Where are you going?
Or, let us surprise youSpin the Globe ®

Dallas City and Culture

Gateway to the Southwest
Dallas City and Culture
Dallas is a mainstay on the list of largest U.S. cities (it typically clocks in around No. 9), and only seems to be getting bigger. As the combined Metroplex (which includes the suburbs and cities between Dallas and Fort Worth) continues to expand, Dallas itself is getting denser too, thanks to a boom in sectors like tech, entrepreneurship, health care, and more. All these new residents means changing demographics—and, as a result, a unique local culture that's rooted in Texas, but very much connected to the world at large. Along with the tried-and-true classics that help tell the Big D story, there's always something new to do and explore here.
By Sandra Ramani, AFAR Contributor
Photo by Dorling Kindersley/age fotostock
  • 1 / 9
    Gateway to the Southwest
    Gateway to the Southwest
    Dallas was born of cotton, oil, and railroad booms (and later, real estate), so there’s always been a lot of cash flowing through these streets—and you’ll find the architecture, museums, and historic sites to prove it. There are also plenty of attractions that offer insight into the city’s past and evolution. Start east of downtown, in one of the city’s older areas, with a visit to the National Historic Landmark Fair Park, a 227-acre cultural and educational complex that’s home to the Texas Discovery Gardens, Hall of State, original art deco buildings, and the African American Museum, which features a noted permanent collection of works by African American artists. Over on the west side of downtown, the excellent Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza spotlights the life, assassination, and legacy of JFK (who was shot from a window in this building), while the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus gives insight into the eight years of a more recent head of state. And for a true overview of Dallas, head 470 feet up the iconic Reunion Tower to the GeO-Deck observation platform, where you can take in the 360-degree city views via interactive touch screens, telescopes, and more.
    Photo by Dorling Kindersley/age fotostock
  • 2 / 9
    Dallas’s Unique Neighborhoods
    Dallas’s Unique Neighborhoods
    As the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex continues to grow and expand (it currently consists of 12 counties, including cities like Arlington, Irving, and Plano), the neighborhoods within the Dallas city limits are also enjoying a revival—and in some cases, a reinvention. Get a feel for the city’s early days in downtown's juxtaposition of early-1900s architecture and shimmering glass skyscrapers and in the West End, a 55-acre historic district and tourist hub where you’ll find the visitor center, Old Red Museum, Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and "old Dallas" spots like Wild Bill's Western Store and traditional barbecue joints. South Dallas/Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District, an area of historic homes and former warehouses, now buzzes with artisan shops and restaurants, while the Dallas Design District—once the domain of wholesalers—is now a hotbed of galleries, antique shops, and interior design showrooms. For night owls, Deep Ellum is the place for live music venues, clubs, and late-night tattoo options; Oak Lawn is the hub for LGBTQ nightlife; and Uptown, West Village, and Knox-Henderson cater to a twenty- and thirtysomething crowd with trendy dining, bars, and shops.
    Photo courtesy VisitDallas
  • 3 / 9
    A Laid-Back Neighbor with a Big Personality
    A Laid-Back Neighbor with a Big Personality
    About 35 miles west of Dallas lies the bookend to the Metroplex area, and the “western” flair that many tourists are seeking. But while the popularity of friendly, accessible Fort Worth may be driven by its cowboy past, this is also a growing city rich in cuisine, nightlife, and world-class culture—making it ideal for at least a day trip, if not a jam-packed long weekend.

    Start the exploring around downtown’s Sundance Square, a 35-block district that's home to dozens of shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues; skip the chain outposts and head to the free Sid Richardson Museum, which celebrates artwork related to the American West. Soak up more western style at the 125-acre Stockyards National Historic District, once home to the city’s livestock market and meatpacking plants and now packed with shops, restaurants, and attractions such as Stockyards Museum; stay for the daily cattle drive, or join a historic walking tour. 

    For more can’t-miss museums, head to the Fort Worth Cultural District, where you’ll find several culture hubs within walking distance of each other, including the Amon Carter Museum, a free collection featuring American artwork from the 1830s to today; the Kimbell Art Museum, filled with Cézannes, Rembrandts, El Grecos, and what’s believed to be Michelangelo’s earliest painting; and the award-winning, Tadao Ando–designed Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with a focus on American and European works from 1945 through today.

    Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to eat. Go classic at icons like Joe T. Garcia's, a nearly block-long, family-owned temple to Tex-Mex, or Iron Chef Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, serving a gourmet take on Southwestern favorites. For a taste of the “new” Fort Worth, head to the Near Southside district, an emerging area now lined with tasty spots. Pick your favorites along Magnolia Avenue: Cannon Chinese Kitchen serves authentic dishes in a 1920s-era former house; Ellerbe Fine Foods’ refined farm-to-table cuisine can be enjoyed inside or on the patio; and Kent & Co’s extensive wine menu is paired with small bites. Cap it off with seasonally flavored gourmet ice cream from Melt.
    Photo courtesy fortworth.com
  • 4 / 9
    A Museum for Everyone
    A Museum for Everyone
    Thank Dallas’s forward-thinking forefathers for its thriving arts scene: Since the city’s earliest days, its prominent citizens have committed to funding, stocking, and expanding its cultural institutions. The best evidence of that is the development of the Dallas Arts District, a 30-year project that resulted in a 68-acre, 19-block hub for all things creative. On the museum front, don’t miss the world-class Dallas Museum of Art, the indoor/outdoor Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art, which features a rich permanent collection as well as a serene sculpture garden. Not far from this area, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science has won raves—and drawn crowds—for its engaging exhibits and ecofriendly design, while over in the Design District, the noncollecting Dallas Contemporary showcases sometimes-challenging works by regional, national, and international artists. The Meadows Museum on SMU’s campus boasts one of the largest collections of Spanish works outside of Spain (with pieces dating from the 10th to 20th centuries), and the Latino Cultural Center is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Latino and Hispanic arts and culture.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Knight/Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 5 / 9
    Go Brewery-Hopping
    Go Brewery-Hopping
    Craft beer is booming in cities around the country, and Dallas is no exception. Numerous small-batch brewers have popped up in the past few years—and some have grown quickly enough to open second locations, or to distribute their beers more widely. The choices are varied, from edgy-cool spots with live music to family-friendly places serving brunch; many also offer brewery tours and tastings, so pick a favorite and make an afternoon if it. In the heart of the Deep Ellum nightlife quarter, Deep Ellum Brewing Co. serves a full food menu with beers sporting names like Easy Peasy and Dream Crusher, in a space ablaze with colorful artwork; nearby, Braindead serves its quality brews with dishes like duck confit–infused mac-and-cheese and the award-winning Coma Burger. In the Design District, Community Beer Co. keeps it classic with IPA and a Texas lager, then gets crazy with ales in flavors like Snickerdoodle, Razzy, and Funnel Cake, while Peticolas Brewing has won national awards for its takes on Scottish and Belgian ales. At Lakewood Brewing Co., the Belgian-born, North Texas–raised owner draws upon his dual heritage to create his seasonal and year-round releases. If cider’s more your thing, try a flight of the husband-and-wife-owned Bishop Cider Co.’s creations at their tasting room in the Bishop Arts District or at their second, larger space, Cidercade, a combination bar and arcade stocked with 150 games and 24 ciders on tap.
    Photo courtesy of Community Beer Company
  • 6 / 9
    A Team for Every Sports Fan
    A Team for Every Sports Fan
    Dallas takes its sports seriously—just ask the 100,000 fans who pack AT&T Stadium to cheer on the Cowboys. While you’re at “Jerry’s World” (so named for the legendary Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones), hop on one of the daily tours to learn more about the massive dome and its impressive facilities (which include an extensive art collection). But don’t worry if football’s not your sport of choice; sure, this might be Texas, but there are plenty of other ways to bond with sports-minded locals. Catch a Mavericks basketball game or Stars hockey match at American Airlines stadium just north of downtown, or watch the batters swing at a Texas Rangers baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington, which also offers tours and houses a baseball museum. And if the only “football” you follow is played with a soccer ball, head north of Dallas to the suburb of Frisco, home to the Major League Soccer team FC Dallas.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Young/Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 7 / 9
    The Performing Arts Scene
    The Performing Arts Scene
    The art in the Dallas Arts District isn’t limited to paintings and sculptures: The esteemed culture hub is also the place to go for a wide variety of performances, many of which take place on the grounds of the $354 million, multivenue AT&T Performing Arts Center. Get transported by the incredible dance performances of the Texas Ballet Theater, which performs at both the Norman Foster–designed Winspear Opera House in Dallas and the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth; and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, based at the Rem Koolhaas–designed Wyly Theatre. The Winspear is also the place to catch the high notes of the Dallas Opera, while the Wyly does double duty as the base of the Dallas Theater Center. Meanwhile, the acclaimed Dallas Symphony Orchestra blows audiences away at master architect I.M. Pei’s 2,062-seat Meyerson Symphony Center, as well as with seasonal performances in area parks. For more family-friendly summer fun, don’t miss the annual Dallas Summer Musicals program at Fair Park, which, over the past 75-plus years, has brought well-known Broadway shows like Wicked and Mamma Mia! to North Texas audiences.
    Photo courtesy of Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 8 / 9
    Local Flair and Flavor
    Local Flair and Flavor
    Bring home a piece of Dallas with a souvenir from your adventure. To find something truly local, look beyond the glitzy malls and name-brand shops to areas like the Bishop Arts District, where the dozens of independent shops and boutiques include Bishop Street Market, for unique gifts and knickknacks, and Neighborhood, for well-curated home decor pieces and locally sourced art and handmade goods. On funky Greenville Avenue, Bullzerk prints up a wide array of irreverent tees, while downtown, Deep Ellum Trading Company also stocks only-in-Dallas T-shirts and merch by local artists. For more Dallas flair, hit Dolly Python, a vintage boutique packed with clothes, antiques, and a decent selection of lovingly-secondhand cowboy boots, or bring a taste of Dallas to the friends back home with some artisan-made delicacies and sweets from the Dallas Farmers Market, open seven days a week. And while designer concept store Forty Five Ten stocks items from internationally known and emerging designers, many of the curated pieces are one of a kind or new to retail, so you'll likely snag something you can't get anywhere else.
    Photo courtesy of Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • 9 / 9
    Thinking Green
    Thinking Green
    Dallas’s ever-expanding sprawl might seem the opposite of ecofriendly, but the city actually ranks high in green job creation among the country’s largest metropolitan areas, thanks to a citywide commitment to environmental sustainability. First came the government’s pledge to achieve silver LEED certification on all new municipal building projects of 10,000 square feet and larger, then the private sector followed, crafting such structures as the impressive Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the LEED-certified Trinity River Audubon Center. Plans are in the works for a Dallas Bikeway System that will eventually link more than a thousand miles of paths, while the massive Trinity River Corridor project will aim to protect downtown against future flooding, improve traffic flow, and turn the area along the river's path into a series of trails, sport fields, wildlife habitats, and leisure areas. A few phases of the project have already been completed, including one of three bridges designed by Santiago Calatrava; when finished, the Trinity River Corridor will be 10 times the size of New York City's Central Park.
    Photo courtesy of VisitDallas