15 Cool Things to Do in Dallas Right Now

Cowboy up with football, trail rides, and LGBTQIA+ two-step.

Between all the golden brown lawns and crispy leaves on the trees, it sure looks like autumn in North Texas—until you step outside your front door and the SPF 100 melts right off your face. But until fall arrives and cooler days chase away the heat-stroke blues, we’re fortunate to have plenty of ways to beat the heat and have fun as we ride out the final few weeks of (official) summer. There’s still time to plan a nearby road trip, but if you don’t have that kind of time off, vacation-like excursions await. Among them, an adults-only museum experience fueled by cocktails and science, the return of the Dallas Cowboys to their home turf, and the chance to hunt ghosts around every creepy corner of Downtown Dallas. In total, we’ve got 15 activities that will make your life more exciting than sitting naked on a bed of ice cubes in front of the air-conditioner.

Victory Park
The Perot Museum of Nature & Science can be overrun with pre-pubescent Bill Nyes on any given day, but every Thursday the museum staff kicks out the kiddos for a full night of adult pleasures. That means food trucks, boozy beverages, live music, games, and access to all the museum’s exhibits in a guaranteed 21-and-over setting. Fall’s the best time to go, too, when it starts getting dark a little earlier and cool a little sooner. You know, some of that neat stuff the earth tends to do.

Nightly Spirits
Nightly Spirits

Downtown Dallas
Why did the ghost go into the bar? For the boos! And you can join every angry apparition and playful poltergeist in a spooky tour of Dallas’ most haunted places—including watering holes where you can drink while you learn about the otherworldly creatures who linger long after last call. Nightly Spirits Dallas leads these 2.5-hour tours Thursdays through Sundays, but if you want to keep the phantoms among friends, you can book a tour guide for a private experience, too.

Arlington
The Dallas Cowboys are back and despite not winning the Super Bowl in more than 25 years, America’s Team always lures in tens of thousands of rowdy fans to its home at AT&T Stadium. With eight season home games, you have multiple opportunities to cheer them on (or cheer along with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) in person. And between games, you can always visit the massive venue for a tour of the awe-inspiring art collection or be treated like a VIP with other behind-the-scenes looks at the magical kingdom of Jerry Jones.

Choctaw Casinos & Resorts
Choctaw Casinos & Resorts

Live that Vegas life, baby

Durant, OK & Thackerville, OK
Though not technically in Dallas (or Texas, for that matter), gambling locals love to hit the road north for a quick 90-minute drive to either Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant or WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville. WinStar has bragging rights as the world’s largest casino with 400,000 square feet of gaming space while Choctaw is a slot lover’s dream with more than 7,400 test-your-luck machines. Both casinos feature luxury accommodations, fantastic air-conditioning (hint, hint), resort-style pools, and fine dining to easily turn a day trip into a Vegas-worthy staycation—one that could pay for itself—if the odds are forever in your favor.

East Dallas
Shakespeare Dallas’s 50th season continues this summer and fall with Hamlet returning to the stage overlooking the lawn at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre. Bring your own blanket or chair (or rent one on-site) for evening performances of (appropriately enough) the classic boy-meets-ghoul story. The productions here rarely go for the traditional approach, so you can always expect something unique. And the fact that you can pack your own picnic (including beer and wine) means you can have one amazingly cheap cultural experience under the stars.

Caddo Mills
Less than an hour’s drive from Dallas, Future Flight LLC Powered Parachutes offers thrill-seekers the chance to take flight among the birds with an FAA Certified Pilot in a powered parachute. See the North Texas landscape without the hindrance of windows or doors for an exhilarating journey at speeds up to 32 mph and altitudes up to 1,000 feet. And if you get hooked, you can buy your own starting at a cool $10,000.

Immersive Frida Kahlo
Immersive Frida Kahlo | Photo by Kyle Flubacker

Immerse yourself in artistic masterpieces

Downtown Dallas
Visit the Lighthouse ArtSpace in downtown Dallas to become one with the art of masters Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, as well as Claude Monet and his Impressionist besties. During each multimedia presentation, you’ll step into one of several spaces with floor-to-ceiling projections of the artists’ most spectacular works set to music and animated for a surreally beautiful way to experience these icons. Pro-tip: The side galleries are typically less crowded than the main exhibit space, offering a more intimate viewing. Pro-tip number two: Book one of the onsite yoga classes for a whole new kind of zen.

