Say hello to Erin of The Speckled Palate! She’s giving us a tour of her new home city in this Dallas travel guide!
My husband and I are transplants to the area, and we settled here three years ago after taking a tour of the South.
I’ll be honest: I was a bit intimidated when we decided to move here. I’d visited a few times, but I hadn’t really spent any significant time in the city, and its size and sprawl were both astounding to me, even though I’d lived in cities of varying sizes before. However, I learned that while the Metroplex is home to several million people of varying backgrounds, beliefs and degrees of wealth, it’s a fantastic place that has so much to offer. And the great thing about it being so big means you can find anything you could ever want should you know how to search for it. Yes, the city is cosmopolitan and is known for this… but if that’s not your scene, rest assured there is still a niche for you.
It’s taken a little time, but we have found our place in Dallas. We’re super laid back, and we prefer a night out at a new restaurant or an afternoon at a local brewery over hanging out at a club. Also, we have a 4-month-old daughter, so our lifestyle is different from many of the 20- and 30-something residents of our city. That being said, though, there is so much to do in Dallas that fits with people of all lifestyles, and I like to think this here list captures a lot of that for y’all. Without further ado, let’s do this thing!
Click through to see Erin’s Dallas travel guide!
EAT + DRINK
Real talk: It’s really challenging narrowing this list down because Dallas has so many unique eateries and bars. This place is a veritable wonderland for the adventurous (or not-so-adventurous!) eaters. And there are so many good restaurants I have yet to even set foot in! (You should see my list of places to check out. It’s kind of ridiculous.)
In addition to restaurants, I’ve included some breweries, too. Because breweries make for fun local flavor, and we have taken most of our weekend visitors to at least one. Yes, we’re those people, and we are totally OK with it. However, we’ve yet to navigate a brewery tour with our child. Have no fear: That’ll be happening before too long, I’m sure.
After thinking on this for a long time — we’re talkin’ months — here’s my list of places you should check out should you be visiting Dallas. Some are well-known and loved, and other are maybe more under the radar. And while I know my list doesn’t capture everything — hell, I didn’t include a barbecue restaurant because I’ve yet to visit some of the more lauded ones in town — it certainly will give anyone visiting a jumping off point.
- Emporium Pies — This place makes pies that dreams are made of. Their rotating menu is nothing short of fantastic, offering creative seasonal pies and traditional favorites. I recommend the Lord of the Pies, their take on a traditional apple pie, which is a deep dish apple pie topped with a cinnamon streusel.
- Victor Tangos — Victor Tangos offers off-the-wall and scrumptious American-style tapas. They also offer a fabulous cocktail menu. Perfect for a crowd that loves to share dishes and try unique takes on classics. An added bonus: Their bartenders even make mocktails for the non-drinkers (and pregnant ladies) in your party!
- Olivella’s — My neighbor introduced me to this pizza joint when I was pregnant. Since then, I’ve made my husband, friends and family members frequent the joint with me ever since. The pizza is cooked in a brick oven, the crust thin and the toppings generous. Start off with the focaccia with fontina cheese. If you don’t like pizza with sauce, try the Snow White, pictured above. It was a lifesaver during the latter stages of pregnancy!
- Sissy’s Southern Kitchen — Everything I’ve eaten at Sissy’s is ridiculously Southern… in the best possible way. Start off with a cocktail, then enjoy a Southern-centric meal. Shrimp and grits is always a good way to go, if you ask me, though their fried chicken is pretty darn tasty, too. I recommend saving room for dessert because their Homemade Cookies and (Bourbon) Milk Punch is, well, ridiculous.
- Angry Dog — Looking for a burger in Dallas? Visit Angry Dog and order The Burger, named the best burger in town by The Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Observer and D Magazine several times over. The burger is just that — a burger without any real bells or whistles — but that’s part of its charm. And it’s gooooooood.
- Taverna — This Italian restaurant is laid back, yet trendy. With locations in Dallas, Ft. Worth and Austin, it’s well-loved, and for good reason. Their gnocchi is to die for, and I may or may not dream of the stuff, which is topped with house-made short rib ragu and shaved parmesan.
