Don't listen to the blanket "stay out of east dallas/oak cliff/ south dallas" speal or you will miss most of what there is to see here and leave thinking that dallas is just starbucks in the pre-fab so-called "west village" and chain spaghetti restaurants in the "west end". The fact is that there are some areas that have bad reps among suburbanites who never go to Dallas, let alone live there, etc. that have interesting parts well worth checking out and that hold the character of the city, some areas that don't have bad reps that are at least as bad if not worse, and some pretty bad areas where you might not expect to find them. Note, there are organized tours of both East and South dallas, which are worthwhile if you are interested in the city.
1)Old East Dallas- Watch yourself in the Columbia to East Grand region, Fitzhugh around Live Oak and Ross, Live oak /Gaston south of Munger , the bottom end of greenville, and the area just north-east of downtown and south of Washington. That said some areas of East Dallas are nice and worth visiting. It is one of the more eclectic areas of Dallas and mostly the worst that you will contend with are potholes (there is a historical reason why the city won't spend anything on the streets there). You will go through this part of town if are visiting the Dallas Arboretum, Lakewood, or WhiteRock Lake or possibly lower greenville from central dallas, or any of the points of interest in East Dallas itself. East Dallas is a patchwork, so just be aware of what kind of neighborhood you are in. Some parts best not lingered in, especially at night.
2) The North side of Downtown is relatively tranquil. The south side of downtown is a bit edgier and crime is more present. Not a reason to avoid, as some things are there (farmers market, old city park, some interesting buildings, majestic theatre, etc), but be aware. Don't leave anything you like in your car. Don't avoid, but be aware.
7) South Dallas: Once again an older part of town with parts that are worth a look (I'll leave the guiding to the guide tips), but know where you are going and don't wander around aimlessly, because parts of the area are true crack house country. Probably has the worst reputation in the city, deservedly or not (and probably a perception contributed to by racism, as it is predominantly african american).
8) Lower Greenville area - North of Old East Dallas, prime dallas dining and nightlife- but there is sporadic crime in the area so keep an eye out and park sensibly. Note also that there is a local residents association for the residential neighborhood surrounding lower greeville that dislikes nightlife traffic. Particularly be warned that there is a certain character who takes pictures of those who urinate on lawns en route back to their cars and posts them on his web site.
9) Deep Ellum/Exposition - supposedly dallas' hippest nightlife/loft/arts district, but mostly commercialized/yuppified/popularized now. Go, have fun, but watch yourself, as it is also far from crime free. Best to park in a lot and definitely not to the south. You don't have to go too far south to find yourself in one of the worst parts of South Dallas. Leave with the crowd.
Avoid at all costs. Exists solely to keep the suburban hordes from overrunning dallas. dallasites (from in town) wouldn't be caught dead there. In fact, there isn't much reason to find yourself north of northwest highway (many would say mockingbird), as everthing beyond that point is pretty much just vapid featureless sprawl. A quick drive past the mansions along Preston in north dallas might be justifiable for a first time visitor who has never seen a mansion before, I suppose, but there is certainly no reason to go north of Forest (much less 635).
Note also that the Dallas PD posts their weekly crime briefing maps on their web site. It is very easy to see from these where the crime hot spots are. Just pull up the central division crimes map.
3) North East Dallas: Vickery meadows, around greenville north of Northwest Highway, is very sketchy, as is the general area around Skillman and 635 and Spring Valley between Coit , 635 and 75. If you are in North Dallas, better to stay west of 75. No reason to be over there in any case- mostly slummy suburbs. Best avoided
4) Parts of West Dallas are sketchy, especially around Singleton/Westmoreland (projects) and, in the north west, Web chapel north of Northwest Highway and the surrounding area. Once again, not much reason to go there. Best avoided.
5) The area along/just off to the west of Oak Lawn is deceptively crime prone. It is one of Dallas' neater, cooler and trendier neighborhoods, with some good restaurants, clubs etc. as well as being home to the center of the gay community, and it doesn't have a bad rep, but watch your back and your stuff along Lemon/Cedar Springs, etc. Enjoy, but be aware.
6) Oak Cliff has both some of Dallas' nicest and worst areas. It runs from dillapidated ghetto to festive ethnic high street to gorgeous limestone suburban houses, to trendy shopping/cafe district, and there are places worth going here. Once again, just be aware of where you are and use good judgement. Some parts best avoided and especially night.
Dallas is generally a very safe city for visitors, however you should always take care at night, there are some very seedy areas to be avoided at night.
Texas has a concealed weapons policy, meaning that it is legal for individuals who have purchased permits, to carry concealed weapons.
As far as Dallas Is concerned, stay out of South Dallas at night and be careful while visiting during the day. The West End is a normal tourist spot to visit downtown and is safe most all of the time due to police presence. The most you have to worry about in the West End is having your car broken into or stolen, which is OK since I assume youll have a rental. Just keep your car locked and valuables hidden. Deep Ellum is a different story. Park in a well lit lot no matter what it costs. Best to park in a busy area instead of the outskirts.
Traffic: Try not to travel during rush hour.
If you don't know your way around the best advice I can give you is don't go south of Downtown, particularly if you are white or asian. Most of the urban area south,to the southeast and southwest of Downtown is low income and could be prone to racial incidents depending on the state of local politics. Conversly in particular times of racial unrest if you are African American you may want to be careful where you go in outlying areas. I am not at all proud of this, in fact it makes my stomach hurt, but better safe than sorry.
I know the crime rate is really bad. That's one thing I'll never forget. Turn on the news and ya never hear any good news, only murder, rape, robberies, etc. Make sure ya lock all your valuables in a safe place and don't leave your facilities unlocked at any time, including your car, or ya might not have it. Don't leave windows to your accomodations open during the summer months either. And watch out for the 'critters' (cockroaches that are huge and fly and hard as an armadillo shell on them that makes em hard to kill without pesticides or boric acid).
There are some parts of Dallas that can dangerous area..like any city there are the not-so-safe places.
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