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The best neighborhoods in Dallas

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The best neighborhoods in Dallas

Dallas, Texas is more than a sum of its parts. This sprawling city has plenty of elbow room for its neighborhoods, giving each a distinct flavor that captures a different aspect of the city’s complex character. From historic blues hotbed Deep Ellum to cosmopolitan, monied corners like Highland Park, from hip contemporary developments like Trinity Groves to the Hispanic heritage of Oak Cliff, there’s a lot to see and do.

If you’re wondering which neighborhood is right for you to claim as a home base for a trip to Dallas, we’ve got you covered. These are the eight essential districts in Dallas for foodies, history buffs, art fiends, antiquers, shoppers, after-hours rockers, and everyone in between.

The iconic Dallas pegasus was built in 1934 was originally atop the Magnolia Building, but was initially taken down in 1999 © Dorti/Shutterstock

Downtown 

Downtown Dallas is full of pioneer heritage, tragic mid-century history, and contemporary architecture and public art – a blend that gives visitors a fast snapshot of The Big D’s defining moments in the one hundred and sixty-five years since it was incorporated. Bounded by the city’s soaring freeways, the neighborhood’s edges are I-345, I-35E, I-30, and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

But contrary to Dallas’ sprawling reputation, this is one part of the city you can explore without losing your parking spot. Downtown is only about a mile square, and is well-serviced by public transportation. The neighborhood has two hubs – the DART Rail Convention Center Station and Union Station, which receives Amtrak, the Trinity Railway Express commuter rail, and Dart – not to mention the McKinney Ave trolley that will get you from museum to museum.

Pioneer Plaza harkens back to Dallas’ days as a cowtown, with 40 bronze steers marking the site of an old rail yard and warehouse that was on the Texas cattle drivers’ trail. Nearby is the Pioneer Cemetery, which dates back to the city’s founding and includes graves of the city’s first four mayors.

To learn more about this period of Dallas history, head a mile south of downtown to the Dallas Heritage Village, where a number of early structures have been preserved, from an Indigenous tipi to a Civil War plantation house and slave dwellings to Victorian homes. These structures were largely rescued from freeway construction projects and the development of the DFW airport, and relocated to the site of one of the city’s first parks.

Grassy Knoll (site of Kennedy assassination), Dealey Plaza Historic District, West End, Dallas, Texas, United States of America
The Grassy Knoll beside Dealey Plaza Historic District holds a solemn place in United States history © Alamy Stock Photo

One of the busiest destinations in downtown Dallas is, of course, the site of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Tourists flock to Dealey Plaza & the Grassy Knoll and the Sixth Floor Museum to learn more about an event still lodged in many Americans’ memories, and the conspiracy theories that emerged in the decades following.

The Thanks-Giving Square is a gentler stop – this public square opened a year after the Kennedy assassination in 1964, and invites visitors to meditate, reflect on gratitude, and connect with their community. 

Also part of downtown is the colorful Arts District, where you’ll find a bevy of museums. The Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and Crow Collection of Asian Art are all here, clustered along the border of Klyde Warren Park, which caps the Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Don’t forget to look up as you stroll downtown, however, or you might miss some of the city’s other visual treats, like Dallas’ iconic architecture. The Pegasus Sign flies over the Omni Dallas Hotel, while Reunion Tower connects to Hyatt Regency Dallas and offers panoramic views from the interior of its iconic, glittering disco ball. 

A mural is painted in the Oak Cliff, Bishop Arts District to recall Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassination of John F Kennedy.
Oak Cliff also has the distinction as the neighborhood where JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested at the Texas Theatre for his murder of police officer J. D. Tippit © Alamy Stock Photo

Oak Cliff and Bishop Arts

Such musical and sports greats as T-Bone Walker, Dennis Rodman, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Erykah Badu came straight outta Oak Cliff, the traditionally blue-collar neighborhood in South Dallas bounded by I-30, Loop 12, I-45, and the Trinity River.

Parts of what is now Oak Cliff, particularly the Tenth Street Historic District, have roots in communities founded by former slaves after emancipation – indeed, this district has the distinction as one of the few surviving Freedman’s towns in the US.

Oak Cliff eventually was annexed by Dallas and became a turn-of-the-century streetcar suburb. You can still see the architectural legacy of this period in areas like Winnetka Heights.

By the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan had established a Klavern here, determined to keep the increasingly white neighborhood segregated. A century later, however, Oak Cliff is more diverse than ever, with a rich and established Hispanic community.

You can experience some of the neighborhood’s rich heritage at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, the Mercado369 gallery, restaurants like El Ranchito and La Palapa del Sabor, and particularly the lovely stretch of Jefferson Blvd that’s full of shops packed with quinceanera dresses, elaborate pinatas, and classic tejanos albums on vinyl and cassette. 

