Dallas, the ninth largest city in the United States and the third largest in the state of Texas, is an impressive melting pot of culture and character.
Boasting high-end luxury hotels, innumerable fine dining spots, and one of the busiest airports in the world, Dallas maintains an upscale ethos reflected by an affluent population, world-class museums, and a shimmering modern skyline. Its history was marred by the infamous assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, but there is more historic and contemporary heritage to be discovered in the city.
As an undisputed center of the oil and cotton industries in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Dallas was a classic American boom town and remains one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Dallas fell victim to its own success in the automobile era, becoming a prime example of urban sprawl with a city center strangled by a spaghetti of highways, but has been trying to reinvent itself since the turn of the millenium.
Downtown Dallas is undergoing slow urban renewal and expansion. Traditionally bound by a belt of above-ground expressways, consisting of anonymous high-rise towers, and pocked with parking craters, it is now rediscovering walkability, street-level retail, and public transit. Thanks to a new highway deck park built on its northern boundary, it has merged with Uptown, the affluent, young area to its north. Artsy locals flock east over one of those highways to a low-rise neighborhood known as Deep Ellum.
It is in Downtown that you will find most of Dallas’ surviving historic architecture and monuments, major cultural institutions, museums and art galleries. It also has several concentrations of restaurants and bars and many upscale hotels for the moneyed traveler to choose from.
North Dallas contains the Park Cities, the most affluent area of the metroplex, as well as several other upscale neighborhoods. It extends north of Downtown to around LBJ, the loop freeway, and far north to Addison. It also encompasses Lake Highlands, a largely residential area bordering Garland on the north and Mesquite on the east. The Park Cities, Highland Park and University Park, are mostly residential but also offer world-class shopping opportunities, and University Park is home to Southern Methodist University (SMU), the Meadows Museum at SMU, and the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
South Dallas includes areas south of the I30 Interstate Highway and the southwestern bank of the Trinity River.
Most notably for the traveler, it includes Fair Park: the annual home of the Texas State Fair, a small collection of year-round museums, and the Cotton Bowl, the venerable football stadium where the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma face off on the gridiron every year during the Fair. The Exposition Park neighborhood across from Fair Park and its DART light rail station is a little hamlet of hipster bars, clubs, and restaurants.
In its west, across the Trinity River, you will find Oak Cliff – a large, low-income, mainly residential district southwest of downtown. North Oak Cliff, or “Kessler Park,” is another “streetcar suburb” and contains upscale homes of all kinds, from vintage 1930s bungalows to mid-century modern to new contemporary. The Bishop Arts District, centered on Bishop and Davis streets, is one of the city’s hottest areas for new restaurants, cafes, and boutiques, and draws an eclectic crowd in which the creative class and the gay community are well-represented – a bit like a slice of Austin in the middle of Dallas.
West Dallas usually refers to the tiny part of the Western part of Dallas just south of the Trinity River, a gentrifying area of the city with several gritty parts. It features the one-of-a-kind Belmont Hotel, which despite recent construction still boasts a decent view of downtown. West Dallas is well connected to the Oak Cliff area, and is in the midst of re-development thanks to the Trinity River Project and the construction of the Santiago Calatrava-designed Hunt-Hill Bridge across the Trinity. West Dallas can also refer to the area around the I-35 corridor bordering Irving, a largely low-income industrial area home to a Koreatown and a row of strip clubs.
Some area attractions often thought of as Dallas attractions are in the suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Many non-natives have a hard time sizing up Dallas and its Metroplex. Dallas does not quite fit many of the typical Texan stereotypes (Western, laid-back, casual), but often doesn’t live up to its own notorious stereotypes (pretentious, superficial, unfriendly, sterile). The truth is, as in many things, somewhere in between.
Dallas is a wonderful place with an immense and diverse set of attractions, food and people. From the posh, ultra-modern Uptown and Victory developments, to the old-world elegance and upper-crust attitude of Turtle Creek, to the “real life” feel of largely-suburban North Dallas, it is virtually impossible to neatly categorize Dallas beyond this: it is one of the largest cities in America, and a metro area where more and more people are choosing to work and live every year. With that in mind, you should enjoy visiting Dallas for all the same reasons others choose to live there.
Access : Coordinates: 32.783333, -96.8 / By plane : Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
The sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW IATA), located halfway between Dallas and Ft. Worth (equally inconveniently for both), is American Airlines’ largest hub and is served by all other major domestic carriers.
