A Local’s Guide to the Best Dallas Hidden Gems in 2024

If you’re looking for Dallas hidden gems in the DFW area, this post is for you!

I moved to Dallas in 2015, got married, then became a travel blogger (with a few things in between of course). Since moving to Dallas, I’ve always been on the lookout for hidden gems in this city. And, I’m proud to say I’ve found some after thorough searching!

In this article, I’m going to share those hidden gems I’ve found over the years! And I’ll always keep it updated so you know where my favorite, (not so) best-kept secrets in Dallas are 🙂

1. Marie Gabrielle Gardens

Located in the heart of the city, the Marie Gabrielle Gardens make for the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely afternoon. They are filled with a variety of manicured shrubs, trees, and plants, so it’s a beautiful spot to take a stroll, play chess, and snap some photos!

The giant chess set at the Marie Gabrielle Gardens is a fun feature of this really scenic area in Dallas’s Uptown district. These giant chess pieces are painted the classic chess board black and white and sit atop large permanent tile squares.

Also, this spot gets bonus points for reminding me of the giant wizard chess set in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone! Although the pieces aren’t quite as big as they are in that Harry Potter movie (and they don’t move on their own – sad), it’s a really fun game to play in a larger-than-life way.

Plus, ever since Harrison taught me how to play chess, the game has taken on new meaning!

And while you’re here, enjoy a pastry or coffee (or both) from Magnolias Sous le Pont.

Mercat Bistro is nearby as well and serves up a delicious French brunch! If the wait at Mercat is too long, you can always dine at Saint Ann next door.

When you’re done (or even if you don’t dine at Saint Ann), go upstairs to the Anne & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum to check out the Samurai Collection! It’s a free museum that is yet another Dallas hidden gem. Short on time? Without actually going to the museum, you’ll also see some samurai pieces downstairs in the lobby adjacent to Mercat Bistro.

One more suggestion: Marie Gabrielle Restaurant, right next to Marie Gabrielle Gardens, is open on weekdays for breakfast and lunch.

Any of these make for great Dallas date spots! Check out this list of the most romantic places in Dallas for more!

And something I should mention: the only downside about this garden (and perhaps why it’s still such a Dallas hidden gem) is that parking can be tough! We usually try to find street parking in the area then walk to this garden.

2. M-Line Trolley

The M-Line Trolley is a free (yes, free!) vintage streetcar system that transports visitors through the heart of Downtown and Uptown Dallas. The route follows McKinney Avenue, winding its way by historic buildings, trendy restaurants, and bustling shops. With the city skyline in the background, passengers can catch cool views throughout their journey.

The M-Line Trolley is operated by the non-profit McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and services the community 7 days per week.

The vintage streetcars, which were originally built in the 1920s, have been fully restored and run on part of the original tracks along the 4.6-mile route. There are 38 stops along the way, so visitors can hop on and off at their leisure.

This is a really cool feature of Dallas, in my opinion. And though a lot of Dallasites have seen it on the streets of Uptown and Downtown, they haven’t learned about all that it does or don’t know that it’s free!

Learn more about the best stops along the M-Line Trolley here!

3. Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park in Dallas, Texas is a great spot where locals enjoy the outdoors and explore the Park Cities, one of the most scenic (and expensive) neighborhoods in the city. One of the most unique features of the park is the collection of teddy bear statues. These fun and oversized statues add a whimsical touch to the scenery.

The park also offers a really cool view from atop the Turtle Creek Dam and boasts picturesque walking paths among some of Dallas’s most expensive and unique homes. The lake itself is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, geese, and turtles. And plenty of people fish out of the lake too!

On any given afternoon, you’ll find lakeside park visitors taking engagement photos, graduation photos, and more because of how beautiful this area is. It definitely makes my list of the most Instagrammable places in Dallas and it really is one of my favorite spots in the area. We go on walks in and around this park all the time with our baby! Oh, and did I mention that Harrison proposed to me here?

But, before you head over to my favorite Dallas park, check to see if they’ve reopened! They’re working on some street repairs that have left the park closed until late Spring 2023, you can see park updates here.

(If they’re closed, simply head to the next spot on this list… the rest of the Turtle Creek Parks are right nearby!)

4. Turtle Creek Parks

Turtle Creek Parks is a network of parks in Dallas and the Park Cities that are great for all kinds of outdoor fun and exploration like running, fishing, photo shoots, and picnicking.

