Deep in the heart of North Texas is Dallas, the ninth largest city in the United States and a mecca for big business. For some, what's sizable about the “Big D” is its swagger; however, the city's stellar track record has earned its residents plenty of bragging rights. More than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, including AT&T, Southwest Airlines and Texas Instruments, are headquartered in the vicinity. Furthermore, this cow town-turned-modern trendsetter is no stranger to astute entrepreneurship, with the origins of such global brands as 7-Eleven, Chili's and Mary Kay all traced back to Dallas-area industrialists.
In DepthWith cars zipping by, squinting sightseers in Dealey Plaza imagine the sound of gunfire as they gaze at a chilling white X painted on Elm Street. Steps away, amateur photogs scrutinize the now-infamous grassy knoll before approaching the adjacent red-bricked building, the preserved site from which initial investigations ruled a lone sniper acted. This historic district—the location of President John F. Kennedy's assassination—is one of Dallas' most frenetic spots. Yet, in spite of all the activity, there's a palpable stillness in the air.
When, in 1963, America lost its 35th president here, ink and live images brought the world to Dallas, etching once everyday sites like a downtown plaza and a book depository building into the popular consciousness. With exposure like that, it's no wonder this modern metropolis is sometimes viewed as a hodgepodge of past events and larger-than-life people—many inspiring and some tragic.
Long before Lee Harvey Oswald became a household name, locals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow fascinated the American public with a crime spree that ultimately led to their Dallas burials. On the other end of the spectrum, nearly 100 million viewers watched the Dallas Cowboys suit up for their record-breaking eighth Super Bowl appearance, making the 1996 championship game the most-watched U.S. television sporting event of its time. TV audiences also saw a hedonistic depiction of the petroleum hub and its boot-wearing oil barons in the prime-time soap “Dallas,” which, in 1980, had everyone asking “Who shot J.R.?”
It actually was the discovery of oil just east of town that catapulted the already burgeoning business center toward high-rolling status in the midst of the Great Depression. As a result, the community garnered such commercial plums as the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, which attracted millions of visitors to Dallas' Fair Park. A showcase for Art Deco architecture, the cultural complex continues to draw crowds with various events, including the State Fair of Texas.
During World War II, other industries like aviation and engineering furthered the city's wealth. More than 600 companies set up shop here over the next few decades; today the area boasts one of the country's highest concentrations of corporate headquarters. Among the most prominent is Texas Instruments, whose claims to fame include the integrated circuit, or microchip, devised in 1958, and the handheld calculator, invented in 1967 and snapped up by the mathematically challenged for $2,500 apiece.
But the steep cost of Texas Instruments' innovative calculating device was a pittance compared to AT&T Stadium's $1 billion-plus price tag. Opened in 2009, the largest domed arena on the planet—with a 72-by-160-foot high-def video board, another world record-holder—is a fitting home for “America's Team.”
Minuscule in contrast to the behemoth stadium, a reconstruction of city founder John Neely Bryan's one-room abode sits in the cosmopolitan heart of Dallas. Eclipsing the tiny cabin are a towering skyscraper and, figuratively at least, a simple concrete edifice just opposite—the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial, funded completely by Dallas citizens in 1970.
While the city will forever be linked to one of the saddest episodes in U.S. history, it also conjures notions of ingenuity, often meshed with characteristics associated with the state—individualism, affluence and sheer size. Moreover, Dallas' moments and people, along with the imprints both leave behind, offer a succinct glimpse at America's past, present and potential.
By CarMajor highways provide quick access to the city. US 75 (North Central Expressway) and the Dallas North Tollway approach from the north, I-45 (South Central Expressway) from the southeast, I-20 and I-30 (R.L. Thornton Freeway) from the east, and I-30 (Tom Landry Freeway) from the west. I-35 runs northwest to southwest.
Street SystemBecause the streets of Dallas are not designed in the traditional grid pattern, it is wise to refer to a map when driving downtown. Major thoroughfares run from northwest to southeast and northeast to southwest. The principal street is Main Street, which runs southwest to northeast; other key streets include Elm Street, which is one way northeast.
The speed limit on most streets is 35 mph or as posted. Freeway limits range from 40 to 75 mph as posted. Rush hours are generally from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Most signal lights are on the corners, but be alert for signals hanging in the center of intersections. Right turns are permitted on red; exceptions are marked.
ParkingNumerous garages and parking lots compensate for the virtual absence of on-street parking downtown. Rates range from $3 to $5 each half-hour or $10 to $18 a day. For on-street parking, use the Parkmobile app. Prices range from 5c-$2 and there is a 35c convenience fee.
Sales TaxMunicipalities may impose additional rates of up to 2 percent on the statewide 6.25 percent sales tax. Sales tax in the city of Dallas is 8.25 percent; rates vary in the suburbs. The hotel occupancy tax is 13 percent.
Police (non-emergency)(214) 744-4444
Time and Temperature(817) 844-6611
HospitalsBaylor University Medical Center, (214) 802-0111 or (800) 422-9567; Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake, (214) 324-6100; Medical City Dallas Hospital, (972) 566-7000; Methodist Dallas Medical Center, (214) 947-8181; UT Southwestern University Hospital–St. Paul, (214) 645-5555.
Visitor InformationVisit Dallas 325 N. St. Paul St. Dallas, TX 75201. Phone:(214)571-1000 or (800)232-5527The visitor center is in the Old Red Courthouse and is open Mon.-Fri. 8-5; Sat.-Sun. 9-5. Phone (214) 571-1300.
