With in-laws living in the greater Dallas metropolitan area, a visit to Texas in 2018 was a no-brainer for my 12 Trips in 12 Months goal. Dallas is a famed Texas city, but doesn’t often appear on destination or travel lists. Visitors to Texas seem to choose Austin or Houston more readily than Dallas, but with lots of big things happening in the city, that may change in the months and years ahead.
Prior to my trip (if I’m being honest), I had fairly low expectations for my visit to Dallas. It was hard to find good resources for places to visit or cool things to do because a lot of the articles were dated. But with a little extra digging, I was able to find some awesome neighborhoods and interesting cultural sights to visit. Plus, there was more delicious restaurants than I expected!
With my 48 hour itinerary, you’ll see all the best things that Dallas, Texas has to offer right now!
Morning: Sightseeing Downtown
Downtown Dallas is a fairly compact area surrounded by several highways, creating a central pocket of the city. Parking in this area can be a bit challenging, so usually finding a pay lot is best. In fact, the Dallas Museum of Art has one and because of its central location, we opted for that. Once you’re parked, most of the major sites can be accessed by foot.
Downtown Dallas is full of interesting spots to explore and I recommend starting your first day here to help you get your bearings on the city. Several of the high-profile stops I recommend visiting on your walking tour of downtown include:
- Dallas Museum of Art: free art museum with an extensive collection
- Pioneer Plaza: Impressive public art installation of 52 large bronze bull sculptures
- Klyde Warren Park: Public park built over a highway, one of the first of its kind
- Big Tex: 55-foot cowboy statue at Texas State Fair grounds (slightly farther away)
- Giant Eyeball: 30 foot public art installation of a giant eyeball
Afternoon: Sixth Floor Museum & Dealey Plaza
Perhaps my favorite of all the activities that I did while in Dallas was the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. For those that might not know, Dealey Plaza is the historic location of President JFK’s assassination in 1963. The Sixth Floor Museum is housed in the exact location where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald stood to shoot the fatal shot. I found this museum to be exceptionally well-curated. Visitors are greeted with an explanation of the geopolitical issues at play during JFK’s presidency in order to set the stage for the assassination. You will then follow a nearly minute-by-minute timeline of the events leading up to the assassination on November 22nd.
The exhibit all leads to the window overlooking Dealey Plaza where the assassin stood. It was left in its original condition so visitors will see the gun that was used on that fateful day. It is quite powerful, especially when you see microfilm capturing a second-by-second breakdown of the shot as well as the blood stained clothing that Jackie Kennedy wore . I left the JFK museum reminded of what a tumultuous and impactful time the 1960s were in American history.
Evening: Deep Ellum for Dinner + Nightlife
One of the trendiest neighborhoods in Dallas right now is Deep Ellum. Located directly east of downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum is a lively district characterized by colorful street art, excellent cocktail bars, brewpubs and art galleries. Deep Ellum is a popular area for entertainment and nightlife, making for a great location to end your first day in Dallas. Start by grabbing some pre-dinner drinks at HIDE, a high-end cocktail joint with many recent accolades for it’s creative and well-crafted drinks. I went in intending to have one cocktail, and left after three because they were so delicious.
Next, walk a few blocks over to Pecan Lodge to enjoy some of the best BBQ in Dallas. There will inevitably be a line, but it is well worth the 30 minute to 2 hour wait (earlier is better!). It is well-known for its brisket and sausage but the real star of the show is Pecan Lodge’s iconic beef rib. Be sure to keep your dessert stomach available for a necessary bowl of the homey and delicious banana pudding. Finish off the night at one of the beer or cocktail joints in this neighborhood, many of which offer live music on the weekends. Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum Brewing Co, and Angry Dog are perfect for beer lovers, while Armoury D.E. is better for cocktail drinkers.
Morning: Dallas Farmer’s Market
The Dallas Farmer’s Market has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation effort, converting it into a spacious warehouse for local food and housewares purveyors. I’m not one to turn down a good farmer’s market, so I began day two in Texas at the Dallas Farmer’s Market. I started by exploring the interior space, often referred to as the “Market Food Hall”, which houses food and artist vendors. The space is massive (26,000 square feet in fact) with plenty of cute stops to explore, so I would recommend dedicating an hour or two to wandering around the market grounds.
Start with a traditional Italian espresso from Palmieri Cafe to fuel your wandering. They serve their espresso shots with a side of carbonated water, the true Italian way! Then try to find some vintage magic at Dallas Antique Company. This well curated shop sells vintage and handmade home decor with a distinctly Texas vibe—it took all my willpower not to by a handmade haircalf bag there. There is a large patio on the north side of the market, so it would be a shame not to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the Dallas skyline view. I opted for tacos from Taqueria la Ventana, but Rex’s Seafood at the Market is also a great choice!
The outdoor space, only steps away from the indoor Market Food Hall, is referred to as “The Shed” and hosts local food vendors Friday through Sunday all year-round. You will find mix of farmers with seasonal fruits and vegetables, ranchers with naturally raised meats, locally cured cheeses, coffee roasters, and breads/baked good shops. This is a great place to buy ingredients for a homemade dinner for folks on a tight budget.
Afternoon: Shopping Bishop Arts District
Evening: Neighborhood Bar Hopping
For your second evening in Dallas, experience some of the local neighborhood variety throughout the metro area. Dallas is a sprawling city and as it develops, each neighborhood hones its own unique vibe. I would recommend bar hopping in a few popular Dallas neighborhoods like Lower Greenville, Uptown and Expo Park.
Start your night (or end your night!) at Single Wide, a 1970s down-home bar housed in, you guessed it, single wide trailer. The vibe really leans into the trashy kitschy style but it is loved by locals with a rotating selection of tunes based on the night of the week. Another good choice is the Truck Yard, an easy-going beer garden with live music and a rotating variety of food trucks to feed hungry visitors. Their Instagrammable sign in the front (pictured above) always has silly sayings and words of advice.
Next, head to Uptown where you can hop on and off the McKinney street trolley to see all of the nightlife stops that this neighborhood has to offer. The vibe in this area tends to be more young and well-dressed, but lively nonetheless. The Rustic, a music venue, bar, and restaurant, has a massive outdoor with lots of good “urban cowboy” people watching opportunities. I also enjoyed Katy Trail Ice House which offers classic beers, yard games like cornhole and delicious BBQ smoked fresh onsite.
End your night at one of the more under-the-radar neighborhoods in Dallas—Expo Park. This area is snuggly fit between Deep Ellum and the Fair Grounds, but is slowly emerging as a destination for locals to find tap rooms, good cocktails and pop-up restaurants and events. My father-in-law is a beer enthusiast, so naturally he took us to Expo Park’s beer experts, Craft & Growler, which was rated one of the best beer bars in the country by Draft Magazine. The menu offers very detailed descriptions of the beers and the staff can offer suggestions to ensure that you get just the right Texas brew you were hoping for.
If you’re more of a cocktail drinker, Eight Bells Alehouse in Expo Park offers delicious craft cocktails as well as a stocked beer list and small plate food. Finally, grab some late night pizza and a few more beers at the eclectic retro-style Pizza Lounge which has massive gourmet pies for every type of pizza lover. If you never left Craft & Growler, you can order a Pizza Lounge pizza to be delivered to the bar!
Although Dallas doesn’t have quite the travel reputation as other cities in Texas, it is no less impressive! It is an under-the-radar destination, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dallas. There is a vibrant arts culture, an up-and-coming culinary scene and plenty of history to fill a 48 hour itinerary. With these suggestions, I hope that you will fall in love with Dallas as much as I did!