50 Ways to Take Your Dallas Summer to the Next Level
Elevating your summer game is easier than a slip-n-slide when you live in Dallas-Fort Worth, a metroplex bursting with summer whoa around each and every corner. But to make your most unforgettable summer a complete no-brainer, we’ve compiled a list of 50 things to eat, drink, and do -- and even where else to go (to remember how much you love it here). Waste no time.
1. You may think that you know what “elotes” are (fresh corn smothered and covered in the deliciousness that is crumbling cojita cheese, butter, crema, lemon pepper, and lots of chili powder) but try them in a to-go cup at Elotes at Fuel City.
2. Do you and three or four of your closest friends like carnitas tacos? Are you a committed carnivore? There’s no more authentic and unique experience than splitting the Pig’s Head Carnitas at CBD Provisions.
3. Everyone loves corn dogs. It’s just a scientific fact. So pay your respects to where they were born with an OG Texas State Fair at Fletcher’s Corn Dogs -- who after all, invented the damn thing. Load up on mustard (or ketchup, if you must) and try to at least let it cool off for 30 seconds before devouring one straight out of the deep fryer. That’ll burn 'til fall.
4. The BBQ Trough at Pecan Lodge is exactly as it sounds: a sampler of all the best that they have to offer from brisket to sausage to perfectly-smoked chicken breast. Pecan Lodge is so famous for their BBQ that you’d be well advised to get there early, since once they sell out for the day, it’s over.
5. Forget soft serve or the place that your parents used to take you after soccer practice. That’s not real ice cream. Aaron Barker of Carnival Barkers is bringing back the traditional methods of making ice cream from scratch. The Rice Crispy Treat Ice Cream Sandwich at Carnival Barkers is made in house and will make you swear off anything that comes out of a machine with a lever forever.
6. Chef Kent Rathbun, no lie, invented the Lobster Shooters at Abacus on the fly when tasked with serving a birthday dinner to Julia Child years ago. Not only does this Thai-soup inspired shot of seafood decadence live up to the hype, Child herself proclaimed it, “The best dish I ever had.” Get it.
7. Any kind of frozen treat on a scorching hot Dallas summer day is a welcome relief but the Champagne White Tea Popsicle at Steel City Pops is so good, you’ll crave one on a snowy day. Light, refreshing and just the perfect bit of tart and sweet, think of it as a healthier frozen form of your favorite boozy brunch drink.
8. Few foods feel more like a high five and a hug than the one-two punch of a hot dog and frozen custard at Wild About Harry’s. They combine quality all-beef hot dogs plus all the fixings with a creamy serving of frozen custard in a dozen or so flavors. It's like summer picnics and being a kid again.
9. Sure, there are plenty of food trucks in Dallas and I’m sure that each of them has at least one dish that someone swears is their favorite in town. But the Bahn Mi Sandwich at Nammi Food Truck transcends food truck offerings by leaps and bounds with a Vietnamese sandwich that is literally stuffed to the gills with flavor. Also, one sandwich can easily feed two of you for under $10.
10. The old stereotype of British food being bland is wildly inaccurate. That’s probably why a line forms each Saturday and Sunday for a British Scotch Egg or tart from Proper Baking Co. at Dallas Farmers Market, rain or shine. Plus, it’s always fun to mix and mingle with the ex-pats anxiously awaiting a fix of comfort food from their homeland. Accents!
11. Have you ever wondered what would happen if happy hour and cardio combined forces? Wonder no more with the Buzz Bike tour of Uptown. From the comfort of a pedal powered bar stool, you’ll be able to share a pint with your friends while also hitting your fitness tracker goals for the day.
12. A local product making a splash in the metroplex, Aqua Pop at Cox Farm Market takes the simplicity of sparkling water, fresh squeezed citrus juices and...well, that’s it. It’s as simple as that and yet you’ll never know how you lived without it. Equally delicious as a refreshing summer spritzer all by itself or as a mixer.
13. Listen, there’s only a few things that you REALLY need to know when it comes to the Dallas bar scene. And of those things, the most important is to always trust whatever the hell Gabe Sanchez makes you at Black Swan Saloon. He’ll ask you a few questions and the next thing you know, he’s served you your new favorite drink.
14. If you’re a soccer nerd but have always felt self-conscious about throwing on your Chelsea jersey and sitting in your living room, nursing a pint at 7am, you’re not alone. Luckily, there’s a support group for you. That support group is the gathering of American soccer fans and passionate ex-pats who faithfully gather on Saturday mornings to watch “footie” at The Dubliner on Lower Greenville.
15. Sure, you love coffee, but even the most dedicated of java heads would be hard-pressed to say that they love a piping hot cup of coffee on a 100-degree day. But that’s where Bottle Cold Brew Coffee at Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters comes in. These local coffee roasters have perfected the art of the perfectly savory and not-at-all-bitter cold press coffee so that you don’t have to give up your coffee habit even when it’s scorching outside.