Oak Cliff is grappling with gentrification, however – especially on the fringes of the happening Bishop Arts District, a tight-knit section of northeast Oak Cliff edged by Davis Street, North Tyler, West 9th, and North Zang Boulevard.

This lively strip has become a hip destination for bars, restaurants, and shopping. Grab a cup of coffee at Oddfellows, browse the stacks at the Wild Detectives indie bookstore, and grab a tasty bite at spots like Ten Bells TavernThe Local OakEmporium Pies, and Boulevardier. There’s plenty of good antiquing, too, as well as vintage clothing stores, comic book shops, barbers, salons, and even a cigar shop.

Distinctive urban art in Deep Ellum, a neighborhood composed largely of arts and entertainment venues near downtown in Old East Dallas, Texas
Distinctive urban art in Deep Ellum, a neighborhood composed largely of arts and entertainment venues near downtown in Old East Dallas, Texas Alamy Stock Photo

Deep Ellum

Like Oak Cliff, Deep Ellum got its start as a Freedman’s town – but unlike its kitty corner neighbor across downtown, Deep Ellum remained the beating heart of Dallas’ Black community well into the midcentury. By day, residents worked in factories like Henry Ford’s brand-new automobile plant.

By night, Deep Ellum’s nightclubs trailed only Bourbon Street and Beale Street in their cultural significance at the height of the Jazz Age. The neighborhood drew musicians like Blind Willie Johnson, Lead Belly, and Bill Neely – as well as Blind Lemon Jefferson, who ultimately settled in Deep Ellum.

Though the construction of Dallas’ labyrinthine freeways took a toll on Deep Ellum, its music scene had a strong resurgence during the 1990s, drawing punk, grunge, garage and alternative bands. Hometown heroes like Toadies and Erykah Badu took to the stages of legendary venues like The Bomb Factory and Trees, and the cultural revival eventually inspired the Deep Ellum Arts Festival.

Today, this is still one of the best neighborhoods in Dallas for a night out. You can see all sorts of local and regional acts – including bands born out of the University of North Texas College of Music in Denton just north of Dallas, which has produced such stars as Roy Orbison, Meat Loaf and Don Henley. 

In addition to its music venues and nightclubs, Deep Ellum is full of bars and restaurants like BrainDead BrewingSerious Pizza, Pecan Lodge, and Double Wide.

You can go crate-digging while sipping a pint at Off the Record, enjoy a tight ten at Dallas Comedy House, get your hair cut at a barbershop cum bar, wander past the neighborhood’s dozens of colorful murals, pick up some kicks at Sneaker Politics, or commemorate your visit with a permanent souvenir at Elm Street Tattoo. If you want to stay close and avoid shelling out on Ubers after hours, post up at the Deep Ellum Hostel.

Before you leave the neighborhood, be sure to wave to The Traveling Man, a series of three sculptures of a folksie robot by local artists Brad Oldham and Brandon Oldenburg that can be found near the DART Light Rail station, at the corner of Gaston and Good Latimer, and the corner of Good Latimer and Elm Street. 

The Truck Yard in the Dallas Lower Greenville neighborhood serves ice cream in the summer in addition to having food trucks and live music in the back
The Truck Yard in the Dallas Lower Greenville neighborhood serves ice cream in the summer in addition to having food trucks and live music in the back © D Guest Smith / Alamy Stock Photo

Greenville

On either side of Greenville Avenue between Mockingbird and Belmont is one of the trendiest places to eat out, shop, and recreate in Dallas. About 10,000 Dallasites live in the neighborhood, which is split into two halves known colloquially as Upper and Lower Greenville.

There’s a blend of new luxury condos, historic homes, and tall-and-skinny developer deals, plus plenty of hotels for travelers who want to make this district their home base, like The Highland Dallas, Hotel Palomar, and The Beeman Hotel. 

Since the 1940s, the Granada Theater has anchored the neighborhood’s entertainment offerings. But many of the most popular attractions have a distinctly more modern feel, from ramen shops to coffee houses to a local-favorite beer garden ringed by a flotilla of food trucks, appropriately called the Truck Yard.

The little sibling (literally) of Deep Ellum’s Double Wide bar is here – a teensy watering hole called Single Wide. There’s plenty of shopping to do, whether you’re looking for vintage, funky t-shirts, or reliable chains like Buffalo Exchange.

After dark, head to Balcony Club for stellar jazz music. Or head slightly further afield to neighboring Lakewood, where you’ll find the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens.

