Dallas is “the” city for young people to gravitate to from all over rural Central, North, and West Texas, plus Oklahoma, and has been for over 100 years or more. The city of Dallas offers a wide spectrum of employment opportunities, entertainment, natural attractions nearby, and the largest park system in the U.S. Dallas’ population is 1.288 million, and the DFW metroplex’s population, which includes Fort Worth, is 6.5 million. The DFW metroplex is the largest growing metropolis in the U.S. in 2023.

Dallas used to be called “Big D” over a half a century ago, not because it was that big, but because Dallas’ distinct neighborhoods were separated by farms and large ranches. Back in 1950s, it seemed to take a long time to drive to different parts of town in Dallas. In the late 1970s, Dallas experienced a huge growth spurt that never stopped when DFW International airport opened for business in 1974. Today, Dallas truly is “Big D”.

9 Fun Things to Do in Downtown Dallas Texas

We have to start with Downtown Dallas because of its diverse blend of in-your-face history, its mix of historical buildings and contemporary architecture, and cosmopolitan lifestyles. Downtown Dallas is home to some of the most interesting and wildly fun things to do in this exciting city. 

1. The West End Historic District

If you’re looking for a one stop shop, The West End in Downtown Dallas is an entertainment complex with restaurants, nightclubs, concerts, condos, hotels, offices, specialty shops, and you can take a romantic carriage ride. Here you can find concerts with all types of musical genres. This complex offers outdoor dining and drinking options with spectacular views of the Downtown Dallas skyline at night. The West End is a stone’s through from the rest of Dallas’ downtown attractions.

2. Deep Ellum

Deep Ellum is on the other end of Downtown Dallas, the eastern end. You can imagine Deep Ellum as the SoHo of the West. It was Dallas’ first commercial district populated by African-Americans and European immigrants back in the late 1800s and established as a commercial and residential district in 1873. Henry Ford built one of his earliest manufacturing plants in Deep Ellum in 1914. Deep Ellum is now home to over 20 of Dallas’ historically recognized buildings.  

Deep Ellum centers around Elm Street, and its pronunciation today originated from its original residents. By the 1920s, Deep Ellum had become a hub for blues and jazz musicians amid its locally owned bars, grocery stores, pawnshops, and tailor shops until the 1950s when its streetcar line closed. Today, Deep Ellum is the place to be for North Texas arts, culture, eateries, innovation, and music. Deep Ellum’s historical buildings are now occupied by its thriving cultural heritage of yesterday and today. 

3. Reunion Tower

No trip to Dallas is complete without a visit to Reunion Tower, affectionately known as the “Ball”. The Ball is one of the most recognized landmarks in Dallas, sits on top of a hotel, and you can see it quite a few miles away on Dallas freeways. You will experience its GeO Deck with 360-degree panoramic views from 470 feet in the sky. The Ball is home to the rotating, 5-star, date night Crown Block restaurant, and its tower houses the Omni Dallas Hotel. Reunion tower offers packages to experience its various attractions. 

4. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Dallas will never forget the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) on Friday, November 22, 1963 in Dealey Plaza. Authorities determined the shots fired at JFK came from the Texas School Book Depository building, today’s Sixth Floor Museum. This museum features over 90,000 items associated with JFK’s assassination, the world’s reactions, and the legacy of his presidency. Approximately one million people visit the Sixth Floor Museum annually. 

5. The Arts District 

The Arts District in Downtown Dallas comprises 19 blocks of awe-inspiring exhibitions. Its anchoring artsy conglomerations include the Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Meyerson Symphony Center, Nasher Sculpture Center, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and Winspear Opera House. You could spend two weeks exploring Dallas’ Arts District, which also includes the Klyde Warren Park, restaurants, and hotels. 

