has been one of our favorite places in Dallas for over 20 years. A professional-quality community theater, Pocket Sandwich aims to entertain. Plays are most often comedies, melodramas, and musicals, and some even include audience participation (like throwing popcorn). It’s almost impossible to leave this place without having fun.
Experience Truck Yard
Truck Yard is an experience. This food truck park bills itself as a “beer garden and adult playground,” which is quite an appropriate description.
With a handful of food trucks every day plus the permanent bars and cheesesteak counter, there’s lots of food and beverages to choose from. Truck Yard goes beyond food, too. There are regular events like the annual luau, a five-day Cinco de Mayo celebration, live music, movie screenings, costume contests, and many more opportunities for fun and entertainment.
Visit 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.
Ride the McKinney Avenue Trolley
Officially now called the M-Line, you’re likely to hear long-time Dallasites referring to this unique streetcar by its former name, the McKinney Avenue Trolley. It is the city’s last remaining streetcar line which runs up and down lively McKinney Avenue. The trolley runs every day of the year (unless it’s chartered) and is free of charge.
Not far from downtown, the neighborhood known as Uptown is one of the most pedestrian-friendly areas in the city. It’s full of great restaurants and bars and plenty of shopping options to keep you busy for an afternoon. Uptown is centered around McKinney Avenue, so you can even jump on the trolley for an evening of bar hopping.
Check out The Standard Pour for barrel-aged cocktails or relax in the beer garden at Blackfriar Pub. Stop by The Rustic for live music or take a spin on the mechanical bull at Trophy Room.
Visit the Ft. Worth 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.
To see the Stockyards and tons of other highlights of DFW, consider this all-day sightseeing tour.
See 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, and it’s a highlight of Dallas sightseeing.
AT&T Stadium 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.
Shop at NorthPark
NorthPark Center is the place for shopping. With over 230 stores and restaurants, it’s hard to imagine something you need that can’t be found at this mall.
NorthPark is upscale in its store offerings—there’s Neiman Marcus, Gucci, J. Crew, and more. It’s also not your typical mall environment, as art and sculpture are a huge part of its interior design. Works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and other artists grace its walls. If you’re in the mood for shopping or people watching, NorthPark is a perfect place to go.
Try a frozen margarita
It’s hard to imagine having Mexican food in the US (and especially Tex-Mex in Texas) without the chance to pair it with a frozen margarita. In Dallas, you can head to the place where this tasty drink first came to be. In 1971, restaurateur Mariano Martinez modified a soft-serve ice cream machine to produce perfectly-mixed, cold margaritas that could be poured quickly. The result was the famous frozen margarita.
The original frozen margarita machine is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American history in Washington, D.C., but you can still have the drinks in Dallas. There are six locations of Mariano’s Hacienda or La Ranch Hacienda around the city that still serve the original recipe plus flavored frozen margaritas and varieties mixed with sangria. Cheers to a little bit of history!
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 the city. Farmers, artisans, and vendors gather here to sell their beautiful foods and produce in The Shed Friday through Sunday. 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.
The Market, the indoor portion of the Dallas Farmers Market, is a giant food hall full of so many good options, you’ll have to come back more than once. There are also fun vendors selling clothes, food, and gift items. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Visit 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.
Where to Eat in Dallas
The South is renowned for its food for good reason, and there are so many great options in Dallas that 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.
In Deep Ellum, the line at Pecan Lodge often stretches out the door for good reason–this is some 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 restaurants like Mi Cocina are legends for a reason.
Where to Stay in Dallas
The Hotel Crescent Court is one of the finest luxury hotels in Dallas. The pool, spa, and bar are particular stand-outs along with the impeccable service (Read reviews and book a room)
The Hilton Anatole Hotel is a Dallas landmark with gorgeous views of downtown, a waterpark, and the largest hotel art collection in the US (Read reviews and book a room)
In the Uptown neighborhood, Hotel ZaZa offers plush bedrooms and garden terraces with top-notch services and amenities. It’s consistently rated one of the best in the city (Read reviews and book a room)
With 10 restaurants, a water park, and indoor and outdoor pools, the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine near DFW International Airport is a great place to get away from it all (Read reviews and book a room)