10 Can't Miss Activities in Dallas, Texas
Take a journey through Dallas, Texas and experience the past and the present at the same time with these 10 fun and exciting activities.
When you think of Dallas, Texas, you may think of cowboys with big stetson hats, scuffed blue jeans and hard pointed boots. But, this great city has changed a bit since the television show bearing its name first appeared on your screen circa 1978, and brought you to that conclusion. While the city, of course, works hard to maintain its "out west" charm, it has simultaneously managed to keep up, rather well, with the changing times and season of a very modern age. So, when you come to Dallas (and it's worth a special trip), be ready to experience an eclectic mix of old and new. Here, you can't be afraid to be a tourist or look like a local. That's when you have the most fun. Small southern charms and big city spectaculars all rolled into one fabulous riot of a city called Dallas, and you have just got to try it! There is so much to see, to do, and to experience.
What's so special about Dallas? One of the coolest things about this town is that there are so many places here to feel the past and touch the present, right at the same time. We have compiled a list of our 10 favorite ways to do just that. Be sure and check these can't miss spots out on your next trip.
10. Dallas World Aquarium
1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202
1 (214) 720-2224
10:00am - 5:00pm daily
Closed Christmas and Thanksgiving
Adult - $20.95 + tax
Child - $14.95 + tax (2 thru 12)
Child - free (under 2)
Senior - $16.95 + tax (65+)
The Dallas World Aquarium is so named because it features five exhibits stemming from all over the world. Starting from the top, there are both aquatic and land animals from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and the Orinoco River in Venezuela, which shares its rainforest with the Amazon River. As you spiral down the aquarium, you can find animals from two more regions, South Africa and Borneo, the largest island in Asia. The fifth exhibit is the actual Aquarium, for which the edifice bears its name and is near the bottom or basement area.
This "aquarium" contains a variety of sea life including tropical fish, seahorses, a wide variety of living coral, and even sharks, which can be viewed in a walk-through tunnel while these beasts of the sea swim overhead. But, it also contains crocodiles, a jaguar, penguins, flamingos, monkeys, and much more. Many of the land-dwelling creatures are quite free. The zoo-style part of the aquarium is designed to give you the feeling of walking through an actual rainforest, not only by sight, but by sound, smell, and feel as well. Animals may often pass very close to you, swinging through the trees.
The building has small restaurants and shops throughout, where you can sit, rest, and eat if you like. It's best to go during the week, and in the mornings to avoid large crowds since, for all its coolness, it's not an extremely large place.
So, why does this aquarium make the list of activities where the past meets the present? For one thing, the aquarium merges animals from ecosystems thousands of years old with modern technology to bring them all into one place. And secondly, it works on long-standing world issues like conservation and the preservation of endangered species for a better world tomorrow. But, even if you are not into all of that stuff and just want to see some cool animals, this place should definitely be on your list.
9. Granada Theatre
3524 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75206
Concerts & Box Office:
1 (214) 824-9933
Private Parties & Events:
1 (214) 827-5514
Hours vary depending upon shows
The Granada Theater looks like something plucked right out of history, and that's because it is. The theater was originally constructed in 1946 as a movie house. In 1977, it became a concert hall, but only stayed that way for a very short time. It was quickly changed back to a movie theater, and it stayed that way until 2004 when it again became a concert hall. But, in the spirit of tradition, when there are no concerts, they do show classic movies for about $3 when there are no concerts scheduled.
The swanky hall has been named best live music venue in Dallas by the Dallas Observer in Dallas eight times since 2007. Needless to say, they have some pretty great shows here. The best thing about this concert venue is the size. It's big, but not huge. This creates a feeling of audience intimacy with the acts on the stage. The gentle sloping floor design also ensures that everyone will be able to see the act, even if there is a tall person sitting in front of you. Get there early, most concerts are standing room only. But, due to the very laid-back atmosphere, you can pretty much hang out anywhere in the venue with no problem.
So, what puts the Granada Theater squarely on our "marriage of past and present" list? To start with, the look of the place. It looks like it jumped right out of the 1960s, and has been intentionally kept that way. The combination of sleek lines and rounded corners fairly reeks of the ''modernization" that is 60s Americana. We just love that. But, when one can successfully take that and combine it with uber-modern up-and-comings, we are left with no choice but to recommend that you search out this famous Dallas marquee and catch a show.