6. Dallas Farmer’s Market

One would not typically think of a farmer’s market as a tourist destination, but the Dallas Farmer’s Market is truly spectacular. It offers over 150 vendors selling fresh vegetables and fruit, naturally raised meats, cheese, eggs, honey, exotic plants, native plants, and trees, plus more in an open pavilion, a vast indoor hall with food stalls, and eclectic shops. The Dallas Farmer’s Market features classes, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and seasonal events. It is open from Sunday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

7. Dallas Pedestrian Network: A Downtown Dallas Underground

A popular, but also little known (even to locals), phenomena exists in Downtown Dallas in the form of underground tunnels with a peculiar history. The Dallas Pedestrian Network twists and turns underneath skyscrapers, offices, and residential properties for three miles. Planned in 1969, the Dallas Pedestrian Network never realized its potential and went through many phases. Today, the public’s main accesses to the tunnels are at Thanks Giving Square, Renaissance Tower, One Main Place, and Bank of America Plaza, but they are hard to locate. 

The tunnels feature air-conditioned small businesses, food courts, and local art exhibits. Some spaces are privately owned by the property owners above their locations and locked. The tunnels close at night and on weekends. When the Dallas Pedestrian Network made the news from time to time over the last 50 years, but rarely still does, it inspired people to go explore them. The tunnels are worth exploring, if only for the experience of seeing somewhat of ghostly urban planning project gone curious. 

8. Old City Park/Dallas Heritage Village

The Old City Park, a.k.a. Dallas Heritage Village, is home to 38 fully restored and furnished Victorian and pioneer homes in Dallas’ first city park on 13 acres. Old City Park sends people back in time with period-costumed docents, live farm animals, and recurring events, like historical reenactments and programs. The buildings came from all over North and Central Texas and demonstrate living history on the southeastern border of Downtown Dallas. 

9. The American Airlines Center

The American Airlines Center hosts the Dallas Stars hockey and the Dallas Mavericks basketball team’s home games, just south of the Historic West End district. This multi-purpose marina also hosts gymnastics, WWE events, motocross, bull riding, figure skating, circuses, major concerts, and just about any event that can draw an audience of up to 20,000 people. This arena features 11 premium full service bars and restaurants, private boxes, and huge meeting rooms in an amazing work of architecture. 

12 Fun Things to Do in the Rest of Dallas

1. Galleria Dallas

The Galleria Dallas is the most upscale mall in Dallas. Visitors will find an ice rink, high-end stores selling unique products, great food, an artist’s collective featuring local artists, trending and boutique fashions, and children’s events on Saturdays. Right next door to the Galleria sits a luxury hotel, the Westin Galleria, popular for romantic getaways, family vacations, girl’s weekends, and exclusive shopping packages. 

2. Lower Greenville Avenue

Lower Greenville is one of Dallas’ oldest and quaintest neighborhoods. with a tightly knit residential district and an entertainment district. Visitors will find a collection of various and fusion cuisines, a thriving nightlife with live music, and charming shops. Parking is scarce, and for years there has been a bit of a war between the residents and owners of the clubs and restaurants. But Lower Greenville is one of the most interesting neighborhoods to enjoy in the heart of uptown Dallas, so please obey the laws and signs. 

3. Boot Scooting in Dallas

Boot scooting refers to dancing to Country and Western music, not rap or rock. Although Fort Worth is better known for cowboy culture in Texas, Dallas is still a city draped in the cowboy way. You will find some great dance halls with live C&W music, DJs, and old-fashioned juke boxes. Dallas County’s roots lie deep in the history of the open range and oil production, and that lifestyle is definitely alive and well. 

4. Adair’s Saloon

One of the most historic and thriving Dallas C&W dance halls is Adair’s Saloon in Deep Ellum. Adair’s turned 60 years old in 2023 and features cover-charge free live music and brings in headlining acts and up-and-coming bands and singer songwriters. The interior is covered floor to ceiling in graffiti and Christmas lights with a juke box full of classic C&W stars.

5. Cowboys Red River Dancehall & Saloon 

This is a dance hall where you down ice-cold Lone Star beers and learn to two-step around an enormous dance floor. With live bands Wednesdays through Saturdays, you can also ride a mechanical bull and play Texas Hold ‘Em, Blackjack, and Craps. Cowboys offers free dance lessons and $3 drink specials. 

6. Texas State Fair

No doubt! The Texas State Fair in Dallas is the largest state fair in the U.S. Big Tex, at 55-feet-tall, greets you at the entrance esplanade in Fair Park for three weeks every fall. The Texas State Fair is not all Fair Park has to offer by far. Fair Park hosts events, exhibits, expositions, and permanent attractions year-round. Fair Park landmarks open year-round include the African-American Museum, Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, and the Hall of State (Texas History).

