Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Dallas Right Now
All approved for social distancing.
Whether riding a horse or throwing a touchdown, a cowboy is the first thing most people imagine when they think of Dallas. And they're not wrong. This city will live up to every stereotype -- but then it'll completely surprise you with a modern art installation or world-class meal that changes everything you thought you knew about Dallas. This is a city not easily categorized, which makes it one of the most exciting places to explore in Texas (yeah, you heard that right, Houston), cool urban spaces, full of art museums, pocket neighborhoods, and even some underrated outdoor activities.
Granted, life is a little different right now for obvious reasons, but there’s still something from everyone to check out in Dallas as we ease back into the world at a safe social distance.
Located between the convention center and city hall you’ll find three bronze cowboys herding 40 longhorn steer down the trail. It’s reportedly the second-most visited landmark in downtown (after Dealey Plaza, for obvious reasons). Walk through the park and take some pictures with the lifesize sculptures. Just remember, you’re not supposed to hop on the steers.
For some people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Dallas is: That’s the city where JFK was shot. Although Dallas shouldn’t be defined by that one moment over 50 years ago, it is still the most historically significant event to take place in the city. Take a walk around Dealey Plaza and the infamous grassy knoll to spot where the former president was assassinated in 1963. When you’re done dodging the conspiracy theorists hanging around the plaza, check out the content available online from the Sixth Floor Museum to learn the full story of that time in American history.
Walk through the city's coolest urban green spaces
Dallas has made huge strides in recent years to increase the amount of green space in its urban core. Tour the parks that are making downtown a vibrant place to live starting with Klyde Warren Park, a 5.2-acre public park built over a major freeway (yes, you read that correctly). From there, walk south into downtown on Harwood Street to see Pacific Plaza and Main Street Garden Park. Finally, head west on Main Street to stare at the giant eyeball sculpture for a while and contemplate its meaning. Why a giant eyeball sculpture you ask? No one has a clue, but it sure is an interesting sight (pun intended).
Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens
There may be no better place to celebrate the arrival of cooler weather than the Dallas Arboretum. Autumn at the Arboretum also means the arrival of over 90,000 pumpkins which are used to decorate the grounds and create a literal pumpkin village. Even if gourds aren’t really your thing, the Arboretum is a garden paradise not to be overlooked. Visits right now require a pre-purchased ticket, scheduled arrival window and face covering when social distance is not possible
Honor the State Fair of Texas with a corny dog
Nothing signals fall in Dallas like the arrival of the State Fair of Texas. And with the State Fair canceled this year, the cooler fall weather just may never come. Even though you won’t be able to say howdy to Big Tex this year, that doesn’t mean you should be deprived of that annual Fletcher’s Corny Dog. Check out their calendar with pop-up locations throughout the Metroplex. With your Coney Doc in hand, spin around five times fast and watch this video -- it’ll have to suffice until next year!
Can’t decide what you’re in the mood to eat? Check out the multitude of options available for pickup from Trinity Groves. Asian, Italian, barbecue, vegan, seafood, burgers, Mediterranean, tapas, even a restaurant focused solely on avocados -- it can all be found just across the river from downtown. Still can’t decide? Enjoy the spacious patios at each restaurant or order bites to go as you dine your way across the globe. Start with the house-made steamed dumpling combo from Sum Dang Good Chinese. Next, pick up some stacked enchiladas from Beto & Sons for a remix of a classic Tex-Mex dish. For dessert, don’t miss the hummingbird cake at Cake Bar.
The deep end of Elm Street (Deep Ellum, get it?) is the live music epicenter of Dallas. Even though live shows are on hold for now, you can still enjoy what the local venues have to offer virtually. The Bomb Factory, formerly a real bomb factory during WWII, has a slew of virtual events to check out and Sons of Hermann Hall streams acoustic sets most weekends.
Dine like a Dallas Cowboy with takeout from a steakhouse
Dallas is one of a few cities that can truly claim the steakhouse experience as a native cuisine. We know how to serve a cut of beef (a la cart) with the best of them, even if that means ordering to go these days. Dallas chefs are reinventing the steakhouse at restaurants like Knife by offering a cellar full of dry aged meats like their 240-day dry-aged ribeye. Or, for a classic steak of the absolute highest quality, check out the dining options at Del Frisco Double Eagle Steakhouse. Old school or new school, Dallas does steakhouses right.
Dallasites should not miss their annual pilgrimage to Fair Park just because the 2020 State Fair of Texas is canceled. Even during these quiet days, Fair Park is a great place to walk around and appreciate one of the nation’s largest collections of 1930s Art Deco architecture. If you aren’t an architecture buff, the gigantic murals, fountains, Ferris wheel, and Cotton Bowl stadium make it an interesting place to explore.
