Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Dallas Right Now
Get out and about—six feet apart.
Winter in Dallas looks very different from much of the nation, which is great news for anyone who doesn’t want to be completely cooped up the entire season. One morning the weather might be gray and snowy, but within a day or two (sometimes hours) it could very well be nice enough to hike through the Great Trinity Forest, basking in the sunlight. Or sit (socially distanced) on the heated patios at Trinity Groves in shorts and a T-shirt drinking a frosty beverage.
While things are far from normal anywhere on the planet this year, it’s nice to be able to enjoy a change of scenery and leave behind the sofa and computer screen for a bit. There’s no better time to safely explore North Texas whether you’re a visitor or a local looking to cross off several things from your “someday” list now that you have a little extra time. Who knows, you might discover fierce ice skating skills you never knew you had.
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 almost 60 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.
$12 per adult
Take a journey back to the heyday of video games with the Pixel Dreams retro arcade (four tokens included with admission!). Then explore the history of in-home consoles in another exhibit containing a visual history of the phenomenon with 50 different units from the circa-1972 Magnavox Odyssey to current-day models in an expansive timeline with everything you’d ever want to know about each one.
$12 per adult; $5 skate rental
Far North Dallas
Even though you can ice skate year-round at this indoor rink, there’s something that makes the activity that much more appropriate when it’s cold outside, too. Masks are required of all guests and social distancing is encouraged. Besides, the ceilings are well over 100 feet tall, so it’s almost like being outdoors. And if you really want to step things up with a few salchows and double axels, you can enroll in three-day beginner courses that include guest passes and other freebies.
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. From there, walk south into downtown on Harwood Street to see Pacific Plaza and Main Street Garden Park. You can also catch performances while lounging on the lawn at Annette Strauss Square if you plan in advance.
White Rock Lake
There may be no better place to celebrate the cooler weather than the Dallas Arboretum. Holidays at the Arboretum offer even more to look at than the usual flora and fauna, while January and February showcase the garden paradise with much smaller crowds and a completely different experience than other times of the year. Visits right now require a pre-purchased ticket, scheduled arrival window and face covering when social distance is not possible.
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, Mexican, barbecue, vegan, pizza, poke, wings, 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 (heated) 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.
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 with the best of them, even if that means ordering takeout these days. Dallas chefs are reinventing the steakhouse at restaurants such as Knife, which offers 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 or either location of Al Biernat’s. Old school or new school, Dallas does steakhouses right.
Who shot J.R.? If you don’t know the answer, you can find out in-person at Southfork Ranch. As cheesy as it may be, a visit to the Ewing Mansion made famous on two different Dallas TV series should be part of everyone’s bucket list. The tour includes several rooms inside the home, including J.R.’s bedroom, the family living room, and the famous pool where J.R.’s would-be assassin met her fate. The whole thing ends with not a cliffhanger, but a memorabilia exhibit featuring items from the actual TV show. All guests are also welcome to tour the ranch grounds where you can do your own shooting—of the camera variety.
This old-school, single-screen theater in Oak Cliff has a significant place in history as the location where police found JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. But it’s also a fantastic place to watch a movie, from vintage classics and cult flicks to current blockbusters (whenever those happen again). Duck in out of the cold for a limited-capacity indoor screening, opt for one of their intimate outdoor drive-in screenings, or choose from a selection of on-demand titles to watch from your La-Z-Boy.
Dallasites should not miss their annual pilgrimage to Fair Park just because the 2020 State Fair of Texas was 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 and murals, with some of the museums open for visitors, too. Even if you aren’t an architecture buff, the fountains, Texas Star 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 or Lockhart Smokehouse in Bishop Arts for some of that aforementioned brisket. Next, head to Off the Bone in the Cedars for a few pecan smoked baby back ribs or Blu’s Barbeque for some smoked brisket tamales and prime rib on Sundays (and other daily specials throughout the week). Finish the tour at 18th & Vine for some burnt ends that are so caramelized and tender that they’re practically dessert.
Retrace the steps of Bonnie & ClydeFree
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.
Fort Worth Stockyards
Each Friday and Saturday in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards, you can watch cowboys and cowgirls riding atop bucking broncos and feisty bulls in addition to other traditional events. Capacity has been reduced to 50% and masks are required of all visitors, which might be a good idea even after they’re not required because, well, horse poop.
One of the most unlikely (yet thoroughly enjoyable) tourist attractions in the area is this lovingly recreated replica of the mansion from the 1960s TV series, The Munsters. Private tours make it one of the safest ways to witness a part of pop culture history with a room-by-room tour filled with actual artifacts from the series, recreated elements, and fascinating stories from the owners’ interactions with the stars over the years.
In Aspen, people enjoy sitting in hot tubs apres ski while the snow falls gently around them. We have that same experience, kinda-sorta, with the year-round adventures available at Epic Waters Indoor Water Park. Even if the weather outside’s frightful, you can speed down one of several water slides of varying levels of terror, practice surfing on the FlowRider, and rent a cabana as a home base for between-slide margaritas and Texas-style poutine.
White Rock Lake
From runners to bikers to casual park-goers, more than 1 million people visit this urban lake every year. It’s a little more than nine 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 nearby. Watching sunset from the shores near Winfrey Point offers views of the downtown skyline in the distance and gorgeous colors as the sun dips behind the treeline each evening.
The vibrant bar scene may be paused for now but you can still find some of the best eats (and drinks, don’t worry) in the city along the lowest section of 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 healthy and sustainable meals available to-go or from their awesome rooftop. For more outdoor calorie consumption, hit up Truck Yard across the street with plenty of socially distant outdoor seating, complete with heaters and fire pits.
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.
Bishop Arts District
The Brooklyn to Dallas’ Manhattan, Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff is going through a rapid transformation with new developments popping up all over the neighborhood. 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.
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 two-mile loop to a 12-mile route shared with mountain bikers.
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.
Dallas Arts District
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 can be pre-purchased before arrival with timed entry for crowd control.
$22 - $40 per adult
The Cowboys have had a rougher year than usual, so rather than spend extreme amounts of money to see them at one of their final home games of the season, consider a tour instead. Options include the chance to hang out on the field the day before a game, self-guided walkabouts, a VIP behind-the-scenes look, and an art tour featuring one of the best collections of contemporary art. All tour guides and guests are required to wear masks or approved face coverings and tour groups will consist of 20 members or fewer.
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 more than 20 restaurants and shops open regular hours throughout the week.
NorthPark Center is not your standard shopping mall; it’s more like a shopping museum. Just “NorthPark” 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. 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. You’ll find sculptures and fresh air in the CenterPark Garden, too.
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