Then there are the historic performance venues, the Band Shell, Fair Park Coliseum, Cotton Bowl Stadium, (Dallas Cowboys original home), Dos Equis Pavilion, and the Music Hall at Fair Park. Fair Park hosts free events almost every Saturday. This happens in spring, summer, and fall, like its plein air Art in the Park, Kid’s Craft, Girl Trek, movie nights, and more. The park also hosts free weekday evening events. Fair Park features some of the best art déco architecture around. You can also experience art of the early 20th century with lots of green grounds. 

7. Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park

Texas Discovery Gardens is a non-profit native garden and butterfly house. Visitors of all ages will learn about organic gardening. Its 7.5-acre organic garden is brimming with native and adapted plants. The two-story Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium takes you to a tropical rainforest with hundreds of beautiful butterflies flying around freely. Texas Discovery Gardens offers family festivals, workshops, free admission days, and an extensive EarthKeepers® student education program.

8. Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is recognized as one of the top arboretums in the world. Its extensive lists of honors and awards fill up its own webpage. In 1974, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society (DABS), Inc. established itself. In 1980, the City of Dallas and DABS created an arboretum and botanical garden on the combined 66 acres of the DeGolyer and Camp properties at White Rock Lake and opened to the public in 1984.

The Camp and DeGolyer houses were built in 1938 and 1939, respectively, and are open for tours. The gardens attract over one million visitors a year to see 19 gardens and A Tasteful Place. A Tasteful Place is a 3.5-acre ornamental garden with a pavilion. There is also a kitchen for growing and eating fresh, sustainable, locally grown food. The kitchen offers three free daily tastings made with seasonal produce and cooking demos. They host yearly events and educational programs. The best times to visit are fall and spring.

9. White Rock Lake

White Rock Lake sits in East Dallas and was “the” place for Dallas’ most prominent families to live when first built in 1911. Mansions built in the early 1900s line its entire western shores. Busy Dallasites do not have to go far to discover wildlife and fish for white crappie, largemouth bass, or channel catfish, canoe, kayak, or paddle boat, hike, jog, run, or walk, picnic, sail, or walk dogs. A fictional ghost lives at White Rock Lake. Known as the Lady of Lake, and generation after generation goes there to find her at night. 

White Rock Lake covers 1015 acres. It is a beautiful park to picnic at and discover nature. From the 1930s to the 1950s, its Bath House was the place for families and young lovers to spend a day swimming, picnicking, and playing in the sun. Today, the Bath House Cultural Center hosts visual and performing arts with dance, music, and theater. Its Visual Arts programs showcase artists from Dallas and around the globe.  

10. Food Tours

Dallas can compete with the finest restaurants in any city, anywhere in the world. From 5-Star rated restaurants to delectable food trucks, you will find delicious food in interesting restaurants with perfect ambiances in Dallas. Hence, there are Dallas food tours that will take you to them. There are over ten food and food and walking tours in Dallas. The food tours range from type of cuisine to eclectic neighborhood food tours. Plus, one is a scavenger hunt food tour, where you find clues that take you to sample food from sliders to sweet treats, and the winning team receives prizes. 

11. Ascend Camp & Retreat Center 

Can you still ride a horse in a crowded Texas city like Dallas? Yes, you sure can! The Ascend Camp & Retreat Center provides horseback riding and equine encounters. This is down in a little known southeastern area of Dallas city proper. Ascend offers camping as well on 54 acres with trail rides, corral rides, and horseback riding lessons. You can also find a petting zoo, outdoor movies, mini golf, paintball, and field sports. 

12. Katy Trail

The Oak Lawn district in uptown Dallas has developed as one of the most aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods in all of Dallas. Oak Lawn is home to the beautiful Turtle Creek Park and Reverchon Park. You can also find historic hotels, like the Stoneleigh P and the Warwick Melrose, delectable restaurants like the world famous Mansion, nightclubs, and shopping in the Design District. Then there’s the Katy Trail, a 3.5-mile hike and bike trail that follows an abandoned railroad track through gorgeous Oak Lawn landscapes. The Katy Trail greets over 1.5 million hikers per year.   

Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations. https://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites

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