Dallas has a lively nightlife scene, with enough in the way of performing arts and theater to entertain highbrows and more than enough bars and clubs to satisfy the young and the restless. If you've come to North Texas to wrangle a mechanical bull, you may have to drop in on Fort Worth, but there are a couple of sturdy honky-tonks in Big D where you can strap on your boots and your best Stetson and do some two-steppin' and Western swing dancing.
Ticket Central -- For tickets to sporting events and performances, try Central Tickets (tel. 800/462-7979 or 817/335-9000; www.centralticketoffice.com), Star Tickets (tel. 888/597-STAR [597-7827]; www.startickets.com), or Front Gate Tickets (tel. 888/512-7469; www.frontgatetickets.com). For many events, there's little need to secure tickets in advance of your trip, but that's not the case with big sporting and musical performances.
The Performing Arts
The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. at North Pearl (tel. 214/670-3600; www.dallassymphony.com), is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, a very respectable outfit led by maestro Andrew Litton. The I. M. Pei-designed auditorium is equipped with excellent acoustics and a spectacular pipe organ. Tickets to events are as little as $12, and free concerts are occasionally held. (Free tours are available on selected days at 1pm; call in advance for schedule.) The Dallas Opera currently performs at Campbell Center #1, 8350 N. Central Expwy. (tel. 214/443-1043; www.dallasopera.org), though the arts world in Dallas is buzzing with anticipation for the new Winspear Opera House, a red horseshoe within a glass box, designed by Sir Norman Foster, to open as part of the $340-million Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, in the heart of the Arts District, in the fall of 2009. Another major international architect, Rem Koolhaas, is adding an intimate but futuristic theater tower to the complex: the Wyly Theater is scheduled to be completed around the same time. The Dallas Theater Center, Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. (tel. 214/526-8210; www.dallastheatercenter.org), is a little gem, the only professional working theater built by the famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the best place for theater in the Dallas area. Local and touring productions, some fairly adventurous by Dallas standards (like Angels in America), are on the card here. The ornate, nicely restored Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St. (tel. 214/880-0137), built in 1920, is the last of the vaudeville theaters in Dallas. It plays host to dance, comedy, and theater, including the Dallas Summer Musicals' Majestic Series. Less traditional theater is performed by the acclaimed Kitchen Dog Theater Company, 3120 McKinney Ave. (tel. 214/953-1055). Of interest to families may be the shows put on by the Dallas Children's Theater, 2215 Cedar Springs (tel. 214/978-0110; www.dct.org). A new venue hosting Latin-themed cultural events, including theater, dance, and music, as well as art exhibitions, is the colorful Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak (at Good Latimer) (tel. 214/670-3320).
The biggest continuing news in live music, dance clubs, and bars is the decline -- indeed, near death -- of Deep Ellum, the rowdy district east of downtown, after a quarter-century as the epicenter of live music and late-night dance clubs. The one-time nightlife destination fell victim to a sustained spate of unsettling gang violence, bar fights, robberies, occasional shootings, and mismanaged clubs. Venerable stalwarts of the Dallas scene, including Trees, Club Clearview, Gypsy Tea Room, and Deep Ellum Blues, all have gone under in the past couple years. For those young daredevils who still wish to live on the edge in Deep Ellum, a free shuttle service for barhoppers runs throughout Deep Ellum on Fridays and Saturdays from 6:30pm to 2:30am. Still hosting national touring acts of alternative and roots-based rock and country is the spacious Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St. (tel. 214/747-4422), a classic Texas dance hall that's equal parts pickup bar, live music venue, and honky-tonk, hosting rock, country, and occasional rockabilly acts (and swing dance classes on Wed); but like many classic Texas dance halls of its era, it's on the endangered list. The Bone, 2724 Elm St. (tel. 214/744-2663), is ostensibly a blues club, but, much more than that, it is a crowded, sweaty drinking spot for young and rowdies. Double Wide, 3510 Commerce (tel. 214/887-6510), recently reopened with new owners, is a funky music club with a southern twist; it's the place to go if you want to get your trailer park on, with Lone Star beer, gimme caps, and live, loud rock music.
