Much more than Cheerleaders & Cowboys
Hello explorers! You’ve taken the first step—deciding to take a trip to Dallas and experience its rejuvenated state fairgrounds, a thriving arts scene, and lots of green spaces and fun places for the kids. What’s not to love?
Unforgettable Moments (Highlights)
Dallas and Fort Worth feature the old and the new. Travelers can spend half a day buried in archives that document the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, then spend the other half soaking up the contemporary architecture of the nearby Dallas Arts District. From historic preservation to urban creativity, the region has more than a few surprises.
Most visitors will arrive via DFW Airport, located midway between the two cities and one of the largest airports in the nation. Ground transportation to Dallas, Fort Worth, or the surrounding area is by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus, airport shuttle, private car, charter limo, courtesy car, or taxi. Transport by bus is the cheapest option, but the best value is taking the airport shuttle.
Both downtown Dallas and Fort Worth are 18 miles from the airport; expect a drive of 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the traffic. After arriving in Dallas, you'll want to check into your hotel and freshen up. Go ahead and stow those bags too—we've got a lot of walking to do.
Get an early start in downtown Dallas with coffee at Murray Street Coffee. From there, head to the West End's Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. After visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, explore the Grassy Knoll and the JFK Memorial Plaza.
Stroll across Main Street and you’ll reach John F. Kennedy Memorial. Inside the four solemn walls is a granite slab with the words John F.Kennedy painted in shimmering gold. A five-minute walk from the JFK Memorial Plaza will take you to Gator’s Dallas, a lively sports bar with karaoke and a rooftop deck.
MORNING & AFTERNOON
A PEEK INTO HISTORY
Start your day with a visit to the 277-acre Fair Park complex of classic Art Deco buildings and spacious grounds. Built to commemorate the Republic of Texas's independence from Mexico, it is the only intact and unaltered pre-1950s World's Fair site in the U.S. recognized as a National Historic Landmark for its architecture (the only such landmark in Dallas). Today in the middle of a revival, Fair Park is the site of the annual State Fair of Texas (last weekend of Sept and first 3 weeks of Oct).
Although several of the museums that once called Fair Park home have closed, city fathers are working to revitalize the park. The Hall of State is the centerpiece and principal Art Deco legacy at Fair Park.
For a late night, go bar-hopping in Deep Ellum, the city's liveliest neighborhood between 10 pm and 2 am. Hit Twilite Lounge for an old Hollywood vibe, Adair's Saloon if you're in a honky-tonk mood, or the It'll Do Club where some of the best DJs in town bring crowds to the dance floor. For those midnight calorie cravings, join the line at Serious Pizza for a massive slice of New York-style pie; the place stays open until 3 am on weekends.
Grab a delicious brunch at Original Market Diner before hopping on the D Link, that flashy pink and yellow shuttle you see around downtown. Ride to the Dallas Arts District. You could easily spend the whole day here touring the art museums: the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art.
Stroll through Klyde Warren Park, a stunning green space situated on a freeway deck with skyline views. Dedicate a few daytime hours to Deep Ellum. Although known for its nightlife, the walkable neighborhood east of downtown offers plenty of afternoon diversions. Start at Pecan Lodge for the best barbecue brisket in Texas. After lunch, take a self-guided tour of Deep Ellum street art.
Spend the evening feasting on the Middle Eastern food at the family-owned (two brothers and their mom, by way of Syria), Ali Baba. Don't be surprised to find a line of customers clamoring to get in. This plain, tiny place packs them in for great rich hummus, marinated beef, grilled chicken, falafel, and Syrian and Lebanese dishes like stuffed kibbeh.
Day 4 - Day Trip
Today is a great day to hop onto a bus or hire a car to Fort Worth. Dallas’s unpretentious sister, Fort Worth, is equal parts Old West and “Museum Capital of the Southwest." Longhorns still rumble through the Stockyards National Historic District, while the city attracts art lovers to its top-notch museums.
ARRIVAL IN FORT WORTH
Start with breakfast at Paris Coffee Shop, a local institution and the most authentic glimpse into the city's cowboy character. Next, make your way to the Fort Worth Cultural District for a day of world-class art, beginning at the Kimbell Art Museum. While the collection is small, you'll want to spend a few hours lingering inside the Louis Khan-designed building.