Air TravelDallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), 22 miles northwest of downtown Dallas is served by domestic and foreign passenger carriers. Transportation to surrounding cities is provided by several shuttle services including SuperShuttle, a door-to-door ride-share system; phone (800) 258-3826. Taxis are available at curbside. Eight miles northwest of downtown, Dallas Love Field (DAL) offers commuter air transit throughout the region.
Rental CarsHertz, (972) 453-4600 or (800) 654-3131, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, offers discounts to AAA members.
Rail ServiceAmtrak's Union Station is at 400 S. Houston St. For train schedule and ticket information, phone (214) 653-1101 or (800) 872-7245.
BusesThe Greyhound Lines Inc. bus station, (214) 849-6831 or (800) 231-2222, is at 205 S. Lamar St.; five other bus lines depart from this address.
TaxisTaxis are metered. The initial charge is $2.25 plus $1.80 for the first mile. Rates are then $1.80 for each additional mile, and $2 for each additional passenger. Taxis leaving from the airport charge an additional $5 departure fee. Yellow Cab, (214) 426-6262, is the main company serving the area.
Public TransportationThe Dallas Area Rapid Transit System (DART) provides light-rail and bus service in the area. Two-hour passes are $2.50 for local routes and $3.50 for system routes including all DART buses and trains. Day passes are $5 for local routes and $7 for system routes. A 7-day pass is available. Exact change is required. Phone (214) 979-1111.
The McKinney Avenue Trolley connects the historic West End district downtown with Uptown Dallas. Beginning near the Dallas Museum of Art, the trolley runs up McKinney Avenue to Blackburn Street and the DART Cityplace Station, and then back downtown. The free trolley runs every 15 to 20 minutes Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and Fri. 7 a.m.-midnight; it runs every 25 minutes Sat. 10 a.m.-midnight, and Sun. and holidays 10-10. Phone (214) 855-0006.
What to Do in DallasSee the documentaries, photographs and artifacts that chronicle the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (411 Elm St.). Poignant exhibits documenting John F. Kennedy's life and legacy are housed in the former Texas School Book Depository, where investigators found Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle and “sniper's perch” on Nov. 22, 1963.
Before paying your respects at the nearby John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial (on Market St., between Main and Commerce sts.), stroll around Dealey Plaza. Try to visualize the crowds cheering Kennedy's motorcade as it makes its ill-fated turn onto Elm Street. For the best view of the area, climb the infamous grassy knoll—at its crest, a concrete pergola honoring Dallas founder John Neely Bryan has become the unofficial headquarters for dedicated conspiracy theorists.
Visit the crown jewel of Dallas shopping: Neiman Marcus' flagship store (1618 Main St.), opened in downtown Dallas in 1914. While elegant displays peddle glittery baubles and satiny garments, the legendary strawberry butter-topped popovers of the Zodiac Restaurant , located on level six, pretty much sell themselves.
Continue browsing in this stylish locale, which boasts more retail opportunities per capita than any other major U.S. city. For designer labels (Chanel and Diane von Furstenberg), exquisite jewels and timepieces (Harry Winston), and distinctive footwear (Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin), well-heeled Texans patronize Highland Park Village (Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane), a lovely, tree-shaded shopping center established in 1931.
Snag tickets to see the NBA Mavericks or the NHL Stars play at the American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave.) during your trip. After the game, party like a rock star at ritzy W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences ' The Living Room (2440 Victory Park Ln.), or any of the other trendy bars and nightlife spots in the area.
Explore the 68-acre Downtown Dallas Arts District, southeast of SR 366 at Ross Avenue and St. Paul Street. In addition to sheltering such impressive cultural venues as the AT&T Performing Arts Center (2403 Flora St.), the Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora St.) and the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood St.), the area boasts outdoor artwork and architectural stunners like the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a High Victorian Gothic structure dedicated in 1902.
Cheer on hard-knuckled athletes at the Mesquite ProRodeo Series , a rugged competition founded in Mesquite in 1958 by a group of cowboys—among them five-time world champion bull rider Harry Tomkins and Jim Shoulders, the “Babe Ruth of Rodeo.” From June through August, participants showcase such essential Texan skills as lassoing and bronco riding in the slick Mesquite Arena (1818 Rodeo Dr.).
Use the Halo system to learn about the city and interact with it and get digital information to see landmarks and milestones in the city. Ascend Reunion Tower , part of the Hyatt Regency Dallas complex (300 Reunion Blvd.), and dine 560 feet off the ground at Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck , a revolving restaurant that features fine Asian cuisine and floor-to-ceiling windows affording panoramic views of the city.
Travel to nearby Arlington to see Dallas' five-time Super Bowl winners pull on their star-stamped helmets. If the Cowboys aren't playing, you can tour the team's magnificent domed home, AT&T Stadium (1 AT&T Way).
Dallas Travel with Kids
Under 13At most Dallas Children's Theater productions, full-grown actors take center stage as princesses, villains and not-so-creepy bugs. But on occasion, rising talent from the youth conservatory steal the spotlight at these engaging shows held at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts (5938 Skillman St.).
Armed with a little imagination, kids exploring the 19th- and 20th-century buildings at Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park (1515 S. Harwood St.) can discover what life was like for tough Texan pioneers.
Themed dining areas and a zany waitstaff turn the tables on adults at the Magic Time Machine (5003 Beltline Rd.), the longtime local restaurant that's extremely popular with grade-schoolers. Dressed in superhero tights and fairy-tale frocks, servers crack jokes, sign autographs and lead pint-size patrons to the “Salad Car,” a salad bar whose vintage roadster design entices even finicky eaters to load up on veggies.