8. Keller's Drive-In
6537 E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 75231
1 (214) 368-1209
Wednesday: 10:30am -10:30pm
So, let's just go ahead and state the obvious right off the bat, this is a dog-gone good burger and a great place to get a burger from. Keller's Drive-in has been doing burgers right for over 65 years. This is not a specialty burger. There are no fancy ingredients or exotic meats, nothing imported to give them glitsy names. This is just a plain, old-fashioned, southern-style, juicy, greasy burger, and it's awesome! Order the number five, it's the house favorite, a double cheeseburger. Then get your choice of fries, tots, or curly fries, all for under $5. That's right, your eyes do not deceive you, the price is just as delicious as the food here. They even serve milkshakes and cheap beer, which you can drink in your car! Yep, this place is the real deal.
The great thing about this place is that it's actually old, not just made to look that way. It's like sonic, but without the 'fancy'. It has a wonderful friendly staff who will come right out to your car and take your order, then bring your food to you on a tray. Because of the place's actual history, it's easy to spot lots of classic car groups here, strutting their creations while enjoying a meal. Between the drive-in setting, the crazy low prices, and the classic muscle cars all shined up, it feels as if you hopped right back in time to poodle skirts and pullover sweaters. It's like a scene from the 50s-style classic movie Grease.
This joint makes our list not only because it has great prices, brings fresh beer for you to consume in your car, and has mind-blowing burgers, but also because it's an actual piece of Dallas history right here in the present. It's a definite must-see for us.
Hint: they usually accept cards, but sometimes the machine is down, so make sure you have a little cash on you, just in case.
7. Texas State Fair
3921 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Dallas, TX 75210
1 (214) 565-9931
September 23- October 30, 2016
Gates open at 7:00am
Bring an empty 12oz can of Dr. Pepper on Tuesday and receive a $5 admission ticket.
Season Pass: $39.95
General Admission: $18
Child (Under 48" in height): $14
Child age 2 and under: FREE
Senior Ticket (Ages 60 and over)*: $14
Food & Ride Coupons: $.50 each
Come see, hear, smell, and taste the biggest fried food feast in the country, also known as the Texas State Fair. There is plenty of fun and feasting for the whole family. Like all state fairs, however, this is a seasonal event. What makes the Texas Fair different from every other state fairs you have been to? It is absolutely the largest. This state fair tradition was started in 1886, and was such a hit, that it has carried on until today. People come from all over the United States, and some even from different parts of the world to get a glimpse at Big Tex (the Texas state fair mascot), and see what all the hubbub is about. There is so much to see and do at this fair! Check out the website for a complete list and comprehensive schedule.
The Texas State fair is everything that you would think a fair would be, from the smell of fried foods to big crowds of big people, and even livestock and farm animal contests. They also have decent beer, fun rides, and lots of exhibits. You can find great discounts and coupons online. Also, If you are planning on going more than once, the season pass is definitely worth thinking about.
The State Fair makes our list because it is the perfect marriage of long-standing traditions (since 1886) and modern day coolness like the rides and exotic foods. Where else can you have great fried turkey legs and deep-fried snickers in the same location? If you are in the Dallas area or are planning to be, state fair time is a great time to go. You won't have to look too hard to find things you might never see anywhere else.
6. Trinity Trails
Trinity Trails is still in the mapping and development stage. Yes, there are still undiscovered paths to find here. Talk about "the road less traveled." If, however, you prefer to stay on a slightly more beaten path, there is plenty to see on the charted portions of these magnificent trails. The trails lie so close to the huge metropolis that is Dallas, but seem tranquil and virtually unmolested in many areas. Native American arrowheads and early artifacts can still be randomly stumbled upon here. The trails can be used for hiking, biking, jogging, or just thinking if you need a moment away. The trails are positioned near Trinity River and Little Lemmon Lake where you can observe several different varieties of migratory bird.
Another popular trail, Katy Trail, might be an even more attractive option for you if you like hard-top trails with a good mix of city and solitary. Katy is one of the most popular trails in Dallas due to its beauty and accessibility. The trail offers unique vistas of the city from several designed overpasses. It features a separate area for joggers and even has rest areas if you need a break.
When traveling on any of the trails, there are some basic rules that you have to keep in mind. They are pretty standard and straight forward and help to protect you. We like that these rules are posted because this makes us feel a bit more secure. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trails, but most of the trails have parking areas nearby.
These Dallas trails make our list because they give the perfect vantage points to step out of time for just a little while and enjoy the nature that is around us. What better way to see the past and the present at the same time? We love the great variety of options for trails as well, from pure nature lovers to die-hard city dwellers, and everything in between. These trails offer something for everyone. We strongly encourage you to check some of them out.
