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! Edit: Dallas is so much more than 29 things, so I’ve added a few more of my favorite things to do since this was initially published.
29 awesome things to do in Dallas, Texas
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
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. Achieve BAAAA-mastae at goat yoga
With adorable baby goats, this is hardly a yoga class that will lead you to relaxation, but it’s sure to ease your tension! The baby goats at Goat Yoga Richardson are family pets and the yoga class takes place in their backyard or at venues across Dallas.
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. 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!
7. Search for the best donuts in Dallas
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. Crème brûlée, bacon, strawberry shortcake, Nutella croissant and funnel cake donuts are just a few of my favorites! Have you checked off all the spots on this list of best donuts in Dallas?
8. Eat macarons.
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. Visit the most unique happy hour in town
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.
It’s no quirky afternoon tea in London… but this Texas tea is something special! 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. Wash it all down with their mango tea/ lemonade Arnold Palmer.
15. Ride a mechanical bull at Gilley’s.
Ride a mechanical bull, drink a Shiner Bock beer and immerse yourself in true honky tonk culture. 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. Buy tacos from a gas station window
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!
19. See a movie before it comes out… for FREE
20. Steel City Pops – where the popsicles are cold AND hot!
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. Eat like a hipster at Trinity Groves
Trinity Groves is an incubator for innovative dining experiences. This is where you’ll try the next big thing before anyone else knows about it. 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. Go for a walk in 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. Plus, they’ve got some of the best street art in Dallas (here’s a map of where you can find the best Deep Ellum street art).
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. Be blown away at 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.
25. Search for the most Instagrammable food in Dallas
From freakshakes to adorable donuts, this city is an Instagrammers dream. Check out the most awesomely Instagrammable desserts in Dallas.
26. Visit the zoo
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. Run the happiest race in Dallas… and maybe the world
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.
Ok, so this is technically in Grapevine, but it’s worth the trip. Bonus points if it has a photo of your sassy dog on it.
29. Visit The Sixth Floor Museum
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is a musuem in the former Texas School Depository Building chronicling the life and tragic death of President John F. Kennedy. The exhibit includes highlights of his presidency, a look at the Sniper’s perch and conspiracy theories. Purchase a standalone ticket or buy a CityPass for entry into Dallas’ top tourist destinations.
Love learning about JFK and his legacy? Join this walking tour to find out even more about the 35th president.
30. Let your imagination run wild at the Perot Museum
Dance with a dinosaur, experience an earthquake and go deep inside Texas to learn about the oil industry at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Purchase a standalone ticket or buy a CityPass for entry into Dallas’ top tourist destinations.
31. Celebrate the State Fair all year long at 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 – made with Texas-favorite, Bluebell Ice Cream. They also make some great puppy treats that have Cooper‘s Paw of Approval.
32. Hang out at a park on top of a freeway
Klyde Warren Park opened in 2012 and has quickly become a favorite of residents and tourists alike. From concerts to fitness classes and WorldCup watch parties, this park offers something for everyone. Plan your visit around a meal time and check out the food trucks on the Dallas Museum of Art side of the park.
33. Before the alcohol makes you spin, go for a ride on a ferris wheel
The great Texas BBQ, bathtub full of bluebonnets and bar games are enough to make this a fun bar on its own. Add a ferris wheel and it’s taken to the next level! Just be sure to take a ride on the ferris wheel before indulging at the bar.
34. Score an invite to Dallas’ secret supper club
FRANK Underground is Dallas’ best kept secret. It’s the brain-child of Masterchef contestant, Chef Jennie Kelley, who runs the communal dining experience with Chef Ben Starr and Chef Adrien Nieto. Twenty diners are selected by way of lottery for a themed meal. I joined for their Brunch After Dark menu and can say they’ve earned their space at #1 of Yelp’s highest rated dining establishment in Texas.
35. Train for the circus
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. 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!
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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