Monets and Picassos in training get their scribble on at the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood St.). During regularly scheduled family-friendly events, fun things to do—everything from paper leaf-making to story time with Arturo the Parrot, the museum's cartoon mascot—keep developing minds stimulated.
TeensGeneration X and beyond have no firsthand knowledge of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. But, through films, photos and eyewitness accounts, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (411 Elm St.) vividly re-creates one of America's darkest days. If the somber subject matter concerns you, ask for the toned-down youth version of the audio tour.
Cheering on the home team is guaranteed fun, as are behind-the-scenes tours of domed AT&T Stadium (1 AT&T Way) and jewel box-style Globe Life Park in Arlington (1000 Ballpark Way). Gridiron action and the crack of the bat are only about 25 miles west of Dallas.
What to Do for All AgesIt doesn't matter if you're 4 or 14 going on 24—Galleria Dallas (13350 Dallas Pkwy.) is a pretty cool place, and not just because it has an ice rink. At the American Girl store, beloved dolls can be treated to both brunch and a deluxe spa treatment. Your littlest wee ones will love running amok at Play Place; the cushiony jungle-themed playground on Level 3 is the site of the mall's free weekly kids event, Showtime Saturdays.
Watch hulking African elephants flapping their ears to keep cool and young lions roughhousing at the Dallas Zoo (650 S. R.L. Thornton Frwy.). On the other end of the spectrum are the koalas, which spend most of the day dozing. Why? Eucalyptus leaves, the cute-'n'-fuzzy marsupials' favorite treat, have a sedative effect.
The stomping ground of many Dallas families, Fair Park (2 mi. e. of downtown off I-30) hosts a fall fried foods bonanza (the State Fair of Texas at R.B. Cullum Blvd. and Pennsylvania Ave.) as well as sporting events, concerts and plays. It's also home to several year-round centers of learning. Drop by the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park 's (1462 1st Ave.) stingray touch tank or check out the butterfly house and insectarium at Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park (3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.).
Adventure awaits at The Dallas World Aquarium (1801 N. Griffin St.). Younger children go bananas imitating vocal red howler monkeys in the Orinoco South American rainforest experience. And brown, sawfish and bonnethead sharks in the Mundo Maya exhibit will capture the attention of older kids.
Shopping in DallasEven veteran shopaholics agree—Dallas's bevy of high-end retailers and local boutiques intensifies such fashionista pastimes as shoe hoarding and bargain bin diving. And, if choice must-haves ripped from the pages of Elle don't have you reaching for your wallet, the city's uptown art galleries and folksy antique spots surely will. For “Big D” exclusives, stray off the beaten path and follow the natives—department store divas and dapper dudes in designer denim—to Dallas's most splurge-worthy showrooms.
If you're really itching to shop ‘til you drop, head north out of downtown Dallas. In town at 13350 Dallas Pkwy., hundreds of stores encircle an indoor ice-skating rink at the Galleria Dallas , anchored by Belk, Macy's and Nordstrom. Streamlined NorthPark Center , 8687 N. Central Expwy. at SR 12 and US 75, keeps fashion-conscious Dallasites looking fab in everything from eclectic Anthropologie ensembles to luxurious textiles sold by Versace and Burberry.
From downtown, take the free M-Line Trolley to the West Village in Uptown to visit trendy stores and eateries. In Uptown, you'll rub elbows with decked-out mannequins and carefree natives pursuing the life of Riley. Drive along McKinney Avenue, this historic neighborhood's main thoroughfare, or hop on the McKinney Avenue Trolley to reach the trendy restaurants, hip art galleries and specialty boutiques that keep Uptown in vogue. Contemporary condos and lofts accommodate an abundance of young urbanites, as does West Village, a vibrant mix of national and local retailers and dining establishments at McKinney and Lemmon avenues.
The nearby Park Cities enclave, which comprises Dallas County municipalities Highland Park and University Park, boasts some of the highest per capita incomes in the state of Texas. As a result, this milieu is rife with posh salesrooms loaded with the same designer threads worshipped by East and West Coast elite. Among Park Cities' many shopping destinations, Highland Park Village at Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane is one of the most cherished, having served residents of picture-perfect vicinity mansions since 1931. The open-air, Mediterranean-style retail hub lures discerning buyers with tailor-made, hand-sewn garments; prestigious labels like Chanel, Escada and Hermès; and exquisite decorative baubles.
Named for two streets that meet at the North Central Expressway (US 75), the Knox-Henderson area near Southern Methodist University puts the spotlight on home décor. The west side (Knox Street) showcases big names like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware; the east side (Henderson Avenue) charms deal-hungry nostalgics with an array of whimsical antiques. Froggie's 5 & 10 , 3211 Knox St., a quirky Knox-Henderson toy shop, also attracts pranksters and pint-size shopaholics, while vintage clothes junkies eyeball glass cases full of rhinestone-studded jewelry and racks of bygone styles at resale shops like Vintage Martini , 2923 N. Henderson Ave.
The flagship store of Neiman Marcus , founded in Dallas in the early 1900s, lies at the heart of downtown at 1618 Main St. Red awnings shade window browsers at Main and Ervay streets, while elegant accoutrements from gold-trimmed escalators to ornate chandeliers offer red-carpet treatment to those who venture inside. After perusing Neiman's extravagant trinkets, head to level six to nosh on decadent morsels (like strawberry butter-topped popovers) at the Zodiac Restaurant, a local institution for more than 50 years. Across the street at 1615 Main St., Forty Five Ten is a luxury boutique that offers the best of such designers as Derek Lam, Marc Jacobs, Prada and The Row.