The DFW Airport DART station is outside terminal A on the lower level and offers a direct light rail connection to downtown. To get there, take an escalator to the airside Skylink tram (faster), or if you have baggage to claim, outside to the landside TerminalLink shuttle and ride to Terminal A. From there, follow the yellow signs for DART light rail. Once at the station, take the Orange Line to downtown, where you can transfer to any other line. Alternatively, you can take a DART bus in the opposite direction to CentrePort/DFW Station on the TRE and catch a commuter train to downtown. Be aware, however, that the TRE runs only once an hour during most of the day.
Various shared-ride shuttle services are available, with door to door pickup and drop off, costing ~$30 for ~20 miles, which will get you to most places. Like all major airports in the United States, you can easily hail a cab outside of any terminal by following the signs for the taxi stand
1 Dallas Love Field (DAL IATA). is Dallas’ original airport, and the home base of America’s largest low-fare operator, Southwest. Love Field was originally expected to cease serving scheduled passengers when DFW opened in the 1970s, but due to Southwest’s rapid growth continued to operate, and has grown even more in the last few years, after restrictions on long-distance flights were lifted. Alaska Airlines, Delta, and Virgin America have some flights here, in addition to Southwest. There are flights to most major destinations in the continental US.
Love Field is within the city limits, not far northwest of downtown. Due to the city’s strategy of promoting DFW only, a rail link has never been built to DAL, but you can take the Love Link bus (DART route 524) from Love Field to Inwood/Love Field Station, served by the Green and Orange Lines. There are also various shared-ride shuttle services available which offer door-to-door pickup and drop off. They cost ~$30 for ~20 miles, which will get you to most places.
A plaque and light embedded in the ramp between gates T3 and T5 on the east end of the terminal mark the spot where President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office aboard Air Force One following the JFK assassination.
Addison Airport (ADS IATA, FAA LID: ADS), a public airport in the town of Addison, has various charter flights. Executive Airport (RBD IATA, FAA LID: RBD), formerly known as Redbird Airport, is another public airport in South Dallas into which private pilots can fly.
By train : There are two Amtrak routes which serve Dallas/Fort Worth:
From Fort Worth, you can reach Dallas via either Amtrak’s Texas Eagle or the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter rail line, which runs from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas with stops in Irving and close to DFW Airport.
Amtrak is a slow and unreliable way to travel. Amtrak trains can be late by hours, and most track is owned by the private railroads, whose freight trains take priority over Amtrak. Arriving from Houston involves a train change of five or more hours in San Antonio. However, Amtrak offers views and legroom that you can’t get while flying and a unique laid back experience that you can’t get while driving. If you want to meet people, taking the train is one of the best ways to do it. That being said, if you’re short on time, flying is a better option.
By car : To get to Dallas from Oklahoma, take I-35 then I-35E at the fork, or US 75 south. From Houston, take I-45. From Austin, take I-35, then I-35E at the fork. To get here from Louisiana, take I-20 west. Dallas is the junction-point for most cities within a 200-300 mile radius, with good road service to and from. Any road map of the United States should have enough information to get you into Dallas with no problems.
By bus : Greyhound. The terminal is near the center of downtown at 205 S. Lamar.
Buses also run to and from Shreveport on the weekends, sponsored by the casinos in that city. These are more geared toward locals seeking to get their gambling fixes, but ask around if you’re interested.
Megabus. Service from Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Memphis, and Little Rock. The bus stops at the DART East Transfer Center at 330 N Olive St. Fares from $1 and up.
Echo Transportation. Independent bus charter with full-size motor coaches, shuttle vans, luxury sedans and SUV’s. Travel within DFW, beyond to other Texas destinations and across North America.
El Expreso. Mexican trans-border bus line, also serving destinations throughout the southeastern United States. The bus stop is at 1050 N. Westmoreland St. #124 in Dallas.
Autobus Americanos. Mexican trans-border bus line with service to various points in Mexico. The bus stop is at 627 N Westmoreland St in Dallas.
Turimex Internacional. Mexican trans-border bus line with service to various points in Mexico. The bus stop is at 501 E. Jefferson Blvd in Dallas.
Omnibus Mexicanos. Mexican trans-border bus line with service to various points in Mexico. The bus stop is at 201 E. Jefferson Blvd in Dallas.
Get around : By car : The car is by far the simplest and most reliable way to get around Dallas. Local rental companies offer better prices, but national chains offer more convenient locations and return policies. As in most cities, the worst traffic is in the direction of the city center during the morning and away from it in the afternoon. The roads where rush hour is the worst, especially in the mornings, are I-35, US-75 (where what would be a 20-minute trip without traffic can become a 1-2-hour traffic with it), and the stretch of I-635 between them.
