If you are anything like us, your life has been reduced in recent months to something of a game trail on the prairie. You plod along on the same well-worn path every day, sometimes the territory limited for days on end by a work-from-home schedule that has become all too routine. We’re here to help. Bust out of that rut! Head in a different direction! Do something you’ve never done before, like, oh, taking an art class high atop Reunion Tower. We scoured the city to find new and unusual activities, one for each week of the year. Now get out there and try something different!
Laugh It Up
Four Day Weekend
Home base for this longtime improv troupe is still their theater in Fort Worth, but the Lower Greenville outpost, in a converted church, is a great venue to see a comedy show that never disappoints. No joke.
5601 Sears St. 817-226-4329.
Learn Civil Rights History
Juanita Craft was a pioneering figure in Dallas’ often overlooked civil rights history, and visiting her recently restored home is the perfect way to discover her story. The modest South Dallas house, which was visited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson, has been transformed into a museum dedicated to the woman who served on the City Council and fought to expand voting rights and desegregate Texas universities.
2618 Warren Ave. 214-670-3687.
Lose Yourself in the Forest
The mile-long Buckeye Trail derives its name from the plentiful Texas buckeye trees that display huge, white blooms for about two weeks in late March to early April. The trail winds through one of the prettiest corners of the Great Trinity Forest, and hikers who follow the path to the end are rewarded with a delightful overlook of the river.
7000 Bexar St. 214-670-1923.
Get Lit in Person Again
HP LitFest and the Dallas Literary Festival
We are overjoyed that in-person literary festivals are back. Novelist Amor Towles kicks off HP LitFest on February 23, and the Highland Park High-sponsored event runs through the weekend. The Dallas Literary Festival, presented by SMU, is set for March 18–22. Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project, headlines.
Follow the Smoke
Lechon—whole, spit-roasted Filipino suckling pig with succulent meat and crackling skin—awaits you at the outdoor, weekend-only wooden cabana where Josephine and Allen Cook summon the archipelago with dishes such as lumpia and pancit and (if you’re lucky) karaoke. Preorder meat by the pound. Ten or more in tow? Make that a whole pig.
10424 County road 1099, Princeton. 903-422-3071.
Go on an Andean Adventure
Llama Walks at ShangriLlama Castle
What if we told you that there is a replica Irish castle where you can spend a few hours on a weekend walking a group of “royal” llamas through a forest? Perhaps you would respond, “Oh, you mean ShangriLlama Castle in Royse City. The season runs November through April, and tickets usually go fast.”
Walk on Water
You may have jogged or biked around White Rock Lake, but there’s nothing quite like being on the lake. Weather permitting, rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from these folks at the north end of the lake. They close for the winter months, so you’ve got time to lose that “vaccine weight” before spring.
389 E. Lawther Dr. 469-888-0620.
Support a Barn Raising
To raise funds for a much-needed new barn, hydroponic guru Jeff Bednar is hosting a series of farm tours followed by five-course meals prepared by a rotating roster of Dallas’ top chefs, including Misti Norris (Petra and the Beast), Matt McCallister (Homewood), and Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman (José). It’s the most romantic night under plastic sheeting you’ll ever experience. The next one is January 20; $200 per person.
1020 W. Forest Grove Rd., Lucas. 214-680-8535.
Peek at Hidden History
The Perot family’s private museum features items such as a 19-starred U.S. flag that once flew on the USS Constitution and a video kiosk that plays SNL clips of Dana Carvey doing his impersonation of presidential candidate Ross Perot. It’s wonderful. But to visit, you’ll need an invite from someone who works for one of the Perot companies. Know anyone at Hillwood?
3000 Turtle Creek Blvd. 214-303-5535.
Roar in the New Year
A few times a year, one of the state’s largest Asian markets transforms into a celebration of culture. The biggest party is on Lunar New Year, which will fall on February 1, when vendors and dancers converge across the sprawling complex. Come for the lion dances, but don’t miss the chargrilled squid.
