Dallas evokes visions of Big hair, Big steaks, Big cars and a Big Texas attitude, but this glamorous city is much better than a single Big stereotype. Hipster Austinites think they’ve got a stranglehold on coveted title of Texas’ “coolest” city —but they best watch out for the big dog named Dallas biting at their heels.
Dallas has a thriving 68-acre Arts District, a vibrant LGBT community in Cedar Springs, the ultra modern Uptown and the old world/upper crust of Turtle Creek, making for an interesting medley of flavors. The cowboys haven’t completely disappeared and neither have the shoulder pads but Dallas has moved far beyond that which made it easy to stereotype the city in the past. Whether you’re visiting with friends or visiting with kids, Dallas more than delivers a uniquely compelling experience. Welcome to our Dallas city guide, expect some surprises!
Where to Stay in Dallas
For those looking to make the most of Dallas’ glamorous side, stay at the instagrammably enviable Joule Downtown. This sexy hotel is a renovated historic landmark dating back to the jazzy 1920’s, today melding dashingly modern decor with its art deco foundations. On site you’ll find the best rated spa in town, a rooftop pool that hangs over the edge of the building and plenty of in-room luxury with beautiful bed linens and stacks of TASCHEN books borrowed from the bookshop located inside the hotel doors.
If you find yourself as many have before, simply “outfitless” before a night out on the town, head to TenOverSix, another premiere boutique on the ground floor of the hotel which offers visitors a chance to shop modern designers like Pamela Love and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Or, simply head to the original Neiman Marcus department store, located just across the street. Also on site are stores Traffic LA, a Dsquared2 pop up and The Taschen Library.
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Want to get a feel for vintage glamour in Dallas? Another design hotel jewel is the elegant Belmont Hotel, famous of its Art Moderne exterior. Built in 1946, the smooth rounded corners, stucco façade and polychromatic finish of the hotel was lovingly restored in 2005. The rooms are plush, some boasting separate living rooms and private terraces and striking views of downtown Dallas from its superior vantage point. One of the best views is from the deck side of the cantilevered pool. The glamourous hotel also has a gym and the locally-loved BBQ Smoke restaurant onsite.
THE ROSEWOOD CRESCENT
Traveling to Dallas with your kids? You’ll be more than welcome at Rosewood Crescent, a palatial hotel dripping with opulent marble that will impress upon any children a feeling of royal grandeur. Little visitors get special services and amenities like lush velour terry child-sized bathrobes and slippers and a delicious children’s menu available at the Conservatory restaurant and in-room dining. The hotel can also arrange for babysitting while the parents indulge in some of the Crescent’s more adult amenities such as dinner at Nobu, the upscale Japanese restaurants located onsite alongside a cocktail bar, incredible views of the Dallas skyline, a spa and a rooftop pool.
Where to Eat
TAQUERIA EL SI HAY
Austin might brag about its legendary tacos but Austin tacos lack diversity and rate poorly for their tortilla standards, which are rarely made in-house. Crowning a Dallas taco king proves difficult in the city with each local bearing the signet of their favorite taqueria, but to pick one would have to be Taqueria El Si Hay. This place is both authentic and inexpensive with prices running around $2 per taco. Our pick is the most excellent lengua (beef tongue) tacos and a Mexican Coke. Cash only and expect to wait alongside the other hungry El Si Hay devotees.
Fact: Beyonce and Jay-Z are big fans of Mesa, a Veracruz Mexican restaurant on Jefferson Boulevard. This alone is a reason to visit but the Mole Mama Cata Enchiladas are an even better reason to come back more than once. Another favorite, as ordered by Jay-Z himself, is the decadent lobster enchiladas which more than deliver on their hefty price tag with satisfying amounts of meat drizzled with an incredible creamy cheese enchilada sauce and hints of spice.
THE LOCKHART SMOKEHOUSE
Another fact: Texans love their smoked meat and its hard to find underachievers in this restaurant category. With more than 2,000 BBQ joints dotting the state, Dallas has its fair share of that chunk. For the best BBQ in Dallas, head to Lockhart Smokehouse. Sticking to their motto of “No Sauce and No Forks,” the rubbed and smoked meat is moist, and peppery and comes served on traditional butcher paper. You’ll leave smelling of smoke but one taste of that tender brisket and it will all be worth the extra shower.
THE PORCH[caption id="attachment_38776" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Barbacoa enchiladas that will melt in your mouth. Photo courtesy of the Porch Facebook page [/caption]
Looking for a local lesson in classic Southern comfort food? Among the bars of Uptown Dallas, prepare for a feast at The Porch. Consistently highly-rated on many best restaurant in Dallas lists, their menu will make your mouth water with visions of house-smoked brisket barbacoa enchiladas, buttermilk fried chicken cobb salad and a side of the unmissable smoked ham mac & cheese casserole. They also do a killer brunch if you’re so inclined.