The grid : The car is by far the simplest and most reliable way to get around Dallas. Local rental companies offer better prices, but national chains offer more convenient locations and return policies. As in most cities, the worst traffic is in the direction of the city center during the morning and away from it in the afternoon. The roads where rush hour is the worst, especially in the mornings, are I-35, US-75 (where what would be a 20-minute trip without traffic can become a 1-2-hour traffic with it), and the stretch of I-635 between them.
About the highways : US-75 is also called or “Central Expressway,” or “Central,” and is called I-45 south of Downtown.
I-635, the highway that runs the north and east perimeter of the city, is also called LBJ, or Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway.
There are two branches of I-35: I-35E, which runs north-south through Dallas and I-35W, which runs north-south through Fort Worth. They merge/split at Denton in the north and Hillsboro in the south.
I-35E is called I-35, Stemmons Freeway, and just “Stemmons,” but rarely by its official name.
TX-114, the highway that runs from I-35E to DFW Airport, is also called John W. Carpenter Freeway, or Airport Freeway.
The Mixmaster is a hectic and confusing stretch of highway south of Downtown where I-35E and I-30 are briefly combined.
Woodall Rogers Freeway (TX-366) is the 2.6-mile highway that forms the traditional northern boundary of downtown, connecting I-35E in the west to U.S. 75 in the east.
Public transportation : Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART, has an extensive network of four light rail lines and dozens of bus routes. The light rail hits many tourist destinations around downtown and connects to many of the suburbs, but generally works best for commuters. Buses will get you almost anywhere from the train stations, but usually require transfers and significant walks and are a slow way to travel. Tickets can be bought for a single one-way bus trip ($1.75 and up), unlimited rides from midnight to midnight ($6), or unlimited rides from midnight to noon or noon to midnight (both $3) the day pass is best for travelers because it is the simplest and covers transfers. Bus drivers will check tickets upon boarding, but light rail trains operate on the honor system, with infrequent random checks that occur most often during rush hour. This doesn’t mean you can ride without a ticket – fines for being caught without one can be quite steep. As the Texas culture and the urban sprawl of the DFW metroplex strongly encourage the use of cars, locals will generally be unable to help you use public transportation, but you can get an excellent trip plan by visiting the DART website, calling their information phone number (214-979-1111), or using their app, GoPass, from which you can also buy and use mobile tickets.
Three dockless bike/scooter rental companies operate in Dallas: Lime (bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters), local alternative vBike (bikes only), and Bird (e-scooters only). Each has a mobile app that can be used to find and rent nearby bikes or scooters. In Dallas, bike-share is most useful for short trips around downtown and for minimizing walking time when using public transit.
- Dealey Plaza and The Sixth-Floor Museum – site of the infamous assassination of President John F. Kennedy. X’s painted in the road mark the positions of the President’s limousine for each time he was shot, the Grassy Knoll has been restored to look exactly as it did in 1963, and conspiracy theorists hold talks and hawk DVDs. The accompanying museum, which takes up the first and upper floors of the former Texas Schoolbook Depository, recreates Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting position and maintains a collection of artifacts related to JFK and his assassination, including Oswald’s sniper rifle and Jack Ruby’s fedora. Museum tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, $13 for youth, and free for children five or younger. Caution: do not walk into the street to take a picture with the X’s. Elm Street is still a busy thoroughfare, and passing cars do not slow down for tourists in their way.
- Dallas County Courthouse, more commonly known as Old Red, is a former municipal courthouse that now serves as Dallas’ local history museum. Worth a visit if you are in downtown. $10 for adults, $8 for students, seniors, and the military (all three must show ID), $7 for kids 3-16, and free for kids under 3.
- JFK Memorial Plaza – Brutalism at its best, this is a stark but elegant space for quiet reflection on the President’s life. Next to Old Red on Main Street.
Dallas City Hall – An imposing Brutalist edifice by famous architect I.M. Pei. Recognizable to film buffs as OCP headquarters from the movie Robocop, which was mostly filmed in Dallas.
- Klyde Warren Park – Helping to bridge downtown’s moat of highways, this is a trendy park decking Woodall Rogers Freeway for three blocks in the Arts District, and has food trucks, a high-end cafe, and occasional outdoor performances and readings.
- Museums : Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) – World-class art museum downtown befitting Dallas’ status as a center of the oil, finance, and technology industries. Exhibits from all historical periods from antiquity to the present day. General admission is free only temporary exhibits require admission.
