Fun in Big D
a Taste of Modern Texas
While the television show "Dallas," the city's beloved Dallas Cowboys football team and stories about the famous Tex-Mex cuisine might have been what played a big part in putting Dallas on the map over the years, these days you'd be hard pressed to pigeonhole Big D in such a narrow way. While Dallas has managed to keep its roots, these days the J.R. Ewing and oil money references are definitely hidden well beneath a city that is known for its fashion, cosmopolitan flare and a quite enviable art scene. No surprise really, since the influx of international corporations and high-tech enterprises that moved to Dallas back in the 80s when real estate was king brought in a variety of new residents. Now it's easy to find a pure bohemian lifestyle in many neighborhoods sitting alongside downtown lofts and impressive skyscrapers.
Food in Dallas has always been a scene too, and the celebrity chefs keep coming along with a number of top mixologists offering everything from the perfect steak to the fanciest top shelf margarita you will find anywhere. Of course, Dallas still plays to its roots so the line dancing at Gilley's is a popular tourist past time, but so is an opera at the Winspear or a symphony at the Meyerson. Even for repeat visitors to Dallas, it is an ever-changing landscape, especially since the recent completion of the first of three bridges, The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. It spans the Trinity River as part of the Trinity River Project and changed forever the Dallas skyline. Klyde Warren Park is another new addition to the Downtown landscape — a 5.2-acre public park located over the Woodall Rogers Freeway. So whether you're a newbie to Dallas and want to start from scratch or are making a repeat visit, there is so much to see and do these days in the Big D, you will have a hard time knowing just where to begin.
Treat yourself to a stay at one of many lavish hotels, such as the Hotel Adolphus, a circa 1912 baroque masterpiece built by Missouri beer baron Adolph Busch. The Adolphus features 21 stories of beaux arts splendor, and over its history, it has housed guests ranging from Babe Ruth to Donald Trump. If you prefer a European-style boutique inn, book a room at the Hotel St. Germain, a small, exclusive hotel on Maple Avenue that includes a four-star dining room. Then there is the unusual and idiosyncratic Belmont Hotel, rising on a bluff above Oak Cliff overlooking downtown, which combines historic interest and modern luxury. The Belmont also has one of Dallas's best restaurants on site, Smoke. Some other comfortable hotels that offer good value are the Dallas Marriott City Center and the Grand Hyatt DFW.
Entertainment for the sports enthusiast abounds, with every major professional sport represented somewhere in the area. During basketball season, catch the Dallas Mavericks in action at the American Airlines Center, or the Dallas Stars during hockey season. Of course, Dallas has "America's Team," the Dallas Cowboys, playing football under the gigantic dome of their new stadium in Arlington and cheered on by the world's most famous cheerleaders.
Both auto and horse racing have imposing homes in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. At Lone Star Park, you can watch world-class thoroughbred racing from a seven-level, glass-enclosed building with sports bars, giant television screens and a restaurant. To experience the NASCAR phenomenon, drive north of Ft. Worth to the Texas Motor Speedway, which has an estimated capacity of approximately 191,122 spectators — just be sure to check the website for directions because traffic comes to a dead standstill on Highway 114 West from Dallas on race day.
Although public transportation has made great strides with the opening of the DART rail line and expanded bus service, renting a car remains the best way to get around outside the downtown/Uptown area. Taxis are available, but you might not be able to readily hail one on the street, so expect to call for a cab and wait 15 to 20 minutes. While in downtown/Uptown, you can hitch a free ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley Line, which travels from the Dallas Arts District to Cityplace Station and the West Village. The trolley line runs from the downtown hotels to the Arts District, and it's also handy for cruising around Uptown with its shops, galleries, and bars.
about the weather: be sure to check the local forecast
before you pack and head to Texas. Except in summer
when it's always hot, Dallas can experience
a snow and ice storm followed by balmy spring weather
anytime from November to April — all in a mere
1: ArtWalk, Museums and Fair Park
Start your day with breakfast at the The Dream Café at the Quadrangle, and fill up on breakfast tacos or fluffy pancakes washed down with plenty of good coffee. Another breakfast option for those interested in getting up-close-and-personal with locals is the Original Market Diner, a funky café that has been serving up biscuits and gravy since the fifties, with plenty of coconut cream pie on the side. Thus fortified, begin your exploration of downtown/Uptown.
The first stop on your agenda is the Arts District, where you will find 68 acres filled with art and award-winning architecture that are the crown jewels of the region's cultural life. You can hit all the highlights by following the ArtWalk — a free, self-guided 3.3 mile route through downtown featuring 30 pieces of art and architecture in the Arts District and downtown Dallas. The ArtWalk website has maps and other information to help guide you.
While on your walk, visit the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Trammell Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art where you can grab some lunch in the Atrium Café. Also, check the schedule to see who will perform that evening at the Meyerson Symphony Center, the Wyly Theater Center, and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Your hotel concierge might be able to help you get tickets.
stop is Dealey Plaza, the site of President
Kennedy's assassination, and the Sixth Floor
located in what was the Texas School Book Depository from
where Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. Conspiracy
theorists abound at the site, hawking newsletters and
fact sheet blaming everyone from the Pope to aliens for
If time and energy allow, continue on to Fair Park, home of the 1936 State Centennial and one of the most important collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. The State Fair of Texas runs from late September to mid-October, but the grounds are open all year and are home to the African American Museum, The Museum of Nature and Science, the Cotton Bowl, the splendid Hall of State and the restored Art Deco murals that grace the exteriors of the exhibition halls.
Evening is a good time to catch your breath at The Library Bar at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, drinking in the ambience of old school glamour along with your classic martini or cabernet. Downtown dinner spot Stephan Pyles Restaurant serves southwestern-goes-global cuisine. If your budget is more modest and you have a hankering for Tex-Mex, go to Mattito's in Uptown and sample the queso that the regulars swear by.
to Day 2
* Dallas night Skyline image credit: Matt Pasant; Nasher Sculture Center image credit: Dallas
Convention & Visitors Bureau