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A couple dances in a Texas ballroom
updated 5/8/2006 12:23:05 PM ET 2006-05-08T16:23:05

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. In fact, in recent years the live music scene claims to have outpaced that of Austin (which continues to call itself the "Live Music Capital of the World" but lost some of its laid-back cool in the makeover of the city). 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.

For listings, check out the "Weekend Guide" section of the Dallas Morning Newsand the Dallas Observer. You can also check the website of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau ( for events.

Ticket Central
For tickets to sporting events and performances, try Central Tickets(tel. 800/462-7979 or 817/335-9000), Star Tickets (tel. 888/597-STAR), or Front Gate Tickets(tel. 888/512-7469). 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 Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. at North Pearl (tel. 214/670-3600), 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 $8, and free concerts are occasionally held. (Free tours are available on selected days at 1pm; call in advance for schedule.) The Dallas Opera performs at Campbell Center #1, 8350 N. Central Expwy. (tel. 214/443-1043). The Dallas Theater Center, Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. (tel. 214/526-8210), 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;


Deep Ellum, the rowdy district east of downtown, is entering its second decade as the epicenter of live music and late-night dance clubs. It used to play almost exclusively to the alternative scene, but it has expanded its offerings to include discos, blues bars, and honky-tonks. The top live music venue is the Gypsy Tea Room, 2548 Elm St. (tel. 214/74-GYPSY), Dallas's current standard-bearer for live performance. The setting for national touring acts of alternative and roots-based rock and country (Wilco, Steve Earle), it contains a 600-capacity vintage ballroom and a smaller, more intimate space. Other favorites are long-timers Trees, 2709 Elm St. (tel. 214/748-5009), with a stellar record for hosting the latest and greatest alternative bands, and Club Dada, 2720 Elm St. (tel. 214/744-DADA), an eclectic, small, and often crowded club that was one of the originals in Deep Ellum. You'll find lesser-known rock as well as folk acts and poetry slams here.

Competing for some of the same acts as the Gypsy Tea Room is the more 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). For live all-ages (really all-ages -- if you're under 10, 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, 3202 Elm St. (tel. 214/742-DOOR). It has a large concert space as well as a lounge and theater. For live blues (and this is the district that cradled blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson), check out Deep Ellum Blues, 2612 Commerce St. (tel. 214/760-9338), which features live jams every Sunday night. The Bone, 2724 Elm St. (tel. 214/744-2663), is ostensibly a blues club, but much more than that is a crowded, sweaty drinking spot for young and rowdies.

Another hot area for bars and clubs is Lower Greenville Avenue. Greenville Bar & Grill, 2821 Lower Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/823-6691), has been cool since I used to sneak in there as a high school senior. The crowd, mostly folks intent on defying the big 4-0, come for rock, country, and blues nightly. The Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/824-9933), is a converted old movie theater that now books popular acts like Bob Dylan and Sigur Rós.

Once a dark and ambience-heavy jazz cafe, Sambuca has now gone thoroughly uptown with its new location at 2120 McKinney Ave. (tel. 214/744-0820). A spacious, upscale supper club, it draws a trendy crowd for cocktails, dinner, and live jazz (much of it jazz fusion you can dance to) 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). 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. 214/821-9891), a venerable old club whose stage has been graced by many great Texas singer-songwriters, recently moved into new, decidedly not poor digs at 1313 S. Lamar, near Gilley's . It aims to retain some of the old ambience, as well as provide a platform for live jazz and blues, albeit with slightly greater capacity.

Dallas Alley, 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 West End 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-ticket touring rock and pop acts is Nokia Live Center, 1001 NextStage Dr., Grand Prairie (tel. 972/854-5050).

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Top Rail Ballroom, 2110 W. Northwest Hwy. (tel. 972/556-9099), with wagon-wheel chandeliers and a neon covered wagon, is a classic Texas C&W dance hall, a place where you'll find more authentic cowboys than transplanted wannabes. Open daily, it's the best boot-scootin' this side of Fort Worth. 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 1601 S. Lamar (tel. 214/888-GILLEYS or 214/428-2919). 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 (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.

