The Best Things to Do in Oak Cliff

Children are delighted by a hippo at the Dallas Zoo.
Children are delighted by a hippo at the Dallas Zoo. | © Cathy Burkey / Dallas Zoo
Photo of Alex Temblador
24 April 2018

The southwest side of Dallas is home to Oak Cliff, a neighborhood that is renowned for its diversity, especially in the Latino community, the arts, restaurants, and a blossoming selection of attractions. From authentic Mexican cuisine to live music, shopping, and mountain biking, Oak Cliff has something for every type of visitor. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Oak Cliff from morning to night.

Watch a film in a historic theater

The Texas Theater is a historic movie theater that’s been a staple of Oak Cliff since 1931. Today, it mostly shows indie and art films for a low price, though sometimes they hold events with free screenings. In addition to a small concession stand, there’s a bar where patrons can enjoy a drink or two before and after films. Take note: this was also the site where Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended by police.

Texas Theater screens indie and art films as well as movies with cultural significance | © Alex Temblador

Have Mexican food… and then more Mexican food

You can’t go to Oak Cliff without having Mexican food—because it’s the best in the city. Have an authentic Mexican breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Gonzalez Restaurant. Don’t forget to try their award-winning tortillas! Grab tacos 24/7 from Cesar’s Tacos or breakfast from La Sultana Antojitos. If you’re looking for a delicious Mexican pastry (pan dulce), try Maroches Bakery on Davis Street.

Attend an Oak Cliff Cultural Center event

The Oak Cliff Cultural Center plays an important part in the Oak Cliff community. They bring art shows, classes, and workshops to their storefront space on Jefferson Boulevard, as well as host bigger neighborhood events like #214Selena and the Cinco de Mayo Festival. If they’re not having an event, you can stop by their space to check out their gallery which is usually filled with art.

Oak Cliff Cultural Center hosts art shows, community festivals, and other events. | © Oak Cliff Cultural Center

Explore the Bishop Arts District

The Bishop Arts District sits within Oak Cliff and is a favorite weekend spot for Dallasites. Home to boutique stores, restaurants, bars, and bookstores, the Bishop Arts District is comprised of a few walkable streets. It has an old-timey design, thanks to brick buildings and charming storefronts, and offers plenty of shopping and eating options to take up a whole day.

Mountain bike in the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve

The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is a hidden pocket of natural wonder in Dallas’ Oak Cliff. The 121-acre (48.96-hectare) preserve is filled with woodlands and prairies intersected by eight miles (12.87 km) of trails. While many people do hike the trails, with its twists, turns, and small ramps, they are best enjoyed by those who love mountain biking.

Oak Cliff Nature Preserve has eight miles of hiking and biking trails | © Alex Temblador

Have a family day out at the zoo

The Dallas Zoo opened in 1888 and has been going strong as Texas’ largest zoo! Take the family to see exhibits of over 2,000 animals from all over the world. Some highlights include more than 70 venomous snakes and a Giants of the Savanna exhibit that mixes animals from the Savanna in one habitat.

Children are delighted by a hippo at the Dallas Zoo. | © Cathy Burkey / Dallas Zoo

Shop for Latino artisan products in Mercado Artesanal

With strong ties to the Latino community, Oak Cliff is the perfect place for Mercado369’s Mercado Artesanal, a contemporary arts market selling Latino art from around the world. In addition to an art gallery, you’ll find jewelry, paintings, sculptures, textiles, and décor for sale. They also hosts workshops, dances, and other events throughout the week.

Check out some amazing murals

The mural art work of Oak Cliff is some of the best in Dallas. Take a few hours to search throughout the neighborhood for amazing pieces. There’s two murals designed in memory of Tejano singer, Selena Quintanilla-Perez. Another mural by Mexican artist Ricardo Angeles features an eagle, a skull, a snake, a heart, a fish, and a butterfly. Bishop Arts has a handful of murals, like a large multi-colored deer with the words “Bishop Arts.” Be sure to take a picture with the “Oak Cliff Loves You” mural on the Seven Mart Food Store to remember your Oak Cliff mural hunting days!

Oak Cliff is home to wonderful murals, like this one that pays tribute to Selena Quintanilla-Perez | © Alex Temblador

Catch a show at the Kessler Theater

The Kessler Theater opened in Oak Cliff in 1942 and was once owned by Gene Autry. While it was a movie theater, today it has been remodeled as a spot that hosts concerts, readings, and art performances. Inside, there’s an art gallery space, as well as a beloved bar. Though it’s been updated to fit modern standards, there’s still a definite early 1900’s vibe to the space that any visitor will love.

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