Dallas for Foodies, Art Lovers and Shoppers

From the Pecan Lodge's authentic Texas barbecue to the thriving art scene & southern-style shopping, Dallas is the perfect destination for any traveler.

Fly into the biggest city in North Texas, and travelers will discover that Dallas is home to more than just cowboys and the Cowboys. The “Big D” is full of spicy and smoky flavors, boasts an impressive art scene and presents locals and visitors with a wide variety of brand-name stores and unique boutiques in which to browse and shop. Check out this guide of what to see and do if you’re a foodie, an art lover or someone who enjoys shopping and collecting.

How to Get There

What to Do if You’re ... a Foodie

Begin with barbecue. Smoked on the only traditional offset barbecue pit in Dallas, the brisket at Pecan Lodge in Deep Ellum — a neighborhood just 1½ miles east of downtown — is worth the wait in line.

Pecan Lodge Barbecue dish From brisket to sausage and a variety of scrumptious sides, like macaroni and cheese, travelers can get a taste of Texas barbecue at Pecan Lodge in Dallas. Photo by David Hale Smith, Flickr.

Next, for a taste of true Tex-Mex, head to Mariano’s Hacienda for chicken enchiladas, a frozen margarita and a bowl of Queso Mariano, a delicious mix of melted cheese, seasoned beef, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream.Fun fact:The owner of this local chain, Mariano Martinez, invented the frozen margarita machine in 1971.

If it’s a nice day, consider driving 45 minutes on Interstate 30 West to Fort Worth and dining outside at Joe T. Garcia’s. Another area staple, Joe T.’s is known for its fantastic garden patio, where visitors can soak in the ambiance while satisfying their appetites with Tex-Mex favorites like fajitas, enchiladas or nachos.

Foodie fans of unusual eats should visit during the three weeks in fall when Dallas hosts the State Fair of Texas, which begins the last Friday in September. In addition to rides, games and shows, the fair is known for its creativity in the fried-food department — just ask anyone who’s tried fried bubble gum, butter or Jell-O.

What to Do if You’re … an Art Lover

The Dallas art scene is thriving. “From local artists activating spaces, to international artists presenting work in major museums and institutions, to the remarkable private collections of Dallas arts patrons — there is so much to see and appreciate,” says Leigh Arnold, Ph.D., assistant curator at the Nasher Sculpture Center

Nasher Sculpture Center Stroll through the sculpture garden at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Photo by Joshua Breeden, Flickr.

At the Nasher, gaze upon more than 300 contemporary sculptures (inside and out in the garden) from around the world created by Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso and other artists.

Afterward, walk next door to the Dallas Museum of Art, which boasts a collection of more than 23,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of talent and imagination. Admission to the museum in the downtown Arts District is free, with special exhibition prices ranging from $12 to $16. Children 11 and younger get in free. Until midnight on the third Friday of each month, museum visitors can attend Late Nights for concerts and other performances.

Every Saturday at 10 a.m. in downtown Dallas, architecture lovers can go on one of three walking tours through the Arts, Main Street or West End districts. On the Main Street District tour, for example, you’ll see some of the city’s most iconic and historical buildings, such as the beaux-arts-style Magnolia Hotel, which featured the Exxon Mobil red Pegasus — now considered a symbol of Dallas — perched atop its 29 stories for many years. Today, look for a newer Pegasus model in the same spot.

What to Do if You’re ... a Shopper

Sometimes referred to as a “shopper’s paradise,” Dallas is a great destination to find top fashion items, regional flare, unique jewelry, art and souvenirs.

Whether you’re looking to buy or browse, NorthPark Center, at U.S. Highway 75 and Loop 12, provides a unique shopping experience. Filled with giant sculptures, both inside and out in the mall’s gardens and courtyards; rotating art exhibits; seasonal events; and more than 230 brands to choose from, NorthPark draws 26 million shoppers a year.

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Drive across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and you’ll discover an entire neighborhood full of art, shops and more in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff.

Drive past the original Neiman Marcus’ ornate window displays downtown on Main Street, or venture inside the flagship store, a Texas Historic Landmark. Then head across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, a neighborhood less than 20 minutes southwest of downtown. In Bishop Arts, you’ll discover more than 60 unique art shops, boutique dealers, cafes and restaurants. Find antiques, fragrances, funny cards and more.

Hop in your car and drive north on the Tollway toward Highland Park, in the center of Dallas. Here you’ll find Highland Park Village, a charming and elegant outdoor shopping and entertainment quadrant that dates back to 1931. The Mediterranean Spanish-style development served as the inspiration for other outdoor shopping spaces across the country and, in 2000, was named a National Historic Landmark. After you’re all shopped out, catch a show at the historic Village Theatre.

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About the Author

Lisa Zimmermann is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and native Dallasite. She’s previously written for The Dallas Morning News, The Jersey Journal, New England Travel, Boston magazine and Atlas Magazine. Every autumn, she loves visiting the State Fair of Texas. Follow her on Twitter @lisazimm or Instagram @lzloveslife.