Review of Dallas, Texas

Flighty Friends, Pushy Drivers, Limited Diversity
Star Rating - 3/23/2019
I recently relocated back to Houston from Dallas. I was in Dallas for 18 months. I went there in September of 2017 as a result of Hurricane Harvey - it was where I chose to evacuate. My life in Houston had also gotten stale on a number of fronts, so I had serious hopes that Dallas could outdo Houston.

Guess what? It didn’t. What I learned about Dallas is that while it is another large city in Texas like Houston (and Austin and San Antonio) it is very different, and not in good ways. In summary, Dallas is too small, and not racially and culturally diverse enough for my liking.

First, though, some important disclaimers for others who have wandered onto this city’s page. I looked at reviews of places with names “Cedar Park”, “McKinney”, and what not. Those are NOT Dallas - those are in what is known collectively as the “Metroplex”, the cluster of over 30 cities and independent municipalities that make up the entire area. Dallas is the largest city in the Metroplex but it is not the only one. Some of the experiences that folks gave account for here would make sense for a small town or community surrounding Dallas, but not Dallas itself.

Second, I actually lived in Dallas for a year and a half. Someone who visited is going to have a different perspective because, frankly, they’re not staying. The city is effectively something to entertain them. But they’re not immersed in the day-in, day-out activities of having a life: getting a job, making friends, finding things to do in one’s free time outside the tourist attractions.

So, let’s dive in.

Let me start with the demographics. Yes, Dallas has some variety in its borders. I lived in Oak Lawn, the seat of the LGBT community in that town, and saw African-Americans, whites, and Hispanics. Interviewing for jobs I also saw Indians, Asians, and Mid-Easterners. But compared to Houston, Dallas struck me as considerably - how can I put this? - “whiter” city. It took me longer than I expected to find a decent Mexican restaurant.

I consider myself multicultural and had hoped to enjoy the same kind of diversity of people in Houston as I did in Dallas - that is, people you could have upbeat and spirited conversations with, go out for lunches or dinners with, and get to know more deeply. There really was only one person I got to that level with, and due to unfortunate personal circumstances in his life, he basically wound up running away.

That leads to another major complaint I have about Dallas - transcience. The city moves too fast. I met a bunch of cool people the first six months I was there. By the second six months they had all disappeared or moved on. That typically doesn’t happen in Houston, or at least, it has not been my experience. I have long-standing relationships in Houston that have lasted five years or more. And that’s not to say everyone disappeared like this, but this kind of disappearing act happened too often for my liking.

Dallas has a reputation for being snobby and I suppose that may well be the case in the wealthy suburbs, but I didn’t get much of that. What I got was a sort of phoniness instead. It seems that Dallas folks are fine laughing and smiling with you in person, but if you scratch deeper it’s not real. I remember making friends (as best I could) with a guy who worked in a retailer in the neighborhood. Neither of us were thrilled with our job situations and I visited him at his job to commiserate. Eventually both of us got better gigs but when I reached out to him suggesting we meet up to celebrate, he was nowhere to be found - texts and e-mails went unanswered. It was as if he had vanished. And this was someone I had helped look for his new gig, too.

Since returning from Dallas and reaching out to a few folks I knew when I was there, I have not received but one or two responses. It makes me wonder if the relations we had were real at all, all along. You may experience the same thing, especially if you’re a more sensitive or introspective type like me.

Turning to size - Dallas really isn’t that big of a place. Compared to Houston’s over 600 square miles, Dallas clocks in at about 375, or about half the size - and it shows. Its smaller size means there’s less room for alternate roads and highways, critical when there’s a massive accident on US 75/Central or any of the other major roadways around. I can find my way around Houston very easily if a freeway is shut down, but in Dallas you’ll likely be going through neighborhoods as alternates.

And on the subject of traffic, let’s talk about their drivers. I came to the conclusion that it takes three things to be able to drive in Dallas - nerves of steel, lightning reflexes, and a big middle finger. Dallas has been described as the Los Angeles of Texas - a car-oriented place where the motorists are pushy and aggressive. Dallas is the first place I’ve ever lived where I felt endangered driving to and from work - tailgaters and folks going 20-30 over the limit are pretty common. Amusingly enough, one of their major tollways, the Dallas North Tollway, has initials that could be pronounced “DENT”. I think the only thing that makes Dallas’ drivers not as deadly as they could be is they love their high-performance cars and SUVs and don’t want any damage to their sparkling chrome.

