An individual enjoying a local park with their dog.

How to make a day of it at the cute parks in Downtown Dallas

These green spaces can be a destination or a starting point for a day full of fun.

You’ve probably noticed a shift if you’ve visited Downtown Dallas recently. Since 2019, four “neighborhood urban parks” have popped up, transforming parking lots into green spaces with ample amenities and activities. The parks are a serene respite in their own right, and they can also be a starting point for an incredible day with loved ones. If you’re looking for a low-cost, all-upside outing to explore the best of Downtown Dallas, we’ll outline which parks to visit and nearby activities. 

Harwood Park: Best for families (including dog parents)

What to do at the park: Opened in September 2023, kids will love Harwood Parks’ playground, which includes two mammoth-shaped play structures (the trunks are slides!), and parents will find plenty of seating nearby. The park also features two dog parks with water fountains and landscape-play elements to entertain even the most high-energy canine.

What to do after the park: After some fun frolicking at one of the best parks in Dallas, walk a few blocks to the Dallas Farmers Market, which is pet- and family-friendly. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can visit the open-air pavilion to pick up produce, meats, cheese, canned foods, bread, and wine. You can also dine at The Market — a 26,000-square-foot food hall open seven days a week — offering a variety of local favorites like Taqueria La Ventana, Rex’s Seafood & Market, and Ka-Tip Thai Street Food. Opt for any of the dog-friendly patios or find ample seating inside.

Carpenter Park: Best for art lovers 

What to do at the park: At nearly six acres, Carpenter Park is one of the largest parks in the urban core and offers plenty to do — from the outdoor public basketball court to an interactive fountain where kids and dogs can splash on a warm day. Make sure to see the “Portal Park Slice” sculpture, a reimagination of the late artist Robert Irwin’s original public installation that visitors have enjoyed for more than five decades. 

What to do after the park: Don your walking shoes and head to the Dallas Arts District, which is about a half-mile away (about a 15-minute walk). See rotating exhibits at the Nasher Sculpture Center or The Dallas Museum of Art, or catch a performance at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. If you’re hungry, upscale eateries pepper the district, like Tei-An, beloved by food critics and diners alike for its hand-crafted soba noodles and top-notch sushi. Prefer a more low-key nosh? Enjoy an order of Scotch eggs alongside a pint at the Playwright Irish Pub.

Pacific Plaza: Best for picnickers and readers 

What to do at the park: Opened to the public in 2019, this park replaced more than 100,000 square feet of asphalt with dozens of trees and plants, creating a lush outdoor environment. Relax under the circular pavilion with abstracted punches of American Morse code, creating a striking visual pattern on sunny days. It’s one of the many details that make this park worth perusing.  

What to do after the park: Stay there! Sure, you can access Deep Ellum, Downtown, and the Arts District from Pacific Plaza, but you can also spend a delightful day relaxing in the park. A limestone seating area stretches throughout the park and offers shaded, semi-shaded, and full-sun seating so you can pick the perfect place to read. With more than 30,000 square feet of lawn, outdoor enthusiasts will find ample room for lounging at one of the best parks in Dallas for a picnic.

West End Square: Best for working, writing, or finding inspiration

What to do at the park: Designed to be a “testing ground” for incorporating technology and nature in urban areas, West End Square offers plenty of ways to plug in. The Outdoor Workroom offers a 50-foot-long table fitted with charging stations so you can finally write that manuscript or take a meeting outside. Or visit the Innovation Arcade to find inspiration among temporary installations, performances, and artwork along Market Street. 

What to do after the park: Hit the West End Historic District to explore other worlds, like the Dallas World Aquarium, with exhibits that feature marine life and animals from around the globe, like flamingos and ocelots. There’s also the Museum of Illusions, where mind-bending exhibits featuring optical illusions and visual tricks may have you questioning your perceptions.

People Walking in a Shopping Plaza

How to maximize your experience at 3 Atlanta entertainment districts

Some consider these developments hallmarks of the city. Here’s what to know if you plan to visit.

Ask any ATL native how much the city has changed over the years, and you’re probably in for a half-hour rant. Fellow residents have likely noticed the emergence of large-scale developments offering trendy restaurants, retail storefronts, office space, and concert venues in up-and-coming areas of Atlanta. Now, some believe these mixed-use spaces are hallmarks of the city.

With all the new offerings, it can be intimidating to determine how to navigate each of them. This guide takes you through everything you need to know — from the restaurants worth visiting to the parking situations you’ll find — to maximize your experience at three entertainment districts. 

Ponce City Market (PCM)

Let’s start where every tourist begins: Ponce City Market. Sure, major construction can block views of the city, but the iconic neon signs and unique spots keep drawing visitors back. 

Parking: PCM offers reasonably priced spots on the deck at $2.60 per hour. Street parking is an option if you’re not opposed to searching and then walking down Ponce de Leon Avenue. 

Food & Beverage:  Depending on your vibe, the PCM food hall can be a cuisine wonderland or completely overwhelming. For a standout option, try one Minero’s burritos, loaded with white rice, beans, Oaxaca cheese, crema, poblano peppers, cabbage, cilantro, salsa verde, and avocado. Did we mention they toast the burrito in cheese, creating an irresistible crispy exterior?

For those looking for a luxury lounge experience, the exclusive 12 Cocktail Bar fits the bill. Its craft cocktails, such as the Oaxacan smash featuring Siete Misterios Mezcal, lemon, lime, blueberry, passion fruit, and orange, are sure to impress. Get there before the 5 p.m. opening each day, or make a reservation before your next date night! 

Retail: PCM is home to many big-name retailers like Allbirds, Casper Mattress, and Atlanta’s only Glossier storefront (one of only 11 worldwide). Whether you’re in the mood to splurge or window shop, it’s undoubtedly a fun opportunity to experience online-first brands in their brick-and-mortar store. 