Though downtown doesn't have much of a central shopping district, recent revitalization projects have attracted some business owners to the Dallas core. Cruise through Victory Park, a developing shopping and entertainment hub at the intersection of I-35, the Dallas North Tollway and SR 366, and you'll find a handful of chic stores and eateries as well as this sleek area's crown jewel: the American Airlines Center. Home to the NBA Mavericks and the NHL Stars, the arena features a sports memorabilia shop (open Mon.-Sat. 10-5 with complimentary parking in Lot M and Block D, Block K and The House Garages) at Victory Avenue and All Star Way.
When they're not bicycling through the surrounding Oak Cliff neighborhood, active city dwellers stretch their imaginations in the local art galleries and quaint shops of the compact Bishop Arts District, just southwest of downtown at Bishop Avenue and Davis Street. Visit the Design District (bordered by I-35 to the north and east, Wycliff Avenue to the west and Continental Avenue to the south) to explore antique shops and upscale art galleries near high-end design showrooms just two miles northwest of downtown.
Dallas NightlifeHaving trouble deciding where to see and be seen in Dallas? Just cruise along McKinney Avenue, the main drag in the hip Uptown neighborhood, to find the city's most sizzling hot spots. For an upscale meal paired with a few late-night cocktails, several establishments fit the bill, including Sambuca , 2120 McKinney Ave., a small chain founded in Dallas in 1991. Playing everything from alternative country to jazz and blues, live bands keep hips swaying and toes tapping at the sultry dinner club; phone (214) 744-0820.
Two other tried-and-true Uptown mainstays—both cozy nighttime haunts loved by locals—are The Quarter Bar , 3301 McKinney Ave., and The Ginger Man , 2718 Boll St. Part of Bread Winners Cafe & Bakery, the former oozes New Orleans French Quarter charm and tempts voyeurs with a rooftop terrace overlooking McKinney. The latter welcomes any combination of sipping, slurping or chugging, especially when done al fresco in the bar's handsome beer garden. Phone (214) 754-4941 for The Quarter Bar or (214) 754-8771 for The Ginger Man.
Perfect your barhopping skills on Greenville Avenue, a commercial thoroughfare with casual eateries, stores and, most importantly, watering holes galore. Pockets of low-key taverns—many offering rooftop lounges—dot Lower Greenville, which runs between Ross Avenue and Mockingbird Lane. Snack, chat and swig at The Libertine Bar , 2101 Greenville Ave., (214) 824-7900; or groove in vintage style at The Granada Theater , 3524 Greenville Ave., (214) 824-9933, where alternative rock and funk sounds reverberate off Art Deco architectural elements.
In Upper Greenville, the bars are more spread out, though there's a small concentration of Southern Methodist University hangouts just north of Mockingbird Lane. Thirsty revelers settle in for cold pitchers and darts matchups at dives like Milo Butterfingers , 5645 SMU Blvd., and The Green Elephant , 5627 Dyer St., both of which are near the intersection of Greenville and SMU Boulevard. Phone (214) 368-9212 for Milo Butterfingers or (214) 265-1338 for The Green Elephant.
SMU undergrads also party in the trendy Knox-Henderson area, named for two streets that meet at the North Central Expressway (from Ross Avenue in Lower Greenville, Henderson Avenue juts in a northwesterly direction toward Knox Street). Mingle with Ms. Pac-Man and Skee-Ball aficionados in retro-paradise Barcadia , 1917 N. Henderson Ave., or sip some sweet tea-infused vodka on the porch at The Porch , 2912 N. Henderson Ave. If ales, stouts and drafts are more your thing, clink mugs with other foam-mustached patrons at The Old Monk , 2847 N. Henderson Ave. Chock-full of antiques, the seemingly age-old pub has been a local favorite since it opened in 1998. Phone (214) 821-7300 for Barcadia, (214) 828-2916 for The Porch or (214) 821-1880 for The Old Monk.
With the arrival of the American Airlines Center to downtown Dallas, high-end enterprises boasting high-tech amenities have sprung up in the surrounding Victory Park area like Texas wildflowers. One of the most stunning additions to this still-developing district is the indulgent W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences, 2440 Victory Park Ln. The Living Room , a chic but comfy lounge just off the W's lobby, has an outdoor patio, DJ music nightly and live jazz on Wednesday evenings; phone (214) 397-4100.
Near Continental Avenue and Houston Street in Victory Park, a handful of familiar bar/restaurants—Hard Rock Cafe, 2211 N. Houston St.; Hooters , 2201 N. Lamar St.; and House of Blues , 2200 N. Lamar St.—stay open late Friday and Saturday evenings. Another fun pit stop when it's well past your bedtime is Dick's Last Resort , 2211 N. Lamar St., where bad behavior is rewarded. Smart-aleck servers take pride in ridiculing customers at the Dallas-based chain, which also brings new meaning to the word "obnoxious" in Boston, Chicago, San Diego and other major U.S. cities. Phone (469) 341-7625 for Hard Rock Cafe, (214) 979-9464 for Hooters, (214) 978-2583 for House of Blues or (214) 747-0001 for Dick's Last Resort.
