Dallas is a sophisticated metropolis full of cultural diversity, Texas heritage, and a warm, welcoming vibe. Adding to the draw is a major dose of hometown hospitality, an unrivalled restaurant scene with serious foodie cred and its own unique flavors, and a world-renowned reputation for retail. To help those traveling to the Texas city make the most of their stay, we asked The Scout Guide Dallas Editor Ginna Wilbanks to share inside tips for enjoying The Big D—and dispel some modern misconceptions about the area along the way. “I think that Texas newbies occasionally still picture the big hats and big hair of the 1980s J.R. and Sue Ellen era when thinking of Dallas,” she says. “While Dallasites definitely love their Texas heritage (and a great cowboy boot), the city has so much depth and really is a vibrant, cultural and cosmopolitan place.” Here are her recommendations for where to stay, shop, sightsee, and more.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Crescent Court (400 Crescent Court) is a Dallas classic, known locally for its spa and to tourists for its luxurious amenities. Also worth checking out is Le Méridian Dallas, The Stoneleigh (2927 Maple Avenue), which boasts a recent renovation, a brand new restaurant, and large rooms. If you’re looking for something a bit less conventional, Ginna recommends the funky boutique Hotel ZaZa (2332 Leonard Street). Located in the stylish Uptown neighborhood, it is home to The Dragonfly bar, a Dallas hot spot.
WHERE TO EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS: Dallas may be best known for its sprawling urban landscape and city skyline, but there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature, too. Ginna is a fan of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (8525 Garland Road), especially during the holiday season. Situated on White Rock Lake, The Arboretum features 66 acres of breathtaking gardens with water views and majestic holiday displays that draw visitors from all over.
The Katy Trail is a pedestrian and bike-friendly paved trail that runs along a historic railway line right through some of the most popular neighborhoods in the city. For a casual day spent outdoors, Ginna recommends starting with brunch at Le Bilboquet (4514 Travis Street) or Taverna (3312 Knox Street), both located right near the Knox Street entrance to the trail. Follow that up with a brisk two and a half mile walk along the trail, ending with a beer at the The Katy Trail Ice House (3127 Routh Street).
WHERE TO SHOP: “Dallas is blessed with oodles of great shopping,” says Ginna. Tootsies (8300 Preston Road, Suite 200) is her go-to for women’s clothing. Located within walking distance of each other in the Lakewood neighborhood, The Collective (5838 Live Oak Street) and Talulah & HESS (5810 Live Oak Street) are also well worth a trip! “The Collective curates a fabulous collection of one-of-a-kind home furnishings, and Talulah & HESS is a one-stop-shop for home décor, gifts, and accessories,” she says.
Last but not least, the Dallas Design District, bordered by I-35E on the north and east, Wycliff Avenue and the Trinity River levee on the west, and Continental Avenue on the south, is Ginna’s favorite spot to peruse for antiques.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK: Order some queso and a Mambo Taxi (tequila, lime juice, and sangria) like a true local at Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village (77 Highland Park Village). Ginna’s insider tip? Head upstairs, where, she says, you can “Enjoy your Mambo Taxi while tucked away in the treehouse-like Monkey Bar.”
A trip to Dallas wouldn’t be complete without a classic dinner at a chic steakhouse. Al Biernat’s (5251 Spring Valley Road and 4217 Oak Lawn Avenue) doesn’t disappoint on that front. For a cozy, old-world Italian vibe, Ginna recommends Dolce Riviera (2950 North Harwood Street). The restaurant has the option for half-orders of pasta, and Ginna suggests taking the opportunity to sample more than one of the house-made options; her favorites are the Bolognese and the truffle gnocchi. If you’re craving Asian food, she says Shinsei (7713 Inwood Road) is a perfect option that serves sushi and inspired Pan-Asian fare. (Pro tip: make a reservation, because it is always packed.) For dessert, Ginna says a slice of the Buttercream Gang at Emporium Pies (314 North Bishop Avenue) in the Bishop Arts District is “Seriously worth the wait in line.”
The Mansion Bar at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek Hotel (2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard) is a quintessential Dallas spot for a cocktail. The dark paneling and low lights give it an old world charm and a relaxed atmosphere during the week, but a great live music schedule pumps up the vibe and turns it into a fun dance spot on the weekends. “If you’re indoors at the bar, order The 75, but if you’re on the outdoor patio on a perfect evening, definitely go for a Texas Margarita,” says Ginna.
Finally, a lesser known spot, Lounge 31, which sits atop Bistro 31 in Highland Park Village (87 Highland Park Village), is where Ginna and the locals like to watch football or listen to the DJ spinning on Saturday night while enjoying sushi and cocktails.
Photograph of Ginna Wilbanks at Monkey Bar at Mi Cocina by Allison Barshop. For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Dallas, Texas, browse or buy a copy of The Scout Guide Dallas and follow TSG Dallas on Instagram.