Sample some fine Texas barbecue
If you visited Texas and didn’t try some barbecue, did you really come here at all? Dallas hosts the full scope of Texas barbecue from Central Texas-style brisket to east Texas pork ribs. Call ahead to pick up and sample your way through the city’s barbeque scene starting with Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum for some of that aforementioned brisket. Next, head to Off the Bone in the Cedars for a few pecan smoked baby back ribs. Finish the tour at 18th & Vine for some burnt ends that are so caramelized and tender that it’s practically dessert.
Retrace the steps of Bonnie & Clyde
The two infamous outlaw lovers called Dallas home when they weren’t on the run from the law. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are said to have met at a house on Herbert Street, behind Trinity Groves today. Just a few blocks away at 1221 Singleton Boulevard stands Clyde’s childhood home where the Barrow family ran a gas station (long since abandoned and very creepy). Bonnie and Clyde are both buried in Dallas as well, though in separate gravesites per Bonnie’s mother’s wishes. All of these historic sites are open to the public and easy to enjoy without interacting with anyone.
Ronald Kirk Bridge
If you’re dying to get the perfect picture of the Dallas skyline, make your way to the Ronald Kirk bridge. This cool retrofitted pedestrian park sits right next to the gorgeous Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and makes for some great photos. Once you’ve done your Instragam duties, follow the path down between the Trinity levees to spot some native wildlife like white egrets and blue herons.
White Rock Lake
From runners to bikers to casual park-goers, more than 1 million people visit this urban lake every year. It’s 9 miles all the way around the lake, most of which can be done on a paved path separated from car traffic. Rent a bike and hit the road! If biking isn’t your thing, go for a walk near the Filter Building and check out the 1930s Art Deco boathouse.
Except on St. Patrick's Day when this whole street turns into the biggest annual party in Dallas, Lower Greenville is the perfect balance of party scene and chill bars. The bar scene may be paused for now but you can still find some of the best eats in the city along Greenville Avenue. Wabi House boasts some of the best ramen in the city and carries out easily. HG Supply Co. is a neighborhood staple that focuses on health and sustainable meals available to go or from their awesome rooftop.
The Katy Trail is the perfect spot for a run, bike ride, or just a nice walk. The trail extends 3.5 miles across Highland Park and Uptown before ending at American Airlines Center. If you’re not sure where to park or how to access it, there’s usually plenty of parking at Reverchon Park adjacent to the trail. If you walk far enough, reward yourself with a margarita to go from Katy Trail Ice House.
Shop local in Bishop Arts District
Bishop Arts District
The Brooklyn to Dallas’ Manhattan, Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff is going through a rapid transformation. It’s a quaint and walkable area not to be missed, especially if you like Instagrammable murals and cool shops like Spinster Records or Wild Detectives bookstore bar. Check out Eno’s Pizza Tavern for everyone’s favorite to-go food (pizza, duh) and hit up the “pie thru” at Emporium Pies for the ultimate dessert convenience to complete the Bishop Arts pie-fecta.
$7 per person
Cedar Hill State Park
Hills are pretty scarce in Dallas, but you can get a hint of the Texas hill country at Cedar Hill State Park. The park road winds through the modest hills with views of Joe Pool Lake that are quite scenic (for North Texas at least). Make sure to call ahead for a reservation and to ensure the trails are open, which close after heavy rains. There are multiple trails that range from a short 2-mile loop to a 12-mile route shared with mountain bikers. Face coverings are required while in the park.
$17 per adult
With 106 acres of zoo, you could spend all day here and probably not see all of it. The zoo was founded in 1888, making it the first zoo in the Southwest. The zoo features about 430 species from across the globe (and that’s not including fish). Be sure to check out the Wilds of Africa, which was named the “Best African Exhibit in US” by The Zoo Book: A Guide to America’s Best. At this time, you will need to purchase tickets in advance and some indoor viewing areas and the monorail remain closed.
$10 per adult
Nasher Sculpture Center
The iconic Dallas skyline stands as the perfect backdrop for the city’s most impressive collection of sculpture. Afterall, skyscrapers are just sculptures built to an enormous scale right? The Nasher might be the most impressive museum in Dallas and most comfortable to enjoy while keeping social distance since its outdoor collection is the main attraction here. Right now, tickets must be pre-purchased before arrival.
See where Dallas urbanites come to shop and dine. Formerly the wholesale fruit and vegetable hub for all of North Texas, the Dallas Farmers Market has evolved into a community oriented space. Each weekend, local farmers and vendors set up under The Shed to sell their fresh goods. The indoor shed is a food hall with over 20 restaurants open regular hours throughout the week.
North Park Center is not your standard half-abandoned shopping mall; it’s more like a shopping museum. Just “North Park” to locals, it has been dedicated to creating a beautiful yet functional shopping experience since 1965 when it was also the world’s largest air conditioned retail center (read: mall). Its collection from internationally renowned artists is showcased throughout its wide and airy halls including Andy Warhol, Mark di Suvero, and Jonathan Borofsky among others. The Apple Store is pretty nice too.
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