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More than the rodeo: The Best Things To Do In Dallas

A trip to Dallas brings a wealth of surprises for first-time visitors. Beyond the cowboy hats and country music, there’s a dynamic arts scene, huge green spaces and hip foodie neighborhoods just waiting to be explored. | By Paul Oswell | June 10, 2022

Many people think of Dallas as the quintessential Texan city. While it’s true that you can easily find cowboy-booted locals and traditional steakhouses, the modern-day city is breaking out from its cliched associations. Locals love to mix things up, hitting artisanal taco stands one day and fine dining restaurants the next. And let’s not forget the almost 400 parks and innovative art museums — shed your preconceptions and you’ll find an eclectic destination for your next vacation. Here are our top things to do in Dallas:

  • Picture perfect: Dallas has a huge arts district, with everything from old masters to contemporary works

  • Transcend Tex-Mex: Discover that there’s more to Dallas’ food scene than tortillas and steaks

  • Go green: Bask in one of the many parks that pepper the city

Explore the great outdoors

Downtown Dallas appears, at first glance, to be a forest of concrete and steel skyscrapers, but the city’s outdoor spaces are extensive and alluring. Head to Klyde Warren Park, a well-maintained stretch that features sprawling lawns aplenty, as well as a wealth of programming that might include free concerts or yoga classes. Kids will especially appreciate the climbing frames and picnic spots. Those hoping to work up a sweat should head to White Rock Lake park, where the sporting activities include kayaking, biking and hiking. The neighboring Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden offers an additional 66 acres of glorious tree-lined spaces to enjoy

On display

They say that everything is bigger in Texas — and that includes the arts district (spanning 118 acres, the Dallas Arts District is the largest continuous urban arts district in the country). Start with the impressive 19th- and 20th-century European collection at Dallas Museum of Art, or if the weather is pleasant, you can marvel at giant outdoor works by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Everything from historically important folk art to African artifacts and contemporary photography can be found at the excellent African American Museum, while equally important work is happening at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, with the “Dimensions in Testimony” exhibition offering visitors the moving experience of virtually speaking with survivors. Kids will love the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which offers hands-on exhibits and interactive displays.

There’s also a healthy smorgasbord of performing arts venues, including the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which houses the Winspear Opera House, and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, where an internationally recognized troupe has been thrilling audiences since 1977.

Get into feast mode

Barbecue and Tex-Mex are the traditional staples of the local food scene, but you can find so much more to enjoy. Explore the trends that are defining the culinary scene in hip neighborhood Deep Ellum. Places such as Stirr are taking up the New South movement and redefining comfort food classics, and you can see the great murals that define this corner of the city when out walking around the area. Uchi Dallas typifies the new wave of Dallas eateries, thrilling sushi lovers in an accessibly rustic dining room. If you do want to try those typically Texan flavors, the empanadas at Empa Mundo are just sublime. If you want to go old-school, then join the line that snakes around the block from Pecan Lodge, where the pit-fired food is considered some of the best in the region.

Shop ‘til you drop

If you’re a shopping aficionado, then you should relish the chance to visit the original Neiman Marcus store, which has stood since 1907 and remains the Grande Dame of luxury department stores. Flea Style in Deep Ellum has a well-edited selection of vintage clothing and housewares, or try Forty Five Ten on Main Street for strikingly unusual furniture and custom textiles. If a bookshop with a bar sounds like your ideal afternoon out, then The Wild Detectives has you covered, with thousands of titles lining its dining-room styled space.

Dallas is a city that is ripe with innovation, culture and diversity. The wealth of green spaces and art museums take the edge off the urban clamor, and the warmth and hospitality of the locals ensure a stay that’s fun-filled and exciting.

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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