Dallas skyline sunset aerial view. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Dallas

BY Cody Neathery | September 9, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Dallas? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Dallas?”

No matter what direction you come from, Dallas’ renowned skyline emerges from the flat prairies of North Texas to signal you’ve arrived. Welcome to the Big D: though the city left its days of big hair and oil tycoons in the ’80s, it’s still flashy. High heels and luxury vehicles still rule the streets, and the city is still a scene for those who want to be seen.

Locals joke that all there is to do here is eat and shop — Dallas had the first retail center in the United States, after all — and there’s some truth to that. In fact, the city was named Bon Appetit’s 2019 Restaurant City of the Year. Steakhouses still dot Big D’s expansive landscape, but the city’s culinary scene is more diverse today than it has ever been thanks to a growing immigrant population. Even though its restaurants and boutiques get most of the attention, the Big D has much more to offer with its bustling downtown arts district and live music venues scattered throughout the town.

You’re here for beef

Houston is known for its Gulf Coast cuisine, San Antonio is stacked with Tex-Mex combos, and Austin, well, Austin is a culinary melting pot. Dallas has been — but hopefully won’t always be —  known for menus that revolve about beef, mostly steaks and burgers. With the amount of cattle ranchers in North Texas, it makes sense. For now, Dallas is a very meat-centric city. 

Slow Bone BBQ
#1
Slow Bone BBQ

Slow Bone BBQ

2234 Irving Blvd, Dallas, TX, USA

No trip to Dallas, let alone Texas would be complete without diving face first into a tray of smoked meats. Opened nearly a decade ago along the Trinity River when it was still a desolate area, this divey joint joined the heralded Texas Monthly Top 50 list based on their smoky brisket, ribs and sausage. They also fry a mean chicken and serve incredible sides that make it vegetarian friendly. 

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Terry Black’s BBQ
#2
Terry Black’s BBQ

Terry Black’s BBQ

3025 Main St, Dallas, TX, USA

With a family lineage that goes back to the original Black’s BBQ in Lockhart, Texas, this branch of barbecue has only elevated Dallas’ smoked meat scene. Located in the historic African American neighborhood of Deep Ellum, which is now a bustling entertainment district, this restaurant lets you taste the post-oak flavors of Central Texas without making the three-hour drive. 

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Keller’s Drive-In
#3
Keller’s Drive-In

Keller’s Drive-In

10554 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX, USA

Keller’s Drive-in’s car hops have been delivering thin, juicy griddled patties to driver’s side windows since 1950, long before smashburgers were in vogue. They’re so old school that they did not accept credit cards until recently. 

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Maple & Motor
#4
Maple & Motor

Maple & Motor

4810 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX, USA

Situated in an old gas station, Maple & Motor manages to deliver a grease-stained tribute to low-class cool with their no-frills hamburger cooked their way. Don’t sleep on the fried baloney sandwich or golden fried tater tots. 

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Knife
#5
Knife

Knife

5300 E Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX, USA

Not many hotel restaurants tend to garner much attention, much less become an epicenter for a burgeoning restaurant empire, but bad-boy chef John Tesar has done both here. Connected to the Highland Dallas hotel lobby by a shared bar, this is one of the best steakhouses in town with its dry-aged meats, bacon sampler and Ozersky burger.

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You’re ALSO here for Tex-Mex

What’s a visit to Dallas without Tex-Mex food!? Dallas was part of the founding of this regional cuisine and is the home of the frozen margarita. Do not skip town without an enchilada plate and an icy marg. 

E-Bar Tex Mex
#6
E-Bar Tex Mex

E-Bar Tex Mex

1901 N Haskell Ave. #120, Dallas, TX, USA

Generally regarded as the best Tex-Mex in town, this staple serves some of the best combo plates and frozen margaritas. Don’t sleep on the cheesy chicken stuffed jalapenos, but prepare for a nice kick of heat. 

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Las Palmas
#7
Las Palmas

Las Palmas

2708 Routh St, Dallas, TX, USA

With a nod to Dallas’ Tex-Mex history, this relative newcomer to the genre offers stellar food and classic cocktails in an old Spanish revival mansion in the Uptown neighborhood. After you tackle their signature akaushi Wagyu fajitas, be sure to peep the Fort Room that displays Neiman Marcus bags from its heyday as a fashion icon. 

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El Come Taco
#8
El Come Taco

El Come Taco

2513 N Fitzhugh Ave, Dallas, TX, USA

While not exactly Tex-Mex, this is the one joint to go to for amazing authentic Mexican street tacos. Be sure to order the spit-roasted pastor shaved from the trompo or campechano tacos. If you come during the late-night hours, ask about the speakeasy next door that specializes in mezcal and tequila. 