EXPLORING FORT WORTH
Head to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Kimbell's counterpart for post-World War II talent. Weather permitting, spend the rest of the daylight hours walking or biking along the Trinity River. The surrounding park features a duck pond, a picturesque bridge, shady lounge areas, and a tiny fishing pier. Before embarking on the quintessential country-and-western evening, make a detour to Angelo's for local barbecue that far outshines the touristy restaurants.
Towering stone pillars mark the entrance to historic Elizabeth Boulevard, which is lined with early-20th-century mansions protected by Fort Worth's first residential historic district. Characterized by stunning Mediterranean stucco, Spanish Colonial villas, and Prairie Style rooflines, Elizabeth Boulevard is a shining example of neighborhood activism.
PUT ON YOUR DANCING SHOES
Arrive at the Fort Worth Stockyards in time for the 5 pm championship rodeo every Friday and Saturday. Watch competitive bull riders, cattle roping, and barrel racing along with rodeo clowns offering comic relief. After the show, go two-stepping at Billy Bob's Texas, the massive nightclub frequented by country music legends. Ride the mechanical bull, play pool, sing karaoke, or grab a late-night bite from the Honky Tonk Kitchen.
HANDS ON SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCE
Perot Museum of Nature and Science uses every contemporary trick in the book to engage its visitors. These span from light shows that you can handle to learn about the emissions spectrum to huge plates you can stand on to sense earthquakes. You are invited to push buttons, touch replicas of dinosaur teeth, and do whatever it takes to make science come to life.
CLOSER TO NATURE
Just 15 minutes from the towering skyscrapers of downtown is this welcome oasis of Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden. These award-winning gardens and woodlands along the banks of White Rock Lake have become a popular spot. The 66-acre grounds hold 19 themed gardens, including a Children's Adventure Garden, a Magnolia Glade, and a Pecan Grove. The arboretum is the site of a complete life-science laboratory and hosts a number of seasonal festivals, including a concert series on Thursday.
In the gently bohemian Lakewood neighborhood east of downtown, Matt's is a Ter-Mex favorite. Simple and relaxed, with a nice patio deck, it's Texas to the core. Start with chips and salsa, and move on to the chiles relleno topped with green sauce, raisins, and pecans. If you're not big into Tex-Mex, try the chicken-fried steak.
Dallas is determinedly modern, with gleaming skyscrapers and love for newness, but its Western heritage lives in this facsimile of the Old City Park, a 13-acre area of historic buildings. Mounted like a late-19th-century village, it has a redbrick Main Street, Victorian homes, train depot, general store, one-room church, schoolhouse, and bank, all relocated from the Dallas area.
Dallas loves to shop, and while there are more malls than most people know what to do with, North Park Center is the most traditional and elegant. Even with its recent expansion that doubled its size, it has a graceful layout that outclasses its more garish competitors. Besides top anchor stores (Neiman Marcus, Tiffany's), it enjoys rotating pieces from owner Ray Nasher's spectacular array of modern sculpture, on display throughout the mall.
For discerning pizza snobs, Cane Rosso is regarded as one of the best pizzerias in Dallas. It has topped all the "best of” lists in town. Not to be confused with New York style, the restaurant specializes in Neapolitan-style pizzas baked in a 900-degree oven, cooking in just 90 seconds. The dough is made fresh daily, and many of the ingredients are imported straight from Italy.
One last photo-op
Getting an evening flight out of Dallas is ideal so you can soak up every bit of the city on your last day.
Every weekend, locals gather atop a Downtown Dallas freeway deck to toss Frisbees, play croquet, watch their kids run and romp through fountains, or just take a shady afternoon nap. The strip of concrete once carried thousands of cars commuting through the city. Now, replaced with lush grass and various amenities, Klyde Warren Park brings people together at the human scale. You can ditch the car altogether in this part of town. Fully restored vintage trolley cars transport visitors between Downtown and Uptown, rolling beneath soaring skyscrapers and past newly constructed shopping centers.
The stunning white arch of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge—and the rest of the skyline is best viewed from the West Dallas Gateway where you can walk along the adjacent pedestrian bridge.