These parks are hidden within the Park Cities neighborhood- you might not notice them when driving in this area! But when you take a closer look, you’ll see lush greenery lining Turtle Creek, with dreamy little stone paths and bridges.

The parks have a variety of features depending on which one you’re visiting, including a multi-use field, playgrounds, and picnic areas. But be aware, there are no public bathrooms!

Visitors can also explore the park’s little ecosystems, including some woodlands and wetlands. The park also has a nature trail, allowing visitors to observe local wildlife and learn about the area’s ecology.

5. Milk & Cream

If you’re looking for an incredibly delicious sweet treat, then look no further than Milk & Cream. This trendy spot serves up a variety of unique ice cream flavors, waffle cones, and their famous milk and cream buns.

For those who return often, the menu is always changing, so there’s always something new to try. Milk & Cream’s most popular treat is their donut ice cream sandwiches, topped with colorful cereals and candy cream fillings. With its delicious desserts and friendly staff, Milk & Cream is a great destination for anyone with a sweet tooth and plenty of people don’t know about it!

My favorite combo: a glazed donut with honey lavender ice cream and fruity pebbles!

6. The Wild Detectives

The Wild Detectives in Dallas is an independent bookstore and bar that offers more than just books and drinks. This unique space offers a unique mix of books, live music, poetry readings, workshops, and special events.

The Wild Detectives also features a café serving coffee and cocktails, as well as local beer and wine. Their food menu is limited, with rotating cookie flavors and homemade empanadas available to snack on. With its eclectic atmosphere and unpretentious vibe, The Wild Detectives is the fun place to experience a unique part of Dallas.

And while you’re at The Wild Detectives, be sure to explore the rest of the Bishop Arts District! It’s one of my favorite shopping areas in Dallas. If you’re not familiar with it, along Bishop Ave you’ll find a lot of local boutiques and cafes. Looking for some organic, yummy brunch? Tribal All Day Cafe is our favorite!

Davis Street is just around the corner and has some more boutique stores (we love DLM Supply!), cafes, and coffee shops as well.

7. Half Price Books Flagship

Book lovers, rejoice!

Half Price Books has their flagship store in Dallas, Texas and it is an amazing destination for any book lover. As this chain’s original (and largest) location, it’s a really fun place to explore. It offers over 500,000 new and used books and other media, including CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, and video games. And its collection spans from classics to the latest bestsellers, making it the perfect place to find something to read.

Not only does the store sell books, but it also hosts author events and has a cafe. The cafe offers coffee, tea, sandwiches, and baked goods, so you can take time to relax with a book and a cup of something warm. Harrison and I have come here for coffee table books (my favorite!), board games, the latest book choice for our book clubs, and more! It’s actually a really fun place that’s way bigger than most bookstores!

8. Flea Style Hat Bar

At Flea Style Hat Bar in Deep Ellum, you can get creative and decorate your own custom-made hats! With an eclectic selection of hats from around the world, you can explore classic fedoras, modern cowboy hats, and more. They also offer a range of accessories, like scarves, ties, and feathers.

Plus, you can take advantage of the workshops available to help you design the perfect hat. After you’re done decorating, enjoy a delicious craft beer, wine, or cocktail from the Heirloom Haul bar. This is a great place to take a hat-loving friend for a unique experience!

I decorated a gorgeous Stetson hat with a scarf, felt band, feathers, and a brooch. Then they branded my initials into it. If you follow me on social media, you probably know how much I love hats, but the personalized nature of this one makes me love it the most!

They also have locations in Fort Worth, the Galleria Dallas, and Frisco.

9. Crow Collection of Asian Art

The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Downtown Dallas is a free and interesting Dallas hidden gem. Located in the center of the Dallas Arts District, visitors can explore Asia in one place, from the ancient to the modern. The Collection holds over 4,000 objects from China, Japan, India, and Southeast Asia, including sculptures, textiles, paintings, and more.

The museum also features educational programs, lectures, and events on Asian culture and art. Surprisingly enough, the museum is free to the public and open from Tuesday through Sunday. With its interesting architecture, vibrant art, and engaging programs, the Crow Collection of Asian Art is great for anyone interested in museum-hopping in Dallas!

Speaking of museum-hopping, while you’re in the area, don’t miss the Dallas Museum of Art next door. It’s also free! Did you know that this area (the Dallas Arts District) is the nation’s largest arts district? As such, the DMA doesn’t disappoint, with over 24,000 works of art!

There are rotating exhibits at the DMA that require an entrance fee, but they’re worth it to art lovers!