Deep Ellum's seen it all—from flapper do's and fedoras to Mohawks and metal piercings. Settled by freed slaves in the late 1800s, the neighborhood (east of downtown Dallas and centering on Main, Commerce and Elm streets) emerged as a hub for jazz and blues in the 1920s, with such entertainers as Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson packing ‘em in nightly. Decades later, resourceful impresarios transformed the then-rundown district, turning empty warehouses into temples for worshiping punk rock gods like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys.
Dallas Performing ArtsSeptember through May Dallas echoes with the sound of music. The celebrated Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs at Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, a short distance from the Dallas Museum of Art. Each spring the symphony heralds the arrival of the season with free park concerts; phone (214) 670-3600.
flickr/Denise Wauters Johnson
The Dallas Children's Theater presents family-friendly fare at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts, 5938 Skillman St. Performances typically take place Friday evenings at 7:30 and Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 4:30; phone (214) 978-0110.
Dallas Sports & RecreationAthletes can enjoy many sports offered in and near Dallas. The list ranges from golf to horseback riding to ice skating. Many city parks have public golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools. For fishing, boating and water-skiing enthusiasts, there are a number of lakes within an hour's drive.
A variety of professional sports is played in Dallas and nearby cities. Surely the best-known local team is the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys, who in 2009 inaugurated the 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The state-of-the-art sports complex hosts the annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and was the venue for the 2011 Super Bowl XLV.
The National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, who claimed their first NBA crown in 2011, and the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars play at American Airlines Center. The American League's Texas Rangers play baseball at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Rounding out the local professional-sports lineup, FC Dallas of Major League Soccer play at Toyota Stadium.
flickr/Texas A&M University
1-day ItineraryAAA editors suggest these activities for a great short vacation experience.
MorningNab locally made garments, ceramics and jewelry in the Bishop Arts District, just southwest of downtown in Oak Cliff, the historic neighborhood where Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met, Lee Harvey Oswald was captured and 7-Eleven originated. If you're an early riser, slurp eye-opening brews at hometown coffee joint Café Brazil (611 N. Bishop Ave.). If it's a Sunday, sleep in and do brunch at Hattie's (418 N. Bishop Ave.) A sound contender for any “Best of Dallas” list, this urbane eatery with a Southern accent doles out polished versions of your favorite stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods.
After your morning cup of joe (and perhaps a few of Hattie's cornmeal griddlecakes), drive to one of the following AAA GEM attractions: the Dallas Zoo (650 S. R.L. Thornton Frwy.), Fair Park (2 mi. e. of downtown off I-30) or the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (8525 Garland Rd.). Furry fun awaits at the state's largest and oldest zoo, and Fair Park's bounty of entertaining educational facilities keeps groups busy for hours. The lush, 66-acre Dallas Arboretum encompasses more than a dozen display gardens and overlooks scenic White Rock Lake, a haven for nature-loving recreationalists.
AfternoonNow that you've explored the Dallas outskirts, check out downtown. At the heart of the city is The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (411 Elm St.), a thought-provoking exhibit space preserving a painful moment in U.S. history: the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. After investigating Dealey Plaza, most sightseers head east to pay their respects to the fallen leader at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial (on Market Street, between Main and Commerce streets), a minimalist cenotaph designed by renowned American architect Philip Johnson.
From the JFK memorial, walk a few blocks east to Main and Ervay streets and look for the red awnings outside the oldest Neiman Marcus (1618 Main St.) in operation. Window browse at the high-end retailer's flagship store or peruse paintings and other inspirational works in the Downtown Dallas Arts District. The 19-block area at Ross Avenue and St. Paul Street encompasses several cultural gems, including the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood St.), the Nasher Sculpture Center (2001 Flora St.) and the Crow Collection of Asian Art (2010 Flora St.).
If you chose colorful frocks over vibrant brushstrokes, enjoy an elegant lunch at Neiman Marcus' fashionable eatery, the Zodiac Restaurant (1618 Main St.). Otherwise, check out Lone Star State staple Cane Rosso (2612 Commerce St.) for pasta dishes and Neopolitan pizza, or Dragonfly (2332 Leonard St.) for New American cuisine like tuna tacos and brisket sliders.
EveningIf you want to get gussied up, make reservations for The French Room (1321 Commerce St.), one of the finest gastronomic experiences this side of the Mississippi. Located in The Adolphus hotel, the lavish restaurant dazzles the eyes with ornate décor, while classic, expertly prepared recipes arouse cultivated taste buds. For a dressed-down dinner, try cozy Mia's Tex-Mex Restaurant (4322 Lemmon Ave.), a family-run eatery that tips its ten-gallon hat south of the border. A few bites of Butch's Original Brisket Tacos and you'll understand why clued-in natives perpetually pack this low-key dining room.
Attend an event at the American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave.). Home to the NBA Mavericks and the NHL Stars, the well-appointed arena also welcomes an array of entertainers. For pre- or post-event cocktails, the surrounding Victory Park area (a developing playground for Dallas' “in crowd”) has a handful of nightspots, though visiting VIPs like Jamie Foxx and Justin Timberlake favor the pulsing lounges of the W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences (2440 Victory Park Ln.). If you can't get tickets for an AAC event, barhop along Greenville or McKinney avenues or mingle with laid-back Dallasites in the Knox-Henderson area, where imaginative eateries cater to bohemian bellies.
Best Attractions in DallasIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
By Maria White
Visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, housed in the former book depository from which Warren Commission investigators concluded Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy in 1963. A self-guiding audio tour leads visitors lost in thought and time through a gallery space presenting documentary films, interpretive panels and relics chronicling the life and legacy of JFK.
