Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. -Author John Steinbeck
After spending 21 years in Dallas, this place has wriggled its way into a special place in my heart. Sure, it’s hotter than heck most of the year. And yes, the city tends to shut down when it ices (I’m looking at you winter 2011 and the Super Bowl that almost wasn’t). But it’s home. It’s the city that made me a Texan. It’s a place where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator, and you can count on men to open doors because chivalry isn’t dead. In this town, we sit on patios when it dips below 101* and cheer for our Cowboys every year, optimistic that this is the one where we’ll win the Super Bowl.
And now, as I get ready to celebrate my 29th birthday here before traveling the world, it’s only fitting to say goodbye by celebrating what makes this city great. So I give you the 29 best things to do in Dallas!
1. The Texas State Fair: I have three words for you… Deep. Fried. Everything. From butter to bacon to bubblegum, we Texans fry it all. My personal favorite is the deep fried grilled cheese, which comes with fry chips and tomato soup dipping sauce.
You haven’t been to the fair until you eat a Fletcher’s Corn Dog.
2. Basically anything in Bishop Arts District. Catch the Oak Cliff Mardi Gras parade as it ends in Bishop Arts District, eat a grilled cheese at the new Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. (I recommend JK’s Favorite– Parmesan-crusted grilled sourdough with American, cheddar and Gruyère cheeses, crumbled bacon, and Dijon mustard), practice your french at Bastille on Bishop, drink a blood orange margarita at Tillman’s, sample chocolate made with bleu cheese at Dude Sweet Chocolate, or participate in a unique form of torture known as the Christmas in July Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest. All of this makes Bishop Arts my favorite neighborhood– it has an artsy vibe with lots of food, sweets, and shopping.
3. Late Nights at the DMA: Just when you thought nothing could be better than free, the always-free Dallas Museum of Arts invites you to their monthly late night event. Events range from museum-wide murder mysteries to robot-building to performances by hypnotists. Once, I stood about 10 feet away from Taye Diggs as he read us his children’s book!
4. Catch an outdoor movie for free! Coinciding with Late Nights at the DMA, the Nasher Sculpture Center offers ’til Midnight at the Nasher, featuring outdoor concerts and movie screenings in the Nasher Garden. Bring a blanket and get there early, because it fills up quickly!
5. Take a tour with Dallas By Chocolate. Not limited to chocolate, Dallas By Chocolate offers wine and cheese, tacos and margaritas, brewery and BBQ, and ice cream tours along with historical walking tours of Bishop Arts (see #2) and last, but certainly not least, the BACON tour! I’ve left every tour full of food and knowledge about Dallas.
6. Pokey O’s. Their State Fair cookie is so chock-full of M&Ms, chocolate chips, oatmeal, and peanuts that it makes its namesake proud. Pokey O’s lets you turn that (or any of their other flavors) into an ice cream sandwich. They also make some great puppy treats that have Cooper‘s Paw of Approval.
7. Jaram’s offers types of donuts that I couldn’t even imagine… but now that I’ve tried them, I’ll be missing them when I leave this city. Creme brûlée, bacon, strawberry shortcake, Nutella croissant and funnel cake donuts are just a few of my favorites!
9. Get cheesy… literally. The Mozzarella Company has been around or more than 30 years, and they’ve perfected the art of formaggio! In their cheesemaking class, you’ll go home with three different kinds of mozzarella and a ricotta, and the class ends with a wine and cheese tasting.
10. Watch a movie at The Texas Theatre. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t pay for his ticket.. but you’re better than that. Go buy a ticket and watch a movie at this historic theater in Oak Cliff.
11. Dallas has no shortage of happy hours… but Redenta’s Garden Shop has a happy hour unlike any other. Like their Facebook page to learn about their happy hour events, where all plants are 10% off, and they serve drinks and snacks. Their potting bar is really cute, and they’ll pot any plant for you…. meaning you can rely on their green thumb! And you can choose to add extras, like a “shot” of colorful rocks to your potted plant.
12. Eat lunch on the field where the Dallas Cowboys play. The Flowserve Dallas Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon benefits Happy Hill Farm and allows a unique opportunity to learn about the Cowboys’ roster and get excited for the upcoming season.