2625 W. Pioneer Pkwy., Grand Prairie. 972-975-5100.
Cheer a Blood Replacement
The home opener for the inaugural season of Dallas’ first pro rugby team is February 19. (A “blood replacement,” we just learned, is when a player is bleeding badly enough that his wound needs treatment, and a replacement player is allowed on the field for 15 minutes. Which is awesome.)
1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington. 469-630-8338.
Get Blitzed at Afternoon Tea
Sure, they’re serving luxury Dammann Frères teas, curry chicken salad sandwiches, and freshly baked scones with clotted cream and house-made preserves overlooking the hotel’s manicured courtyard. But you know what you’re here for: your hour-and-a-half allotment of unlimited Champagne pours.
400 Crescent Ct. 214-871-3200.
Wet Your Whiskey Whistle
Skip the St. Patrick’s Parade, and head north on March 12 to this award-winning craft distillery, where the Likarish brothers will host a release party for the cask-strength version of their Irish-inspired Celt No. 6 whiskey. Or stop by the new tasting room for a tour and a tipple; the cocktail lounge opens later this year. Distillery tours every Saturday at 12 and 2 pm; $5 per person.
3111 Loy Lake Rd., Denison. 903-337-0495.
Disappear Into the Matrix
At this “free-roam virtual reality experience,” you can get so far inside a game that you might as well be a line of code. We’re talking total wireless immersion in a giant space. Up to eight can play at once, and the selection includes Far Cry VR, set in the popular Far Cry 3 world.
5100 Belt Line Rd., Ste. 510. 972-685-3600.
Drive to Survive
Racing go-karts indoors might strike you as a miserable cacophony best avoided—until we tell you that the multilevel, climate-controlled track here is run with state-of-the-art electric karts made by a British company that cares about your sanity. There’s also an arcade and something called a Hyperdeck.
5752 Grandscape Blvd., Ste. 100, The Colony. 469-527-3278.
Hear Both Sides Now
Old Parkland Debate Chamber
This spectacular, Hogwarts-worthy, subterranean venue has been the stage for intellectual skirmishes between the likes of Cornel West and Robert George. If you can’t snag an invite to the exclusive Old Parkland Speaker Series, be sure to attend the annual Mayor’s Cup Public Debate, where the sharpest DISD minds spar each spring. (Visit dallasdebate.org for details.)
3819 Maple Ave. 214-661-8000.
Smash a Custom Piñata
This Oak Cliff party store has given senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders the papier-mâché treatment, along with Michael Myers (think Halloween, not Austin Powers), the Fortnite llama (ask your kids), and other figures from politics and pop culture. We suggest unleashing your pent-up pandemic angst by whacking the sweets out of a custom coronavirus piñata. It’s cheaper than therapy.
1414 W. Davis St. 214-943-5588.
Train With an Olympian
Yugoslavian Olympian Jasna Rather has been head coach for this table tennis dynasty since 2006, leading the Rams to more than 50 national titles. So she’s just the person to perfect your backhand drive for the annual family Ping Pong Palooza. Come early on Sundays to watch her players practice, and stay to join the rec paddlers for open play. Private lessons, $35–$60 per hour; group lessons for four, $50.
Sid Richardson Center, 1175 Collard St., Fort Worth.
Score an Extra Life
Where else can you peruse a comprehensive history of video game culture, gawk at 20,000 pieces of memorabilia, and plop down in a vintage 1980s living room? And that’s before getting to the arcade: 40 machines from all eras nestled together in a room adjacent to the gift shop.
8004 N. Dallas Pkwy., Frisco. 972-668-8400.
Walk Under the Stars
Night Hikes at the Heard Museum
Explore the 289-acre nature preserve after hours while learning how to see (and hear) signs of the nocturnal animals that live around this McKinney favorite. There is also a version that focuses on owls, if you give a hoot. January 15, April 2, and May 14.
1 Nature Pl., McKinney. 972-562-5566.
Paint the Skyline Above the Skyline
Color Hype Painting Class at Reunion Tower
On the first Sunday of every month, former high school art teacher Chelsea Rogers hosts the only painting workshop 560 feet above the city’s streets. Each participant gets an 8×10 or 12×12 board to paint and all the necessary supplies ($58–$65). Inspiration is free.
