Travel

Fun Things to Do in Dallas During Dry January and Beyond

Get into luxe spa days, fostering a pet, adrenaline-fueled activities, and more.

Skydive Spaceland Dallas
Skydive Spaceland Dallas
Skydive Spaceland Dallas

Now that we’re a couple weeks into 2023, most of us have settled into a new post-holiday groove. Whether your personal forecast calls for a completely Dry January or partly dry with a chance of wet weekends, skipping out on the booze for a day, week, month, or forever can open up a whole new world of possibilities. Take alcohol out of the equation (or make it a secondary component instead of the main focus), and embark on a journey of self-improvement. Or experience everything our city offers from a whole new perspective-with a total recall of events the next morning rather than scrolling through photos to figure out where things went off the rails. Best of all, by axing all those $16 cocktails from your tab, you may discover a surplus of discretionary funds to splurge on activities that may have seemed out of reach the last time you logged into your banking app. Raise a glass of alcohol-removed bubbly or one of Katy Perry’s non-alcoholic aperitifs and toast to these eight ways to have fun and ride high on a little something called life.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa Dallas
The Ritz-Carlton Spa Dallas
The Ritz-Carlton Spa Dallas

Go on a wellness journey (that’s not inside a gym)

Various locations
Many a gym membership is purchased at the beginning of January with the intent of working out regularly and seeing a major body transformation in time for swimsuit season. But by now we all know that fitness training takes commitment and a whole lot of effort. While we’re not encouraging anyone to give up on those goals, we would like to remind you that wellness experiences can be enjoyable, too. Think 90-minute massages, rejuvenating facials, and afternoons at fancy spas bouncing between the jacuzzi and sauna while sipping on green juices. For full days of indulgent relaxation and rejuvenation, book time at one of the most luxe spas in the city: The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dallas, the Spa at Thompson Dallas, the Verandah Athletic Club & Spa, the Well & Being Spa at The Westin Dallas Stonebriar Resort & Spa, or The Spa at The Joule. For a fantastic massage without the fuss, reserve some time on the table at Vigor Massage and Personal Training or any of the four North Texas locations of either Hiatus Spa + Retreat or Woodhouse Day Spa. Spend some of your sober savings on a freshened face at Alchemy43 or Luxury on Lovers. Or book a session at StretchLab, which can work wonders on your body.

Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center
Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center
Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center

Foster an animal and teach him a few tricks

Various locations
Shelters all over the country are at full capacity and DFW’s rescue organizations are no different. Every shelter desperately needs volunteers to spend quality time with their animals on-site, or even better, at your home where you can devote all the hours you would typically spend bar-hopping to bringing joy to the life of a precious pup or cuddly cat. Dallas Animal Services, SPCA of Texas, DFW Rescue Me, and Humane Society of North Texas are but four of dozens of organizations around Dallas-Fort Worth in need of people to help their efforts. Who knows, you might find a new four-legged love that would make an amazing permanent addition to your life, too. After all, patio season is right around the corner and having a cute companion by your side always makes a great conversation starter.

Skydive Spaceland Dallas
Skydive Spaceland Dallas
Skydive Spaceland Dallas

Get a rush from adrenaline instead of alcohol

Various locations
Chasing a good time doesn’t have to end on a bar stool. Far from it. Experiencing new levels of euphoria may require stepping outside your comfort zone a bit. Start off easy enough by ziplining through the Trinity Forest, mountain biking on some rugged trails, or kayaking across White Rock Lake. Then work your way up to bigger challenges, such as indoor skydiving at iFly, powered paragliding, or an intense thrill ride at Six Flags Over Texas. Then you’ll be ready to tackle what many consider the ultimate test of adrenaline-skydiving or parachute jumping from the belly of a plane.

Explore the great outdoors

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Back away slowly from the treadmill and head outside to rack up some steps among some spectacular scenery illuminated by the Texas sun instead of fluorescent lights. The Katy Trail and Santa Fe Trail offer low-impact, paved routes through neighborhoods and Dallas’ urban center whether you’re a walker, jogger, runner, cyclist, or rollerblader. White Rock Lake also has plenty of concrete pathways, but get off the beaten path for some more rugged, unpaved trails that take you away from the crowds. Fishing, sailing, and standup paddleboarding are also options. Or to truly feel like you’re worlds away from the hustle of the city, get yourself to the Trinity River Corridor, the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, or the Trinity River Audubon Center for fresh-air interactions with all sorts of fantastic flora and fauna. Just make sure to fuel up appropriately and pack plenty of sunscreen.
 

Support the local arts scene

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As fortunate as we are to be able to spend most days outside in Texas during January without freezing our booties off, cozying up for a little culture time in a heated auditorium definitely has its allure. And now that the Nutcracker costumes have been stowed and the sets for that Charles Dickens classic have been put away until Christmas Yet To Come, our local theater groups have kicked off 2023 with a whole new slate of shows. Catch Cabaret at Arts Mission Oak Cliff, Legally Blonde at AT&T Performing Arts Center, Pinchas Zuckerman with The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Dimension of Death at the Eisemann Center, Disney’s The Lion King at Bass Performance Hall, The Elephant Man at Theatre Three, and Four Weddings and an Elvis at Rover Dramawerks.

Volunteer your time and talents

Various locations
Everyone’s a little more philanthropic during December, but nonprofit organizations don’t stop needing help once the clock strikes midnight every January 1. In fact, during these peak winter months their needs often increase exponentially. North Texas Giving Day’s website remains the best place to find a charity that could use your skills as a volunteer (they have more than 3,300 nonprofits listed and counting). But if browsing that list feels a little overwhelming, consider volunteering at Dallas Animal Services, North Texas Food Bank, HELP Center for LGBT Health and Welllness, Trash Free Texas, Refugee Services of Texas, and the USO Dallas Fort Worth are all great places to start.

Dive West Dallas
Dive West Dallas
Dive West Dallas

Take up a new hobby

Various locations
With all the extra money you’re banking by not drinking, you should end up with a nice chunk of change that can go toward learning a new skill or nurturing an existing talent. Heck, even if you’re bad at whatever you choose, getting outside your comfort zone can yield wonderful results-even if it’s just making other people laugh. Take up fly-fishing in a nearby Texas State Park. Learn to two-step at the iconic LGBTQIA+ country-western bar, The Round-Up Dance Hall and Saloon. Conquer your culinary fears with cooking classes at your nearest Central Market. Become a master maker in a variety of disciplines from pottery to jewelry making at The Craft Guild. Or build up skills to make your next tropical vacation the best ever with scuba lessons from Dive West. The possibilities are practically endless, and if you rope in some friends for the fun, you’ll have an even better time.

Monarch Dallas
Monarch Dallas
Monarch Dallas

Indulge in culinary delights

Various locations
Have you ever lamented that you don’t have the money to go to some of Dallas-Fort Worth’s best fine dining establishments? Well, if you’re not drinking, you’ll have more than enough spare cash to cross a few chef’s tasting menus off your bucket list. Georgie by Curtis Stone offers five courses for $145. Monarch offers guests The Royale experience for $290. The omakase experience at Namo varies in price based on ingredients, but it’s a must for seafood lovers. The Mansion Restaurant showcases the best chef creations with a five-course seasonal tasting menu for $135. Experience the height of creativity at Petra and the Beast’s six-course Saturday evening tastings for $135. Indulge in seven courses for $180 at Revolver Tacos’ Puré Pécha tasting. Or practice your French at Saint-Emilion Restaurant where a three-course tasting will only set you back $55.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Steven Lindsey is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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