The Krog District

Let’s head south to The Krog District, a fascinating piece of Atlanta’s history, named after notable resident Frederick Krog. It’s been going strong since its redevelopment in 2004, with new additions and old favorites among the ever-expanding mix. 

Parking: The Krog District offers surface lot and garage parking options starting at $4 per hour on weekdays and $6 per hour on weekends (beginning Fridays at 5:30 p.m.).

Food & Beverage: You’ll find two restaurants here that have earned the Bib Gourmand honor in the Michelin Guide. First, there’s the intimate Ticonderoga Club — where you’ll want to opt for a reservation when (and if) you can. The Club rotates seasonal standout entrees, including the catch of the day, served alongside Carnaroli risotto, red grapefruit, parmesan, and fresh chives.

For a more casual spot, Fred’s Meat and Bread offers unbeatable food at a reasonable price. Sample tried-and-true sandwiches like the classic parm and tuna melt, or opt for eclectic creations like the “almost vegetarian” cauliflower and eggplant banh mi. It features pickled carrot, daikon, spicy mayo, jalapeno, cilantro, and a Thai vinaigrette. 

For a nightcap, walk to Brewdog or Pour Taproom, breweries with ample space and plenty of hops.

Retail: The Krog District boasts many unique storefronts as well, including Outdoor Voices, Patagonia, Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, and at least a dozen other highly recommended retail spots to hit up. 

The Battery Atlanta

Braves fans are likely familiar with The Battery, which includes Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves. In addition to food and drinks, concertgoers also flock to The Coca-Cola Roxy, which features notable comedians, musicians, and other performers. 

Parking: Great news! Self-parking is complimentary at the battery for the first three hours on the red, green, yellow, and purple decks. Not such good news: Event-day parking has a fairly complicated set of new rules. Uber or Lyft may be your best bet.

Food & Beverage: Crowds visit for sports and beer, and those are truly the standout draws. However, Antico Pizza Napoletana and elevated Tex-Mex eatery Superica are excellent choices if you’re seeking a full meal. Regarding drinks, there’s no lack of beer (think $12 tall boys) in every corner. Try Terrapin Taproom for an ice-cold Luau Krunkles POG, a hazy IPA with tropical aromas.

Retail: There’s no lack of Braves swag available, with two different storefronts selling team merch. 

Shopper browsing items in a small antique shop

These are the far-reaching effects when you shop locally

We're exploring how local communities thrive when shoppers support area entrepreneurs.

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday became a “thing” several years ago, benefiting both shops and shoppers. But “buy local” is more than a nice slogan — and is important for the local economy throughout the year whenever you support local businesses. 

This is especially true in DFW, which leads the nation for both small business employment growth and wage earnings growth among U.S. metro areas, according to the Small Business Employment Watch report from Paychex and HIS Markit.

If you have gifts to buy or simply want to treat yourself, read on to learn how shopping at small businesses in Dallas can make a big difference for all.  

Building vibrant economies

Small businesses play a crucial role in the nation’s economic landscape, making up nearly half of the American workforce. 

Texas small business employment grew by 47.7% between 1995 and 2019. This surpassed the national small business employment growth rate, according to a recent study by the Small Business Administration. And minority-owned businesses accounted for 20.4% of all businesses in the state in 2021, helping to create a more robust economic engine for all.

Dallas alone is home to 59,000 of the state’s small businesses. Supporting them has far-reaching positive effects. Local businesses are also more inclined to reinvest their earnings within the community, fostering economic growth and stability throughout neighborhoods. 

A busy outdoor market for small businesses.

One example of this phenomenon happens at Kettle Art in Deep Ellum, owned by Frank Campagna since 2005.

“When we have an opening or wine walk, people will wander off the street,” he said. “Because of the nature of my business, we’ve got stuff from $5 to $4,000 — all you have to do is break out your wallet and people do.”

By patronizing small businesses, shoppers help build a more vibrant and sustainable local economy at a neighborhood level as well as citywide. 

Small Business Saturday and, more generally, the holiday season is essential for a healthy year for many shops. The extra hours can help employees, too. 

“It’s huge for us — it’s our busiest time of the year for sure, and we’re putting out things we’ve been buying all year, like vintage holiday-related merchandise,” said Jason Cohen, owner of Curiosities Antiques in East Dallas. He added that they increase the number of part-time employees to meet seasonal demand. 

Creating a distinctive vibe

Shopping locally helps build a unique culture both in neighborhoods and cities. Small businesses are often the ones that organize community events and support local charities. They are also the ones that build a neighborhood’s character.

“Customers choose to shop at Curiosities Antiques because what they offer is anything but ordinary,” said Cohen.

“We embrace being a store that focuses on unique merchandise and offers interesting finds, things they won’t find in other places,” he said. “We are 100% independent and have always strived to be different from big-box stores.” 

Campagna reflected on shopping small and his hopes.

“I really wish people would do more [with small businesses]. I tend to think they spend more money at NorthPark than Deep Ellum,” he said. “To support local here means you’re getting stuff you won’t find anywhere else. And not just in my gallery – it’s happening in all of the shops around here. It supports them all.”

Tips for shopping locally:

  • Make a plan for the places you want to visit. Find a local gem right by you to shop on Small Business Saturday or any time of the year. 
  • Make a list. Do you need birthday, holiday, or hostess gifts? Think about everyone on your shopping list and note the kinds of places that can offer them something unique this year.
  • Leave a review. If you found something you wanted or received great service, a good review can help raise interest and trust in local businesses.
  • Share your experience on social media. Let your friends and followers know about the great local spots you’re supporting.