This post is the next in our series, Hidden Gems, where we visit places hidden in plain view, in and around Dallas, that we have explored this summer and in the past. You can access that series of posts here.
This year, for the July 4th weekend, we hosted family and decided the best place to be was at home, showing off Dallas to our out-of-towner family members. Besides, it had been ages since we had explored the city as a family. Mr. JJ heard about the AT&T Discovery District from friends and thought it would be a cool place to kick off the long weekend. Located at Akard street in downtown Dallas, it was an easy train ride away.
AT&T Discovery District is a unique destination that combines technology, innovation, food, and culture into one easily accessible location. Its free to the public and presents a distinct opportunity for an evening of fun, food, and entertainment. There is a large plaza at the forefront with wide sidewalks, numerous water features, and a large turf area for sitting and relaxing. Looming up and ahead from the turf is a giant Media Wall that is 104 ft tall and occupies 9300 sq ft. It clearly is the cynosure of all eyes with its 6K resolution and the startling clarity of its display.
To the left is the Globe, another innovative structure reminiscent of AT&T’s icon. Covered on the outside by mirrors, studded with 300,000 LED lights and standing 30 feet tall, The Globe comes alive as the night darkens, beckoning one and all with its bright lights and sounds. Beyond the Globe is the AT&T Lobby which delivers a “one-of-a-kind, floor-to-ceiling fusion of architecture, multimedia content, and technology”, according to the website.
To the right is the building called the Exchange. It currently houses about thirteen restaurants and two bars on its two floors, in a more casual setting. Seating is scattered all around and the cuisines offered range from classic American fare to fusion to Mediterranean to small plates and more.
Past the plaza is the Jaxon restaurant with an outdoor stage lining its outdoor patio perimeter. Jaxon offers sit-in dining, indoors and out. Across the street from Jaxon is the AT&T Experience Store where movies and TV come alive. Currently, visitors can enjoy pop-ups such as Central Perk from the iconic Friends show as well as HBO Max Orbit which is an interactive experience. Per the website, “this (HBO Max Orbit) newest immersive venture will allow the viewer to use voice prompts and responds to their facial movements in real-time to explore over 85,000 scenes from an extensive library of content”. On the other end of the Store is the Space Jam exhibit, featuring the latest movie.
At the end of the street is the Spirit of Communication statue aka Golden Boy which stands proud and tall belying his age of 105 years. According to mrlocalhistory.org, Golden Boy was first commissioned in 1914, sculpted by Evelyn Beatrice Longman in 1916, and weighs sixteen tons with a 24-foot winged body. He holds two thunderbolts in his left hand and electrical cables in his right. Forged out of bronze and covered with gold leaf, the statue was housed in various AT&T headquarters in New York and New Jersey before moving to Dallas. He kind of reminded me of Captain America: forever young, well-traveled and watchful! Read more about Golden Boy and his unique story at the above mentioned website.
For our trip, we chose to ride the DART train to the AT&T Discovery District. Using the GoPass app, we first booked the Local-PM tickets for $3 per person for an adult. We then drove to the Parker Station in Plano and hopped onto the Westmoreland train. The train was quite empty and we spent the next 40 minutes catching up with friends who joined us. Once at Akard station, we got off and walked the block to the Discovery District.
The Media Wall was like a beacon drawing us towards our destination. But the architectural beauty of the nearby buildings still managed to catch my attention. I think they are worth a deeper look on our next trip. After stopping to take in the Plaza and its environs, we first decided to grab some food. We were all famished by then and ready for a sit-down dinner. We first explored options at the Exchange. The Rise+Thyme, Monkey King Noodles, Revolver Taco Lounge were all good options but we preferred a less casual environment for a special dinner.
We left the Exchange and walked to Jaxon where a live band was in progress and a long line stood at the entrance to the restaurant. Although the menu showed only an option or two for vegetarians, the hostess was able to confirm a couple more items could be made vegetarian. We chose to dine there instead. The place was busy that evening and the hostess had one spot on the second floor. While I liked that it was far away enough from the live music to not interfere with our conversation, the room was much cooler than we’d have liked. The service was slow and not quite up to par.
We tried several appetizers including the Jaxon Queso, charred Shishito peppers, loaded fries without bacon, and Mexican elote. We enjoyed all of them but the peppers were a hit. For entrees, our friends chose the spicy chicken sandwich while we enjoyed a portabella French dip, the pork and peppers without the pork, and the Jaxon cheeseburger substituted with an Impossible Burger. The food was good and I was especially satisfied with my poblano pepper (minus the pork) sandwich. Our waitress was the only one servicing the entire upper floor and so everything took a while to be served. In fact, she was so busy, she did not have time to refill our waters a second time. The spicy chicken sandwich didn’t arrive for over 20 mins after the other orders arrived. And as I said, the room was so cold the kids had to take breaks on the patio to stay warm. The staff said they had no control over the room temperature. So while the food was good, the overall experience left a lot to be desired!
Done with dinner, we walked across to the AT&T Experience Store to take photos at Central Perk. Unfortunately, the Store and Lobby are only open until 9 pm. We were a little past and had to be content with taking photos from the sidewalk windows. Same for the HBO Max Orbit and the Space Jam exhibits.
Next we found a spot on the green turf and spent some time watching the unique Media Wall and its amazing screen. Against the dark skies, the colors and pictures were so clear and such a joy to watch. The Globe was an equal hit with visitors that evening as people took photos in front of it and enjoyed its unique construction. The AT&T Lobby was also closed which was a huge disappointment. But a reason to return to this place.
We spent some more time just hanging out and enjoying a pleasant Dallas evening. The whole plaza was a beehive of activity, perfect for a family evening getaway. Ou experience was a good one and if you haven’t already, I would recommend giving the AT&T Discovery District a try one of these days.
Pro tip: Be sure to eat something before heading out. The AT&T Lobby and Experience Store are definitely worth a visit but they close at 9 pm, So be sure to check them out before settling in for a good dinner. Or get there early and you’ll still be able to dine well and enjoy all the other experiences. Either way, it’s a unique way to spend some time in downtown Dallas.
AT&T Discovery District is located at 208 S. Akard Street, Dallas, TX 75202.