We have yet to coin a citywide slogan urging everyone to “Keep Dallas Weird,” and the truth is we don’t really need to. Refuse to admit that you live in a city as peculiar as its people? Time to rethink that notion and take a closer look at seven spots that give Dallas its far-out flair. From brass cast hand collections to bicycle burial grounds, this city is bursting strange from its seams.
Longhorn Ballroom Remains
200 Corinth St.
Built in 1950, the Longhorn Ballroom has hosted some of the best and biggest acts to ever come through Dallas – Sex Pistols, Merle Haggard, Patti Smith, James Brown and Otis Redding. What’s left is a series of deserted buildings, complete with pink walls, overgrown cacti, life-size Native American sculptures, a run-down ticket booth and a few peculiar cowboy murals. Think Fort Worth Stockyards meets Six Flags’ Fright Fest.
You’ll have to travel to deep South Dallas to get to this ghost town. If you pass the colossal longhorn statue, you’ve gone too far. Slip on your vintage cowboy boots and plan a photo shoot in front of these picture-perfect backdrops. Stop by the connecting Raul’s Corral for a plate of Tex-Mex goodness to keep the rustic Western vibes flowing.
Read more about the Longhorn Ballroom’s haunting history (riots and suicides included) in this article, published by the Dallas Observer in 2008.
Adrian E. Flatt, M.D., Hand Collection
3500 Gaston Ave.
Forget foot fetishes, it’s all about the hands. At least for orthopedic surgeon Adrian Flatt, who specialized in hand surgery, it is. His collection of more than 100 pairs of historic brass cast hands lives right inside Baylor University Medical Center. The former chief of orthopedic surgery collected casted hands of everyone from astronauts and Olympians to musicians and athletes. Expect to see the famous fingers of Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss and Abraham Lincoln as well as hometown favorites Nolan Ryan and Troy Aikman.
Some of the strangest (and saddest) molds come from children with hand deformities. The biggest? Andre the Giant.
Find these fascinatingly freaky fingers in the George W. Truett Memorial Hospital lobby. The display is open and free to the public 24/7.
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve’s Bike Cemetery
2875 Pierce St.
Oak Cliff probably isn’t the first place you think of when you need a nature fix. But the 121 acres of woodlands and wildflower meadows at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve are just enough forestry to hold you over until your next camping trip. Eight miles of hike-and-bike trails attract cyclists from all over the city.
If you choose to test your tread on these not so treacherous trails, make sure you bring a spare … because apparently this is where bikes come to die. Among the pecan trees, you’ll find a bicycle burial ground consisting of mounted two-wheel contraptions, license plates, street signs and dismembered bike parts.
Keep your eye out for spiders. The nature preserve is also home to a larger-than-life arachnid sculpture, nestled against the tree line and looking way too similar to something out of a Harry Potter movie.
The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve exists thanks to the Texas Land Conservancy and the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association.
3520 Cedar Springs Road
Need a moment to mellow out? Dragon Park could be Dallas’ smallest park, but its fountains, pebble pathways, low-hanging trees and giant sculptures make for a strangely Zen atmosphere — and we’re not complaining. Created in 2009, this eccentric spot is full of things like gargoyles, trumpeting angles and a gothic-style gazebo. While the park is most popular for pictures and picnics, it’s also not a bad place to brainstorm your next sci-fi novel or simply take a break from city life.
The park is even eerier in fall and winter months when trees are bare. So skip the trip to other hotshot parks around town and stop by this creepy park with character. Look for mythical creatures at all three of the entrances, located at Cedar Springs Road and Hood Street.
Underground Tunnel and Sky Bridge System
While the majority of us are walking or driving around downtown Dallas at ground level like peasants, others are dodging crosswalks and stoplights via three miles (36 blocks) of underground tunnels and sky bridges.
Don’t sell your car and buy new walking shoes just yet, these secret walkways are only open from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and some sections are owned by the private building above them. There are, however, several public access points. Major entrances include Thanks-Giving Square, Renaissance Tower, One Main Place and Bank of America Plaza.
Some people think it’s poor urban planning and takes away from the healthy street-level foot traffic. Either way, it’s nice to know what’s going on below. Take a break from your workday and grab a bite at one of the tunnels' ever-changing restaurants for a feel of what some would describe as a desolate airport terminal ambiance.
Visit Dallas Underground Cultures’ Facebook and sign up for a guided tour of the tunnels.
Castle of Heron Bay
9321 Heron Drive, Fort Worth
Swiss Avenue homes are grand and all, but they’ve got nothing on the mysterious Castle of Heron Bay. Also known as the Lake Worth Castle or Inverness, this 1930s residence is currently abandoned and off the market, according to Texas Monthly, and a few of the castles’ rooms date as far back as 1860. The most popular myth surrounding the castle says a man built the first wing as a gift for his soon-to-be bride, but she was found face down in Lake Worth on their wedding day and he married her sister a month later. (Ouch.)
Whether you believe in the reported ghost sightings or not, there’s a lot we don’t know about this strange structure and the legends surrounding it. So make sure you check out this iconic castle before it withers away forever. But get a good look from the road, because trespassing is strictly prohibited.
House Moving Museum
12155 Business Highway 287 N., Fort Worth
If you’ve ever caught yourself staring at a passing truck that reads “wide load” and wondered how they managed to get an entire house on the back of a truck, then it’s time to lay your curiosity to rest. H.D. Snow & Son House Moving Inc. operates the House Moving Museum, where you’ll learn the history and process of the system. Check out all the vintage gadgets and see photos of historic moves done by this family-run business.
H.D. Snow himself has been moving everything from army barracks to outhouses since the age of 12. His daughters, the Snow sisters, have been seen on the DIY Network show Texas Flip N Move, a competition to buy, move, fix and sell homes.
Visit www.snowhousemoving.com or call 817-439-1999 for more information on how to schedule a tour.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.