Travel Guide for First Visit to Dallas / Fort Worth 
Updated: Mar 30
Why Visit Dallas /Fort Worth?
Visiting the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex is like getting a vacation twofer - you get the laid back, charming Fort Worth including its sometimes kitschy feel of the old West, coupled with the glitz and glamour of Dallas. Like any first-time visit to a new city, there are the must-dos so that you feel like you have seen the major sites, but then there are also the places that the locals frequent.
It is easy to go to TripAdvisor and get the list of places to go, but it's harder to find an itinerary that makes sense. Some of the places that don't make the Top 15 of Trip Advisor perhaps should be higher on the list and/or they are so close geographically that it allows you to see even more of the city without having to constantly drive long distances. Since Dallas is my adopted city, I thought sure that this would be an easy article to write. It wasn't.
But rest assured, this is the itinerary that I would take you on if you were staying at my house.
Day 1: Dallas
Six Floor Museum
Alas, we have achieved notoriety for being the city where JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. We are also the town where Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated - and the act caught on camera - by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner with ties to the mob. The Sixth Floor Museum is the infamous book depository and it has been converted into a small, but very worthwhile, museum. Learn about the players, the facts, the questions, and the conspiracies. Then walk over to the...
The day that JFK was murdered, he was sitting in the back of a convertible as it drove down Elm St. en route to the Dallas Market Center for a luncheon. It is a surprisingly small piece of lawn that today is full of conspiracy theorists. In the street in front of the grassy knoll is an "X" that is often painted over and then re-painted. It isn't official and the city doesn't want it there, but all of the rest of us curious folks do. It marks the alleged exact spot where JFK was killed.
Whether or not any of the theories are true remains to be seen, but it is a fascinating way to spend some time. The theorists that keep vigil along the lawn are certainly passionate and often convincing. Books and videos are for sale and you may just be curious enough to buy one and surprise yourself by the purchase.
Lunch at Klyde Warren park or Farmer's Market
There are a lot of restaurants downtown, but I would drive or take a long walk to either Klyde Warren park or Farmer's Market. They are in opposite directions but relatively close to the Sixth Floor and grassy knoll area but map it out and decide if you want to hoof it or drive it.
Klyde Warren park
Dallas' downtown and uptown are divided by a connector highway called Woodall Rogers Freeway. Several years ago, Klyde Warren was built as a way to reunify the two areas of town via a park that goes over the highway. If you build it, they will come and that is what has happened here. It is a lovely park that includes a performance pavilion, food trucks, water sprays for the kids, a children's closed off play area and library facilities to rent games and read books or magazines while you relax. A large lawn encourages picnics and ball games. It is centered perfectly around our Arts District so it is also a good rest spot if you are interested in seeing our fantastic Arts district.
Dallas Farmer's Market
Several years ago, our Farmer's Market was re-imagined and it now houses a food hall, an outdoor area and shops below apartments. It is filled with local vendors selling produce, clothing, beauty / spa products, jewelry and food. There are some great home decor places and there is a fabulous winery that sells their local wines from their vineyard in Celina, Texas using their own grapes. I consider myself a wine snob and have historically not been a fan of Texas wines but I am finding that I need to revisit this, as I have had several wines made from Texas grapes and have been pleasantly surprised on each of those occasions. On a recent girl's weekend, we visited the Market. Our wine connoisseur, Chad, got distracted as a voluptuous woman walked by wearing a string bikini. "Folks, that bikini is being held up by hope," he said off-the-cuff in his distinctly Southern accent.
Tex-Mex or BBQ Dinner
Again, it would be so easy to just give a list of places to go and restaurants to try. Food-wise, we excel in Tex-Mex, BBQ and steakhouses. We have lots of great international food as well, but you probably didn't come here for that.
E-Bar Tex Mex
E-Bar is well known in East Dallas and in the past couple of years has gotten widespread recognition as being one of the best Tex Mex places in Dallas. You can order anything on this menu and it's amazing. Doesn't matter. I find it admirable, but I'm pretty far from being a vegetarian and I could even eat vegetarian food here (at least if it was Lent:). Otherwise, I recommend Jorge's tacos which are street tacos that can be served with the meat of your choice. Do half brisket or carnitas and the other half ground beef. You don't get rice or beans so add a side of their beans because they are good. Want something that you won't get at all restaurants? Try their fresh elotes. Their margaritas are always on point so make sure you get one of those as well. Their salsa is so good that I would recommend asking for a pint to go with chips so that you can late night binge wherever you are staying.
