Dallas dazzles: How to go, where to stay and what to do

Dallas has Southern hospitality accentuated by over-the-top cultural and culinary options. In this city of more than 2 million people, residents love to share their secrets and show off their big hearts.

How to go:

Instead of dreading the mad dash that a trip to an airport always includes, there’s a better choice. Go the night before.

I left my car with the airport hotel valet, checked in and slept overnight before an early-morning nonstop flight. Dallas’ Love Field, which was the city’s main airport until a new one opened in 1974 but remains home to Southwest Airlines, is close to the city and an easy drive to the Fairmont Dallas Hotel on North Akard Street.

Enter concierge Phil Powell, the guy with magic connections after 20 years at the hotel. He doesn’t just give directions to the best new restaurants, he calls ahead, jumps into the complimentary limousine, escorts me to destinations and walks me inside to meet the manager at the new Henry restaurant, which offers downtown views.

Places to stay:

Hotel ZaZa Dallas is a boutique hotel, and a local favorite, but it’s the Statler Hotel that everybody raves about. The Waterproof lounge, located on the 19th floor of the hotel, has a panoramic view of Dallas and includes a rooftop bar.  

The Joule Hotel is all about the scene downtown, occupying a revitalized 1920s building. A visual masterpiece by Romanian designer Adam D. Tihany, the hotel creates a tasteful union of Old World quality and contemporary design, with a distinguished collection of original artwork  from Andy Warhol, Tony Cragg, Adam Fuss and Richard Phillips, among others. Recently, it completed a transformational  expansion that debuted new rooms, suites and multistory penthouses, a spa by Espa, a library by Taschen Books, an artisan coffee shop, and retail stores by Traffic Los Angeles and Tenoversix

The Joule is home to acclaimed modern Texas brasserie CBD Provisions. Go to 1530 Main Street at night and check out its Midnight Rambler bar. The entire area was under construction during my visit, so enter from the Commerce Street entrance for dropoff and pickup.

 What to do:

Downtown is home to numerous landmarks, including Reunion Tower, which has a revolving restaurant, and Dealey Plaza, the location of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. But don’t go to Dallas without visiting Neiman Marcus, which has its headquarters there. 

Indeed, Dallas has a reputation for shopping. While some might argue that the Dallas Cowboys are the most popular pastime in this booming city, the numbers don’t lie. The Dallas-Fort Worth area leads the nation in  shopping centers per capita. That reputation started with the Marcus family. Vogue Editor Edna Woolman Chase was quoted in Commentary Magazine in 1957, “I dreamed all my life of the perfect store for women. Then I saw Neiman Marcus, and my dream came true.” You can easily spend the day here. It offers a lunch menu inside its sixth-floor restaurant called The Zodiac. A tribute on the menu to the founder can be found with the Stanley Marcus Pot Roast

Additional culinary finds include Dakota’s Steakhouse, which is always a go-to for meat lovers, and celebrity chef John Tesar’s Knife is now open in nearby Plano, with a dry-aging box holding up to 500 pieces of meat at a time.

Tulum has jungle-print wallpaper, with modern Mexican dishes and diver scallops, at 4216 Oak Lawn Ave. The shared table at Petra and the Beast on a Saturday night has a menu featuring great charcuterie. Sachet has a fabulous Mediterranean menu and trendy weekend crowd vibe as well as delicious appetizers, cooked in a wood-oven, with smoked mushrooms, warm lentil salad and thyme yogurt.

 Dallas basics:

Spread over 20 square blocks and encompassing 68 acres, the walkable downtown hub features art for every sense, with award-winning museums, performing arts venues and restaurants and bars, while an arts-magnet high school, Booker T. Washington, inspires tomorrow’s artists. The Dallas Museum of Art has art exhibitions year-round.

 Nestled in the heart of the arts district, the AT&T Performing Arts Center is hailed as the most significant performing arts center built since The Lincoln Center in New York. It is home to the Winspear Opera House, which follows a traditional horseshoe shape, engineered for opera and musical theater. The Winspear is home to the Dallas Opera and Texas Ballet Theater. 

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is home to 11 permanent exhibit halls and various traveling exhibitions throughout the year. Catch a view of downtown Dallas from the museum’s glass-encased elevator, as you work your way up to the top floor and back down.

 Crow Collection of Asian Art is a must. Whether for quiet reflection in a serene atmosphere, marveling at centuries-old artifacts or gazing at unique works of art, the museum is an inspiring experience and home to 15 contemporary and historical pieces peppered throughout an intricate garden of bamboo, maples, azaleas and pine trees.

The Dallas Visitor Center is across the street from a station for D-Link, a free bus shuttle service that can get you through downtown and into Uptown, the Dallas Arts District and the Dallas Farmers Market. Or catch a ride with the Efrogs shuttle cart service that can take small groups of people (think five or less) to various points in the central Dallas district. The visitor center is inside Old Red Museum, a must-see for history fanatics, with an impressive collection of Dallas memorabilia. Other attractions nearby include the West End district, the Pegasus sculpture outside the Omni Hotel, JFK Memorial and the sixth-floor museum at Dealey Plaza. ♦

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