For more on what to see and do in Dallas, visit our complete guide online at

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Don't mess with Texas

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  1. Howdy

    Big Tex greets over 3 million visitors to the State Fair of Texas each year. The State Fair is held annually at Fair Park, located near downtown Dallas. (Courtesy of Fair Park) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. We'll meet by the riverside

    A project is under way to turn the banks of the Trinity River -- here reflecting the Dallas skyline -- into the nation's largest urban park. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Mad hatters

    An athlete competes in a bull-riding event at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, which runs April through October in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. November 22, 1963

    The view of Dealy Plaza from the Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas School Book Depository. The site, from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy, is dedicated to Kennedy's life and legacy. (Courtesy of the Sixth Floor Museum) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Child of blues and industry

    A center for blues and jazz early in the century, Deep Ellum had become a warehouse district by the 60s and 70s. But the artists returned, and an the area is once again a hotspot for arts and entertainment. (Courtesy of the Deep Ellum Assoc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Cattle call

    Cowboys move a herd of Texas longhorns along the Trinity River Bottoms. Once a major stop along the Preston Cattle Trail, the Dallas area still has a number of working ranches. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Downtown skyline

    An aerial view of downtown Houston. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Ballunar Festival

    The RE/MAX Ballunar Liftoff Festival is an annual ballooning event near Johnson Space Center involving a weekend of hot air ballooning, arts and crafts, live entertainment, sky-diving exhibitions and food. Aug. 25-27, 2006. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Diana Garden

    Framed by the native bayou woodlands, the Diana Garden at Bayou Bend provides a magnificent vista from the north terrace of the house. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Hermann Park

    Hermann Park, presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, is Houston's most historically significant public green space. The park rests on 401 acres in the heart of the Museum District. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Space Center

    As the official visitors center for Johnson Space Center, this theme park for space fans features actual spacecraft, flight simulators and a guided tram tour of NASA and Mission Control. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Augusta Pines

    Located north of Houston in Spring, Augusta Pines Golf Club hosted the PGA Champions Tour (formerly the Seniors Tour) in 2004 and 2005. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Houston Zoo - Natural Encounters Exhibit

    The Zoo's Natural Encounters exhibit features meerkats, otters, vampire bats and other small mammals. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Museum of Fine Arts

    Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is the largest art museum in the Southwest. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers more than 51,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Galveston Beach

    Just 50 miles south of Houston, Galveston is Texas' most beautiful, entertaining & historic island. Visitors to this splendid tropical paradise are treated to 32 miles of sun-drenched beaches, direct access to four major cruise lines, miles of historic Victorian architecture, countless exciting attractions, 20 square blocks of shopping on Galveston's Historic Downtown Strand and much more.. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Kemah Boardwalk

    Kemah, on Galveston Bay, is a spectacular waterfront destination with themed restaurants, the Boardwalk Inn hotel, amusement rides, dancing fountains, mid-way games and retail shops. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Minute Maid Park

    A jewel in the crown of the majestic downtown Houston skyline, Minute Maid Park has become a welcome home for the Houston Astros and has ushered in a new era of Major League sports in the city. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Illuminated Alamo

    San Antonio and the Alamo played a critical role in the Texas Revolution - it is a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The River Walk

    The World Famous San Antonio River Walk offers a variety of attractions and activities including riverboat rides, live music, hotels, museums, art galleries, shopping. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Day of the Dead

    An ancient festivity that has been much transformed through the years, the Day of the Dead was intended in prehispanic Mexico to celebrate children and the dead. The holiday today is a time when Mexican families remember their dead and the continuity of life. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Mission San Jose

    Mission San Jose was founded in 1720 by the famed Father Antonio Margil de Jesús, a prominent Franciscan missionary in early Texas. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio river several miles to the south of the earlier mission, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Mission San Jose is an active parish. Visitors are welcome to attend mass on Sundays. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Witte Museum

    The Witte Museum is San Antonio 's premiere museum featuring scientific and historical exhibits for the whole family. The H-E-B Science Treehouse offers four levels of fun and experimentation with Energy, Air Power, Simple Machines, Eco-Science, Weather, and Sound Waves. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. McNay Art Museum

    Housed in what was the home of the late Marion Koogler McNay, the McNay Art Museum was the first modern art museum in Texas. Founded in 1950, the McNay focuses primarily on 19th- and 20th- century European and American art, and opened to the public four years later. It's collection of prints and drawings is one of the finest in the Southwest. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Little Flower Shrine

    This Roman Catholic Church, is dedicated to Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux of the Child Jesus, and bears her nickname, 'The Little Flower' of Jesus. It is distinguished as one of only a handful of church buildings in North America (and one of only three in the state of Texas) bearing the papal designation of 'basilica' - a treasury of art, master craftsmanship and relics. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Torch of Friendship

    Urban monumental sculptor Sebastian was commissioned by the Association of Mexican Entrepreneurs of San Antonio to create this 50-ton red steel structure. Created in Mexico, it was shipped to San Antonio in six pieces and was presented to the City of San Antonio as a gift from the Association. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
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