Dallas has worked hard to prove its more than the sum of its pop-culture characterizations, i.e. a land of oil tycoons, shopping malls, big hair, and sadly, the site of JFK’s demise. Dallas likes to eat well and have fun, so that means a myriad of award winning restaurants and bars abound, alongside creature comforts like high-end hotels and top-rate shopping. It’s true that Dallas is into aesthetics, so there’s also no shortage of high-fashion, world-renown art, and plates of food as stunning to look at as they are delicious to eat. Descend on any one of these 10 Dallas neighborhoods for an experience worth remembering as something other than a stereotype.
Dallas’ dazzling Downtown skyline is consistently voted one of the best skylines the in world. Its iconic Reunion Tower, or “The Ball” as it’s known colloquially is the standout landmark, which offers a birds’ eye view of the entire city from its observation deck. Visitors might rather take in the views over dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s 50th floor restaurant Five Sixty, which rotates 360 degrees over the span of an hour offering a view of every angle of the city. History buffs flock to Dealy Plaza’s Sixth Floor Museum and the Grassy Knoll, a mile north of Reunion Tower on Houston Street, where JFK was fatally shot in 1963. Several blocks northeast on Downtown’s northern border, visitors will find world-class art museums in Dallas’ Arts District like the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas Museum of Art, and Crow Museum of Asian Art, which are grouped within walking distance of each other. Plus, in Downtown, there are standout eats like Bullion’s French fare, new American cuisine at CBD Provisions inside the hip Joule Hotel, and the famed Adolphus Hotel’s opulent French Room with its neighboring dimly lit cozy lounge. Don’t miss out on the shopping here, Neiman Marcus’ original flagship location is still housed in its historic Downtown spot, along with newer high-end arrivals that merge fashion and art like Forty Five Ten.
Outside of the large cultural institutions in Dallas’ Arts District, there are a plethora of locally owned art galleries and showrooms that call the Dallas Design District home. Here visitors will find droves of artwork from local and regional artists, as well as national and international names, just a short hop up Interstate-35 from Downtown. The Dallas Contemporary museum offers must-see, often edgy exhibitions on this side of town as well. A bevy of homegrown Dallas eateries have taken root in the neighborhood, from the highbrow Meddlesome Moth, to laid-back burgers and shakes at Rodeo Goat or barbecue at Ferris Wheelers, which wouldn’t be complete without its namesake backyard ferris wheel. There’s also a concentration of breweries in this neighborhood like Community Beer Company, Texas Ale Project, Pegasus City Brewery and more, which offer tours of their brewing operations alongside crisp pints.
Dallas’ unofficial entertainment district is the best place to bar hop or catch legit local musicians cooking up everything from blues, rock, punk, to Latin jams in small venues, since the 21-and-over establishments pretty much line four square city blocks shoulder-to-shoulder. But this neighborhood doesn’t just serve up adult libations and original music, celebrated chefs can be found churning out award-worthy cuisines like octopus tacos at beloved local taqueria Revolver Taco and Spanish-influence tapas and cocktails at Izkina, which incidentally is connected to Deep Ellum’s first hostel next door. Speciality shops devoted to home goods, fresh-cut flowers, thrift-store finds, art, and more are interspersed among the nightlife destinations. Plus, the area is known for its photo-worthy outdoor art, dozens of murals painted on the sides of historic buildings and public sculptures made this an Instagram-worthy stopover.
The shining jewel of East Dallas is easily White Rock Lake, which boasts nearly 10 miles of trail, rentable kayaks and paddleboards, and owner-operated small craft often engaging in daytime regattas around the lake, which is accessible by heading east on I-30 and then North on Grand Avenue. Located on a stunning lakefront property is the lush Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which features meandering pathways through vibrant vegetation that open up to panoramic vistas of the water. Just a two minute hop up Garland Road is Lounge Here, one of Dallas’ best bar and restaurants created by the founders of The Polyphonic Spree. For more eating and drinking options, head west down Gaston Avenue to Lakewood which is home to some of Dallas’ best institutions like The Balcony Club for live jazz, Mot Hai Ba Vietnamese eatery which has been a favorite Dallas stopover for celebrities like Kanye West and Aziz Ansari, or stalwart dive bars Cosmo’s and Lakewood Landing. After enjoying an evening out, opt for the scenic detour along Swiss Avenue to marvel at the restored historic mansions.
The North-South corridor in East Dallas known as Greenville Avenue just east of US-75 has no shortage of eateries and shops, in fact, they’re shoulder-to-shoulder in pockets that dot the quaint residential neighborhoods. There’s standout Korean cuisine at Upper Greenville’s BBBop Seoul Kitchen, plus tons of Southern Methodist University hangouts like the favorite dive bar Milo Butterfingers. Mid-Greenville is known for the historic art deco Granada Theater that still welcomes local and national touring acts to its stage, plus eats such as The Grape’s New American cuisine, Cafe Izmir's tapas, or Snuffer’s burgers. Then there’s the ultra-happening Lower Greenville with its abundance of hip bars like HG Sply Co and Truck Yard; eateries like Rapscallion and Shivna’s Bar & Grill; and specialty stores devoted to gifts, home goods, t-shirts, or specialty items like Steel City Pops’ popsicles or Joy Macarons.