Pecan Lodge or Terry Blacks
Both of these BBQ places are popular in Dallas and both are delicious. If you go to Pecan Lodge, lines are long and food can sell out. I put this down for dinner but if this place is important to you, go at lunch so you can ensure nothing sells out. You can skip the long line out front by ordering a trough which is 5 lbs of meat. If there are more than 2 adults eating, go for it. BBQ heats up well and it's worth your time not to stand in line. Plus it's fun to feel naughty and skip lines even though it's perfectly legit. People that don't know this rule will think you are famous. Next door is Emporium Pies. Make sure that you leave room and go get a slice (or two) of pie
Terry Black's BBQ is delicious Central Texas BBQ. If you haven't been down there to try the original place, check out Terry Black's in Dallas and get a great taste of Texas BBQ. Note that both of these places are in Deep Ellum, which was a major blues spot in the 1930s and is now a thriving restaurant and bar district. Spend the rest of the evening walking around Deep Ellum and enjoying the music and stores.
Day 2: Fort Worth
When visiting cities, it's fun to do some shopping and letting part of the group decide if they want to do that or if they'd rather just sit outside and enjoy a nice, cold drink. Sundance Square is several blocks of stores, entertainment, and dining. And parking is free! It's fun just to lollygag around and then enjoy a margarita and lunch on a patio.
Longhorn Drive at Fort Worth Stockyards
Every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., there is a longhorn drive down East Exchange Drive in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Blink and you will miss it so make sure that you are on time. Cowboys and cowgirls herd the longhorn herd down the street for photo ops. There are also lots of shops and restaurants. Take a look around at the shops and also go into the colosseum to see what the rodeo ground look like. There is a shop there that is a lot of fun to look around and buy good gifts. I also recommend paying the small entrance fee and walking into Billy Bob's dance hall. You can have a drink, play some games, shop and get a feel for what the weekend must be like. There is also a small rodeo space in there as well. It's fun to look at the autographs of the music and rodeo legends that have graced the halls of this historic building.
Get a snack because it's gonna be a late lunch.
Drink at the White Elephant Saloon
The White Elephant Saloon has been around since the 1890s. It is inhabited by the ghost of former Sheriff Jim Courtright, one of the city's most corrupt lawmen. In the city's alleged last gunfight, the bar's owner Luke Short outdrew Courtright and killed him. The saloon is now owned by restauranteur Tim Love of the famous Lonesome Dove steakhouse.
I've never been there without a band playing and it's fun to look at all of the elephant decorations and cowboy hats that adorn the wall and ceiling as you sip your beer. I've also never been where we haven't ended up striking up a conversation with someone at the bar or a table next to us and it always makes for a good memory.
While you are just across the street, take a look inside the Stockyards Hotel. This hotel dates back to 1907 and is still a popular place for locals looking for a staycation.
Lunch at Joe T. Garcia's
Joe T. Garcia's is legendary. If you say that you've been to Fort Worth, you will be asked if you went there. It is a Tex-Mex restaurant that has a very simple menu that is served in abundant portions. The outside grounds are beautiful with plants and waterfalls throughout the grounds. Often, you have to wait in line but you can walk around to the bar, grab a drink and stand in line with it. You probably won't mind. Enjoy the afternoon, take some pictures and check Joe T.'s off of your list.
If you have time and energy, stop by the Fort Worth Water Gardens. If it's getting to be beyond 3 p.m., head back to Dallas for the night. Dallas traffic is something serious ya'll. We drive fast, erratically and we manage to drive crazy even in rush hour traffic. When we got back from our trip around the world, the only thing that I was scared about was my reintroduction to driving in Dallas.
I've got a few suggestions on places to stay and one last note - if you are leaving out of Dallas Love Field, save time to stop by Mia's and get one last taste of Tex-Mex on your way out. Order the brisket tacos which comes with a delightful au jus and of course, get a margarita. Consider asking for to-go of anything; they will package you up so that you can safely take it home with you on the plane.
Places to Stay: There are no shortage of hotel rooms, but these are my personal favorites.
Hilton Anatole - this is a great mid-price hotel. It has nice rooms and a good view of the city. If it's summertime and you have kids, you can't miss the pool area complete with water slides and a lazy river. Locals flock here from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Warwick Melrose Hotel - This is a gorgeous historic hotel in the Dallas Uptown area. The bar features live music and they have an amazing buffet.
The Adolphus - this is an elegant hotel in downtown Dallas that has hosted many dignitaries. It is easily one of the most beautiful hotels in the city.
The Joule - Bill and I lived across the street from this historic building when they were renovating it to become a hotel. I'll never forget looking up every day and wondering what the heck they were building on the roof. Infinity pool hanging over Main St? Why not?
Hotel ZaZa - if there's a rock star in town or a bachelorette party, there's a good chance they are poolside at Hotel ZaZa.
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