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Why I Love Downtown Arlington: Marissa Soto

We’ll start this post back in 2016. I'm standing at the top of the staircase within Arlington Museum of Art, waiting to walk down the aisle to marry my husband in an iconically local Arlington spot. It was significant to us to celebrate in Downtown Arlington. Both of us were born and raised in this town, went to college here, own a small business here. It felt right to celebrate our marriage in the very town that shaped us! Now, every time we return to the AMA for Sound Baths or other events we host through our business Arlington Yoga Center, we are pleasantly reminded of our special day. 

As I mentioned, growing up in Arlington has plenty of sources of fun. When I was a kid, how fortunate were were to have Six Flags and Wet’N’Wild (okay, okay it’s Hurricane Harbor nowadays) around for entertainment! We love our hometeam Texas Rangers baseball franchise, too, and in the more recent decades, Cowboys football which is a draw for us locals as well as tourists.

While I’ve often wondered what it’s like to live in a “small town” without these luxuries, one thing we didn’t necessarily have back in the day was a local “Downtown” scene. There were awesome local restaurants and pubs such as J Gilligan’s and JR Bentley’s in Downtown Arlington, but for anything other than food, it took a journey to Fort Worth or Dallas. A music scene? Hard to come by. As a UTA college student in a band back in the early 00’s, my friends and I were traveling for gigs because aside from Gilligan’s and Caves, there was nowhere to play in town. I believe the construction and opening of Levitt Pavilion in 2008 really spearheaded the possibilities for locals to connect with their city outside of Arlington’s popular tourist attractions. 

Around this time I met my husband David and discovered the Arlington Yoga Center. Not only did the practice of yoga help me physically, I noticed a significant change in my emotional and mental health. David and I began teaching at the center while pursuing our degrees at UTA. After we got engaged and graduated, we decided to step up to the plate as small business owners when the original owner decided to leave. We've been running AYC since 2015 and hope to for many more years. 

I think having a small business rooted in town really inspires you to want your town to succeed.

As we saw more breweries, restaurants, and coffee shops move in to our district, we got so excited to see a Downtown coming to life, which led to me reaching out to other small businesses to host community yoga events. That same excitement led me to create Arlington Locals on Instagram. More of a passion project than a blog, Arlington Locals is meant to highlight, uplift, and support everything local. As the years have gone by, there continues to be more to be excited and post about! The development of Urban Union and South Main St, as well as our recently completed construction on the now “walk-able” Abram Street, helps create a more local feel to our tourist town. UTA students’ shift of focus to Downtown’s potential has also helped create a music and art scene. And when you think about it, we now have a pretty amazing line up of business types to keep us from having to drive out to Fort Worth or Dallas for fun! We have our breweries (Legal and Division), our pubs (Gilligan’s, Bentley’s and more), and we even have a top-rated tiki bar (4 Kahunas). 

Downtown has a explosion of restaurants such as Hurtado BBQ, Tipsy Oak, Cartel Taco, Cane Rosso, Mellow Mushroom, Babe’s, Grease Monkey, Namoo, Kintaro, The Hive, Restaurant506. We have plenty of coffee shop options (Urban Alchemy, Inclusion, Salter Bros, White Rhino). We have rock climbing, a dance studio, axe throwing, and a yoga studio to move your body. Entertaining shopping and games plus a bakery, comic book shop, arcade, and a record shop. Cultural activities include art studios, art museum, theatre, music hall, murals, heritage park, events, festivals and a free outdoor music venue. 

Downtown Arlington keeps growing, and it's inspiring to see everyone’s eagerness to be involved because ultimately, that means community is at the center of it all. I hope to see a continued emphasis on Downtown small business and organic growth with the help of community involvement. As for my own small business, my dream is to continue to provide Downtown Arlington with wellness practices and events that support not only our city's residents but our fellow small businesses. We currently host Brunch + Yoga at Sanford House every month. We host Sound Bath & Yoga at Arlington Museum of Art throughout the year. We’ve also hosted Brewery Yoga and Goat Yoga events at Legal Draft. I envision a wellness festival for Downtown at some point in the future, as well as more events in general for everyone to get outside and enjoy our green spaces.

What would I love to see in Downtown’s future as an Arlington local? More open street festivals where residents can explore Downtown by foot, an entertainment venue for local music, and bike sharing stations to create a fun option for transportation around town. It would be so neat to have a big, eclectic thrift shop and a plant shop for UTA students to green up their dorms and apartments. How about a vegetarian or vegan dining restaurant for healthy options? It would also be nice to see policies that allow food trucks to set up regularly in Downtown. When I pull that altogether in my mind, I see a great looking, multi-purpose space where residents can hit a food truck then picnic on a lawn while viewing art, shop, or hear live music. We will see what the future holds for our Downtown Arlington, but I’m excited to see where we go from here! 

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