Pretend you live in a legal marijuana state

Various locations
It always takes Texas a while to catch up with more progressive states, but we always get there eventually. And the same will likely be true soon enough for legal weed products. Until then, you can enjoy the equally chill—and totally legal—Delta 8-THC, Delta 9-THC, and Delta- 10-THC. Talk to an experienced budtender at some of the best dispensaries in town, including Dallas Hemp Co., Bloom Labs, MoonTaxi, The Weed Spot, The Green Room Hemp Dispensary, and Delta 8 North Plano. (Of course, you can always Google “Delta 8 Dispensaries in Dallas” to find several friendly neighborhood, er, joints.)

Drag brunch at Commons Club at Virgin Hotels Dallas
Drag brunch at Commons Club at Virgin Hotels Dallas | Photo by Kathy Tran

Various locations
Drag brunch was one of the things we missed most when indoor dining was on hiatus, but the queens have returned in full force to venues across town to dance, lip-sync, and stare at your mimosas with envy. Some of the best meal-and-a-show combos can be found at Mr. Misster in Oak Lawn, Tequila Delicious in Uptown, and Booty’s Street Food in Deep Ellum. And once a month at Cedar Springs Tap House, Marsha Dimes presents a version where all proceeds (sometimes thousands of dollars in one day) benefit a local LGBTQIA+ nonprofit.

Oak Lawn
Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (and some Saturdays) this fall, beloved LGBTQIA+ honky-tonk, the Round-Up Dance Hall and Saloon will be hosting lively dance classes for folks of all abilities. Practice your two-step, mambo grooves, honky-tonk twists, and other boot-stompin’ moves. Beginners are always welcome, and if you’re not inclined to boogie, sidle up to the bar, grab a draft beer in a cowboy boot glass, and cheer them on from the sidelines.

Grapevine Wine Tours
Grapevine Wine Tours

Grapevine
Texas wine has grown into a world-class option for seeking to catch a sophisticated buzz over the past decade or so, and the aptly named suburb of Grapevine just so happens to be home to one of the state’s most coveted wine trails. Taste through the offerings with a lunch or dinner wine tour that includes samples at three wineries plus a three-course meal with a professional guide to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about local viticulture (and probably a few things you’d rather skip over in favor of another generous pour). Or venture out independently and discover your favorites one sip at a time.

​​Get wet and wild at a waterpark

Various locations
Kicking back in a pool may be fine and good for people looking to beat the hellish Texas heat, but if you want to add an adrenaline rush to your chlorine-scented day, the waterpark possibilities in town are quite abundant. Get wet year-round at Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark in Grand Prairie (they have an outdoor wave pool open for summer, too), or head a few miles down the road to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor for more than 20 rides and attractions. If you prefer a resort-style experience, book a room at the beautiful Hilton Anatole and get free access for two to their JadeWaters pools, including the adults-only leisure cove. And for a more local experience, head to one of the five Hawaiian Falls neighborhood locations throughout the metroplex.

Benbrook Stables
Benbrook Stables

Fort Worth
Live like a true Texan (or at least the stereotype so many people outside the state envision) by climbing atop a horse for a ride through the scenic trails around Lake Benbrook. You’ll be matched with a horse that complements your riding experience (or matches your outfit, whichever you prefer), so whether you’re a beginner or expert they’ve got an equine that’s right for you. We’re guessing the horse named Turtle goes pretty slow, but don’t take our word for it.

South Dallas
Even some longtime Dallas residents don’t know about the hardwood forest right in our collective backyard, but heading off into the lush green space can quickly remedy the oversight. Paved trails make it easy to explore nature on routes rife with everything from birds and waterfowl to river otters and maybe even a snake or two. In the cooler weather of fall, feel free to hit up the woods almost any time of day thanks to mild-to-cool temperatures instead of the blazing summer sun.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

Glen Rose
Giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, bison, and cheetahs await—along with dozens of other animals—at this drive-thru wildlife center dedicated to the preservation of species in peril. Meander through 7.2 miles of roads where you can stop along the way to feed the animals right from your car. Book a public tour or opt for a private guided tour for you and your most adventurous travel buddies. For a truly wild experience, however, book a room at the lodge or in one of the safari cabins where you can swap your white noise machine for real-life animal sounds as you drift into dreamland. It all goes down in Glen Rose, a short 90-minute-or-less jaunt from most parts of Dallas-Fort Worth.

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 Steven Lindsey is a Thrillist contributor