Christian music and culture is picking up some of the Deep Ellum void. For live, all-ages (really all-ages -- if you're 9 and under, you get in free!) rock and pop gigs, including emo (short for emotional) punk rock and Christian acts (sometimes a whole slew of bands in a single night), check out The Door, 2513 Elm St. (tel. 214/742-DOOR [742-3667]), now in the old Gypsy Tea Room theater space.
The Palladium, in what was the main room of Gilley's, 1135 S. Lamar St. (tel. 972/854-5050; www.thepalladiumballroom.com), is somewhere between a club and a large concert hall, with good lighting, sightlines, and sound for midsize rock, country, and alternative acts (such as the Black Crowes). It contains a very intimate space (capacity 300) called The Loft. In Victory Park, just north of downtown, the slick new House of Blues Dallas, 2200 N. Lamar St. (tel. 214/978-2583), is no ordinary juke joint; it's a 60,000-square-foot complex with a large concert hall, an outdoor patio, and a southern restaurant. Live acts range from blues to soul and rock.
Lower Greenville Avenue has been around forever, and is doing its best to fill the bill for bars and clubs in the wake of Deep Ellum's demise. The Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/824-9933; www.granadatheater.com), is a converted old movie theater that now books such popular acts as Bob Dylan and Sigur Rós that also appeal to a somewhat older but still hip crowd. The Cavern, 1914 Lower Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/828-1914), is a tiny but cool indie spot that books good alternative acts (such as Devendra Banhart) and has upstairs DJs for those who find the live space too claustrophobic.
Once a dark and ambience-heavy jazz cafe, Sambuca has gone thoroughly uptown now that it's in Uptown, at 2120 McKinney Ave. (tel. 214/744-0820; www.sambucarestaurant.com). A spacious, upscale supper club, it draws a trendy crowd for cocktails, dinner, and live music 7 nights a week. It has another North Dallas branch, also a Mediterranean restaurant, at 15207 Addison Rd. at Belt Line, in Addison (tel. 972/385-8455). Perhaps Dallas's best club for live jazz is Brooklyn, 1701 S. Lamar (tel. 214/428-0025; www.brooklynjazzcafe.com), which has a big space with an outdoor patio. Balcony Club, 1825 Abrams at La Vista (tel. 214/826-8104), upstairs from the Landmark (movie) Theater, is a cool, dark spot with intimate booths, perfect for some relaxing beats and a drink. It has live jazz nightly. Poor David's Pub (tel. 214/565-1295), a venerable old club whose stage has been graced by many great Texas singer-songwriters (such as Guy Clark), is smoke free and occupies decidedly not poor digs at 1313 S. Lamar, near Gilley's . It aims to retain some of the old ambience, and provides a platform for live jazz and blues, albeit with slightly greater capacity.
Dallas Alley, in the West End, Munger Avenue at Marker Street (tel. 214/720-0170), is a touristy mix of bars and restaurants primarily aimed at businessmen entertaining clients and visitors staying in downtown hotels. From karaoke to country and oldies clubs, it's one-stop shopping for most groups looking for a night out on the town with a view of the skyline. Don't count on heaps of local flavor and authenticity, but the drinking and carousing seem contagious for most. The newest and best spot for big-name touring rock and pop acts is Nokia Live Center, 1001 NextStage Dr., Grand Prairie (tel. 972/854-5050).
Lizard Lounge, 2424 Swiss Ave. (at Good Latimer) (tel. 214/826-4768), is the city's best dance club; trendy and slightly seedy, but resolutely sexy, it trades in percolating dance beats and a hot crowd, with occasional live bands. Sunday night is Goth Night. For something out of the ordinary -- dancing to Tejano and ranchero music, along with what seems like half of Dallas's Latino population -- check out massive Escapade 2009, 10701 Finnell St. (tel. 214/654-9950). About 5,000 people get their Pan-Latino groove (Tejano, ranchera, rock en Español) on here nightly.
Gilley's Dallas, a Big D branch of Houston's famous honky-tonk (which shot to fame with John Travolta on a bucking bronco in Urban Cowboy), finally opened at 1135 S. Lamar (tel. 888/GILLEYS [445-5397]). It is absolutely Texan in size, with more than 90,000 square feet to accommodate all those boots, hats, and hair. Cowboys Red River Dancehall, 10310 Technology Blvd. (tel. 214/352-1796), has live country music nightly, mechanical bull riding, a huge dance floor, and dance lessons. Worth the drive if you're a boot-scooter or country music fan is the must-see Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth.
