Downtown serves as Dallas’ Central Business District, but these days there’s a lot more to the city center than shiny skyscrapers full of nine to fivers. The neighborhood is home to one of the largest art districts in the country, a fabulous farmer’s market, and some of the city’s top attractions, including Reunion Tower, the Dallas World Aquarium, and the Dallas Museum of Art.
Mixed-use developments are providing housing and drawing in amenities so people can actually live and play where they work. While many restaurants cater to the lunch and happy hour crowds, Downtown has its fair share of award-winning upscale restaurants and Tex-Mex establishments. It’s also one of the most walkable areas in Dallas.
The Blue and Red Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail lines run from south to north, with stops at the Convention Center, Union, West End, Akard, St. Paul, and Pearl stations. The Union Station commuter line, called Trinity Railway Express, connects Downtown Dallas to Downtown Fort Worth.
Where locals eat brunch on Sundays
1790 N Record St.
Ellen’s rightly believes in being able to brunch on any day of the week, at any hour of the day. In addition to breakfast classics and huevos however you want them, the swanky southern diner offers signature dishes such as Pancake Pot Pie (pancakes layered with gravy, bacon, sausage, hash browns, scrambled eggs, and cheddar cheese) and Grits Benedict (cheese grits, bacon, fresh spinach, garlic, tomatoes, two soft poached eggs, with homemade hollandaise).
The best coffee shop to work remotely
920 S Harwood St.
Located in the Dallas Farmers Market, the Palmieri Cafe makes all their coffee, pastries, and gelato from scratch. The Italian coffee shop and bakery offers plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors.
The best take-out spot for when you don’t feel like cooking
2001 Ross Ave.
Grab some New American grub to go. Sloane’s Corner offers convenient takeaway in Downtown’s Arts District at the heart of the mixed-use Trammell Crow Center.
Late-night eats for when you’ve had one too many
Salsa Limon Flor de Mayo
411 N Akard St.
Most Downtown restaurants shut down by 10pm, but Salsa Limon Flor de Mayo serves up street tacos, tortas, quesadillas, and burritos until the wee hours of the morning (3am) on weekends. Obviously, you have to try the namesake housemade salsas, including tomatillo, jalapeño, piquin, and habanero. Wash down the hot chili peppers with some horchata, a mixture of condensed milk, coconut, rice water, and cinnamon which they refer to as “comfort in a glass.”
The dive bar where everyone knows your name
One Eyed Penguin
1404 Main St.
The One Eyed Penguin (aka O.E. Penguin) offers drink specials, plenty of screens showing sports, a pool table, and live shows including DJs and comedy. A steer covered in brassieres is part of the local dive’s kitschy decor.
Where to drink outside
1914 Commerce St.
Sure, you could sip mimosas at a sidewalk cafe, or you could go full-blown bottle service in a poolside cabana at Waterproof. Perched atop the 19th floor of the historic Statler, this pool bar/rooftop lounge is surrounded by sweeping views of the city.
Where to get cocktails on a first date
Petro Bar & Bistro
1907 Elm St.
Located in the iconic Tower Petroleum oil and gas tower, Petro Bar & Bistro specializes in creative Texas-inspired bourbon and whiskey cocktails. Try their signature Pioneer Plaza cocktail, which combines bourbon with maraschino liqueur and orange bitters. The chic yet casual spot also offers plenty of local beers, wine, and other cocktails, like the High Five, which is made with gin, Aperol, grapefruit, and lime.
If you want to get out of Downtown for the night, you also have plenty of options. From dive bars to breweries, check out our list of Dallas’ best watering holes.
Things to Do
Forty Five Ten is a lavish, luxury department store with locations in Napa, Aspen, and New York. Downtown’s is right across from Dallas’ five-star Joule Hotel, where you can shop ridiculously expensive designer fashion for both men and women, as well as beauty, home, and jewelry finds. Inside the Joule Hotel, Traffic Los Angeles carries labels like Alexander McQueen, BALMAIN and Rick Owens. The historic Neiman Marcus building on Main Street is both the company’s corporate headquarters and its flagship store. Head here for high fashion, luxury finds, and lunch with the who’s who of Downtown at the store’s top floor restaurant, The Zodiac.