16. If you ever find yourself in East Dallas and wonder where members of your favorite band, semi-celebrity radio personalities, and stand-up comedians gather to shoot the breeze, head straight to the patio of the Lakewood Landing. It’s here, at this diviest of dive bars, that you will find local luminaries and grizzled regulars mingling. Grab a drink, find a perch, and eavesdrop.
17. You probably already have a fondness for putt putt golf, based on warm and fuzzy memories from childhood. But now that you’re an adult, what if we told you that you can relive those childhood memories but also enjoy a drink in the process? The Goat Ranch is just the place, with its trailer park golf theme and most important drinks menu.
18. If you’ve ever truly wanted to go somewhere where everybody knows your name, head directly to The Cottage (formerly The Cottage Lounge) by Love Field airport. A dive bar in the greatest sense of the term, it’s home to the young and curious, as well as the loyal customers that have kept this establishment afloat for over 40 years. Also, did we mention that they have a cheeseburger that utilizes two chicken fried steaks as buns?
19. It’s probably pretty unlikely that you loved kombucha upon first taste. But somehow, this fermented tea grows on you, and soon you crave it. And once you get a taste for it, the kombucha on tap at Company Cafe is the freshest and most perfect tonic to cure what ails you.
20. If you’re looking for a break for your typical coffee routine, might we suggest initiating yourself into the secret society of people who love Vietnamese coffee? Coffee is just coffee, you say incredulously. Well, you obviously haven’t tried the iced Vietnamese coffee at Bistro B. It is, indeed, a game changer.
21. Just a three hour drive south of the metroplex towards Austin, the best stress relief that a tank and a half of gas can buy you is to Hamilton Pool in Travis County, TX. The natural spring pool surrounded by a cave-like formation is the kind of thing you usually only see in National Geographic magazine and pinned on your friend’s “dream vacation” Pinterest board.
22. Or, if you want to head north, you can always bask in America’s natural spa at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, AR. The Ozark mountains and the naturally-fed hot spring waters that serve as a tourist attraction have all the comfort and holistic healing powers of a pricey weekend at the spa, only it’s totally free, thanks to Mother Nature.
23. If you like your history with a touch of the spooky, take a look around the (possibly haunted) abandoned Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, TX. Once a popular getaway for the stars of the silver screen in the 1940’s, who took the train journey from the East coast to the West coast, this grand hotel was abandoned in1972 but later placed on the National Register of Historic Sites ten years later.
24. When the city wears you down and you need to just head west to preserve your sanity, the first point of order on your to-do list should be to admire the mountains from the cooling waters of Balmorhea, TX. The massive pool stays at a downright delightful 72 degrees even in the hottest days of summer, and there’s nothing quite like dog paddling while glancing up at the mountains of West Texas.
25. You’ve probably read about the retro nostalgia of a drive-in movie theater making a comeback or maybe have even seen pictures of cinephiles floating on inner tubes while taking in a movie at the aquatic version of the drive-in theater. But you really haven’t lived until you’ve watched a “drive-in” movie at the Port Isabel Lighthouse on the Texas Coast where current releases and 80’s faves are projected onto the side of the iconic piece of Texas coast history.
26. Stonehenge is cool and all, but a trip to England is more than a weekend getaway from Dallas. No problem! Take in the bizzaro art of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX (sometimes known as Texas Stonehenge) easily over a kitschy road trip-themed weekend.
27. TLC may have warned you against chasing waterfalls, but in the case of crossing the border for the cascading waters of Turner Falls, OK, they were wrong. Turner Falls is just a short trip over the Oklahoma border and once there, there are not only the titular waterfalls to explore but also hiking trails and hideaways in the surrounding woods.
28. Enchanted Rock might just sound like a cool name for a beautiful natural batholith formation just west of Austin. And those things are true. But there’s so much more. Get mystical with Mother Nature at Enchanted Rock (TX) when you discover that the attraction got its name for the fact that the rocks creak and groan each day around sunset.
29. You can always channel your inner Jordan Speith at Lajitas Golf Resort in Big Bend, TX. An oasis of lush greens in the most improbable of settings, Big Bend in West Texas, the beauty of Lajitas could transform even the most lackluster Putt Putt amateur into a lover of the game. If not, there’s always the grounds and the legendary spa.
30. Sure, you know to have your picture taken in front of the Prada Marfa art installation when heading into this hipster haven of West Texas. Hell, even Beyonce’s done it. But then head to the coolest trailer park in the world at El Cosmico (Marfa, TX) and sleep under the West Texas stars in the comfort of your very own yurt.