For a more intimate, down-and-dirty take on the honky-tonk scene, check out Adair's Saloon, 2624 Commerce St., in Deep Ellum (tel. 214/939-9900), which the regulars call "Aayy-dares." It gets its share of clean-scrubbed SMU students, but mostly you'll find down-to-earth patrons and infectious country and redneck rock bands that go down well with the cheap beer, shuffleboard, and tables and walls blanketed in graffiti. The perfectly greasy burgers with a whole jalapeño on top are surprisingly tasty; some say they're the best in Dallas. The only rule here is in plain English on the sign behind the bar: NO DANCIN' ON TABLES WITH SPURS.
The Bar Scene
Many of the hottest spots in Dallas are in Uptown. Cru, 3699 McKinney Ave., A306 (tel. 214/526-9463), is a wine bar and restaurant that features an excellent wine list; most of its patrons treat it primarily as the former, sampling vintages from the many different wine flights on offer. But the see-and-be-seen spot for wealthy Dallasites and visiting celebs (you'll know immediately if you fit in here) is the much-talked-about Ghostbar in the new W Hotel, 2440 Victory Park (tel. 214/871-1800). It's got a helipad tailor-made for scene-stealing arrivals. Before Ghostbar, the "it" nightlife spot was Dragonfly, 2332 Leonard St. (tel. 800/597-8399), at the restaurant of trendy Hotel ZaZa. On weekend nights it is still stuffed to the rafters with guys and gals both busting out of their shirts, but otherwise it's a luxurious spot for a cocktail, such as predinner drinks poolside. If you're looking for a quieter but still fashionable spot, venture inside Hotel Lumen, 6101 Hillcrest Ave. (tel. 214/219-8282), to Social, a swank lounge and restaurant that's a haunt of trendsetting nightlife types.
The Old Monk, 2847 N. Henderson (tel. 214/821-1880), is a dark, handsome bar 1 block east of Central Expressway with an excellent selection of Belgian beers, single malts, and great pub grub -- go with the Belgian mussels with fries and spicy mayo. In Uptown, just off McKinney Avenue, The Ginger Man, 2718 Boll St. (tel. 214/754-8771), has a great beer garden and a beer selection to die for: about 200 beers from around the world, including 70 on tap.
Downtown, if you want to heighten the effect an expensive cocktail has on you, check out the Dome, 50 stories aboveground in the revolving Reunion Tower ball, 300 Reunion Blvd. (tel. 214/712-7145). A step up from karaoke is Pete's Dueling Piano Bar, 4980 Belt Line Rd., #200, Addison (tel. 972/726-7383; www.petesduelingpianobar.com), a rowdy piano bar where four accomplished players tickle the ivories on two baby grands and everybody sings along (enthusiastically) to crowd favorites by the Stones, Beatles, Johnny Cash, and even Eminem.
The Gay & Lesbian Scene
The Crew's Inn, 3215 N. Fitzhugh Ave. (tel. 214/526-9510), is cruise-happy but caters to the widest, rather than the wildest, common denominator of the gay community (it has angered some by reportedly banning drag queens and transgendered individuals). Another longtime favorite, with a consistently good vibe and a wall of video monitors, is J. R.'s Bar and Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Rd. (tel. 214/528-1004). Village Station, 3911 Cedar Springs Rd. (tel. 214/559-0650), is a gay dance club that features nightly drag shows in the Rose Room and Trash Disco every Sunday. Sue Ellen's, 3903 Cedar Springs Rd. (tel. 214/559-0707), is a friendly gay and lesbian bar with live rock, a dance floor, and an outdoor patio. Buddies II, 4025 Maple Ave. (tel. 214/526-0887), is tops for lesbians: hot music and SGWF looking for same. Gay country swing and line dancers should check out the Texas Twisters (www.texastwisters.org), a group that organizes two-stepping and the like for gays and lesbians around the Dallas area, frequently at the Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Rd. (tel. 214/522-9611), a gay country bar that has a Monday karaoke night.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.