Managed by The Sixth Floor Museum, the stark John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial is just east of the assassination site. Though area residents completely funded the project, not all Dallasites were happy with the result: a square, roofless cenotaph consisting of concrete walls that one architectural critic likened to “mammoth Lego blocks.” But despite the controversy, this simple monument, as its commemorative marker attests, “stands as a permanent tribute to the joy and excitement of one man's life.”
Kennedy family friend Philip Johnson designed both Dallas' JFK memorial and Thanks-Giving Square, an urban park dedicated in 1976. The latter, highlighted by waterfalls, reflecting pools and a meditation garden, conveys the principle of gratitude in the midst of the city's bustling downtown. Besides contemplative sightseers, the site harbors a small, spiral tower—topped by the resplendent Glory Window, one of the world's largest horizontally mounted stained glass pieces—and the Wall of Praise, which includes a vibrant mosaic based on Norman Rockwell's “The Golden Rule.”
Mary Kay Ash considered the Golden Rule to be the founding principle of her cosmetics business, launched in Dallas in 1963; her glamour company “with heart” is today a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. From pink beauty palettes to iconic pink Caddies, The Mary Kay Museum —located in the lobby of Mary Kay World Headquarters, a 13-floor pink granite building in Addison —chronicles the evolution of the highly successful direct sales enterprise.
It's plain to see why geophysicist Everette Lee DeGolyer and his wife, Nell, a respected civic leader and philanthropist, built their home on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake. The idyllic estate—now the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden —affords handsome views of the scenic body of water and, just beyond, downtown Dallas. Today, green-thumbed visitors gleefully amble through this 66-acre site's colorful, flower-speckled patches. Seasonal concerts and special events also are offered at the AAA GEM attraction, as are guided tours of the DeGolyers' former residence, a Latin Colonial Revival-style structure completed in 1939.
Giggles and excited squeals mingle with roars, grunts and neighs at the Dallas Zoo, a AAA GEM attraction founded in 1888. At the entrance to the 95-acre park, a 67.5-foot giraffe—purportedly the tallest statue in Texas—welcomes hordes of two-legged creatures and their young to the stomping grounds of mischievous primates, well-balanced birds and furry, purring predators.
In its infancy, the Dallas Arts Association (DAA), founded in 1903, held exhibitions at a variety of locations: the public library, a theater, the state fairgrounds and the ninth floor of the Dallas Power and Light Co. building. Today, the 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art designed by Modernist Edward Larrabee Barnes houses the city's impressive art collection, which encompasses works by such masters as Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffe and Auguste Rodin. The centerpiece of the Downtown Dallas Arts District, this AAA GEM attraction ranks among the nation's leading cultural institutions.
A trip to Mexico led to the birth of the Nasher Sculpture Center; there, a Dallas entrepreneur and his wife purchased the first pieces in what would become a substantial private art collection. Since 2003, the couple's assemblage of modern and contemporary sculptures has been on public display in a striking Renzo Piano-designed edifice integral to the city's arts district.
Fair Park has seen its fair share of cleats, boots and ballet slippers. Year-round, athletes, cowpokes and dancers entertain enthralled spectators at the complex's sports and performance venues. Also a showplace for Art Deco architecture, the 277-acre AAA GEM attraction boasts one of the state's best representations of 1930s style: the Hall of State. The dramatic building crafted from Texas limestone for the Texas Centennial Exposition portrays Texan heroes, industries and activities both inside and out.
With the arrival of the State Fair of Texas in late September, Fair Park puts the spotlight on all things fried. Past winners of a caloric food contest among the fair's concessionaires have included deep-fried butter, fried chocolate and fried Coke. After you and the little ones are thoroughly covered in powdered sugar and the like, tear through Fair Park's kid-friendly educational attraction including a heavenly butterfly hangout ( Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park ). Plus, we reckon your group's pint-size sightseers will find the swimmingly fun Children's Aquarium at Fair Park anything but watered-down.
While you're in Irving, check out Robert Glen's magnificent Williams Square creation, The Mustangs of Las Colinas, which represents Texas' free spirit. Documenting the lifelike equestrian piece, The Mustangs of Las Colinas Museum features a 20-minute video about the carving as well as other works by Glen, a Kenya-born artist also known for his depictions of African wildlife.
Arlington, about 23 miles west of downtown Dallas, is home to two Texas-sized attractions. At state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium, diehard “America's Team” fans reminisce about the victories of Tom Landry (head coach 1960-88), Troy Aikman (quarterback 1989-2000) and Emmitt Smith (running back 1990-2002) during in-depth tours of the Cowboys' new 3 million-square-foot venue. Brawny spandexed gods—from Batman and Robin to The Flash—also reign at AAA GEM attraction Six Flags Over Texas, where the adventurous zoom “faster than a speeding bullet” on superhero-themed roller coasters and other pulse-racing thrill rides.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination. /
Best Restaurants in DallasOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
By Maria White
The French Room, inside the Adolphus hotel, thrills the palates of both well-heeled guests and our very own AAA inspectors. As the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Texas, this acclaimed venue epitomizes opulence, with hors d'oeuvres ranging from Hudson Valley foie gras to Israeli Osetra Golani caviar. Moreover, the gilded dining room, dripping with rococo decor and crowned by heavenly ceiling murals, is itself a feast for the eyes.
For the best gumbo and shellfish in Dallas, head to the S & D Oyster Company. The cozy historical building, down-to-earth staff and utterly fresh seafood will make you forget you're in the Big D, smack-dab in Uptown, one of the city's trendiest neighborhoods. Be sure to arrive early for the get-it-while-it-lasts New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp or the standout bread pudding with whiskey sauce; popular with locals, this mom-and-pop restaurant doesn't take reservations.