In the historic West End district, former warehouses along Market and Record Streets have been converted into restaurants and retail retreats. One such 100-year-old red brick building houses Wild Bill’s Western Store, where wannabe cowboys and girls can stock up on western wear, including boots, hats, and apparel. Even if you don’t need a new pair of shit kickers, it’s worth it to go get your picture taken on a saddle bar stool. Take the streetcar into Bishop Arts District for even more local, boutique shopping.
Covering 68 acres and 19 continuous blocks, The Dallas Arts District is the largest urban entertainment district in the nation. Located next to Klyde Warren Park, the AT&T Performing Arts Center is a world-class performing arts complex. Among its variety of venues is the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Choir perform classical music; the Winspear Opera House, which is home to the Dallas Opera company as well as the Texas Ballet Theater; the Wyly Theatre, which is home to one of the leading regional theaters in the country, Dallas Theater Center (DTC); and Annette Strauss Square, which hosts outdoor performances between the opera and symphony hall.
The city’s most historic performing arts venue, The Majestic Theatre, has been towering over Elm street since the 1920s. Today, the Spanish baroque-style space hosts live shows, from podcasts and comedy to concerts and Broadway revivals.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the Dallas Farmers Market, which is one of the largest in the state. Nestled on the east side of downtown, the indoor/outdoor market boasts over 150 vendors peddling seasonal produce and naturally raised meat, as well as fresh cheese, eggs, and honey. Open seven days a week, The Market Shops is the indoor market which houses little artisanal eateries and eclectic shops. There are also plenty of activities, like yoga, cooking demos, live music, and seasonal events.
Klyde Warren Park offers a bit of a green escape from Downtown Dallas’ concrete confines. Located in the Arts District, the linear park is stretched across 5.2 miles of sunken freeway. It’s a lot less depressing than it sounds, with food trucks on Sundays, a butterfly garden, and areas dedicated to kids, dogs, and games. The community gathering space also hosts programming year-round, like fitness, dance, and yoga classes; live music; and film screenings.
Surrounded by architecturally significant buildings, the Main Street District’s 1.75-acre Main Street Garden Park offers Wi-Fi, a great lawn, a play area for tots, a dog run, fountains, and public art installations.
Downtown also has plenty of plazas, which are similar to parks, but with less grass. Dealey Plaza is, of course, the National Historic Landmark where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Behind that, Pioneer Plaza is popular for its herd of 40 bronze longhorn steers. The 4.2-acre plaza also features many native plants and trees.
Designed as an all-faiths gathering place, Thanks-Giving Square anchors Downtown’s Thanksgiving Commercial Center district. It is home to The Chapel of Thanksgiving, which features Gabriel Loire’s stunning spiraled stained glass “Glory Window”.
Top-Rated Places in Downtown Dallas
Dallas’ most iconic landmark is Reunion Tower, which has been part of the city skyline since 1978. Take the elevator up 470 feet for sweeping, panoramic, 360-degree views of the Big D.
Housed in an enormous refurbished warehouse in Downtown’s Historic West End District, The Dallas World Aquarium is home to a variety of species from all over the globe, many of which are endangered. Walk through the 20,000-gallon shark tank exhibit and a multi-level rainforest. The feedings and talks with sloths, penguins, otters, and more are especially popular.
Located just north of Downtown, American Airlines Center is where the Mavericks (NBA) and Stars (NHL) play. Learn all about the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy at the Sixth Floor Museum, aka the JFK Museum. You can even see the spot where it is thought that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fateful shot.
The 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art houses one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the country. Their collection of over 24,000 paintings, sculptures, jewelry, artifacts, and more are from all over the world and span 5,000 years of human creativity. Their galleries showcase works by Pollock, Rothko, Monet, Rodin, and Picasso. There’s also a children’s creative zone, a sculpture garden, and the DMA Cafe that stars some of Dale Chihuly’s glass flowers. The best part? Admission is free!
Pint-sized paleontologists can dig for fossils at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science Children’s Museum The stunning 180,000-square-foot architectural gem is one of the best science museums in the state, featuring five floors of hands-on activities, interactive kiosks, and a state-of-the-art multimedia cinema.
Adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art in the Dallas Arts District, the Nasher Sculpture Center houses a collection of more than 300 modern and contemporary masterpieces. Speaking of sculptures, there’s a 30-foot Eye lying in the gardens of Joule Hotel.
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