Keep this list of museums, restaurants, and exciting activities in mind the next time you’re in Dallas.
Dallas is one of those cities that tends to be unfairly judged by travelers who have never been before — or by those who have only experienced a sliver of its offerings. If they look beyond the heat and traffic, though, they’ll discover a long list of reasons to visit this Texan metropolis. Lily Cabatu Weiss, the executive director of the Dallas Arts District Foundation, describes it as a destination that’s “diverse with an energy, synergy, and an economic engine,” partially fueled by its exciting arts scene, popular sports teams, and an extensive list of first-rate museums. In her words — and as evidenced below — there’s “so much to do, see, explore, and enjoy” in Dallas.
That said, to gain a comprehensive understanding of all things Dallas, you’ll want to either rent a car or be open to using a rideshare service throughout your trip. “Travelers don’t realize how much of a big city Dallas is and how many different neighborhoods are within a 5-minute drive of the downtown core. You can visit these neighborhoods and get a genuinely different version of Dallas in each one,” says Gabe Sanchez, beverage consultant for Midnight Rambler, a cocktail bar at The Joule.
Lily Cabatu Weiss is the executive director of the Dallas Arts District Foundation.
Gabe Sanchez is a beverage consultant for Midnight Rambler, a cocktail bar at luxury hotel The Joule.
Ready to plan a trip to the Lone Star State? Read on to discover the 20 best things to do in Dallas, with recommendations from local experts.
Related: Travel + Leisure’s Guide to Dallas
Explore the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
“The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is an exquisite, world-class botanical exhibition with rotating seasonal exhibits in east Dallas on White Rock Lake,” says Weiss. If you’re visiting between mid-February and mid-April, be sure to buy tickets for Dallas Blooms, the Southwest’s largest annual floral festival.
Don a pair of cowboy boots.
It’s not a trip to Texas without trying on — and maybe buying — at least one pair of cowboy boots. Wild Bill's Western Store, Cavender’s, or Boot Barn are great options for those who just want the experience (and might not wear their boots all that often). If your budget is on the higher end of the spectrum, though, head to one of the Lucchese locations or the Miron Crosby storefront in Highland Park Village.
Taste the flavors of a Thai street food market.
Dallas’ culinary options go further than tacos and barbecue, and Sanchez has the inside scoop on where to go. “You should visit the Thai food market on Sunday at the Buddhist Temple of North Dallas,” he says. “The food is amazing, and the prices are hard to beat.” Just remember to bring cash and sunscreen; the market is held outside.
Cheer on a local professional sports team.
Professional sports are king in Dallas, the home of the Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks, Wings, and FC Dallas, among others. Depending on the team and the season, you might be able to snag tickets for a game — if not, you can always root for the home team from one of the city’s sports bars.
Visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Weiss recommends spending some time at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, where the main exhibit, “John F. Kennedy and the Memory of a Nation,” explores the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Timed-entry tickets can be purchased online.
Attend the State Fair of Texas.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the annual state fair. The State Fair of Texas is held from late September through October, and you’ll want to come hungry. It’s an event known for its wide range of mouthwatering, deep-fried treats — from deep-fried Texas Oatmeal Pies and deep-fried praline cheesecake egg rolls to fried stuffed wings and fried mac and cheese.
Discover Dallas’ different neighborhoods.
When you come to Dallas, you can’t just stick to one neighborhood. “Go to Uptown, the Design District, Oak Cliff/Bishop Arts, and Henderson Avenue,” says Sanchez. This map is a great start for understanding what you may find in each part of the city.
Stay at one of the city’s best hotels.
You can certainly count on Dallas to excel in the luxury hospitality department. In the 2023 World’s Best Awards, T+L readers voted Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, and The Joule as the top hotels in Dallas, a distinction earned based on their rooms, location, service, food, and value.
Spend a day in the Dallas Arts District.
Travelers interested in architecture and urban design have to spend at least an afternoon — if not a full day — in the Dallas Arts District, which reportedly houses “more buildings designed by Pritzker award-winning architects than any location in the world. “Standouts not to be missed are the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, an interactive experience; Klyde Warren Park, the game-changing deck park built over a freeway that connects Downtown Dallas to Uptown; and the Dallas Museum of Art, owning an impressive assortment of art,” explains Weiss.
Go shopping in Highland Park Village.
Whether you’re on the hunt for something specific or just enjoy window shopping, you’ll be dazzled by the stores and brands inside Highland Park Village. The high-end roster includes the likes of Carolina Herrara, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Moncler, and Loewe.
See a movie at the historic Texas Theatre.
In a world of on-demand movies, it can be refreshing to catch a film at a movie theater. “[The Texas Theatre] has been fully restored to its original glory. If you are a JFK buff, you can see the seat Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in,” says Sanchez, who also says it’s a good idea to first “go to Bishop Arts District, grab a coffee, and make the short walk to Jefferson Blvd.”
Walk the Katy Trail.
Dallas might not be the most walkable city, but there are definitely places where you can get your daily steps in. Take the Katy Trail, for example. Built on an abandoned railroad line, the trail spans 3.5 miles, with markers at every quarter mile. Walkers, joggers, and bikers can take advantage of its paved, well-lit path through greenery and blooming flowers.
Eat some Texas barbecue.
If you’re in Texas, there’s a good chance barbecue is on the menu. “I always suggest trying two or three places and comparing apples to apples,” says Sanchez. “Go to Terry Black’s and Pecan Lodge (they’re a block from each other), get the brisket at each, then make your decision on who should have bragging rights.”
Bring the whole family to the Dallas Zoo.
The Dallas Zoo holds the title of the largest zoo in Texas, with more than 2,000 animals representing 406 species across 106 acres. It’s located just three miles south of downtown Dallas, and guests can see everything from a Galapagos tortoise to giraffes, elephants, and penguins.
Uncover the cultural sites and experiences in Fair Park.
It might be home to the State Fair of Texas, but the 277-acre Fair Park complex has reasons to visit all year round. Weiss recommends “experiencing the art deco architecture [and] seeing a Broadway show at the Music Hall,” but there’s also the African American Museum of Dallas and The Women's Museum to discover.
Enjoy a sky-high meal at Monarch.
At the top of The National, the building that houses Thompson Dallas, sits Monarch, a culinary wonder from Michelin-recognized chef Danny Grant. The food — handmade pasta, steak, and seafood — may be the star of the show, but the breathtaking position on the 49th floor also plays a critical role in the overall experience, with skyline views for days.
Cross over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
“The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (designed by Santiago Calatrava), with a pedestrian bridge running parallel, is a must-do,” says Weiss. The 400-foot-tall bridge, one of the vehicular bridges in the Trinity River Corridor Project, connects downtown Dallas to West Dallas and traverses the Trinity River.
Treat yourself to a spa day.
Sometimes a little TLC is necessary on a trip — and Dallas has several options for incredible facials, massages, and body treatments. Local favorites include The Spa at The Joule, The Spa at Thompson Dallas, and Spa Adolphus.
Step back in time at Old City Park.
If you have a large stretch of time to fill in your day, Sanchez suggests spending a few hours in Old City Park, Dallas’ first and oldest park. “[It] has a collection of fully restored homes and businesses from the founding of Dallas,” he says, and there are several guided tours you can book on weekends, including the Black History Tour and the Women’s History Tour.
Polish off a few tacos.
Last, but certainly not least, you have to find a good spot for tacos when you’re in town. Sanchez recommends Taco Y Vino, El Come Taco, and Pepe’s and Mito’s. At the latter, he specifically calls out the tacos nortenos.
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