A full on culture-clash takes place over in Oak Cliff, one of the oldest parts of Dallas that’s home to a melting pot of cultures, restored mansions, dilapidated abodes, and recent redevelopment efforts, which can be found southwest of Downtown off of I-30. The trendy Bishop Arts district offers a ton of standout dining options like upscale Bolsa, Stock & Barrel, and Lucia as well as Taqueria El Si Hay’s famous window-service tacos, plus laid-back neighborhood bars like Tiny Victories and Ten Bells Tavern. West on Davis Street from the major hubbub is the historic Kessler Theater, which provides a quaint and classy backdrop for touring national music acts. While a couple of minutes south, Jefferson Boulevard offers a walk through time with its original 1930s storefronts and the still-in-service historic movie house Texas Theatre which is where Lee Harvey Oswald famously caught a flick after shooting JFK. A five-minute walk down Jefferson, takes you to Top 10 Records, recently restored by the owner of the Texas Theatre, which offers an audiophile’s heaven and live music events.
Directly across Woodall Rogers Freeway from Downtown is a neighborhood geared toward living the good life with its upscale townhomes, nightlife spots, restaurants, and hotels like the Ritz Carlton, Hotel Crescent Court, The Stoneleigh, and Hotel Zaza. A popular destination for tourists and Dallas-dwellers alike, Klyde Warren Park, built directly on top of the Woodall Rogers Freeway overpass, is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon people watching, playing pick-up games in the park, or dining at Savor, a upscale eatery overlooking the park and Downtown Dallas skyline to the south. Adjacent to Uptown is Victory Park, home of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and Dallas Stars hockey team at their home arena American Airlines Center. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science offers an education-filled, kid-friendly way to spend a day. Plus there are plenty of spots geared to adults that are perfect for daytime or nighttime libations and eats including the enormous indoor-outdoor Happiest Hour, Blackfriar Pub, and Uchi Dallas to name just a few. Ride the trolley along McKinney Avenue to take in the sights and sounds of Uptown and pick out the perfect spot to decamp.
Oak Lawn/Turtle Creek
Neighborhoods become more posh the further north you get from Downtown Dallas. Just a short hop up Cedar Springs Road from Uptown are the neighboring districts of Turtle Creek with its ultra-luxe high-rise condominiums lining its lush namesake waterway and Oak Lawn, also known as the “gayborhood” with its plethora of LGBTQ-friendly nightlife spots. Pack a picnic for a relaxing afternoon at Turtle Creek Park, one of the many grassy outcroppings lining the creek. For an indoor lunch, Cosmic Cafe serves up standout vegetarian cuisine from an old house that’s been decked out in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. The nearby Mansion on Turtle Creek is not only one of the most posh places to lay one’s head, it also serves up decadent drinks and eats from its must-visit bar and restaurant. Architecture aficionados will want to catch an original production at Kalita Humphreys Theater, one of three theaters Frank Lloyd Wright designed and one of his last completed works. Just up Cedar Springs Road is Dallas’ LGBTQ mecca also known as “The Strip” around these parts. It’s a great destination for dancing the night away at various bars and clubs that line the street like Round-Up Saloon and Station 4.
The Park Cities
The Park Cities area consists of Highland Park and University Park. This area of town isn’t just one of the highest-earning neighborhoods in Dallas, Highland Park ranks in the top 5 wealthiest municipalities in the state of Texas. All that money means great shopping and people watching at Highland Park Village, an enclave of super upscale shops that’s home to retailers like Dior, Chanel, Fendi, and Hermes, alongside more affordable options like Anthropologie, Draper James, and Tory Burch. While there, stop for dinner and a movie at Italian eatery Fachini and the adjacent Village Theatre. Neighboring this luxe community is equally moneyed University Park, home to Southern Methodist University, which boasts one of the most fantastic collections of Spanish art outside of Spain at the Meadows Museum. On view are the masters such as El Greco, Picasso, Goya, and Miró. Also on campus, the George W. Bush Presidential Center offers tens of thousands of artifacts and archives from Bush’s presidency, as well as a replica of the oval office. For the sports lover, college-level competitions in football and basketball also take place on the beautiful tree-lined campus.
Sandwiched between the Design District to its north across the Trinity River and Oak Cliff to its south across I-30 is the neighborhood known as West Dallas. Developments like Trinity Groves have revitalized the area in recent years with its dozen restaurants on one plot, plus a new brewery and restaurant combination called Steam Theory. Just west of Trinity Groves on Singleton Boulevard are handfuls of Latin-owned businesses that rep Dallas hard, including OG taquerias like local favorite Trompo and Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives-featured Tacos Mariachi. Traveling south on Sylvan Avenue will bring you to newer development Sylvan Thirty with its restaurants and shops including a standout bar Jettison attached to Houndstooth Coffee. Directly across the street is the historic Belmont Hotel with a quaint lobby and patio bar to duck into. Head east on Fort Worth Avenue to get to Chicken Scratch, which serves up some of Dallas’ best fried chicken and collard greens in an enormous dog-friendly outdoor space with free live music and libations provided by The Foundry a bar that shares the space.