Dallas: There’s More to Oak Cliff than Bishop Arts

On weekends, especially, neighborhood locals tend to steer clear of the crowds from the ‘burbs that flock to the shops and restaurants of the Bishop Arts District, the most well-known few blocks of the enormous swath of southern Dallas known as “Oak Cliff.”

Nothing against Bishop Arts—it’s full of goodness—but rather than joining the throngs there, consider venturing farther afield for a broader view of the “Cliff.” as many locals call it–or even the OC.

Shop the Tyler-Davis Arts District

Just a few blocks west of Bishop Arts you’ll hit the Tyler-Davis Arts District, where Tyler and Davis streets intersect. While it doesn’t have the density of Bishop Arts (yet), this up-and-coming intersection has plenty going on. You can buy high-end kitchen and home wares at Set & Co. ; flip through the old and new vinyl at Spinster Records; shop for stylishly curated used clothing and other items at Rose Garden Remake Boutique, where proceeds help women transitioning out of prison; and exercise your creativity in art classes at Oil and Cotton. Also on Davis: Joy Macarons, for a sweet stop; Dallas Bike Works; and Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters (no to-go cups, no wifi, just great coffee). Head south on Tyler and you can browse the eclectic frippery of GypsyHouse and check out the local and regional arts exhibited at Mighty Fine Arts Gallery, a few doors down (although hours there can be erratic).

Commune With Nature

To commune with nature in the Cliff, visit the Dallas Zoo; at 106 acres, it’s the largest zoo in Texas and the oldest in the Southwest. Look for the ginormous giraffe statue—it’s nearly 70 feet tall—towering over I-35 at Marsalis. The zoo’s signature experience is riding a monorail to view the zoo’s Wilds of Africa exhibit, six habitats of the continent and their denizens, including elephants, hippos, and giraffes.

You can also get out for a workout at Kiest Park, a gracious and green 264-acre park with a 2.8 mile paved walk/bike trail, playing fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and—a precious commodity in Dallas—plenty of tree-shaded benches and picnic tables. Or head east from Hampton on Loop 12/Ledbetter/Great Trinity Forest Way (Dallas loves giving streets multiple names—it keeps tourists on their toes) to the Trinity Audubon Center, where you can learn about, and view, some of the many species of birds that call Dallas home, or pass through on the migratory flyway. Check the website for educational programs such as dusk Owl Prowls.

Eat and Drink

When it’s time to dine, Tachito’s, is a beloved (among those in the know) longtime Tex-Mex institution on Illinois near Westmoreland. You can also circle back to Tyler-Davis for some “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken” at bbop Seoul Kitchen. Or join a very local scene at Nova on Davis at Windomere. Nova, which also serves brunch Saturday and Sunday, starts evenings as a sedate restaurant, but heats up into a lively bar scene as the hour grows later. It’s also popular for a pre-show bite for people attending shows at the Kessler Theater, about a block east—one of Dallas’ best live music venues, known as a place where you’ll get shushed if you chatter during the show. Another nightlife alternative: The Texas Theater on Jefferson Boulevard, which gained notoriety when Lee Harvey Oswald, the gunman who felled JFK, was apprehended there, and which is now a popular art/independent movie house with a swinging lobby bar.

After you’ve done all that, you’ll know Oak Cliff better than the folks who make it in only as far as Bishop Arts. And yet you’ll still have lots more to explore next time.

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