Because summer without a little heat would be pretty boring. Add even more spice to your plans by escaping with Jack Fire, a red-hot blend of cinnamon liqueur and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
31. What if we told you that there was a game that you and your friends could play that mixes basketball, lacrosse, bumper cars, and trash talking? Oh yeah, and you get to do all those things while also driving go karts. Get ultra-competitive with Whirlyball, a game that combines the most awesome parts of sports you love with a ton of goofiness.
32. You know what’s even better than cooling off by the lake with your friends and a picnic? Taking your four-legged friend to Doggy Beach at White Rock Lake and watching them lose their minds.
33. Dallas is home to the largest urban hardwood forest in the country, so you owe it to yourself to take up nature hiking at Trinity Audubon Center. Guided hikes with various nature-related themes are available weekly but you can also go rogue and take your own path.
34. At first, you would imagine that a massive bridge leading into the city center isn’t the perfect place to find some peace and focus. But you’d be wrong. Get centered with yoga on the outskirts of Downtown on the Continental Bridge along with 10,000 other fellow yogis.
35. Ever wondered if you’ve got the comedy chops to be able to take an audience suggestion and fly by the seat of your pants? Want to make stage fright and shyness a thing of the past? Take an improv class at Dallas Comedy House where you will learn to check your inhibitions at the door and give over to the silly.
36. You want to be adventurous but jumping out of a perfectly good, working airplane is just not your style. Go ahead and take the plunge at iFly Indoor Skydiving where you will get all the adrenaline, thrills, and zero-gravity spins without the pesky “making sure your affairs are in order” part of skydiving.
37. You don’t want to brag but you’ve secretly always suspected that if you were trapped in a Saw-like predicament, you would totally save everyone’s life. Prove your mental might and be a hero at The Escape Room where you can finally prove that hunch that someone should make a comic book about your superhuman abilities.
38. Outdoor concerts in Dallas and Fort Worth area true test of dedication -- not because the music is bad, but on account of your brain melting from the heat. Take in a concert from the comfort of an inner tube at Panther Island Pavilion where you can casually float in the river, drink in hand, and enjoy your favorite local and national acts.
39. Before there was rollerblading, wheelie tennis shoes, or hover boards, kids and teenagers skated around the old-fashioned way -- in a disco-ball lit room that smelled of corn dogs and shoe disinfectant. Throw on your high-waisted shorts and head to White Rock Skate Center where the retro roller rink lives on in all its shag-carpeted glory.
40. Be honest. If you knew that you could charge at your friends at full speed, Jackass-style, and knock them down without hurting either of you, you’d totally do it, right? Well, run headfirst into your friends at full speed with Bubble Soccer, where protective inflatable giant bubble suits minimize the risk of injury while maximizing the risk of stupid fun and hilarious photo opportunities.
41. Nestled in a converted house in the Bishop Arts District, you can catch a reading or impromptu show at Wild Detectives. They have something fun and funky to offer every weekend, and not just for book lovers; catch musicians and DJs in the backyard area.
42. Impress your friends with your moves at Sunday Night Jazz with Shelley Carrol at Eight Bells. Carrol’s jazz chops are legendary.
43. The Texas Theater has long been known around town as the savior of the art house cinema experience. They’ve teamed together with the Majestic Theater for a summer rock documentary concert series -- featuring The Last Waltz, amongst others.
44. Discover up and coming Dallas artists at Kettle Art in the heart of Deep Ellum, where longtime artist Frank Campagna uses his renown to expose new artists.
45. Tired of singing your favorite '80s movie theme songs to yourself at top volume in your car on a long commute? Consider the Alamo Drafthouse Movie Quote Along and Sing Along series your support group. Bring your A game and 1.21 gigawatts of enthusiasm to this monthly event.
46. If you like your live theater experience as safe as a school production of The Lion King, then perhaps this one isn’t for you. But if you like to see the cutting edge of experimental live theater productions, experience Avant Garde Theater at the Ochre House, where no two productions are alike except for the fact that they will likely be offbeat, slightly disturbing, and totally unforgettable.
47. If you find yourself in North Oak Cliff in mid-July and suddenly wonder why everyone is wearing stripey shirts, berets, and sipping on red wine, don’t freak out. They’re just there to celebrate their Francophilia at Bastille Day in Bishop Arts District, where the crêpes are plentiful and you’re almost certainly guaranteed to spot a mime or two.
48. Tired of your dance moves looking less graceful and more like the rejects from the first round of So You Think You Can Dance? Learn to Flamenco like a champ at Ballet Folklorico.
49. Learning is fun but learning while sipping a drink is always better. Experience the Perot Museum’s 21+ up Social Science Night to marvel at trippy dinosaurs and demonstrations related to that month’s science-based theme. All without the restless gangs of school children.
50. Go to the most real-deal blues club you’ll find in town, RL’s Blues Palace. This nitty-gritty nightclub is indeed a palace at which the audience worships at the feet of players who honed their chops with the likes of BB King, John Lee Hooker, and Buddy Guy.