12 Hours in Dallas

After living in the suburbs of Dallas for the last fifteen years, I always had an interesting relationship with the city. I always dreamed of living somewhere exciting and with a bit more to do that didn’t involve driving long distances. While Dallas will never necessarily be the dense, urban environment I love so much in New York, my recent trip back home has shown that the city still has quite a lot to offer if you knew where to look. Taking a cue from one of my favorite travel sections at the New York Times, here’s my guide to a jam packed day in Dallas.

On the Town | Dallas

9am - The Joule | 1530 MAIN STREET
Start your day off right at one of Dallas’ recently renovated historic properties. The Joule Hotel, located in the recently renovated neo-Gothic building downtown, is worth a trip alone, but the variety of food options available is enough to make even the pickiest eater satisfied. Only have time for a quick coffee and a scone? Check out the the Weekend. With a Chemex bigger than your face, the Weekend takes boring hotel coffee shop and elevates it with bright, open windows facing out to Commerce Street, and carefully arranged Pinterest-worthy bookcases. For those looking for something a bit more traditional, the Joule also has a sit-down restaurant, CBD Provisions. While it features your typical American breakfast staples (because you can never have enough pancakes, right?) one of my favorite items is their warm, fluffy Texas-sized griddled potato bread. It’s incredibly minimalistic, served with only homemade butter and a rotating array of jams, but sometimes all you need is simplicity in the morning.

11am - Dealey Plaza | 411 ELM STREET
Most, if not all, of my readers (including my parents) weren’t even alive during that fateful afternoon in Dallas over fifty years ago, but that shouldn’t stop you from at least taking a quick peek. The plaza features a touristy white X that claims to mark the exact location of the assassination, but if you’re into something a bit more somber, spend a bit more time at the Sixth Floor Museum. Appropriate titled Mourning a President, the museum is currently having a special exhibit through February that explores the national media coverage of the death and funeral of JFK.

12 PM - Dallas Museum of Art | 1717 N HARWOOD STREET
Not a lot of people know this, but Dallas has a fairly robust arts scene. Home to over 10 different arts-based organizations and facilities, art lovers can choose anything from Asian culture at the Crow Museum, to fine arts performances from one of the nation’s premier high school arts magnet schools at Booker T. Washington, and a little bit of everything in between.

My personal pick is the Dallas Museum of Art (also known exclusively as the DMA by all the cool kids of the suburbs). The DMA, which offers free admission for its general collection and tickets for special exhibits. Its exhaustive collection of pieces from the prehistoric and classical eras to Impressionism and contemporary works makes it a nice place to spend a few hours during a particularly hot summer day or dreary winter afternoon.

In town through the end of February, if you have time, make sure to see Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. The exhibit, which places its viewers in a small room, is a reflective chamber that is both ephemeral and infinite in the short amount of time you can view the piece. You’ll have to purchase tickets well in advance though, since it’s limited to two guests at a time for 45 seconds.

Kusama Pumpkins

3 PM - Klyde Warren Park | 2012 WOODALL RODGERS FREEWAY
When the weather is nice, hop across the street to Klyde Warren Park and the local selection of food trucks. One of Dallas’ crowning new jewels of architecture and public space, Klyde Warren helped usher in a discussion in the city about parks, the relationship with freeways, and gentrification. While none of those burning questions were answered, it’s still a nice experience to feel like Dallas is trying to incorporate more elements of larger cities, including a signature park. If a cute little truck with a smiling pig is at the park, dash on over to Ruthie’s. Known for their mouth-watering grilled cheese, Ruthie’s offers your classic American cheese and some more playful spins, like a pulled pork sandwich with so much cheese and BBQ sauce, you’ll definitely need more than your fair share of napkins.

4 PM - Bishop Arts District | 314 N BISHOP AVENUE
A bit west of downtown, take a stroll in one of Dallas’ well preserved historical districts in Oak Cliff. There’s a lot of debate about the forces of gentrification, but this neighborhood offers a collection of local artisanal shops and eateries that Dallas was severely missing. If you’re not entirely full from your food truck lunch, grab a slice of pie at Emporium Pies. Their deep dish “Lord of the Flies” apple pie is scrumptious enough to warrant another notch in your belt, but my personal favorite is the simply decadent buttermilk pie. One of my favorite independent bookstores, Wild Detectives, is a short walk away. Stop in this quaint house turned storefront to discover some lesser known prints among famous best sellers.

Emporium Pie neon

7 PM - Pecan Lodge | 2702 MAIN STREET
There’s a lot of great barbecue in Dallas, but there isn’t one that takes the - er, rib? - quite like Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum. Moist, fall apart brisket; mouth-watering homemade smoked sausage; and an endless supply of rotating sides and fresh baked rolls that even the most reserved dieter would have to make an exception. Make sure to get there a bit early though, as sometimes the line for food spills out the door and onto Main Street.

While you’re in the area, make sure you take a quick peek at some of the wonderful street art nearby. When I was in town, my family and I spent a whole afternoon just walking around and finding cool murals - some have been around for years, but it’s always nice to see how the neighborhood continues to change.

Kayla at Deep Ellum

9 PM - The Libertine | 2101 GREENVILLE AVENUE
Dallas has a few major nightlife spots, including Deep Ellum and Uptown, but my favorite places are the smaller bars off of Lower Greenville. They have incredibly comfy couches along the far wall that almost hug you as you’re sitting down, and the staff couldn’t be anything but Texas-nice. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask the bartender to make you a special cocktail based on your own preferences.

Although it’s by no means an exhaustive list of all Dallas has to offer, I hope it provides a bit of inspiration during your next trip in town. Feel like I left something out? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to check it out the next time I’m in town!