Tip Big at Stripper Church
With each dive bar’s closure, the city loses a little personality. Which is why Charlie’s Star Lounge—a renovated dive that still feels lived-in—is such a treasure. On the first Wednesday of every month, it plays host to Stripper Church, a hybrid variety revue and drag show unlike anything else in Dallas. Don’t forget your singles.
4319 Main St. 214-997-4940.
Feed Your Dead Skin to Fish
The pandemic almost tanked this 85-year-old treasure. Instead, a new operator strapped on a life vest just in time. That means 10,000 new fish—eels and clownfish and stingray and sharks—and a focus on exhibits that will get your kiddo’s hands wet. The doctor fish are waiting to nibble.
1462 First Ave. 469-554-7340.
Cheer for the Heel
Pro wrestling crowds are dynamic at WWE arena shows, but a different sort of electricity comes with a few hundred people crammed into a high school gym or an armory to see an indie show. VIP Wrestling has been running such shows for seven years, most recently out of the Haltom Theater. Expect to leave with a hoarse voice.
5601 Belknap St., Haltom City.
Put the Icing on the Cake
From beginner basics to advanced fondant and isomalt skills, instructors at this family-owned buttercream mecca can teach you everything you need to know to become bake sale famous. The intro all-day class is $70, but be prepared to spend twice that on tools. It’s worth it. There’s nothing like the sweet, sugary rush of your first perfectly piped rose.
4623 S. Cooper St., Ste. 137, Arlington. 817-375-5894; 100 S. Central Expwy., Ste. 36, Richardson. 972-690-4628.
Paddle the Trinity
Long before most Dallasites learned that the Great Trinity Forest existed, Charles Allen was exploring the murky waterways that flow through the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States. Allen leads paddling expeditions down the Trinity that reveal some of Dallas’ hidden natural beauty.
304 Lyman Cir. 214-941-1757.
Hear Easter Mariachis
You could say it’s a variation on the question “How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?” The mariachi musicians who cram into the choir loft—costumes glinting, trumpets blaring—send joy pouring out on Easter Sunday (April 22 this year) during the myriad Spanish and English services. Bask in the jubilee. Stay for the street food vendors mobbing the cathedral steps.
2215 Ross Ave. 214-871-1362.
Bust Some Mutton
Dallas can sometimes feel alien to Texas’ Western mystique, but if you’re looking for a taste of the cowboy life, take the short drive over to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. Considered one of the best small rodeos in America, the stadium features top ropers and wranglers competing in an intimate setting.
1818 Rodeo Dr., Mesquite. 972-285-8777.
Party With Monks
On a quiet residential street, an ornamental gate rises. Its cement elaborations—of gods and lotus blossoms—are hand-fashioned from plaster molds taken from Cambodia’s 12th-century Angkor Wat. The temple monks received permission to lift them and completed the castings over five years. Visit any weekend or for food and music-filled festivals in January, April, July, or September.
5701 Crystal Lake Blvd. 972-709-5300.
Scrutinize a Facade
Every first and third Saturday of the month, stroll through the Arts District, home to buildings designed by four Pritzker Prize laureates; by this metric, it’s the nation’s highest concentration of significant buildings. In less than 2 miles on foot, a guide will walk you from turn-of-the-century buildings to modern-day geometric spectacles. $10.
Starts at Dallas Museum of Art, Flora and Harwood Streets. 214-880-1550.
Crank Your Joystick
It’s a mix of lacrosse and basketball played in a bumper car whose inventor would prefer you call it by its proper name, a Whirlybug, which is controlled by a joystick. You got all that? There are just a handful of courts in the country, and we’ve got two of them.
3115 Parker Rd., Plano. 972-398-7900; 147 E. Harwood Rd., Hurst. 682-235-1030.
Spot a Bald Eagle
A pair of the raptors built a nest near the lake in the fall. They sometimes hunt at Sunset Bay, where the warmer, shallow water attracts Asian carp. When the fish aren’t plentiful, the eagles don’t mind duck. Keep your head on a swivel, and keep your distance. These are federally protected birds.