Where To Drink
Located in the trendy Bishop Arts District, Small Brewpub feels a bit like you’re hanging out in a friend’s backyard. A room full of picnic tables and a simple bar meets seasonal fare inspired by local farmers and ranchers. It’s a great place to have a small batch craft beer and meet some local Dallas folk.
The unmarked door of Atwater Alley in Highland Park suggests clandestine activity — and rightly so! Only those “in the know” venture inside this moody and dark drinking den, full of dark woods and leather booths. Guests are treated to bespoke cocktails that will knock your socks off — both in terms of taste and strength. If you get lost, wander into Henry’s Majestic, located next door, and ask to be led in.
BAR BELMONT AT THE BELMONT HOTEL
If you’re staying at the Belmont Hotel already, no need to venture far — if you aren’t, this bar makes the hotel well-worth a visit. Located on the rooftop of the hotel in the mid-century Oak Cliff neighborhood Bar Belmont extends some killer views of downtown Dallas to patrons in a subdued atmosphere.
What to See and Do
PEROT MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE
If you’re looking for things to do in Dallas with kids, high at the top of your priority list should be the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. There is a dedicated Children’s Museum within the actual Museum but don’t let kids miss out on the rest of the building. Visit top to bottom and experience natural wonders like what an earthquake feels like in the earthquake simulator, building robots, flying like a bird with 3D glasses and racing against a T-Rex.
DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART
Another fantastic child-friendly institution is the Dallas Museum of Art. With a large variety of programs targeting children even as young as two, the DMA introduces art to kids in a way that is both interesting and inspiring. Another great reason to visit are the Late Nights at the DMA, happening the third Friday of every month when they stay open till midnight, oftentimes with a jazz band playing and more kid-centric programming, contributing to a great atmosphere in this lovely museum. Admission is always free, other than for special exhibitions.
DALLAS ARTS DISTRICT
The museum is located in a thriving creative community downtown. The Dallas Arts district is one of the best up and coming art hubs in the US, spanning a 19 block area of downtown Dallas that was created to help foster the growth of art and attract creatives to the city. There are dozens of museums, galleries and concert halls, including the DMA, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. A great way to get acquainted with this neighborhood is to join a walking architectural tour, put on by the Dallas Center for Architecture.
DALLAS CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY
Another art heavyweight in the city is the Dallas Contemporary. The non-collection museum features a variety of exhibits that travel through the city before making their way to museums like the Louvre in Paris or the Tate Modern in London. The massive industrial space is dedicated to engaging and provoking visitors- while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, its bringing the Dallas art scene further to the forefront of modern American art.
The Texas Theater was the site of the apprehension of Lee Harvey Oswald following his assassination of John F. Kennedy but remains more than just a historical landmark. The theater remains the coolest place to catch a wide variety of film programming including essential indie flicks, classics (everything from Blade Runner to Gone With The Wind), international films, documentaries and even host free movie award viewing parties. Check their schedule to see what’s currently playing
While you might not catch a real Texas cowboy roaming the streets, pro football team Dallas Cowboys and their iconic Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are beloved celebs in this town. “America’s Team” are adored at home and even out of state — a trip to see the boys at the AT&T Stadium should be part of any Dallas itinerary. See their schedule here.
HIKING IN DALLAS
Photo by Brandon Harer and Adam Simmons CC BY
With miles of hiking trails in Dallas and fantastic weather year-round, it’s not hard to see the appeal in getting outside for a couple of hours to balance out all that culture with a return to nature. If you’re looking to stay near to the city, the Katy Trail is beloved by Dallas residents for its plethora of possible activities- whether you want to bike, hike, skate or run, miles of winding trails offer visitors a chance to enjoy some fresh air in North Dallas.
For something a bit more picturesque, and frankly almost straight out of a Jurassic Park movie, head to the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, 16 miles south of Dallas in Cedar Hill. The 300 ft canyon rises to a hilltop and on the way up you can expect to see a range of beautiful rare birds, including the Black-Chinned Hummingbird, only found in west Texas and some eye-catching flora.
Another perennial favorite is the Big Cedar Wilderness Trail. A 13-mile loop up to Prayer Mountain offers the highest elevation in Dallas, twisting through cedar forests. A quick word of warning, however: beware of rattlesnakes whenever you are spending time on any of the hiking trails in and around Dallas.
*Cover Image by Adam Simmons