I happen to be a big lover of the visual arts. I figured Dallas has major spaces and it does - the Dallas Museum of Art is their biggest space. The Dallas Contemporary is their largest modern space. But aside from that - and unlike Houston - Dallas itself doesn’t have many smaller, non-profit, independent spaces - for those you’ll have to go 45 miles west to Fort Worth (which has wonderful art spaces!).

Dallas has something called the Design District, but this is industrial art or art for collectors - in other words, largely commercial. And commercial art has a different feel than, say, the Contemporary Arts Museum, DiverseWorks, or The Menil Collection, all in Houston. I was an established artist in Houston - that is, I had a name there, and had actively exhibited in shows. Dallas is a harder market to get into, and the vibe isn’t nearly as friendly as that of Houston. The Design District is worth a visit, though.

And then let’s talk about coffee, a key thing for me. In Houston, you can find several independent (non-Starbucks) coffee nooks that close late - 10pm or later. In Dallas, many of the places are closed by 7pm and a handful stay open until 10pm. You can get flavored brew at the city’s Cafe Brazil chain, but that’s not a coffeehouse, it’s a diner. Arguably the city’s best coffee place, Crooked Tree, closes at 6pm weeknights/7pm weekend nights (as of this writing). When I moved there originally, they had 10pm weeknights/11pm weekend nights. This is in one of the busier residential/shopping districts in the city - this coffee place went the wrong way. Good for the owner, bad for patrons.

Since returning from Dallas, I am discovering anew the value of living near a major body of water. As I wrote this, I was sitting in Galveston, just 50 miles from downtown Houston, and a short drive any day. Galveston has a beautiful seawall walk, beaches, and a quaint entertainment district called The Strand. Dallas, by comparison, is landlocked. The biggest body of water I knew about was White Rock Lake (not sure if this was a man-made lake or not). It just doesn’t feel the same as the Gulf, and even more noteworthy, White Rock Lake Park is not illuminated. Seawall Blvd in Galveston, though, is nicely lit and charming - you can take a lovely stroll after dark. And White Rock is not a “district”.

Dallas’ downtown area is NOT based on a city grid (rows and columns) layout - it’s this weird spaghetti thing where streets meet each other at strange angles. Rush hour there is insane.

Even the city’s edgiest neighborhood, Deep Ellum, didn’t do it for me. They have a nice little comedy club (where you can take classes on doing standup!). They have a few small art spaces. But this community - at this point in time (2019) I could describe as six square blocks of hedonists and “N-word” rap. If you’re not a young 20-something, Deep Ellum is probably not for you - interesting because the area has been hit by gentrification and rents there are almost certainly out of the reach of most millennials.

Finally, the weather. No, you’re not gonna get hit with a hurricane in Dallas - the remnants, perhaps, but not a direct strike like Houston does. But you may get tornadoes, hail, or ice storms. Every first Wednesday of every month at 12 noon, they test their tornado sirens. I haven’t heard those things since living in central Illinois. And while the summer heat is of a drier variety, it is still HOT. Last summer was my first 115-degree summer, and I had the power bill to prove it.

But it was the colder months that shocked me the most. Relative humidity in my apartment got as low as 12 percent (that’s where just giving someone a dirty look can shock them) and even a humidifier I bought at Target couldn’t keep up. My power bill to stay warm in a one-bedroom exceeded $200 regularly. I never had that in Houston.

So, that is what I saw in 18 months of life in Dallas. I made a handful of smiling but tenuous friends, had one good one that suddenly dissipated, spent a lot of anxiety cycles behind the wheel, and had a soul hungering for real people who would invite me into their lives. I really, really wanted to like Dallas - I seriously did. But after depleting all the attractions I could think of that were appropriate to me, and wandering around the city mostly alone, I came to the conclusion that The Big D is a place that is better visited than lived in. Dallas is not as inclusive as it thinks it is.

Austin | Houston, TX
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6 Replies

Dallas is very diverse, but after living here for over 30 years most of my friends are from other countries. The people are very superficial. Very friendly and nice, but there is little substance and connection. A lot of people want out. They want to go somewhere cooler and more laid back. The traffic here is as awful as this poster says. The Tollway used to end at Trinity Mills Rd when I first moved here. Now it feels like it goes to Oklahoma and it is a huge monolith of cement. It gives me the heebeegeebes when I get anywhere near it these days. It is one big cement city. I'm in my 50's and found this site looking for information on Florida. I don't know how I could retire in Dallas. I always feel like someone wants to run me over and the number of dents my car gets in the parking lot is appalling. People are just going nuts these days in Dallas. They are driving like maniacs. Even in Plano it is bad. Ten years ago you could drive in Plano at 10AM with little traffic. Now, it is nonstop traffic. Whoever thought it was a good idea to develop the Tollway area in Plano and give all those tax abatements should be shot. There is nowhere to go that is peaceful any more in DFW. Southlake is nice, but it is unaffordable for most people. People come to Dallas to work. If you are not making a bunch of money, you need to get out. I seriously wonder about the quality of life. It is burning hot and for most of the year you cannot walk outside without getting a sunburn in 30 minutes. It is like being a prisoner in your own home.
Karen |