5. Public Artwalk
The Public Art Walk is a little less than three-and-a-half miles, and it's totally cool. It's also completely free, and available anytime you want to take the journey. It is a self-guided tour of 30 pieces of public art and architecture featuring some of Texas's most iconic history. The city offers a free downloadable map to help you locate and learn about each exhibit.
The Confederate Monument, for example, an integral piece of Texas history as a confederate southern state during the civil war, dates back to 1896-97, and is number 4 on the art walk. Spectrascape, on the other hand, is a very modern piece of public art that even incorporates the use of lighting as part of the exhibit. It was rendered in 2009 and comes in at number 19 on the art walk. As a tip of the hat to Texas's reputation as being a part of the "Bible Belt", like most southern states, at least two of the exhibits are taken from Bible characters or stories. Numbers 14 and 15, "Lot's Wife" (1965) and "Genesis, The Gift of Life" (1954), respectively, are examples of this.
The initiative was started by the business council for the Arts' Leadership Arts Institute Class of 2010. The purpose is "promoting a healthy lifestyle through increased awareness and appreciation of public art in downtown Dallas." To make that a bit more understandable, it gives folks an incentive to walk a bit more by showcasing beautiful, free, artwork. We love this idea and encourage everyone to take full advantage.
We picked this not only because it's all artsy, but because although the movement was only started a short time ago, some of the pieces are over 100 years old, while others only date the movement itself by one year or less.
4. The Truck Yard
5624 Sears St, Dallas, TX 75206
1 (469) 500-0139
11:00am - midnight everyday
The TruckYard is a beer garden, but not in your typical German style. You know, where there is an actual garden, fresh beer created on sight, and food from the kitchen. This is All-American baby. This beer garden, or bar, for short, is totally relaxed and the best place to kill an afternoon relaxing with friends. Talk about an authentic feel! What could be more Texas than sitting on the back of your jacked-up pickup drinking a beer and listening to some great music with your friends? Of course, if you don't happen to own a pickup truck, chairs and tables are available for your sitting pleasure.
There is food too! And pretty great food at that, provided via food trucks. They have a schedule of which food trucks will be there on any given day listed on their website. The trucks change frequently, so check the schedule to see who will be in the area if you're interested in washing down a particular type of food with a Truck Yard cold one. The Truck Yard also hosts a changing variety of musical performances by various artists, and you can even get yourself put on the list to play, if you're interested in that sort of thing.
We love the TruckYard because this all-day watering hole just has full-on Texas flavor in that same "just won't quit" style that we have come to appreciate. It is such a unique place and is guaranteed to be something visiting non-Texans have never seen before.
The TruckYard makes our past/present best because it just perpetuates old south and a good ol' country boy feel, but has modern twists like an ever-changing music and food scene. The bar itself looks very old and worn, like an old camper trailer, but for us, this bar absolutely brings cool to the 21st century. We recommend it wholeheartedly.
3. Frontiers of Flight Museum
6911 Lemmon Ave, Dallas, TX 75209
1 (214) 350-3600
Monday – Saturday: 10:00am to 5:00pm
Sunday: 1:00pm to 5:00pm
The museum closes at times for private events and closes for major holidays.
Adults: $10 Seniors (65+): $8 Youths/Students (3-17): $7 Children under 3 FREE.
The Fronters of Flight museum is housed in Love Field, the Dallas Airport. Make this your first stop on your Dallas vacation. The museum will only take about an hour or so to walk through, depending on how much you want to see and learn. They have some interactive exhibits, and you are welcome to walk through, in and out of the aircraft they have available. They have a great play area for children and the museum is fun and educational. The museum enjoys an affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Texas at Dallas. Some of the artifacts they have are either donated by or on loan from one of these two esteemed places. One of the best features of the museum, however, is that most of the volunteers who work there are retired veterans who have actual experience with the aircraft you will be looking at. They can give first-hand accounts of what it was really like to maneuver their favorite planes. This really helps to bring these machines to life.
"Military, commercial, and general aviation as well as space flight are represented at the museum." They house over 30 different aircraft here from many different periods in history. From Leonardo di Vinci's parachute to the Wright Brothers to World War II, the famous "flying pancake", and on into space exploration, this museum has something for everyone. Even modern commercial airline artifacts can be found and explored at the Frontiers of Flight Museum.
We love this little place because it packs a powerful historical punch in just a very short visit. The aircraft represented here are not just planes and means of transportation. Each one has its own story, and its own place in our history. But, just like planes today take us from place to place, this museum is not stuck in one place, but rather takes you all the way to the stars and the very pinnacle of airborne travel today.
2. Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District
411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202
1 (214) 747-6660
Last ticket is sold at 5:15pm
0-5 ticket: $4 with audio guide
This National Landmark is the site of the assassination of former United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Due to efforts to protect and preserve this important place in history, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 1993. This means that the buildings, streets, and even many of the street signs have remained largely unchanged from their appearance in 1963, providing a stark contrast to the bustling modern metropolis that is the rest of Dallas. It is truly a moment-in-time experience.
Especially noteworthy here is the former Texas School Book Depository. This seven-story building has been determined to be the actual site used by Lee Harvey Oswald to perform the assassination of President Kennedy on that fateful day. Although the outward appearance of the building has been preserved, it has since been turned into a museum. The museum, known as "The Sixth Floor Museum" is used to tell the story of the former President's life and in like fashion, is on the actual floor (the sixth) that Oswald was on when he carried out his nefarious deed.
The Plaza also has a cell phone tour available with over a dozen stops. This is a self-paced, self-guided tour, narrated by a former curator of The Sixth Floor Museum. The tour begins at the museum, includes such stops as the 'grassy knoll', JFK Memorial Plaza, the old Dallas County Jail, and the statue of George Bannerman Dealey, for whom the National Landmark Plaza was named. The tour ends at the triple underpass, which was used to transport the Kennedys directly after the shooting. Efforts are now being made to restore the entire district, including street signs, tree placements, and lighting to the exact appearance that it had on November 22, 1963.
Not only are the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark and the Sixth Floor Museum cool places to visit. They are an indelible part of American history. These two national treasures make our list because they will instantly take you to a complicated moment in a simpler time. Even being the busy, modern, super-industrialized area that Dallas has come to be, the city still takes time, money, and energy to preserve its history, and that of America.
1. Billy Bob's Texas
2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, TX 76164
1 (817) 624-7117
Open daily with entertainment nightly
If you are looking for a fun and fantastic honky tonk time in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Area, Billy Bob's Texas is an absolute must-try. Boasting to be the largest honky tonk in the world, there is no shortage of things to do here. The nightly performances frequently include world famous country music acts. This place has a huge dance floor, 30 individual bar stations, and even live professional bull riding (real bulls, not mechanical). Inside, it's over 100,000 square feet and can house 6,000-plus people at one time. It was previously used as an airplane factory during World War II, and perhaps more famously as a livestock auction house, if that's any indication of its size.
Billy Bob's Texas features free line dance classes on Thursday nights for those who may not be born-and-bred cowboys. They do square and circle dance as well. If you are looking for several different things to do, but all in the same area, Billy Bob's is definitely your place. Catch a concert, cheer on your favorite bull rider, relax at the bar with your friends, or hop on the dance floor with your favorite guy or gal. There is no shortage of entertainment and fun here, or whiskey for that matter. There is just no telling what, or who, you might find at this enormous country music heaven. Even if you have never been a fan of country music, the energy and free spirit of Billy Bob's is really what draws the crowds, not to mention the size. So try something new.
Billy Bob's Texas makes our list, not just because it's huge and fun, but also because it truly is a part of Texas history. The building has been standing since 1910 and has served its civic duty in a variety of different capacities, including being a department store at one time. Better still, some of the biggest names in current and past country, pop, and Rock n' Roll have passed across the stage of Billy Bob's Texas. Not to mention its having been featured on shows like Dallas, Walker Texas Ranger, and Nashville Star.
Well, that's our list of the 10 best blended past and present things to do. It's a hodge-podge for sure, but it's what we call a good time in a great city. Texas is known for doing it bigger than anybody, so we took you to the biggest state fair and the biggest, baddest, honky tonk in the land. But, everybody knows Texans love America, so we just couldn't leave out the Dealey Plaza, such an important and well-preserved piece of American history. Don't forget the planes, though, many of which have been to battle and back. And, where would we be without actually seeing the city, so hop on a trail or two and take a casual stroll, who knows, you might just discover something new, or very old. And don't miss the public art walk, which will take you right through downtown. When you're tired and thirsty, relax at the Truck Yard with a few good friends, or a rowdy crowd, whichever you prefer. And if you're hungry for an insanely good burger after all that discovery at the aquarium, then roll into Keller's for one of the best in town.
We hope that you will try our list and enjoy it. Part of the fun of being from a great town is discovering something new in that town, even if it's not exactly what you are used to doing. And the best thing about heading to a great city like Dallas is the astonishing variety. Get in there, get your feet wet and your hands dirty, we promise you will come out of it with a great big smile.
Opening Image by Shiela Rosamond on freeimages.com
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