Sculpture of a Teddy bear (author J.T. Williams) in Highland Park, Dallas, Texas, USA
Tony Highland Park is home to some gorgeous parks, including one perfect for a teddy bear picnic © Alamy Stock Photo

Highland Park

Highland Park has been famous as one of the city’s bougiest neighborhoods since the 1980s, when the soap opera Dallas was filmed there. Now, 40 years later, it’s still very affluent and the shoppers at the tony Highland Park Village mall are draped in designer duds.

Still, Highland Park has its whimsical side – pack a picnic and visit the giant teddy bear sculptures in  Lakeside Park, a favorite spot for snapping photos. Grab a bite at Javier’s, a dark and old-school Mexican steakhouse with valet-only parking.

Or head to Abacus for the lobster shooters – if you time your visit right, you might encounter special events like four-course wine dinners. To come back down to earth, go for a walk or run on the Katy Trail – a 7.5-mile pedestrian greenway that runs from Highland Park to Uptown.

Katy Trail Ice House, Uptown, Dallas TX
The Katy Trail Ice House in Uptown is a popular place to cool down from the Texas heat © Alamy Stock Photo

Uptown

Uptown might be eminently walkable in a car-loving city – still, it’s anything but pedestrian. While Uptown isn’t quite as fancy as Highland Park, it has gentrified from one of Dallas’ former Freedman’s towns that emerged after the Spanish American and Civil Wars into a district that caters to young professionals who appreciate urban amenities.

Here you’ll find juice bars, restaurants catering to “clean eating,” coworking hubs where you can hotdesk, and adult video arcades like Kung Fu Saloon. Amidst the brand-new apartment buildings and condo towers, you’ll also find hip boutique hotels like the maximalist Hotel ZaZa and the sleek Crescent Hotel Dallas.

In true millennial fashion, Uptown is the kind of neighborhood that caters to dog-lovers – just ask the folks at Mutt’s Canine Cantina, a bar, restaurant, and dogpark in one. Get your Texas on at Trophy Room, which is furnished with a mechanical bull so you can make like Sally Field in Urban Cowboy.

Or grab some Vitamin D and a drink at the Katy Trail Icehouse, a favorite spot for locals to cool off with giant margaritas under the mist fans at the end of the eponymous trail that starts in Highland Park.

There are lots of shopping opportunities along Knox Street (which turns into Henderson Avenue) as well as in the West Village. Between Uptown and Downtown, you can catch a Dallas Mavericks or Dallas Stars game at the American Airlines Center, too. 

Exterior of the Big Mango Trading Company Store in the Dallas Design District
Exterior of the Big Mango Trading Company Store in the Dallas Design District Alamy Stock Photo

Design District

Just west of Uptown, the Design District is flush with a mix of art galleries, vintage shops, and more suburban fare like vintage-style bowling, water parks, the ren-faire chain Medieval Times, and a vast wholesale emporium called Dallas Market Center. 

Condos and breweries have steadily been trickling into the neighborhood, along with a Richard Phillips’ sculpture that used to sit in the west Texas desert, the somewhat infamous Playboy Marfa. 

The Design District is trying to catch up to Uptown with pedestrian projects like the Trinity Strand Trail, a 2.5-mile walking and bike path that paved the original bed of the Trinity River. Eventually, it will be about as long as the Katy Trail, but the Design District is still growing.

In the meantime, grab a burger at Rodeo Goat or from Dallas classic Mama’s Daughter’s Diner (it’s been open since the 1950s), or fuel up with a flat white from the Aussie-style Ascension coffee shop. It’ll be good to have the grub for a long day of scouring decor, antiques, and other treasures in a shopping district that is still evolving – and has plenty left to discover.

500px Photo ID: 96184399 - View of Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge at dawn with Dallas skyline in background.
View of Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge at dawn with Dallas skyline in the background © Scott E. Allen/500px

Trinity Groves

Trinity Groves is less a neighborhood more a strategic development, but it’s still one of the trendiest places to spend an afternoon or night out. Wedged into the curve of the Trinity River south of the Design District, Trinity Groves sits at the base of the popular Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which crosses the river to connect to downtown.

Now, these 15 acres have been reclaimed from Dallas’ formerly fickle flood plain, they’ve been put to use incubating restaurants, providing studio space for artists, and creating a sculpture park and walking trails.

Part of Trinity Groves is the Tin District, which used to be a melting pot of immigrants. Now it’s a melting pot of entrepreneurial concepts from trapeze studios to tattoo shops to art galleries. 

Come for the honestly great views of the Dallas skyline and its most recognizable towers, from the Bank of America Plaza (better known to locals as the Jolly Green Giant for its neon outline) and the sparkly knob of Reunion Tower. Stay for the eats and drinks, which often blend of the-moment trends with Texas constants like barbecue, beer, and burritos.

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Source : Lonelyplanet

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