Dallas/Fort Worth sports travel guide
Our city guides are meant to showcase the best of a metropolitan area from the perspective of a sports fan visiting to watch a game or two. Here’s our guide to the best of Dallas sports travel.
* * *
The Dallas-Fort Worth region is gaining more and more prominence on the American sports landscape with each passing year, and not just because it’s home to all four major sports leagues, plus soccer, NASCAR, major colleges and so on.
The region, known collectively as the Metroplex, can owe much of its sports relevance to AT&T Stadium, the behemoth venue in Arlington that routinely hosts big-time events in football (pro and college), basketball (pro and college), boxing and more.
The sports venues and places to see around the Metroplex are spread out, for sure, so a dependable car is almost essential. This also means you’ll probably want to plan out your visit carefully depending on which games and venues you plan to see, but the region isn’t a difficult one to get to know.
Read on for some tips to help make the most of your Dallas sports travel trip.
Click placemark in index to find on map | View Dallas/Fort Worth city guide in a larger map
The landscape: Where to watch sports in Dallas/Fort-Worth
If it’s pro sports you want to see, you’re looking at two areas — the Victory Park district just north of downtown Dallas, home of the American Airlines Center, and the suburb of Arlington, where AT&T Stadium and the Rangers’ new Globe Life Field stand. For a Dallas sports travel vacation, you’ll likely want to spend your time and/or secure lodging in the vicinity of the stadium(s) you plan to see games in, but getting between the two areas is not impossible.
Note that Globe Life Field is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2020 MLB season. The old ballpark, known as Globe Life Park, was repurposed into a football venue for Dallas’ short-lived XFL team and become part of a new entertainment district called Texas Live!, which opened in 2018.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the venerable Cotton Bowl Stadium, which stands in Fair Park (aka the Texas State Fair grounds) in Dallas. The Cotton Bowl game itself has moved to AT&T Stadium, meaning the old Cotton Bowl mainly gets its turn in the spotlight only for the annual Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma in October, and the First Responder Bowl in December. But it took on a new role Jan. 1, 2020, when the Stars hosted the Nashville Predators in the NHL Winter Classic.
• American Airlines Center: Home of the Mavericks and Stars. Located at 2500 Victory Avenue in Dallas.
• AT&T Stadium: Home of the Cowboys. Located at 1 AT&T Way in Arlington.
• Cotton Bowl: Home of the Red River Rivalry. Located at 3750 The Midway in Fair Park, Dallas.
• Globe Life Field: Home of the Rangers. Located at 734 Stadium Drive in Arlington.
• Toyota Stadium: Home of FC Dallas. Located at 9200 World Cup Way in the suburb of Frisco.
The strategies: Arriving and getting around Dallas/Fort Worth
Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW), a major hub for American Airlines, is the primary entry point for most travelers to the Metroplex. The huge airport is located between Dallas and Fort Worth (though, for sports fans’ purposes, slightly closer to Arlington than to Dallas proper) and receives flights from just about every major destination in the U.S. — and many international cities as well. Light-rail service is available for travelers headed into Dallas.
An emerging alternative for fliers is Dallas Love Field (DAL), which is a hub for Southwest Airlines and in recent years had an amendment lifted that restricted service to within Texas and limited surrounding areas. As a result, Southwest and other airlines have added service from more far-away destinations. Flying into Love Field is certainly more advantageous if you plan to spend the majority of your time in Dallas proper, since it’s much closer than DFW and offers light-rail service into the downtown area.
Amtrak operates two lines through the region, with one line stopping at Dallas’ Union Station and the other in Fort Worth. Amtrak also operates bus service between the two stations, and a commuter rail line runs between the two stops as well. As far as buses, both Greyhound and Megabus have a station in downtown Dallas.
If you’re driving through the great (and gigantic) state of Texas, Interstates 20 and 45 converge on Dallas, while Interstate 35 splits up into west and east branches that travel through Fort Worth and Dallas, respectively.
Where to stay
Both downtown Dallas and Arlington are filled with hotels and motels for sports fans to choose from, with just about every brand represented. If you’re looking for a spot in Dallas that offers easy access to the American Airlines Center, look for a hotel on the north side of downtown (the closer to Route 366, the better) or near the light-rail line that runs east-west through downtown.
If you don’t have a car at your disposal, the region has both light-rail and bus service via DART. The light-rail network is particularly good for getting to points within the Dallas city limits, to Fair Park and to the two airports. Be aware, though, that there are few public transportation options if you’re trying to get to Arlington unless it’s a BIG event (for example, DART had plans in place for the 2015 College Football Championship Game). If you really want to try to get by without a car, taxis are typically available postgame outside both AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park.
In Texas, parking is rarely in short supply. Large lots surround all of the major facilities, though at AT&T Stadium you’ll find the prime spots taken up by season-ticket holders. Satellite or private lots are usually available within a few blocks of each venue.
The highlights: Points of interest in Dallas/Fort Worth
Even if your reason for coming to Dallas is sports travel, the region has so much more to offer. Here are just some of the things to see:
For your amusement
Even on a Dallas sports travel trip, you might be surprised to see just how much there is to do in downtown Dallas alone. The Dallas World Aquarium, Dallas Museum of Art and Reunion Tower all offer diversions for the tourist. If you’re staying in Arlington, the huge Six Flags over Texas amusement park is hard to miss — just look for the roller coasters that dominate the skyline, not far from Globe Life Field. If it’s the summertime, Six Flags also operates a waterpark, Hurricane Harbor.
All the staples of Texas cuisine — BBQ, chicken-fried steak, Tex-Mex, etc. — can be found throughout the Metroplex. Options, of course, are numerous. There aren’t many “famous” eateries around town, but it’s worth searching around for local favorites. For example, BBQ is accessible at Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse, perhaps the region’s most well-known BBQ establishment. It has a downtown Dallas location at 302 N. Market Street.
Visitors of a certain age may know Dallas primarily as the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. The city doesn’t shy away from its place in history. A conspicuous X on Elm Street in Dealey Plaza marks the event. Right next to it is the Sixth Floor Museum, which is full of exhibits on JFK’s presidency, the assassination and its aftermath. The museum is as close to a must-visit as any attraction in the region.
The major college sports scene consists mainly of SMU, in Dallas, and TCU, in Fort Worth. Both have football and basketball programs in major conferences, with the Horned Frogs gaining national prominence in recent years. It’s also not uncommon for Metroplex residents to flock to the University of Texas in Austin and Texas A&M in College Station on football Saturdays — both are about a three-hour drive away. And Baylor is in Waco, about 90 minutes away.
If you’re a football fan you probably know how big high school football is in Texas, and checking out a game would be a great addition to a Dallas sports travel vacation. AT&T Stadium and the Cotton Bowl will both host games, especially in playoff and championship rounds.
Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth is home to several events in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as well as an IndyCar race.