- Matt’s Rancho Martinez — Matt’s is my favorite TexMex restaurant in Dallas, and that’s saying something because there are a ton of TexMex joints in this town. “Why is it my favorite?” you ask. It’s all because of the Bob Armstrong Dip — it’s queso con carne… with guac and sour cream. Understandably, it is so, so, so, so ridiculously delicious.
- Four Corners Brewing Company — Located near downtown in trendy Trinity Groves, this up-and-coming brewery has a laid back tour and a lovely taproom, where you can try all their beers. I’m a Local Buzz fan, and their seasonals are all tasty, too. And an added bonus for design nerds? Their brew signage, seen above, is exceptional and super colorful, as seen above!
- Lakewood Brewery — Even though Lakewood is technically just north of Dallas in Garland, I’m including it here because their taproom and tour are super fun. The taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday evenings, and brewery tours are given on Saturdays and Sundays. Even if you aren’t a dark beer fan, have a try of the Tempress Imperial Stout. It just might change your mind.
Since Dallas is so big, there are too many activities I could recommend here. So I’ve culled down my extended list of recommendations to capture some activities Dallas has to offer. Some are more commercial, others are more nature-driven. All are a ton of fun, depending on what you want to do and what time of year you’re visiting.
- If you’re a sports fan, Dallas (and the surrounding areas) has a ton to offer, depending on the season! Take in a college or pro football game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington during the fall. (LSU played TCU to kick off the 2013 season at AT&T Stadium, as seen above.) Get seats at a Mavs or aStars game at the American Airlines Center during the winter and spring. Soak in some sun while you watch the Rangers play at Global Life Park in Arlington or do the same in Frisco as you watch FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium during the summer months. There are also a bevy of AAA and college teams that play in and around Dallas throughout the year, as well.
- Dealy Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum: If you’re a history buff, this is where you need to visit. Walk the Grassy Knoll and look for the X mark on Elm Street. Then explore the museum, which offers all kinds of information on JFK, his assassination and the fateful day it happened, as well as the aftermath. I’m not the biggest history buff, but I loved combing through this museum and reading everything.
- The Perot Museum of Nature and Science: Kids and adults, rejoice! The Museum of Nature and Science has several cool exhibits for visitors of all ages. Discover if you could outrun a dinosaur in one exhibit and learn what it means to be a human in another.
- Trinity Groves: A popular up-and-coming area of town, Trinity Groves is a cool spot for various restaurants and dessert spots. It’s also home to a few artisan shops and galleries and is a wonderful place to explore, then grab a bite or a drink.
- Reunion Tower: Get tickets to go to the geo deck of Reunion Tower to see a 360-degree view of Dallas. Sip on a cocktail and enjoy a meal at Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty, on the top floor of the tower.
- The State Fair of Texas: If you happen to visit Dallas during September and October, you must check out the State Fair! Known for ridiculous (and delightful!) takes on any and all kinds of fried foods, this is a stop on a culinary tour that includes rides and carnival games, too, if you’re into that kind of thing. Various exhibits at the different permanent buildings are open year-round. Before you leave, be sure to take a selfie with Big Tex! (He’s the fair’s 55-foot-tall statue and mascot.)
- Bowl Lounge: Even if you’re not a bowler (and trust me — I am not), you should check out this vintage-inspired bowling alley. Enjoy one of many local beers on tap and an appetizer with friends as you play, then grab a burger at Twisted Root, which is located inside the alley, too.
- White Rock Lake: Did you know that there’s a large manmade lake inside the city limits? There is! And it’s pretty cool. Take a walk around the lake (or a run or a bike ride, if that’s more your speed) and marvel at the beauty of this lake in the city. If you know someone with a canoe (or any other boat that does not have a motor) or want to rent a kayak, that’s something to do, too! I love this lake so much, and I use it as my perfect training ground for road races.
- Klyde Warren Park: A few years back, this huge green space was built over the Interstate. It spans several city blocks. If you’re looking to people watch and relax, bring a blanket to the park, stop by one of the many food trucks that frequents the area or grab a seat at Lark on the Park or Savor and enjoy a local brew.