Dallas is a conservative city. It's liberals are right-wing compared to the liberals on the west and east coast. That explains why true liberals move there and feel like a fish out of the water. As for it being a diverse city... only on the surface. Every race there hate each other. The blacks are discriminated in obtaining the better jobs. Illegals are hired over them. The whites are arrogant, passive aggressive racists. The Latinos can be either passive aggressive or rude. Never saw a city this size that lack culture, diversity and has bad race relations in my life
Yada | Omaha, NE

Whoever wrote this, can you please email me at Thanks.
Grace | Miami, TX

"Dallas is too small, and not racially and culturally diverse enough for my liking." I've never been so bothered reading a review. Dallas has a near 25% african american/black community. Decent hispanic/latino community. It lacks in many other minorities compared to some cities but it is the top 10 most racially diverse communities in the country. Pretty average in other diversity factors (age, sexual orientation, ect). It has more than 10% less whites than national average and comparative to cities in the likes of California. Somehow someone still complains its not "diverse" enough when its one of the most diverse cities in the country. What in the actual f'k. There aren't but a handful of more diverse cities in the country so I'm not sure what's to your liking...
Tim | Wood Dale, IL

I've never seen a more pretentious post. And as a Dallas native, I've seen 60 years of pretentiousness. Allow me to say that you didn't see Dallas in your vast experience of 18 months. Every single neighborhood you cite (and by the way, Dallas expert, Cedar Park is an Austin suburb) is a tourist site. The "edgy" neighborhood of Deep Ellum? Please. Deep Ellum is an historic destination where early jazz greats originated, but it's long since been gentrified. Spend some time in South Oak Cliff or South Dallas or West Dallas (but hurry, because developers are working hard to boot out the natives and give it some sexy name for the 18-monthers). Drive along Coit Road from its southern beginning in northeast Dallas to where it cuts out up by Little Elm, and you'll see all kinds of different skin colors, if that's your main goal. The Autozone near my house has a kiosk for paying, and English is literally the second language. Drive along Harry Hines (just along the edge of that Design "district" - does it deserve the sainted word "district?") and you'll find more diversity than most cities. Drive north along Greenville Avenue in Richardson (YES, that's in Dallas County, as are half a dozen other cities you choose to disqualify as being Dallas), and you'll see a vibrant jumble of Asian businesses ranging from Chinese to Korean to Indian, Pakistani, and others. People who work in Dallas live EVERYWHERE around the area, much as, believe it or not, people who call themselves New Yorkers live in Westchester. On ANY of those drives, you'd find many selections for authentic cuisine (the best soul food is in South Oak Cliff; great Chinese or Indian is along Greenville Avenue at Belt Line; the best Mexican food ... good grief, if you couldn't find any kind of Mexican food you wanted, well bless your heart). And are you seriously comparing White Rock Lake (without, by your own admission, even knowing the first thing about it) to the Gulf of Mexico? Good grief, that's just funny. But your major complaint ... after 18 months here, and ready to leave ... is ... transcience? I would say your challenge is not your environment, but where you choose to associate and open your eyeballs. If it's around "whiter" people you see (which apparently you find the need to apologize for saying), it's because of your own choices.
Uppity Female | Dallas, TX

Seriously!? Wow this was an extremely judgmental piece.... I live in a suburb of Dallas, so I am little biased. That being said there are plenty of other places I would like to live.... but I feel like I’m standing by and watching the helpless kid getting picked on in school, so here goes! Dallas not diverse enough? We have more African Americans, than Houston, Dallas has a larger illegal immigrant population than Houston, and Dallas has less “Whites” than Houston. But I guess that’s not diverse enough for you. And as for not being able to find a good Mexican food place???? Dallas has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the US. I feel like you went to On the border. And consider that authentic Mexican food. You know what I’m over this... Dallas is a very cool city, if you did not us cool, don’t let the door hit you in the ass
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