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Now you’ve worked up a thirst…

Stuffing gluttonous amounts of salty meat in one’s mouth can conjure a need for liquid, and Dallas offers an abundance of watering holes. From dives, pubs and taverns to craft breweries, cocktail bars and swanky lounges, there is something for every kind of drinker.

Bowen House
#9
Bowen House

Bowen House

2614 Boll St, Dallas, TX, USA

It’s no one wonder the Bowen House always makes the top bar lists in town. With a daily happy hour from 4-6 p.m. and an incredible food menu with dishes like monkfish piccata and cacio e pepe, this bar found in the city’s oldest house (circa 1874) stays relevant. Tell the barkeeps your poison of choice and allow them to work their magic.

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Atlas in Dallas
#10
Atlas in Dallas

Atlas

408 N Bishop Ave #101, Dallas, TX, USA

Situated in the Oak Cliff neighborhood’s funky Bishop Arts District, an area that used to be an artist’s mecca and has transitioned  to a dining and drinking destination, Atlas has come out swinging. Its stunning design flirts with Victorian-Gothic, and its internationally themed cocktail list (think daiquiri for Cuba) has great original drinks like the guana-bama rama. Be sure to ask about their speakeasy.

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Cosmo’s in Dallas
#11
Cosmo’s in Dallas

Cosmo’s

1212 Skillman St, Dallas, TX, USA

This East Dallas cocktail bar will transport you to the 1970s with classic movies playing on a VCR, a vintage cash-only juke and furniture reminiscent of Grandma’s house — you’ll wish you wore polyester clothing. While the cocktails are sharp and potent, the real standout here is the food. Owner Jackson Tran serves some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in town. All together, this spot is perfect for late-night drinking. 

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Ship’s Lounge
#12
Ship’s Lounge

Ship’s Lounge

1613 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX, USA

Considered Dallas’ oldest bar, this nautical-themed dive with Christmas lights and a tree hanging year-round is the anchor of the bar-heavy Lower Greenville Avenue neighborhood. Sadly, the original jukebox was replaced by a digital music machine, but the drink prices remain low and the drinks remain strong.

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Shopping is a thing here

Before painting the town red in the evening, explore Dallas’s best shopping, much of which happens to be located in some of the city’s coolest and most historic buildings. Luckily, there are spots to have a quick bite and drink in each of the neighborhoods, and a drink might help loosen up those wallets. 

Dallas, Texas - Highland Park Village in dusk. Christmas lights and the beautiful fountain at twilight. Photo by Shutterstock.
#13
Dallas, Texas - Highland Park Village in dusk. Christmas lights and the beautiful fountain at twilight. Photo by Shutterstock.

Highland Park Village

47 Highland Park Village, Dallas, Texas, USA

Built during 1931, this was the first shopping center in America, one that became a prototype for all others across the country. It’s located in the lavish Highland Park, a Dallas annex imagined by Beverly Hills founder Wilbur David Cook. The stores here are on the upper end of upscale, though it’s worth strolling through to admire the historical significance of buildings and their Mediterranean-Spanish architecture. Thankfully, there are dining options here that won’t break the bank such as Mi Cocina, Cafe Pacific and Bistro 31.

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Bishop Arts District in Dallas
#14
Bishop Arts District in Dallas. Photo via Shutterstock.

Bishop Arts District

Bishop Arts District, Dallas, TX, USA

Set in the old stomping grounds of notorious gangsters Bonnie and Clyde and John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, this stretch of early-20th century buildings is now home to art shops, boutiques and clothing stores, cigar shops, live music venues, restaurants and bars. The district has only expanded over the years to accommodate the growing crowds but remains a walkable, cozy neighborhood.

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NorthPark Center
#15
January 2 2019. Dallas's Northpark shopping centre at night. Photo by Shutterstock.

NorthPark Center

8687 N US 75-Central Expy 1000, Dallas, TX, USA

Somewhere between an architectural wonder and an art museum, this midcentury-modern Dallas stalwart has provided guests with a visual playground. Huge, museum-quality sculptures dot its atriums and paintings by big-name artists hang on its walls. This mall made a resurgence after it appeared on Jessica Simpson’s reality TV show. Since, shoppers have rekindled their relationship with NorthPark when so many other malls in major cities have shuttered.

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Time Out Tavern on Lover's Lane
#16
Time Out Tavern on Lover's Lane

Lover’s Lane

Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX, USA

This old Dallas two-lane vein divides blocks of small boutiques, eateries and places to pamper oneself from Preston Road all the way to the Inwood Village shopping center. If time permits, catch a flick at the historic Inwood Theatre. Or have dinner at Chef AQ Pittman’s Jose or coastal-themed Hudson House, followed by a drink at longtime neighborhood dive bars Inwood Tavern or Time Out Tavern, where baseball legend Mickey Mantle hung out.