- Nasher Sculpture Garden – Large museum and garden adjacent to the DMA with an extensive collection of mostly modern sculpture.
- Trammell Crow Collection of Asian Art – A smaller museum, also adjacent to the DMA, featuring rotating collections of Asian art, at the bottom of the Trammell Crow building. Admission is always free.
- Outside of Dallas : Dallas Cowboys. Dallas’ famous football team, plays at AT&T Stadium a short ways west of Dallas in Arlington
- Texas Rangers. They are from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, specifically in the city of Arlington. Dallas’ professional baseball team is the 2010 and 2011 American League Champions.
- FC Dallas. Major League Soccer team that plays at Toyota Stadium in the northern suburb of Frisco.
- Dallas Wings. WNBA (women’s basketball) team that moved to the Metroplex in 2016. The Wings had been the Tulsa Shock from 2010 to 2015, and the Detroit Shock before that. They play home games at College Park Center on the UT Arlington campus.
State Fair of Texas – A large part of Dallas’ culture and probably its biggest attraction, the State Fair is hosted annually for three weeks around September and October. The Fair really is the Mecca of fair food, most of it deep-fried. Heated competitions held for the best-tasting and most creative of these have seen deep-fried incarnations of practically every food (and drink) imaginable. Concoctions can range from delectable (Fried Peaches and Cream and Fried Jerk Chicken) to bizarre (Fried Jello, Fried Dr. Pepper) to downright disgusting (Fried Butter). The Fair’s iconic mascot, Big Tex, is a 55-foot-tall cowboy who smiles, talks, and waves at fair-goers, and the Texas Star Ferris Wheel, the tallest in North America until 1985, is a fairground institution.
There is also a huge array of commercial shows and marketplaces, including a large car show, and more traditional attractions include a wide assortment of carnival games and rides, rodeos, pig racing (yes, pig racing), and livestock shows. Fair Park itself is the architectural jewel of the city – its Depression-era buildings were constructed in a stately Texan spin on Art Deco not found anywhere else in the world. Try to avoid the second weekend, when UT and OU play their annual football game, the Red River Showdown. Students from both colleges flood the Fair that weekend and lines and parking are horrible.
White Rock Lake. Escape the city bustle for a stroll at this large park in East Dallas. This is really a beautiful getaway, but locals would tell you to avoid driving around here at night — ghosts haunt the waters.
Golf – There are a lot of wonderful courses in the Dallas area. The city boasts five municipal courses with reasonable greens fees. Of these, Tenison Highlands in East Dallas and Cedar Crest in South Dallas offer the best test of golf, and can be the most crowded, especially on weekends. There are any number of terrific daily-fee public courses in the D/FW area as well,
1 Adventure Landing. ,
2 SpeedZone Dallas. – in Dallas, particularly in the cities of Irving, Grapevine, Lewisville, and The Colony.
West End – This is an attractive enough historic neighborhood with buildings in a turn-of-the-century redbrick vernacular—the notorious Book Depository is one of them—in the northwest quadrant of downtown. The area is mostly popular with suburbanites and tourists out for dinner and a quick stroll around the neighborhood but has a number of bars as well.
Deep Ellum is a district of bars, dance clubs, music venues and tattoo shops east of downtown on Main, Elm and Commerce streets. It is a hipster haven for young people and a weekend destination for music lovers of all ages, and is named for being on the far (“Deep”) end of Elm Street (“Ellum.”)
Uptown and McKinney Ave – This is where Dallas’ beautiful people go to see and be seen. Trendy to the nth degree, this neighborhood contains very upscale, fashionable clubs.
Lower Greenville has many older drinking establishments.
Downtown is home to a burgeoning nightlife district and upscale restaurants.
Addison has some famous drinking spots tucked in amongst its many restaurants, notably The Flying Saucer.
Go next : Head to Arlington for a day of fun at Six Flags Over Texas or Six Flags Hurricane Harbor /
Denton, half an hour north on I-35E, has a charming historic town square, and an off-the-cuff nightlife scene driven by the city’s disproportionately large number of musicians
Joe Pool Lake lies to the southwest of the city, 4 miles past Grand Prairie.
Lake Texoma is a popular spot an hour’s drive north on US-75, on the border with Oklahoma.
Rodeo. Go to Mesquite see a rodeo show at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo
Sandy Lake Amusement Park, 1800 Sandy Lake Rd. A Carrollton institution for over 40 years, Sandy Lake Amusement Park offers rides, games, family fun, picnic areas and sightseeing
Waco, an hour south on I-35, has a number of attractions including the Dr. Pepper Museum and the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.