- Katy Trail: If you’re looking to get a workout in or want to traverse parts of the city by foot, check out the Katy Trail. Spanning from nearly SMU to West End in downtown Dallas, it’s a beautiful swath of green space in a city that is oftentimes thought of as solely concrete. Stop along the trail at the Katy Trail Icehouse for a drink and a bite to eat! (I suggest the ALT sandwich… and add bacon!)
Shopping. I think I can safely say this is a Dallas tradition, and if you’re looking for any high-end designer boutiques, this is the place for you! That doesn’t mean it’s all designer, though, and I’m sharing a combination of shops on this list for y’all.
- Bishop Arts District: Yes, I’m putting a whole district on this list because they’ve got so many cool shops and restaurants. It’s fun to walk around and shop, whether you’re looking for hand-crafted gifts, artisan food creations or indie books. I recommend hitting up We are 1976, Dude, Sweet Chocolate and The Wild Detectives for unique gifts and products. And if you’ve got time, be sure to mosey on down Bishop Avenue and wander into more of the boutiques and galleries.
- Good Local Market: I adore spending time at these markets because they provide local produce, food and crafts from various local vendors every Saturday throughout the year. Every other week, artisans are at the market selling art, jewelry, bath products and more. I’ve purchased various Christmas and birthday presents at this market!
- Dallas Farmer’s Market: It’s not just for produce anymore, even though you can certainly find local produce here! On Thursday evenings, visit The Shed for farmers, beer, wine, artisan food, live music, vendor demos and arts and crafts!
- Dallas Design District: Shop ’til your heart’s content in the Design District, which boasts a bevy of antique, furniture and homeware shops that designers love-love-love. Honestly, there are too many to list, so pop on over to the district, park your car and walk around for a bit to check out the different spots!
- Highland Park Village: If you’re looking to hit high-end and designer shops or simply do some window shopping, Highland Park Village is perfect for this. Boasting shops from Carolina Herrera, Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin and more, stop by for shopping, then stay a while for dinner at one of the restaurants in the center and a show at the Village Theatre.
- Northpark Mall: A bit more touristy… but this mall is something to behold, especially for the more-than-casual shopper who wants to visit varying types of shops. From children’s boutiques to menswear to gift shops to Dallas’ beloved Neiman’s, Northpark is a shopper’s dream.
Since Dallas is relatively close to various other cities, big and small, there are a lot of road trip options. It depends on how far you want to trek, so I’ve given y’all some different distances from town and some recommendations of what to do in those places when you’re there.
- 45 minutes: Fort Worth — Fort Worth is Dallas’ laid-back sister city, and many times, we have trekked to Fort Worth for the museums, the Stockyards and various restaurants. It’s worth the 45 minute drive from Dallas, and the city has a completely different feel, too. Places to visit? The Kimbell Art Museum, the Stockyards (including the various boot and Western shops) and Joe T. Garcia’s, a Mexican restaurant with sprawling outdoor gardens that we visit most every time we’re near Fort Worth. Be sure to order the fajitas and margaritas! If you’re in a beer mood, brewery tours at Martin House and Rahr & Sons on Saturdays are fun, too!
- 30-45 minutes: Downtown McKinney — McKinney is about a 30-45 minute drive north of Dallas, and it is absolutely precious. Wander the shops and stop in for a bite to eat at on the square. Shops offer fashion, gifts and more!
- 15-30 minutes: Arlington — If you’ve got kiddos who love amusement and water, this might be the place to visit! Boasting attractions such as Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Arlington offers adventure. If you’ve got a sports-loving family, catch a baseball game at Global Life Park or a football game at AT&T Stadium.
- 3(ish) hours: Austin — The home of the University of Texas that prides itself on being weird, Austin is a weekend road trip option that boasts restaurants, adventures and fun. Take a tour of the State Capitol and the University. See bats beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Visit all kinds of unique restaurants, depending on your personal taste — they’ve got it all. Check out Becca’s guide because she knows her city so much better than I do, and her food recommendations are spot-on! On the way there (or the way back), stop by The Czech Stop in West, Texas for kolaches! (My favorite is the raspberry kind, pictured above.)
ERIN SKINNER //
Erin is a photographer and social media manager who adores baking and cooking. At The Speckled Palate, she shares tried and true favorite recipes and new faves as she creates and tinkers her way through well-loved cookbooks.