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What to do

Dallas has grown into a more culture- and arts-friendly city. Anchored by the Dallas Arts District, the city now has several top-notch museums. Though there is plenty of world-class art and a colorful garden to look at, downtown’s most popular museum is tied into one of the darkest moments of our nation’s history. 

Dallas Museum of Art
#17
Dallas Museum of Art. Photo by Shutterstock.

Dallas Museum of Art

1717 N Harwood St, Dallas, TX, USA

Artists from Picasso to Dali have had their storied pieces displayed on the walls of the Dallas Museum of Art. Among the permanent displays here are 24,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. While there, slide over to the neighboring Crow Museum of Asian Art, a privately owned collection from ancient eras to contemporary times. 

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The Sixth Floor Museum. Photo by Shutterstock.
#18
January 22, 2017- View of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in the former Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Sixth Floor Museum

411 Elm St, Dallas, TX, USA

A mecca for conspiracy theorists, this building that housed the schoolbook depository where Lee Harvey Oswald Jr. worked was once under threat of demolition before history-minded people swooped in. Today, it is a museum dedicated to the Kennedy assassination and his presential legacy with exhibits touching upon his political rise to fame, successes and failures and also the conspiracy theory aftermath surrounding his death.  

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The Dallas Arboretum. Photo by Shutterstock.
#19
The Dallas Arboretum. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Dallas Arboretum

8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, TX, USA

If the weather permits, take an outdoor self-guided tour through these gorgeously manicured gardens of various botanicals and landscaped grounds. It has lakeside views and glimpses of the famous downtown skyline. Be sure to check the website as events occur year-round. 

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Where to see local live music

The bluesy landscape of Dallas’ early music scene has become nearly non-existent, but there are plenty of options for live music aficionados. Although big acts still come through, a few special smaller venues are where the musical roots remain.

Adair’s Saloon
#20
Adair’s Saloon

Adair’s Saloon

2624 Commerce St, Dallas, TX, USA

A genuine honky-tonk with a stage played by young musicians and music veterans alike. They also can brag about having one of the best burgers and cheapest drinks in Deep Ellum. Commemorate your visit by participating in the decades-long tradition of taking a Sharpie to the wall. Or a seating booth. Or a beer sign. Anything goes here. 

 

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The Balcony Club
#21
The Balcony Club

The Balcony Club

1825 Abrams Rd suite b, Dallas, TX, USA

Merely a distant memory, jazz no longer resonates off the walls of Dallas’ older bars. And then there’s The Balcony Club, where jazz reigns supreme every night of the week. The entrance is located by outside stairs connected to the historic Lakewood Theater on the second floor. Drinks are cheap and, as always, please tip the band. 

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Revelers Hall in Dallas
#22
Revelers Hall in Dallas

Revelers Hall

412 N Bishop Ave, Dallas, TX, USA

Nestled in the Bishop Arts District, this New Orleans-themed jazz bar even has its own namesake band. It doesn’t hurt that the owners also own Frenchmen All Day cafe in New Orleans and regularly bring in brass band talent from there, too. When the musical notes aren’t flying, classic jazz vinyl spins on the record player. Best enjoyed with an Aviation or Sazerac drink. 

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Cool hotels

With everything there is to do in a packed weekend, you’ll need somewhere to kick off your shoes and rest your head. There are a number of hotels in the downtown area that put you within walking distance of great places to eat and drink. Here are two we love.

Lorenzo Hotel in Dallas
#23
Lorenzo Hotel in Dallas

Lorenzo

1011 S Akard St, Dallas, TX, USA

Is this a hotel or an art museum with extremely eclectic displays? Why not both? Located on the edge of downtown, this quirky hotel offers anything but normal. You can enjoy the oddities found in every nook and cranny here while taking in a stunning view of Dallas with a cocktail or relaxing by their resort-style tropical pool with a colorful mural of Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out at you. 

 

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The Adolphus Hotel
#24
The Adolphus Hotel

The Adolphus Hotel

1321 Commerce St, Dallas, TX, USA

Opened in 1912 by Adolpus Busch (yes, of the Anheuser-Busch family), this Beaux-Arts hotel was built by European craftsmen and modeled after a German castle. For a decade, it was the state’s tallest skyscraper and is now Dallas’ most iconic downtown building. It retains an old-world European feel with dark woodwork and wall-sized fireplaces, but offers modern amenities such as a classy lobby bar, rooftop pool and bar and the newly reopened Rodeo Bar adjacent to the lobby. The French Room restaurant is a place for special occasions while the more laid-back City Hall Bistro located in the lobby offers upscale dining without the upscale attire. 

 

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