10. Trinity River Audubon Nature Center

This area certainly doesn’t feel like Dallas, which makes it one of the most interesting Dallas hidden gems!

The Trinity River Audubon Nature Center in Dallas, Texas is a great destination for visitors interested in nature. This Center provides a variety of educational opportunities, including nature trails, hands-on activities, and interactive exhibits. Visitors can explore the lush, native habitats of the Trinity River, learn about the unique ecology of the area, and observe the diverse wildlife that calls this area home.

The Center also offers workshops, classes, and special events throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in hiking, bird watching, or wildlife photography, the Trinity River Audubon Nature Center is a great place to connect with nature. Reserve your ticket here before visiting.

11. Garden Cafe

Garden Cafe in Dallas, Texas is the perfect place to relax and enjoy delicious food with friends and family. Located in a neighborhood (it’s on the edge of Junius Heights), the cafe offers a varied menu of delicious brunch and dinner options. They’ve been doing farm-to-table before it was a thing!

From classic favorites like roasted chicken to globally inspired dishes like cajun shrimp & cheddar grits, Garden Cafe has something to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Plus with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options available, it caters to plenty of dietary restrictions.

The outdoor seating area is perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with friends in the sunshine. You’ll have a view of their beautiful gardens with your meal. In addition, the restaurant sets up fresh flowers throughout its outdoor patio area, creating a peaceful and inviting atmosphere. You’ll also see roosters roaming the grounds of the restaurant- it’s quite entertaining!

All in all, Garden Cafe is the perfect escape from the bustling city streets of Dallas, Texas.

12. The Dallas Farmers Market

I had a hard time figuring out if this belonged on this list of Dallas hidden gems because there is always a good turnout each weekend- which makes me think it’s not so secret. But, I figured I’d add it here because it always amazes me when locals tell me they’ve never been! I think they either don’t know about it or don’t realize how cool the Dallas Farmers Market is.

It is comprised of The Shed and The Market, and I definitely recommend visiting the Dallas Farmers Market on a weekend when The Shed is open. The Market, an indoor collection of eateries and shops, stays open throughout the week. But The Shed, the open-air covered pavilion filled with local vendors, is only open on weekends.

While you can buy produce at The Shed, vendors sell a huge variety of goods, from gluten-free cookies and sourdough bread to boba tea and puppy treats. It’s also a fun place to shop for gifts; you’ll find things like candles, hot sauce, succulents, baby books, and African woven bowls.

When we visit, we always browse the Shed first- without buying anything until we’ve walked the whole thing. Then, on our second round, we know exactly which things we want to buy. After that, we stop at The Market to eat at Rex’s Seafood… it’s so good every time! I love their sweet potato fries and fried chicken chopped salad!

There are also a number of boutique shops that line the street adjacent to The Market and I love browsing those stores as well.

All in all, if you’ve never been to the Dallas Farmers Market on a weekend, this is a must! (Also, it’s free… need I say more?)

13. Self-Serve Soft-Serve from Plaza Health Foods

If you’re looking for delicious soft serve at an unlikely spot in Dallas, head to Plaza Health Foods in Snider Plaza! This quaint shopping center across the street from SMU’s campus has been a go-to place for Harrison’s family for decades!

Their locally-famous soft-serve frozen yogurt is the perfect indulgence, with chocolate and vanilla as their mainstays and then rotating flavors like peppermint, peach, coconut, and more occasionally available. It comes in three sizes that you serve yourself. There are toppings available, too.

You can also find a variety of snacks, health food products, supplements, and even jewelry inside. Whether you’re looking for a weekend pick-me-up or just a quick snack on a hot summer day, Plaza Health Foods soft serve has you covered!

14. Afternoon Tea at The French Room

The French Room in Dallas, Texas is a great experience for anyone looking for a royal afternoon tea. As soon as you walk in the door, you will be welcomed with an elegant atmosphere, complete with French decor and charming music.

The menu features a variety of delicious tea selections, such as holiday blend pu-erh chai, and flavored black teas. Light refreshments, such as scones, finger sandwiches, and tea cakes, complement the tea selection perfectly. The French Room also offers a variety of warm drinks, as well as a selection of fine wines. Although the French Room is pricey, it is a graceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city, even though it’s in the heart of Downtown Dallas!

The Adolphus Hotel Rooftop Pool View

It’s located in the gorgeous Adolphus Hotel, which is a great place to stay at if you’re visiting from out of town. Some other things to do at The Adolphus include dining at their tasty restaurant, City Hall Bistro, and enjoying their rooftop pool!

