Dallas—now the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States, with some 7.5 million people—long ago evolved from a frontier town to a food, arts, and shopping mecca. And while classic destinations such as the world-class Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and luxury-boutique hub Highland Park Village still draw plenty of residents and visitors, newer sights and culinary delights abound in such spots as the Bishop Arts District and the Harwood District.
Harwood, for instance, a nineteen-city-block area in Uptown Dallas, began its current transformation in 1984 with the construction of the Rolex building. Harwood International founder and CEO Gabriel Barbier-Mueller had moved to the region in 1979 from Switzerland. He married a Texas rancher, Ann, and together, they began to develop the district, which today includes dining and drink options, art, outdoor garden spaces, and upscale lodging, as well as a new, twisting Rolex building designed by the renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and completed in 2018.
Here are more of the latest, greatest ways to spend a day in Dallas.
Stroll through the Harwood District’s nine acres of outdoor gardens, fashioned in the Swiss model and designed to focus on creating calm and community. As you walk, stop by the Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection to view the family’s extensive assemblage of samurai armor, one of the largest in the world. You’ll find more pieces on display in the lobbies of several Harwood office buildings.
If running, biking, or fitness walking is more your speed, the paved Katy Trail stretches for three and a half miles north of downtown, up to just east of Highland Park, on what was a former Kansas-Missouri-Texas Railroad corridor and boasts scenic views.
Not too far from the Katy’s southern trailhead lies Klyde Warren Park, a five-acre deck park with gorgeous fountains, green spaces, and children’s play spaces and programming from yoga classes to concerts. The park, which opened in 2012 and is currently expanding, connects Uptown with the Dallas Arts District, the largest contiguous urban art district in the country and home to the esteemed Dallas Museum of Art. The DMA’s current exhibitions include Looking Forward: A New DMA, a preview of the to-come renovation of the current Edward Larrabee Barnes–designed building by Madrid’s Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, a firm that last year won a worldwide competition for the honor.
Just to the west, the Dallas Contemporary’s spaces evolve regularly. Executive director Carolina Alvarez-Mathies joined the DC in 2022 and has focused on collaborative community work coupled with international artistry. The neighboring Nasher Sculpture Center houses modern and contemporary works including, this spring, an exhibition of a recent gift: twenty-four pieces by Jean (Hans) Arp, whose sculptures first inspired Raymond and Patsy Nasher’s collection.
Artists’ collective MeowWolf, which started in 2008 in Santa Fe, recently opened its fourth U.S. location in nearby Grapevine with The Real Unreal, an interactive artscape by collaborating Santa Fe and Texas artists. For more immersive art, visit the Sweet Tooth Hotel, featuring installations behind the (not-an-actual) hotel’s doors. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, which debuted in 2012, offers fascinating exhibitions such as, for most of this year, one all about the T. rex.
Don your swimsuit and head up to Hôtel Swexan’s heated rooftop pool for 180-degree views of the city skyline from twenty floors above ground. The Swexan—which stands for “Swiss meets Texan”—opened last summer as Harwood International’s flagship hotel. The family-owned, 134-room boutique spot blends Swiss heritage and tradition with Texan charm and hospitality, including five restaurants and bars (highlights include Stillwell’s, a classic steakhouse fueled by a local beef program, and Babou’s, a speakeasy featuring a library room lined floor to ceiling with books) and sleek suites.
The Deep Ellum neighborhood recently celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, and the building housing the Kimpton Pittman Hotel there was designed by the first Black practicing architect in Texas, William Sidney Pittman, and dates back more than a century. The hotel, which opened in 2020, subsequently juxtaposes the old with new, modern interiors and the well-reviewed Elm & Good, dishing up seasonal tavern fare such as duck confit potpie.
Appropriately, the first hotel to debut in the Dallas Arts District, HALL Arts Hotel features an expansive collection of art; among the lodging options, nineteen arts district–inspired suites, a rooftop pool, and an upscale restaurant called Ellie’s, with a menu boosted by locally sourced, sustainable ingredients (and a much-ballyhooed burger).
EAT & DRINK
While Dallas institutions such as Terry Black’s have long been beloved for barbecue, the food-and-drink scene here continues to flourish beyond brisket and ribs. For memorable sushi, visit Namo and opt for the omakase experience. After dinner, slip over to the recently opened Colette to sample cocktails at the bar such as the Muffin Man, with miso butter, calvados, rum, and ginger.
Cravings for contemporary Chinese food can be sated at Maison Chinoise, which offers the likes of wok-baked green mussels and Wagyu beef and truffle fried rice. Walk next door to hear live music and sip on a pandan espresso martini at the speakeasy Regines.
Henry’s Majestic, in West Dallas, serves another standout “marrow-spiked” burger and a draft beer list full of Lone Star State breweries. El Carlos Elegante, a newer offering in Dallas’s Design district, showcases upscale Mexican fare, including impressive house-made masa. And as the name implies, Written by the Seasons, located in the Bishop Arts District, provides a menu filled with elegant, wholesome fare that changes seasonally—this winter, for instance, saw dishes such as salt cod brandade fritters with blistered Brussels sprouts, and roasted baby beets with Texas grapefruit.