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Dallas Travel Guide

Weekend Getaway

Big Fun in Big D
Get a Taste of Modern Texas
by Rebecca Marmaduke

A view of Downtown Dallas at dusk
Downtown Dallas

If you've never been to Dallas, you might think it's the exclusive home of cowboys, big hairdos, old oil money, and J.R. Ewing. While all those things truly are a part of Dallas's past, times have changed, and "Big D" has evolved into a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city as famous for its arts scene and celebrity chefs as it once was infamous for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. An influx of international corporations and high-tech enterprises during the real estate boom of the mid-eighties and early nineties brought diversity and new ideas to Dallas, forever changing its way of life and cultural landscape.

Nowadays, it's just as easy to find great Indian food or sushi as it is to locate a thick, juicy steak. For amusement you may pick from a wide range of activities, whether it's line dancing at Gilley's or attending a performance at the Winspear Opera House. If you're new to Dallas, you'll want to hit all the seminal landmarks that define the city, but on return visits, you can expand out and explore the unique destinations that locals enjoy. Dallas has everything from the opulent to the offbeat, and whether you are a first-time tourist or a return visitor, there is always something novel and interesting to discover.

Reunion Tower at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas, Texas
Reunion Tower at the Hyatt Regency

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.

The DART light rail line makes getting around the downtown/Uptown area a breeze
DART Light Rail

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 Ave. 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.

Now 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 24 hours!


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.

Oswald Shot JFK from this Window at the Sixth Floor Museum
Oswald Shot JFK from this Window at the Sixth Floor Museum

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 thirty 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.

Next stop is Dealey Plaza, the site of President Kennedy's assassination, and the Sixth Floor Museum ( 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 the assassination.

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.

The Dallas Museum of Art is a highlight of the Art District
Dallas Museum of Art

Evening is a good time to catch your breath at The Library Bar at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, drinking in the ambiance 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.

Continue to Day 2


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