While you’re at The Adolphus Hotel, don’t miss the AT&T Discovery District that it borders. It’s a pedestrian zone with restaurants, shops, interactive installations, live music, and more.

15. Butterfly Garden at Fair Park

Dallas’ Fair Park is a fun way to experience nature in the heart of the city and offers a unique, family-friendly experience.

The Butterfly Garden at the Texas Discovery Gardens is home to an array of vibrant, colorful butterfly species. From postmen to swallowtails, the Butterfly Garden is a stunning sight to behold. This tranquil space allows visitors to explore the natural beauty of the park and observe the different species of butterflies in this human-made habitat.

The garden features a variety of native and non-native plants to attract butterflies, as well as a water feature for the creatures to gather around. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of interactive activities such as butterfly art, free workshops, and various educational programs.

While you’re here, explore the rest of the Texas Discovery Gardens, too! There’s also a lot more to do in Fair Park, like taking littles to the Children’s Aquarium, visiting the African American Museum of Dallas, and catching a performance at the Music Hall.

Looking for some light exercise in nature? On certain days when it’s warm out, you can rent a swan pedal boat on Fair Park’s Leonhardt Lagoon!

16. Wai Wai Kitchen

Wai Wai Kitchen is a VERY unassuming, hole-in-the-wall type Asian restaurant that has the best Asian takeout in Dallas in my opinion! My parents loved it when they lived in Dallas and that’s saying something. Since my mom is from Singapore, she’s usually very picky about Asian cuisine. But after trying so many Asian restaurants, this became her go-to restaurant when she lived in Dallas! And now, it’s ours!

Don’t let the exterior fool you, this is seriously good Asian food! They mainly serve Thai food but also have a lot of different Asian cuisine options, too. I personally love their vegetable fried rice, stir-fried veggies with chicken, and drunken noodles. And the price is great, too!

17. Texas Horse Park at River Ranch

Did you know that you can go horseback riding just south of Downtown Dallas? The Texas Horse Park at River Ranch does a one hour guided trail ride for $60 per person. In addition to your ride, you’ll learn about how to ride a horse, the history of the land, and the values of the Texas Horse Park.

They pair you with a horse beforehand using your experience level, age, and more. When you get there, your horse is waiting for you!

18. Kalachandjis Indian Restaurant

Kalachandjis Indian Buffet Restaurant in Dallas, Texas is an absolute must-visit for any Indian-food lover in the area! Serving a variety of authentic vegetarian Indian cuisine, this restaurant is sure to please even the most discerning of foodies.

With a rotating menu, the restaurant includes classic dishes such as coconut chickpea curry and chana dal soup, as well as more traditional dishes like Samosas and basmati rice.

The restaurant has a warm, welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff that make it a great spot for families or for a unique date experience.

The prices are surprisingly affordable and the quality of the food is top-notch, making Kalachandjis Indian Restaurant the perfect destination for foodies on a budget.

19. Joe Pool Lake

Did you know that you can find a sandy little beach in DFW? Head to Lynn Creek Park at Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie, where you can swim and play in the sand! It’s open from March 4th through September 30th and costs $20 per car or $40 on holiday weekends.

This park can get pretty busy on weekends, especially on hot summer days. But if you’re visiting the area or have flexibility to go on a weekday, you’ll find it much emptier. Early morning is also a great time to visit on weekends.

Other than swimming and relaxing on the beach, this 784-acre park has a beach volleyball area, picnic areas, pavilions, a boat ramp, restrooms, a playground, and more.

Looking to go out on the water? You can even rent a boat at the Lynn Creek Marina!

20. Cattail Pond

cattail pond cedar ridge preserve

You’ll find another Dallas hidden gem on the other side of Joe Pool Lake. The eastern side of the lake is home to Cedar Ridge Preserve, one of the prettiest slices of nature that DFW offers. This 600-acre Audubon nature preserve houses 9 miles of hiking trails. My favorite trail takes you to Cattail Pond, pictured above.

21. Fort Worth Water Gardens

The Fort Worth Water Gardens is a really cool spot just 35 minutes or so from downtown Dallas. This Indiana-Jones-like attraction is an incredible place to take pictures, explore, and just hang out.

Located in downtown Fort Worth, the gardens feature 3 distinct pools, each with its own unique characteristics. The pools have been named “the aerating, the quiet, and the active pool”, allowing visitors to choose a calm or more energetic atmosphere.