830 Sunset Inn Cir.
Catch the Dirt Drift
They claim to be “the Southwest’s most famous dirt track,” and we’re inclined to agree. Racing runs March through October. Don’t miss the Lone Star 600, October 7 and 8, when more than 150 drivers simultaneously take the half-mile track. You owe it to yourself to take in this spectacle of Americana.
1711 Lawson Rd., Mesquite. 972-222-2421.
Dance a Revolution
A monthly dance party called Paradise honors Dallas nightlife culture and draws folks of all backgrounds into an intimate setting. DJ Sober curates a mix of old-school, contemporary, and local tunes, while Jessi Pereira waltzes through the venue to ensure every attendee has a good time and a drink in hand.
604 N. Tyler St. 972-685-7055.
Hear How It All Started
The SDCC operates an intimate setting called the Music Lounge, where local performers explore the musical traditions of the African diaspora, filling the space with the sounds of cumbia, reggaeton, afrobeats, spoken word, and more. The ticketed shows highlight different genres and are programmed to complement art exhibitions.
3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. 214-671-0727.
Blow Your Mind at the Mall
There are three experiences. Think of them like movies. Except you physically move through them while wearing VR goggles and sensors strapped to your feet and hands, all supported by a computer worn on a backpack. Each experience at the NorthPark studio takes only 10 minutes and costs $20. Reserve a spot in advance. Totally worth it.
8687 N. Central Expwy., Ste. 2232. 469-324-4960.
Pay Your Respects
Dallas Baptist University is a baseball powerhouse, and their 2,000-seat stadium has one of the most moving traditions in college sports. Next door is the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, where “Taps” is played every evening, about 30 minutes after games have started. No matter what’s happening on the field, play stops, and fans remove their hats until the horn’s final note.
3000 Mountain Creek Pkwy. 214-333-5324.
Enroll in Pitmaster University
Don’t let the collegiate-speak fool you; this is an entry-level barbecue course that runs about two hours and includes a snack. Brisket breakfast tacos, anyone? Chef-owner Michael Lane educates on the importance of wood choice, nerds out about smoker equipment and the science of barbecue, and demonstrates proper carving technique.
5500 Greenville Ave., Ste. 1300. 214-242-8671.
Dine Out in the Country
Jimmy Buffet may prefer piña coladas, but if you like whiskey and getting caught on the plain—specifically a farmstead out in Ennis where you can tuck into flame-cooked Texas wagyu and down drams of Elijah Craig while listening to live music—then this meal is for you. A bus leaves from Oak’d BBQ for this spring event.
8017 FM Rd 85, Ennis. 972-822-6664.
Take It Slow and Low
The Sunday Cruise
Colorful lowriders have been parading up and down Jefferson Boulevard since Father’s Day 2019, when the Dallas Lowriders car club set up the first show. But the Sunday evening event really took off once the COVID-19 shutdown hit, providing a safe way for people to get together. So there is at least one good thing to come out of the pandemic. Sundays, 6–10 pm.
Get Classical in a Bar
Mozart in the Bar founder Lydia Umlauf used to host pop-up chamber music concerts at the Black Swan Saloon. When it closed, she packed her violin and followed the bar’s owner, Gabe Sanchez, to his new gig at The Joule’s swank, below-ground watering hole. On select evenings, you’ll find her with a trio of her friends, getting spiccato with Tchaikovsky.
1520 Main St. 214-261-4601.
Go Viral in Style
A Lamborghini Huracán Spyder will set you back more than $200K, but for less than $1,000, you can rent one for a day from Boss Exotic, which offers Dallas’ largest inventory of exotic rentals. Cruise around town like you bought Bitcoin in 2010. Then take a spin through Highland Park Village and try and land on Daniel Mac’s “What Do You Do for a Living?” TikTok. He sometimes can be spotted there.
