Explore Local: Dallas, Texas

A cosmopolitan gem tucked deep in the heart of Texas, Dallas is well known for its shopping, dining, and cultural opportunities — not to mention being one of the most diverse cities in the entire country.

But even if you’ve called Dallas home for years now, there are plenty of things to do in Dallas you probably aren’t aware of yet, from hiking to sightseeing to watching live jousting (yes, really).

If it’s been a while since you’ve played tourist in your own backyard, sit tight; in this post, we’re going to tell you everything about our favorite things to do in Dallas, Texas.

Why We Love to Travel

Getting to experience cultures that are different from our own or eating cuisine that is not what we’re used to are amazing ways to grow as individuals and learn about others. Seeing how other people live helps us keep an open mind and even gather inspiration to bring back into our daily lives.

Travel is also a great way to get away from the day-to-day. Breaking up our routines with a fun trip definitely recharges the batteries and helps prevent us from getting burnt out.

But you don’t have to go far from home to get this perspective!

Benefits of Traveling Locally

While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:

  • More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
  • Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
  • Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
  • Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
  • More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.

Explore Local: Dallas, Texas

What do we love about Dallas?

How about its unique combination of urban amenities and country sensibilities — the fact that it’s the kind of place where you might see a legitimate cowboy walk into a skyscraper?

Or maybe its plethora of dining options, enough to keep you eating something new for every meal for years on end. Maybe it’s the multiplicity of museums and attractions or the hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreation opportunities just a short drive away from the heart of it all.

In short, there’s a whole lot to love about Dallas. Let’s get specific, shall we?

*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.

State Parks in Dallas

Ready to get outside? There are plenty of perfectly explorable state and national parks in the greater Dallas, Texas area.

  • Cedar Hill State Park is just a stone’s throw from urban Dallas, but you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a different — and much more tranquil — planet. Along with relaxing lakeside, visitors can also tour an old Texas farm or wander along the limestone hills and prairie pockets.
  • Dinosaur Valley State Park is located about an hour west of Dallas, but visitors will find it’s worth their while: this unique park is home to authentic dinosaur footprints, not to mention the plethora of outdoor activities that you can partake in within its landscape.
  • Lake Tawakoni State Park is home to a combination of both woodlands and prairie, and also offers five miles of lake shoreline perfect for swimming, boating, fishing and more.
  • Ray Roberts Lake State Park offers wooded equestrian and hiking trails that graze the edge of its namesake lake, as well as an eatery and marina headquartered in a quaint but rustic lodge.
  • Tyler State Park is located about an hour and a half east of downtown Dallas, and has a wide array of activities to choose from. Whether you’re there to swim, fish, or birdwatch, you’ll find plenty of prime opportunities, as well as the quaint nearby neighborhood of Tyler to explore.
  • Hot Springs National Park is a bit of a drive away, requiring a trip over the border into Arkansas. But it’s well worth the effort: visitors will be treated to both scenic views and the opportunity to get some well-deserved R&R in one of the area’s many — you guessed it — natural hot springs.

Best Hiking Trails in Dallas

Although there are plenty of state parks and other nearby grasslands and wildernesses to drive off to, you can find plenty of good hiking opportunities closer to town as well. Here are some of the most popular Dallas hiking trails.

Cedar Brake Trail

Cedar Ridge Preserve is an Audubon nature preserve that offers nine miles of hiking trails through its 600 sprawling acres of hillside. One of the most popular is Cedar Brake Trail, and for good reason; although it’s just two miles in total, this out-and-back trek leads visitors along the beautiful lakefront and through densely treed forest.

White Rock Lake Trail

White Rock Lake offers a relaxing greenspace in the heart of the Dallas metropole, and the trail of the same name is the perfect place to wander for enchantment, exercise or both. Although White Rock Lake Trail is nine miles in its entirety, you don’t have to do the whole thing, and it’s pretty much flat the whole way, making this a doable excursion for a wide variety of fitness levels.

Oak Cliff Nature Preserve Trail

This heavily-trafficked six-mile loop offers visitors a plethora of wildflowers to wander through each spring, and is also open to dogs. However, reviewers caution that it’s easy to get lost on the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve Trail, so make sure you stick to the trail as best as possible!

Boulder Park Trail

Another loop, Boulder Park Trail is a four-mile venture in its entirety and is often used by trail runners and mountain bikers as well as hikers. Be sure to leave some room for other types of traffic!

Best Restaurants in Dallas

If all that outdoor exploration has worked up your appetite, you’re in luck. Here are some of the very best restaurants in Dallas, whether you’re looking for Mexican, Italian, sushi — or something else altogether.

PaneVino Osteria

If you’re looking for Italian that is at once authentic and unpretentious, PaneVino Osteria is a great place to turn. Although it’s situated in the kind of strip mall in which you’d expect to find a Carrabba’s, this homegrown joint is a local Dallas favorite that offers up all your favorite traditional dishes.

