Part of going away to school includes chances to visit your friend’s hometowns. I’ve been to Dallas with my best friend/sophomore year roomie three times now, and there’s a good chance I’ll be back to explore Fort Worth and Waco.
Dallas is a huge suburban community with a small downtown city area My biggest surprise was how little it felt like the South. Sure, Dallas is home to the Cowboys and the Rangers, and you can’t go a quarter mile without passing a Mexican restaurant, but it’s definitely not a stereotypical southern city.
One of the great things about exploring a new city with a person who grew up there is that they know about all the great places that the Travel Chanel doesn’t – especially when it comes to food. Activities too, but mostly food because I love good food.
Here are my favorite places to eat in Dallas (in no particular order):
Twisted Root Burger Co. – A wonderful little sports bar with some of the best burgers you’ll find. You place your order up front, then take a piece of paper with some random celebrity name on it and pick a seat. They’ll call the name on your paper when your food is ready. They have all different types of sliced pickles that you can grab on your way to your seats as well as homemade lemonade and teas with different flavors all the time. Choose your seat wisely, because if you sit in George Bush’s official booth (writings on the wall will tell you which one that is), you’ll be asked to switch tables if he walks in. Twisted Root has locations all over Texas, but mostly in Dallas. I highly recommend stopping in for a burger.
Mi Cosina – One thing I noticed about Dallas is that most of the restaurants are chains, but they aren’t found everywhere. There are multiple Dallas locations and a few others scattered around the country. Still, it was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. 10/10.
Sno Gormet Shaved Ice – Now I know what you’re thinking, “Gormet snow cones? Isn’t it just flavored ice?” I mean, yeah, but it’s amazing flavored ice. I’ve never seen so many snow cone flavors in my life. It’s all fresh, they have natural flavors on their menu if you’d rather not go for the straight up sugar, and you can combine flavors. You can also add a splash of sour-ness to your sweet flavor.
Velvet Taco – their tacos exist in Chicago, Houston, Fort Worth, and Dallas, and they are some of the best I’ve had, for sure. The Tortillas are all made fresh, and I highly recommend their roasted corn sides. I tried a taco that was a special when I was there, so it’s not always on their menu and I don’t want to get your hopes up. But with whatever tacos you choose, I suggest getting a side of corn.
Chicken Scratch – If you want chicken, don’t go anywhere else. I mean, there’s good chicken elsewhere, I’m sure, but this is a must. The food and sweet tea are phenomenal, but the really amazing part is its one-of-a-kind atmosphere. If it’s nice enough, try to get a table outside. It really takes you out of the suburbs for a minute. You are surrounded by hay and you enjoy your meal on a picnic table with paper towels for napkins. GET THE CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! You most certainly will not regret it. I also recommend the side of Green Chile & Hominy Mac n’ Cheese. Maybe not with the waffles, though. Your call.
Emporium Pies – Located in the Bishop Arts District, you won’t regret stopping by here. It’s in a cute little village with other shops and restaurants, and it’s a tiny little place with a special charm. They have seasonal signature pies, and when I was there I tried a slice of the year-round “Smooth Operator.” It has “French silk chocolate with a pretzel crust” and it’s absolutely heavenly. Enjoy a slice there or take an entire pie home. You can also order ahead for pick up or delivery.
Whataburger – It’s fast food, but this New Yorker can’t get enough. It started with a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit (available only between 11PM and 11AM and affectionately referred to as the HBCB), then I moved onto the Patty Melt, and now I crave it at least once a week. It’s gross, greasy, and wonderful, and you have to try it.
Snuffers – Another Texas special and Dallas favorite, this is yet another must for a good burger. AND CHEESE FRIES. You must get the cheese fries, fully loaded.
Here are my favorite places to explore in Dallas (in no particular order):
Dallas Zoo – I always love checking out the local zoo when I visit a new place. Maybe it’s because every major city has one but they’re all so different…or maybe it’s because I worked at the Nashville Zoo in my sophomore year of college. It’s always a good way to spend a few hours and it’s a familiar activity. Some zoos are just sad to walk through because you can tell that the exhibits just aren’t working for the animals, but the Dallas Zoo didn’t seem all that bad. Of course, no animal was ever meant to be kept in an enclosure, but the Dallas Zoo clearly does the best they can. I was particularly impressed by their African exhibit, which features Elephants, Giraffes, etc. I highly recommend making sure you get over there if you stop by the zoo. The Gorilla exhibit is also very elaborate. I was also very impressed by their education center.The Hillcrest Foundation allows kids to bring in things they find in their backyard, like pinecones, shells, or even bones and fossils. My favorite part about any zoo, though, will always be the penguins. Because penguins.
The Dallas Aquarium is definitely not like any other aquarium I’ve been to. It’s an experience. There’s a specific path to follow, which means it’s hard to get lost and it’s hard to miss any exhibits. Of all the aquariums I’ve been to, Dallas has the most land creatures. There are several different birds, amphibians and reptiles, and even a Sloth. The African Penguin exhibit is my favorite, of course, but the Manatee is also a huge crowd pleaser and a must-see.
At first glance, the Perot is a children’s museum. It is certainly designed to provide kids with a fun learning experience, but there’s some really cool stuff in there for the adults, too! The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, so I recommend checking out the grounds even if you don’t have a chance to go inside. Once inside, each floor/section has its own theme. You can explore the science of birds, dinosaurs, humans, music, and sports!
Kylde Warren Park – Now this is cool. This park was literally built over a highway, so if you position yourself right it looks like you could walk off the edge and fall into oncoming traffic (you won’t, unless you’re really stupid). I saw this for the first time a few weeks before Christmas, and I went at night so it was lit up and it was GORGEOUS. Highly recommend. But, it’s great other times of the year too! You’ll find some expensive and classy restaurants, Ping Pong and Chess tables, a dog park and even a putting green. There are beautiful fountains and activities for kids. It’s a great place for a picnic, a day trip, or a simple walk through.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden – I visited this beautiful masterpiece during the Christmas season as well. A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, they set up this “12 Days of Christmas” display, where you can walk around the gardens and find parts of the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s pretty freakin’ cool. It’s also just a beautiful park. You could easily spend an entire day walking around there.
Galleria Mall – I always like to do a little bit of shopping when I’m in a new city, not only to look for souvenirs and to explore, but also so that when someone asks me where I got my scarf I can say “from this cool store in Dallas.” Now this mall mostly has all the chain stores you’d find in any other mall, but if you’re in Dallas around Christmas time it’s the perfect place to shop around because it’s BEAUTIFULLY decorated. They have a huge tree in the center which is surrounded by an ice rink, so it’s a good way to kill a few hours.
SMU – This isn’t an activity to fill up your day, but it’s a beautiful campus. I always like checking out the colleges in the towns I visit, but maybe that’s because I’m a student.
Highland Park Village – This central Dallas suburb as a lot to offer. Adorable boutiques and shops, wonderful restaurants, and a very unique atmosphere. It’s a bit of a culture shock, especially if you were expecting a little southern town out of Dallas.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten to do everything in Dallas! Here’s my Dallas bucket list:
1. Rangers Game/Stadium
2. Cowboys Game/Stadium
3. Visit Forth Worth
4. Visit Waco/Baylor
5. Six Flags
Have questions? Feel free to fill out the contact box in the “About” page and I’ll get back to you ASAP!