13. Enjoy a spot of tea at the Arboretum. Picture towers of finger sandwiches, three courses of tea, another tower of desserts, add in some precious vegetable animals, all in the historic setting of the DeGolyer House… and you’ve got a lovely afternoon at the Dallas Arboretum!
14. Chocolate Angel is heavenly (pun definitely intended). I’ve eaten there no less than 150 times over the past four years. The Some Like it Hot sandwich combines pimento cheese, candied jalapeños, bacon, and strawberry jam. I’m not quite sure who decided to put all of that together… but I want to hug them! Their grilled cheese (add bacon and a cup of tomato basil soup) is also something special… I think it’s the garlic salt. Their wedding cake (white cake with white icing) is my favorite, and has replaced chocolate/ peanut butter cake as my birthday cake of choice. And wash it all down with their mango tea/ lemonade Arnold Palmer.
15.Go see a concert at Gilley’s. Or make plans to visit during the Etsy Spring Bash or Jingle Bash which feature handmade items by talented local artists.
16. Work up a sweat for free… And I’m not talking about walking outside in August. There are opportunities to work out with great instructors for free in Dallas if you know where to go. Check out AT&T’s Local Motion for Zumba, Pilates, and Yoga classes.
17. Or surf up a sweat at City Surf Fitness! I haven’t been surfing (yet!), but I got as close as Dallas would allow. City Surf leads classes on RipSurfer X boards with surf-inspired movements that you’ll be feeling for days to come!
18. Fuel City — Where the tacos are $1.62 and the elotes are to die for! The woman making them asked if I wanted my elotes with everything…. and being the picky eater I am, I asked what that meant. Their elotes are made with butter, hot sauce, lemon pepper, sour cream and cheese. DO NOT MISS THESE!
20. Steel City Pops– I thought I’d never love a popsicle as much as Las Paletas in Nashville, but Steel City Pops has definitely earned a spot in my heart. Their chocolate and pineapple jalapeño popsicles are my favorites!
21. Trinity Groves is an incubator for innovative dining experiences. I love that Dallas is a city of ideas, and we get to reap the benefits when we eat at a Trinity Groves restaurant. Within the area of a football field, you can eat Moroccan food, tapas, cake, hand painted chocolate, or visit a brewery.
22. Deep Ellum- Cane Rosso pizza, Uncle Uber’s sandwiches, shows by talented singer/songwriters, a monthly flea market, and a wine walk on the third Thursday of each month make Deep Ellum a not-to-miss area of town.
23. Make a difference– be a mentor! My mentee, Brenda, and I were matched through Mercy Street when she was in 4th grade, and now she’s entering high school this fall. Mercy Street wants “to be used by God to spark Christ-honoring community restoration by engaging in mutually-transforming relationships with the future leaders of West Dallas.” If you’re based here, I encourage you to check them out and make a difference in a student’s life. I promise they won’t be the only one who ends up changed.
24. Trinity River Wind Festival— Featuring kites of all shapes and sizes (some bigger than my car!), this festival brings together kids of all ages to fly kites, listen to music, and enjoy spring in Dallas.
26. The Dallas Zoo is half price for the rest of August! If you can bear the heat, it’s the perfect time to visit. Feed a giraffe, ride the carousel, and check out the DinoSOAR exhibit before it goes extinct. (I blame the Dallas Zoo for that cheesiness…)
27. The Color Run claims to be the happiest 5K on the planet… and while I’ve admittedly run in only a few 5Ks, I can attest to the fun factor being a huge draw on this one. I also love that the slower you go through the color stations, the more color you receive. Walking is winning in this race.
28. Make your own wine at D’Vine Wine. Bonus points if it has a photo of your sassy dog on it.
29. I saved the best for last. I made a Big D Bucket List to do everything I’ve never gotten around to doing while I’ve lived in Dallas, and Skyline Trapeze was on the list. I am SO GLAD I was able to check that off! The two hours spent learning trapeze were some of the most fun I’ve ever had in Dallas! Check out the tricks I learned here!
“It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear . . . . It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”― Marilyn Ferguson
And so, I leave Dallas– my old ways, the things I’ve held near and dear– and I’m between trapezes. I’m sad to leave friends and family here, but I’m so excited for the next part of my story. I can’t wait to share it with you!
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