2300 N. Field St. 323-283-9507.
Love Them Tender Tamales
Ever since 2003, this Tex-Mex stalwart has welcomed the gem-studded jumpsuits and sideburns of a variety of Elvis impersonators to celebrate the King’s birthday month, beginning every January 8. Over the years, performers have been as young as 11 and as old as 73. Book in advance; more than 150 people attend each night.
610 Jefferson Blvd. 214-946-4238.
Get Out of the Kitchen
While waiting for Chicken N Pickle to open in Grand Prairie, we discovered this Oasis in Rockwall. There are 20 dedicated pickleball courts (two with stadium seating), eight sand volleyball courts, a pool for those with a Beach Club membership, and an Urban Air Trampoline Park next door. A ranch water afterward at Rodeo Goat on the lake is the perfect après pickle. Compete in an amateur tournament, and watch the pros play at the PPA Texas Open, November 3–6; six-session lessons and drills start at $90 for nonmembers.
5757 State Hwy. 205, Rockwall. 972-772-7768.
Cycle to Cowtown
There is no single bike trail that connects Dallas and Fort Worth, but Regan O’Brien, a landscape designer who likes to ride, pieced together a route that uses existing trails, lanes, and paths. You’ll have to navigate about five missing links in the network, but otherwise the 52-mile ride from downtown Dallas to downtown Fort Worth is ready to be conquered.
Sip and Shop
The most fun—and efficient—way to explore the shops here is the Happy Hour Hike on the first Thursday of each month. Check in at the Renaissance Hotel, pick up a map and collectible glass, and make your way up the strip to sample drinks at participating restaurants and retailers.
6007 Legacy Dr., Plano.
Lift Up Local Theater Talent
This series, held at various locations on the AT&T Performing Arts Center campus, is meant to give some shine to emerging arts groups. The next two up are Do No Harm (March 10–19), a play from Soul Rep Theatre co-founder Anyika McMillan-Herod, and RAGE (March 31 through April 9), a one-act featuring 10 Black women, written by Echoes Media’s Janelle Gray.
2389/2400/2403 Flora St. 214-880-0202.
Get Some Ink
On February 14, aka 214 Day, aka Dalentine’s Day, many studios offer flash specials of Big D-themed tats: the O.G. area code, the Triple D, sports teams’ logos, that sort of thing. Same goes for more macabre designs on any Friday 13 (coming in May). Having gotten work there ourselves, we recommend Trinity Groves’ first studio, Singleton Tattoo.
437 Singleton Blvd. 972-685-6191.
Feed Your Brain
Since it started as a hush-hush, word-of-mouth literati phenomenon, the compilation of talks here has raised the cultural bar. You could read Nietzsche and do a lap of all the museums. Or you could just attend the six sessions that take place in the beautifully curated French Room Salon boudoir. Sink into a winged velvet armchair and sip bubbles.
1321 Commerce St. 214-742-8200.
Slide a Hanger
We like to imagine a heaven in which every bar has a vintage shuffleboard table lurking in a corner littered with peanut shells. But we’ll settle for an entire emporium of multiplay, take-a-selfie-of-your-team, reservable tables and buckets of ranch waters. This U.K. import opened in November.
2615 Elm St. 469-382-9888.
Shop for Oddities
Outside of the State Fair, there’s no better place in North Texas for sheer variety of fried food vendors and odds and ends—emphasis on odd—shopping than this enormous weekend flea market. It also has
amusement park rides and live music and unparalleled people-watching. And, sometimes, pro-wrestling. The fair would never.
2602 Mayfield Rd., Grand Prairie. 972-647-2331.
Commission a Bespoke Ballgown
Nigerian Canadian designer Esé Azénabor moved to Dallas to get an advanced accounting degree; she stayed to open the haute couture atelier of her dreams. Although she recently launched a bridal collection, her heart is still in ballgowns—the more hand-beaded the better. One of her first was for Vivica A. Fox for a movie premiere; she’ll design yours for House of DIFFA. Custom evening gowns start at $4,500.
100 Cole St. 214-242-9223.