If you have done any kind of traveling throughout Texas, it is likely that you have at least driven through the city of Denton. After moving into a neighborhood off of Highway 380, my interest in the downtown Denton area has grown over the past few months. My friends and I have taken it upon ourselves to explore the hip area several times now. Every time, we seem to find another unique spot to hang out! From delicious dining destinations to sweet shopping spots, we have discovered a good number of places to go when we want to take a short road trip or surround ourselves with some new scenery.
Before sharing my favorite things about the city, a quick history lesson! Founded in 1857, the city represents the county seat of Denton County and is located off of Interstate Highway 35. Historically, the city was a strong agricultural trade center and manufacturing location. In 1881, Denton got its first rail connection, the Texas and Pacific Railway. After this, many new people moved to the growing area. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, universities began opening in the town, greatly impacting the culture and economy. Years later, the opening of DFW International Airport also increased the population. Denton, referred to as “Little Austin” or “Lil ’d” by some, is home to the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman’s University (TWU). The Denton area has huge horse ranches, is popular for its well-established music scene and hosts the annual North Texas State Fair and Rodeo and the 35 Denton music festival.
Denton Square is so quaint and charming. While you often have to be creative and patient when looking for parking, it encompasses everything you imagine when you think of a typical town square in Texas. The scene is complete with the historical county courthouse sitting right in the middle of all the downtown action. As you stroll the streets, often to the sound of live music, it almost feels like being in an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” Inside the courthouse, which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, is a museum and local government offices. Around the square, visitors are surrounded by shops and restaurants. If you visit the square during the holidays, every inch of your surroundings are covered in Christmas lights for the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival. The city is never lacking a reason to celebrate. From Cinco de Mayo and Juneteenth to the Redbud Festival and the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, people from all around the country visit for these popular celebrations and to take in some authentic Texas culture.
Upon our initial exploratory trip to the city, the first place on the “need to see” list of destinations for my group was LSA Burger Company. Popular for its “lone star attitude” (hence the “LSA” part of the title), this restaurant offers one-of-a-kind specialty burgers and a variety of local beers on tap. The cool hangout was inspired by Texas’ musical legends from every genre. Upon entering the upbeat restaurant, which was playing throwback 1990s songs and music videos the night we ate there, you immediately come face-to-face with “The Great Texas Supper.” This original painting, imagined by the LSA Burger Company owners, sets a scene similar to that in “The Last Supper,” only with Texas music icons joining Jesus at the table. There is also a large mural above the bar featuring all kinds of Texas instruments, creatively placed to form an art piece molded into the shape of Texas. It really is neat! This burger joint allows guests to enjoy a relaxing and deliciously southern meal among all kinds of art — from interesting murals to live music. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, guests can head up to the restaurant’s stage-like rooftop to enjoy live music by local Denton bands. Rock on! The food is unbeatable and so tempting. Menu items range from juicy, flavorful burger options and fried chicken fingers to loaded parmesan fries and queso with brisket. Yum!
Saturday afternoon is a great time to browse through any of the unique boutiques and shops in the square. One of the stand-out stores we encountered was More Fun Comics and Games. Within one quick glance of the set up, you see a variety of colorful comic books and nostalgia items. From Star Wars to Batman, superhero and sci-fi themed gifts and games line every inch of the walls. It is every comic book fan’s version of heaven.
Whether you are hoping to expand your vintage clothing collection at the Circa 77 Vintage Shop or you are hoping to find a new piece of jewelry at Sleeping Lizards, the shopping is hip, on-trend and unlike anything you will find at most other retail establishments. I am very in to one-of-a-kind finds when I shop (especially when it comes to jewelry), and Denton has several cute stores that make finding these kinds of items possible!
In terms of nightlife and local bars, Denton has you covered. Audacity Brew House, which specializes in craft beer and hosting fun activities for visitors, is a great place for an afternoon brewery tour. Also popular with visitors and locals is Oak Street Drafthouse, located inside an old, historic house. The huge patio is great for groups to hang out, eat and enjoy a ice-cold drink. It was a delightful, sunny day when we were out exploring, and we quickly felt right at home at Oak Street Drafthouse. Upon entering the old house, you come face-to-face with a vintage-style bar, right in what would be the original entryway. After checking out the inside of the house, we took our drinks to the backyard-like hangout. For patrons who choose to stay a while, there is also a bar outside. Here, locals advised us of all the things we should see and do in Denton. The beer garden is dog-friendly, and we met some of the cutest furry friends I have ever seen. The setting is unique, much like many of the other fun destinations found in Denton.
If you are a history buff who enjoys exploring the past and learning everything there is to know about an area, the Bayless-Selby House Museum might be a good stop for you! Docents provide guests with a narrated tour of the historical, Victorian home and the beautiful antiques that fill it. Other museums in the area include the Denton Firefighters Museum and the Center for the Visual Arts.
Being from North Texas, and having lived here for most of my life, I thought that I had pretty much experienced everything the metroplex has to offer. After having some great times in Denton, I am starting to see that I was wrong! There are so many uniquely southern and entertaining things waiting for you … and they are only a short drive away. It would be no stretch to make a day or weekend out of this getaway. The city has something to offer the whole family, no matter your age!
So, what is next on the list of things to see and do in Denton? A trip to the UNT Sky Theater, complete with projection technology that can digitally recreate the night sky and possibly visiting Texas Motor Speedway, which is only minutes away! Pick a few new destinations and seek out something new in Denton. Your next day trip awaits you!