Evocative of French Quarter architecture, an early 20th-century pharmacy in Uptown now houses Bread Winners Cafe & Bakery. As is the case at many Dallas restaurants, Sunday brunch rules at this consistently stellar establishment, though chic natives pack indoor and outdoor dining areas for breakfast, lunch and dinner, too. If there's a wait, try not to linger by the bakery case; otherwise, there's a good chance you'll ruin your appetite on the cheesecake bars, snickerdoodles and cream puffs scrumptiously strutting their stuff behind the glass.
Open the red padded door to Campisi's Egyptian, a Dallas institution providing sanctuary to a bygone era. Black-and-white photos of mid-20th-century stars back the bar, and it's easy to imagine shady underworld deals transpiring at the weathered booths lining the walls. Aromatic Italian spices flood the dimly lit establishment known for its delicious pizza and a famous former regular—Jack Ruby, who reputedly dined here the night before he killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
Operated by the Los Angeles-based restaurant group that owns the popular Houston's chain, R+D Kitchen delivers top-notch cuisine and service, just as you might expect. And, like some of the company's other culinary ventures, this classy University Park spot presents a harmonious blend of opposites—from a casual wood-paneled bar, seamlessly incorporated into R+D's upscale design, to flawlessly presented deviled eggs sure to remind you of mom's time-honored recipe.
Throngs of repeat guests hooked on Hattie's signature shrimp and grits flock to the Bishop Arts District daily. Self-indulgence is a must at the sophisticated eatery's Sunday brunch, so start things off right with a waffle paired with crispy buttermilk fried chicken. Besides, after sampling Hattie's twist on Southern low country cuisine, you can slough off excess calories perusing the edgy art galleries and boutiques that surround this epicurean grande dame.
The surviving founder of Mia's Tex-Mex Restaurant, Ana Enriquez (aka “Mama Mia”), didn't invent the margarita, but she and her family certainly know how to make ‘em (i.e., strong). Still, this Dallas institution is known for its “original” brisket tacos, topped with Monterey Jack, grilled onions and poblano peppers. While some doubt Mia's late husband, Butch, was the first to dream up the succulent brisket taco, there's no question the enterprising couple put these melt-in-your-mouth Tex-Mex staples on the map—and in countless bellies—since opening their homey eatery in 1981.
Though many Texas restaurants brag about their burgers, The Grape delivers the real deal, a 10-ounce patty so spectacular, it's (sigh) only available Sundays and Mondays. Sink your teeth into this New York-style bistro's perfectly proportioned creation, a toasted pain au lait bun embracing tasty beef, white cheddar, peppered bacon and Dijonaise. A mainstay of Lower Greeneville, a hopping nightlife district, The Grape also presents a creative, ever-changing dinner menu as well as one of the city's most fashionable happy hours.
Frequented by local industrialists and visiting celebs (Gwyneth Paltrow, Julio Iglesias and Kurt Russell are among the A-listers who've been spotted here), Al Biernat's celebrates the good life according to “Mr. B.” With the manicured estates of some of Texas' wealthiest residents nearby, the gracious owner of this swank chophouse caters to affluent carnivores, cramming the menu with such meaty indulgences as a 24-ounce “cowboy cut” rib eye. Likewise, a wine list encompassing more than 650 selections brings smiles to chardonnay and merlot connoisseurs' lips even before the sommelier starts uncorking bottles.
Outside a simple brick-and-mortar building, three large red letters—“B-B-Q”—tell you all you need to know about one modest Snider Plaza eatery. Brimming with lovingly tended, slow-cooked veggies and meats, simple white plates emerge from the kitchen at Peggy Sue BBQ, only to be licked clean in under 20 minutes.
Also at Snider Plaza is family-owned Kuby's Sausage House, which serves up Old World charm along with traditional German classics like schnitzel and homemade wurst. You'll also savor forkfuls of hot potato salad and kraut while admiring the assortment of beer steins lining the walls. The quaint dining room is inside a small grocery, so after your feast, you can stock up on specialty items, gourmet cheeses and Kuby's delectable sausages.
Part of a Tex-Mex empire founded here in the early 1900s, El Fenix Mexican Restaurant doles out generous portions of tamales, tacos and enchiladas to loyal patrons. With the colorful downtown original (1601 McKinney Ave.) often crowded with both locals and tourists, you'll find the W. Northwest Highway (SR 12) location slightly less congested and very convenient to NorthPark Center, one of Dallas' must-browse shopping malls.
Seasonal ingredients spice up the eclectic menu at The Porch, which serves up “down-home food and uptown cocktails” in the hip Knox-Henderson district. Bite into the smoked brisket enchiladas in between Bluegrass Bourbon Sour swigs, or take the plunge and order what many natives have decreed their city's most decadent burger, the Stodg. This beefy monster, served on a foie-buttered bun and topped with aged cheddar, bacon and an over-easy egg, is named after one of the eatery's investors, a well-known Dallas lawyer with an appetite.
