When Dustin and I moved to Dallas in September and October 2012 – Dustin hadn’t originally planned on moving with me, but he got a job a month later and followed me out – the first thing that we did was take to Google the best restaurants, best drinks, best places to visit, best things to do, etc. You get the picture. We wanted to explore our own city and find the best things to do.
We’ve now been here almost 7 years, and nothing has changed. We are always looking for something to do. Especially now with a kid, we are looking for fun things to do with a toddler. Better yet if they are free or for a good deal!
Let me take you on a quick journey of our time in Texas and how we have enjoyed exploring our own city pre-Mark and post-Mark.
You want to start by searching the “best of” in your City. For us, this was easy. Dallas has a magazine called D Magazine. Then every year they do a “Best of Big D” for everything under the sun. Check out this link here which will take you through everything “Best of” for 2019, and you can even look under the archives to see how things level up in the past. They list everything by “Best of” and then “Readers’ Choice.”
From a quick gander at the “Best of” Food & Drink, we have been to 4 restaurants voted best of and 8 voted Readers’ Choice. Looks like we have some new restaurants to try out! Although, now that we have our kiddo back from the summer at Grams and Rogie’s (my parents), our time trying new restaurants will be paused. No worries though, I’m a list maker and will jot down every restaurant we should try and why. That way when the time comes for us to have a true date night sans kiddo, we have options!
When we moved here, we found our favorite bartender/mixologist, turned friend. She is now at Canvas Hotel Dallas, which we absolutely cannot wait to stay the night there and enjoy her drinks all night! Some of our favorite restaurants are from Best of Big D circa 2012-2013 – Cane Rosso, Mia’s and Twisted Root, to name a few.
If your city isn’t blessed with a magazine (or two) that have annual “Best of” contests like this, then just google best restaurant, etc. and you will find plenty of reviews for the best restaurants and such around. We just happen to live in a huge metropolitan area that has multiple publications that offer valuable feedback from the writers and the readers, like D Magazine.
Cool Places to Take Pictures
Pre-pregnancy we just liked to find fun things to do around town and end it at that. When we got pregnant with Mark, we decided to up our game and take a weekly pregnancy picture, like you see a lot of pregnant women do, but throughout the city. At the time, we lived about 1200 miles from our closest family, so we wanted them to not only enjoy seeing me grow with our baby, but also see our beautiful city!
I took to Google, again, and found all kinds of fun spots to take pictures. At the time too, I asked all of my coworkers to help me with ideas. It became this super fun weekend activity for Dustin and I. Find the best place to take the weekly picture. We started at about 20 weeks pregnant. I couldn’t find them all, but I found most of them. I hope you enjoy the slideshow below. We took pictures everywhere from the giant bowler hat, the Trinity River bridge, a couple different Pegasus’, the Ft. Worth Stockyards, Magnolia Market, where JFK was shot, at the top of Reunion Tower inside their restaurant/bar and at the (then) NYLO hotel, now Canvas Hotel Dallas (where our favorite mixologist resides!), and a few fun ones around our house as we setup shop to welcome our baby boy into the world.
Things to Do in Dallas
This one was a no-brainer, and I’m sure it is for you reading this, no matter what city you are in. We wanted to find things to do in Dallas. Now that we are living life on a budget, we are looking for free or inexpensive things to do. So instead of Googling “things to do in Dallas” you can say “free things to do in Dallas.”
Pre-Kiddo Things to Do in Dallas
- Texas Rangers game – We love going to watch the Rangers play! We’ve gone to a handful of games and have fun each time we go.
- Dallas Cowboys game – We once were given box seats, valued at, I think, $750/each, along with free parking. Even though we are ride or die Jacksonville Jaguars fans, we thoroughly enjoyed this game!
- Winspear Opera – A couple years ago Beauty & the Beast came through, like it does every few years and it was amazing! So amazing that Dustin and I went three times (don’t judge! – this was pre-Mark!)
- Dart Train – We used to go on weekend adventures taking the Dart train all.the.time! We visited historic Carollton downtown. We would take the train to downtown Dallas. We even took the train to the airport to save money when we went to my 10-year high school reunion
- Camping – This was a fun one and one that we haven’t done in FOREVER! We would find Texas State Parks and go camping for a long weekend! This allowed us to travel around Texas and see some pretty places. My favorite part about camping? The fact that I got Dustin all to myself. We would listen to music all night, grill, and play cards or backgammon! It was great!
- Texas State Fair – This is our tried and true. We will NOT miss a year going to the fair. End of story. We went the weekend Dustin moved me to Dallas and have gone every year since. One of our traditions is to take a cheesy photo in the photobooth too! Now that Mark is in our lives, our photobooth pictures have been elevated that much too. See the picture below of our 7 years at the fair!
- Local 5 & 10k’s – This is if you’re into fitness. But pre-Mark we did a handful of races every year. This was fun because it forced us to be active but allowed us to find fun races to attend. We’ve done some color runs; some runs in Ft. Worth and one run at the Texas Motor Speedway!
Now that we have a beautiful bundle of joy, our weekend plans are much different. We are trying to 1) save money, 2) entertain a two, almost, three-year-old, but most importantly at 3) keep Mark’s schedule as best as possible.
Post-Kiddo Things to Do
- Parks – This is a no-brainer. Again, thankfully we live in a huge metro area and have hundreds of parks at our leisure! Our favorite one is probably Celebration Park in Allen, Texas. It is this massive park that has fields for playing ball, a couple different playground areas and a splash pad! We had Mark’s 2nd birthday party there. It was free and fun! Here’s a link to the 10 Best Parks in DFW. We’ve only been to three of them, so we have some new parks to try out!
- The Library – We absolutely love finding a good library! We typically stay in our neck of the woods when it comes to going to libraries; however, there are some really cool reading areas for kids in our metroplex! Check out this link which lists some kid friendly reading areas, along with the times that they have reading groups for kids!
- Attractions – While most of these ones are not free, they are still a good time! We are members of the Dallas Zoo! This is our second year of our membership, and I anticipate we will keep it for years to come. For $129 we get two adults and one child in the same household on the same membership. We also get free parking, which is typically $10 per visit. There are also member days where we can get in early or stay late. And, we get discounted rates at over 150 other zoos and aquariums in the United States! We only must go to the zoo 3.5 times to get our money’s worth. Easy peasy! There is also the Dallas World Aquarium, the Perot Museum, Dallas Museum of Art and Reunion Tower to name a few.
We absolutely love where we live. There is so much to do whether you are in your 20’s looking for a good time, you have kiddos (like us now), are looking for some of the best food around or a free festival to kill some time. If you’re in Dallas and you have any recommendations not on this list, comment… cause I want to know!