Meso Maya Comida y Copas

Dishing out Oaxaca- and Puebla-inspired recipes in a trendy atmosphere, the Meso Maya chain of Mexican eateries in the DFW area is well worth frequenting. Everything is fresh, original, and delicious, no matter which location you visit.

Shinsei

Dallas isn’t exactly known for its multiplicity of Asian restaurants; you might be quicker to associate the town with a burger or steak. But there are still plenty of great options to consider, and if you’re in the mood for sushi, we’d point you to Shinsei. Although the dining room is loud, it’s also got some of the very best offerings around, including a “regular’s favorites” selection which features off-the-menu options.

Cosmic Cafe

Where’s the beef? Well, in Dallas, just about everywhere — but don’t worry. For the vegetarian and vegan crowd, there are still some great selections. Cosmic Cafe has consistently been voted the best vegetarian restaurant in Dallas and has even been named one of the healthiest restaurants in the country… so your cardiologist will definitely be on board.

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill

Texas wouldn’t be Texas without a hunk or two of USDA beef to sink your teeth into. If you’re craving steak, we suggest you head to Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill, which serves up fresh cuts with delicious and unique accompaniments, like bacon-walnut butter spiked with Roquefort cheese.

Local Insider Tips From Cameron Ingram:

Ten Ramen

Ten Ramen is a true hidden gem because of its extremely small size – you might pass right by if you didn’t know about it. The interior itself is not too far from something you’d see in Japan, and the food does not fail to deliver. Per Japanese tradition, you’ll be served your hot bowl of ramen standing up at the bar inside. Ten Ramen doesn’t have a lot of options on its menu, but what they do make is spot-on – including the weekly chef’s specials, which are always worth considering. ​

Encanto Pops

On a hot summer day in Texas, Encanto Pops is always my first choice when it comes to a refreshing treat. This is not your typical popsicle place; instead, they serve Mexican traditional frozen treats called paletas. Encanto Pops has a variety of paletas in ​​radiant flavors made from fresh ingredients, too, and it’s in a great location, right down the street from the Bishop Arts District.

Fun Things to Do in Dallas

Eating, adventuring, enjoying a stroll in the park… that’s all well and good. But what are the best things to do in Dallas this weekend as far as, you know, Dallas is concerned?

Here are some options to consider, no matter your situation.

For Kids and Families

Want to bring the whole family along for the adventure? Here are some exciting things to do in Dallas with kids.

Medieval Times

When’s the last time you enjoyed dinner and a show — particularly dinner with death-defying antics? That’s exactly what you’ll get at Medieval Times, where the whole family has the opportunity to cheer on a knight as he aims his javelin toward victory. (Oh, and the food ain’t bad, either!)

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Want to get the kids excited about the world around them? The Perot Museum of Nature and Science gives you the perfect opportunity, from classic exhibits like gigantic dinosaur fossils to interactive features that will teach visitors of all ages what it means to be a human in this great, big, confusing, fascinating world, this one should be a must-stop on any family’s list.

Dallas Zoo

Encompassing more than 100 acres and home to more than 2,000 animals — whether you prefer your critters furred, feathered, or finned, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal at the Dallas Zoo.

For Cheap

Want to get out on the town without spending an arm and a leg to do it? Here are some of the best cheap things to do in Dallas.

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

There are plenty of fun things for couples to do in Dallas, but noting is quite as romantic as a long, leisurely stroll through the gardens. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden costs a reasonable $17 for adults and $12 for children between the ages of 2 and twelve, though if you pay a one-time annual membership fee (starting as $97 for individuals or $141 for families), you can visit as often as you like for free.

Dallas Heritage Village

Want to get a taste of history? Dallas Heritage Village is a 20-acre section of town devoted to preserving, showcasing, and educating visitors about the area’s fascinating past, including the largest collection of 19th century pioneer and Victorian homes and commercial buildings in the state. Regular general admission is just $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children, and it’s easy to spend a whole afternoon meandering through this charming and unique attraction.

Adair’s Saloon

There’s just something about a dive — and particularly a dive famed for its rotating selection of fine and free music. The stage of Adair’s Saloon has been graced, over the years, by the likes of Miranda Lambert and the Dixie Chicks, and the drinks and good and cheap to boot.

Local Insider Tips From Cameron Ingram:

Josey Records

When it comes to record stores in Dallas, there are a lot of options across the metroplex. But Josey Records is, overall, the best place to purchase any physical form of music. They have a huge selection with a variety of genres to choose from, yet you won’t feel overwhelmed. Inside, there’s a mural painted on the giant wall next to the listening stations where you can preview records before you buy. The store itself is a local hub for various events, and the employees are all also involved in the local music scene. I can always find a gem in the $1 bin, and it’s definitely my stop for music.