The Fort Worth Water Gardens also feature lush gardens and pathways. They make it a great place to take a leisurely stroll and admire this area’s beauty.

And while you’re in Fort Worth, don’t miss out on some of its best not-so-hidden gems!

The most famous thing to do in Fort Worth is the Stockyards, and there’s good reason for its popularity! If you’re not familiar, then you should definitely add this to your list! You can go to a rodeo, see a cattle drive, browse the shops, eat at a number of restaurants (grab some skillet cornbread at Provender Hall!), and do the two-step at Billy Bobs Texas.

Looking for nature? The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is Texas’s oldest major botanic garden (it’s been around since 1934!) and a beautiful display of flora and fauna. Across its 120 acres, you’ll find over 2500 plant species in its 23 specialty gardens. Alongside exciting exhibits, the Botanic Garden has a café, gift shop, and more. Don’t miss the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden! Find ticket information here.

Or how about seeing animals? The Fort Worth Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country. In fact, it’s considerably better than the Dallas Zoo in my opinion! There are roughly 7,000 native and exotic animals across its 64 acres (compared to roughly 2,000 at the Dallas Zoo!). See admission information here.

You can also check out my list of Instagrammable places in Fort Worth for more to do in the area… like visit a waterfall!

22. ICR Planetarium

Dallas is home to one of the most impressive ICR Planetariums in the United States. Located on the edge of Dallas, this incredible planetarium offers visitors a cool planetarium experience. The ICR Planetarium and fossil gallery is 1,400 sq. ft., with state-of-the-art projection systems, audio systems, and ample seating.

Visitors can explore the night sky with shows such as Exploring Deep Space and Creation in the Solar System. In addition to the planetarium shows, there are also interactive exhibits and educational activities that are fun for the whole family.

Even if you don’t think a planetarium sounds fun or interesting, I’d encourage you to at least give it a shot! Harrison and I have had a lot of fun exploring planetariums on our travels.

23. San Martino Winery

At San Martino Winery in Dallas, Texas, guests can experience the flavors and craftsmanship of fine Texas wines. The family-run winery is dedicated to creating quality wines from the best grapes of the region, with a selection of reds, whites, and sparkling varieties, as well as seasonal and special releases.

Visitors can take a tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and try samples of the wines. The winery also offers special events, such as wine and food pairings, live music, and dinners, making it an ideal destination for wine lovers seeking a unique experience near Dallas.

24. Sail with Scott

Sail with Scott in Rockwall, Texas is a fun sailing experience on Lake Ray Hubbard that departs from the Rockwall Harbor. Scott Self, the former Rockwall mayor, and former owner of the Sail with Scott business has unfortunately passed away. But his memory lives on in the fun business he created that continues to operate with the help of his family and friends!

I had the pleasure of doing a couple of Sail with Scott excursions with Scott as my captain and he was a delight! But you can still do a sail with Scott excursion today and enjoy the 360 views and even unwind with a bottle of wine.

Sail with Scott is the perfect option for date night or an adult outing. You can also do a more kid-friendly daytime Sail with Scott adventure too! Check out their site for more details!

25. ShangriLlama

ShangriLlama Castle is the perfect destination for those who want to meet and learn about 6 beautiful, pedigreed llamas! Located in Royce City, this fun and unique activity is family-friendly and a little silly. With an advance reservation, visitors can take part in one of the Llama Walks, Llama Llessons, or even book the castle for weddings and special events.

At the Llama Lessons, visitors get to interact with six llamas, learn about their funny names, watch them perform tricks, and learn plenty of facts about what makes llamas so unique. Please note tickets cost $20 per person, and minors must be accompanied by an adult. So come join the llamas at ShangriLlama Castle for a silly but unforgettable experience! For more details, be sure to visit their site.

I love Shangrillama so much I’ve visited several times! Llamas are so fun to interact with! They’re actually very quiet and gentle creatures that make the perfect poses for your Instagram feed as you can see above!

Dallas Hidden Gems: Conclusion

Harrison and I often say that, if it weren’t for family, we probably wouldn’t be in Dallas. That said, there are some great things about this big city, and I am determined to find them! I hope this list of hidden gems has helped you find something fun and unexpected in the Dallas Fort Worth area!

And if you know of some Dallas hidden gems that I missed, please let me know in the comments!

Lastly, if you want to read more about the fun features of Dallas that aren’t so hidden like The Bishop Arts District, White Rock Lake, pretty murals, and more, check out my Instagrammable Dallas post!

Happy exploring!


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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