Atop Reunion Tower, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck delivers a truly memorable dining experience 50 stories up. The 360-degree views of Dallas are jaw-dropping, especially after dark. Just remember your manners and close your mouth while wolfing down such Asian-influenced morsels as pork belly dumplings, lobster and shrimp spring rolls, and Korean beef short ribs. Before the bittersweet return to earth, sample the rich chocolate soufflé, topped with gobs of tart crème fraîche.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
Dallas EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
In winter, gridiron-happy Dallasites shiver in anticipation of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic , held in early January at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Spring is ushered in with Dallas Blooms , a festival of flowers held late February to early April at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. During the first weekend in March, more than 70,000 Emerald Isle-loving revelers ready their Aran jumpers, brogues and tweed caps for the North Texas Irish Festival , said to be the largest of its kind in the Southwest. Local musicians and traditional dancers, along with such nationally recognized Celtic acts as Altan, The Elders and Cathie Ryan, perform in this Fair Park event.
During early April's Deep Ellum Arts Festival , the wailing sounds of Southern rock, blues, jazz and funk resonate through the streets of one of Dallas' most eclectic and storied neighborhoods. Nearly 100 musical acts on five stages and thousands of head-bopping spectators take part in the 3-day street party, as do more than 200 juried visual artists exhibiting and selling their wares.
Some filmmakers sweat while others just kick back and relax as their babies—both features and shorts—are screened at the USA Film Festival . Held in late April, the established cinematic event draws A-list names like Benjamin Bratt, Jackie Chan, Jodie Foster, Quincy Jones and Gary Oldman. In late January the exposition's organizers also present the KidFilm Festival , when talking animals and smart, sassy tweens take center stage.
Vintage and sought-after specialty instruments draw dealers and collectors to the Dallas International Guitar Festival in early May. Held at Fair Park, this burgeoning event that began in 1978 includes rocking performances by regional and national bands. Closing out spring is Dallas Symphony's free Memorial Day Concert at Flagpole Hill.
During the summer entertainers perform at Fair Park's outdoor Gexa Energy Pavilion and the band shell. Another theatrical highlight is Shakespeare in the Park , which presents plays on select days from mid-June to late September at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre.
You may have heard the expression everything's bigger in Texas; then it's no surprise the State Fair of Texas , officiated by a giant cowboy wearing size 96 boots and a 95-gallon hat, attracts more guests than any other state fair in the nation. At its core are agricultural exhibits and a livestock auction; plus, there are outdoor concerts, an expansive auto show and cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs. Fortunately, the Fair Park extravaganza lasts nearly a month from late September to late October, so you don't have to pack everything into a single, Texas-sized day.
From late September to late November, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden embraces fall's colors and scents as well as the season's most quintessential crop during Autumn at the Arboretum: The Great Pumpkin Festival . Stroll through a sea of jack-o'-lanterns and long-necked gourds, or role-play in the pumpkinized fairy-tale village, where an orange hue tints beloved storybook tales.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
CityPASSSave up to 40 percent on admission to select Dallas attractions with a CityPASS ticket booklet, which includes prepaid admission to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. Also one option ticket for either the Dallas Zoo or the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Each Dallas CityPASS ticket booklet is valid for 9 consecutive days beginning with the first day of use, may be purchased online or at the participating attractions.
America's StadiumBy Maria White
When a grass-stained footballer cradling a pigskin digs his cleats into the end zone, it's a magical event—unless of course you're on the opposing team. Magnifying both the sweetest of victories and the most devastating defeats, mammoth AT&T Stadium in Arlington delivers gridiron excitement, amped up to the nth degree.
The dazzling, state-of-the-art arena is one of the world's largest domed structures, a fitting home for one of the National Football League's most valuable and enthralling franchises. The Lone Star State's long list of heroes ropes in tough frontiersmen and fiery politicians, and many a Dallas Cowboy also is ranked among this larger-than-life lot. For rabid North Texas sports buffs especially, the utterance of such names as Aikman, Meredith, Smith and Staubach unleashes a deluge of adoration for each of these seemingly superhuman athletes. On a national scale, the Cowboys' abundance of ratings-grabbing TV appearances earned them the enduring nickname “America's Team” over 3 decades ago, most likely infuriating hard-core rivals like the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers.
Construction of AT&T Stadium began in 2006, and the media buzz surrounding the five-time Super Bowl champs has only mounted since its completion in 2009. Polarizing team owner Jerry Jones asserts he built the $1 billion-plus palace for the fans. Still, while standing-room-only “party passes” can be scooped up for just $29, it's all about the Benjamins for those who want to watch the ‘Boys in blue and silver-grey from a premium seat. Even more luxurious digs, like Hall of Fame level suites, 21 rows from the field, likewise cost a pretty penny—not to mention the pricey concessions, though, truth be told, the vendors here don't dole out your typical stale stadium fare. Instead, event goers chow down on everything from Kobe beef patties to vegetarian nachos topped with sweet corn and guacamole.
All things considered, this scrimmaging showplace with a penchant for tailgaters bears a modern, open architectural design that promises great views for all ticketholders—not an easy feat in a venue that can accommodate 100,000. Plus, the stadium's center-hung, 72-by-160-foot video board guarantees no one in the house will miss a single play. The behemoth, world record-holding LED display gives every spectator sideline views of the action on the field. With this monster suspended above throngs of bellowing Cowboys fanatics, the thrill of a touchdown doesn't end once the ref blows the whistle. And, to the chagrin of clumsy players, fumbles are replayed again and again on the big screen, too—in high-def, naturally.
On Feb. 6, 2011, the gleaming Arlington venue hosted the annual championship game between the AFC and NFC champs, a first for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The nation's 43rd president (and Texas' 46th governor), George W. Bush, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were among the attendees of Super Bowl XLV, which, regrettably for Dallas Cowboys fans, pitted the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers.
Places in Vicinity