At Night

There’s no shortage of things to do in Dallas during the day… but what about after night falls? Here are just a couple of options to keep you occupied.

Reunion Tower Observation Deck

To be fair, the stunning panoramic visitors get from the top of Reunion Tower is worthwhile day or night — but when the city’s all lit up, there’s just something special about it. Whether you’re there to canoodle on date night or ooh and aah at the sights with the whole family, we highly recommend this trip 470 feet over the Dallas streets.

Dallas Comedy House

Both a theater and a training ground for hopeful comics, many of the shows open to the public at the Dallas Comedy House are very affordable (think $10 a ticket). Plus, it offers free improv and open mic night opportunities on a weekly basis. It’s a great way to spend an evening!

Free Things to Do in Dallas

What’s better than having fun? Having fun without spending any money. Here are some of the very best things to do in Dallas — totally free of charge.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Did you know that, aside from Washington D.C., the only place U.S. currency is printed is Dallas, Texas? You can go straight to the source at the historic Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which gives you a one-of-a-kind look into this important and often overlooked process. The location dates all the way back to 1862, though the production methods are quite different these days — for one thing, nobody’s turning a hand crank. Most excitingly of all, the BEP offers two floors of exhibits and interactive displays as well as a 45-minute-long tour, all of which are totally free to the public.

Kimbell Art Museum

If you consider yourself an art aficionado — or anyone else in your family does, either — you can’t miss a trip to the Kimbell Art Museum, especially given that the works in its permanent Kimbell collection are totally free to visit. Of course, you can also choose to spend a few bucks on the rotating special exhibits, which are doubtless worth the money… but still, it’s possible to visit an art museum for free in Dallas! How cool is that?

Spas in Dallas

Need a little R&R? Don’t we all. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to kick back and let yourself be pampered in the Dallas area.

Hiatus Spa + Retreat

This Texas chain of spas is sprawled across the state, but it’s won awards for a reason. Whether you’re going to for a massage, a facial, waxing or something else altogether, you can rest assured you’ll be treated with the utmost professionalism and care at Hiatus Spa + Retreat.

Riviera Spa

The premier day spa in the city of Dallas, Riviera Spa offers facials, waxing, massages, and even an infrared sauna — all of which is to say, once you emerge, you’ll certainly be both looking and feeling your best.

Vis à Vis Day Spa & Med Spa

Looking for some natural ways to give your existing beauty regimen a boost? Vis à Vis Day Spa & Med Spa, located in uptown Dallas, offers a range of scientifically proven treatments alongside the standard spa fare like massages and facials.

Best Gyms & Yoga Studios

Don’t want to lose sight of your routine? Whether you’re in it to tone up or cool down, here are the best places to get grounded and gritty in Dallas.

PARADIGM Gym

If you’re the type who just wants to get in, get down, and get the work done, PARADIGM is the place to get your sweat on. Enjoy its wide array of machinery, free weights, and cardio equipment, as well as adaptable and versatile personal training offerings.

Trophy Fitness 

Described by one reviewer as not just the best gym in Dallas, but the best gym in the country, Trophy Fitness prides itself on its diverse set of equipment and professional trainers, who are motivated in assisting guests on their way to achieving their goals. Along with the basics, you’ll get access to ample parking, free locker and towel service, wifi, classes, and a sauna… all of which is to say, this gym is an entire experience, not just a place to go grab your next workout!

Dallas Yoga Center

Easily one of the most popular and well-regarded yoga studios in the city, Dallas Yoga Center focuses on creating a holistically nourishing practice in a calming and welcoming environment. Along with a broad range of classes, the Center also offers teacher training and the opportunity to adventure and practice in distant destinations like Bhutan. It definitely kicks the regular yoga fare up a notch or twelve!

Day Trips in Dallas

Sure, you could easily while away a lifetime in Dallas and not see everything. But there are plenty of exciting opportunities to explore just outside the city, too. Here are a few day trips in the Dallas area worth making.

Fredericksburg

If you’re into wine, you don’t have to go all the way to California to get a taste of some of the very best vino. Fredericksburg is tucked into the heart of the Texas Hill Country just a few hours outside of town, and it’s well worth a weekend getaway to enjoy some of the freshest and most unique expressions of the region. (Plus, the town is just quaint and lovely to wander even for teetotalers!)

Waco

If you’ve ever seen a single episode of Fixer Upper, chances are Waco is on your to-travel-to list. And after you’re done perusing the Magnolia Market that’s blossomed at the silos, you can also swing by another uniquely Waco offering: the Dr Pepper Museum.

From dining to adventuring to checking out its unique museums and cultural features, we hope you enjoy your stay in Dallas, Texas, whether it’s for a few weeks, a few months, or a lifetime!

As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Dallas that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Dallas? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.

 

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