The Big D is a city on the move. First time visitors immediately pick up on the energy that radiates from this grand Texas metropolis, the state's third largest city, and that energy certianly takes them places. With a host of new parks, museums, hotels, architecturally-significant bridges and awe-inspiring sports facilities, Dallas has transformed itself and emerged as a destination-worthy location. It’s rich in sights and experiences, offering something for everyone, young and old. There is no question that Dallas knows how to delight in a big-time Texas way, and any trip here - short or long - will leave visitors all the better for the experience.
Cultural attractions abound from the Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Garden to The Sixth Floor Museum and the city’s newest gem, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The Dallas Arts District is the largest arts district in the country, spanning 68 acres and comprised of museums, performance halls, corporate offices, residences, restaurants, churches and even a school. It’s a vast campus of culture and community use with the highest concentration of Pritzker prize-winning architecture in the country. To learn more about the buildings, as well as the institutions, individuals and visionaries who contributed to the creation of this remarkable achievement, you can take an architectural walking tour.
Within the district you’ll find the Dallas Museum of Art, which ranks among the leading art institutions in the nation and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. It boasts a vast collection that includes American and contemporary masterpieces, as well as European and impressionist art and art from the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Of special note are the museum’s atrium windows, which are framed by bedazzling Dale Chihuly glass. And best of all, admission is free.
Also in the Arts District is the famed Nasher Sculpture Center, home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world. The place is a veritable store of eye candy, both inside and out, with pieces by such renowned artists as Brancusi, Arp, Ernst, Giacometti, Gauguin and Calder, along with a comprehensive body of ethnographic and archaeological works stemming from pre-Columbian times.
For aficionados of the Asian aesthetic, there’s the Crow Collection of Asian Art, located nearby. This permanent set of galleries is dedicated to the arts and cultures of China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia and contains hundreds of scrolls, paintings, objects of metal and stone, and large architectural pieces, including a rarely seen 28-foot by 12-foot sandstone façade of an 18th century Indian residence.
Elsewhere in the city are other museums of interest, particularly the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and The Sixth Floor Museum. With 180,000 square feet of space and standing 170 feet tall, the revolutionary Perot Museum extends beyond the typical “museum” perception, offering provocative illustrations of engineering, technology and conservation. Five floors house eleven permanent exhibit halls containing state-of-the-art video and 3-D computer animation with exciting, life-like simulations, hands-on activities and fun educational games. The building itself is the twelfth hall and visitors can find information about the museum’s construction and engineering aspects via a series of kiosks interspersed throughout the exhibits. The Perot opened July 2012 with a mission aimed at helping to close the gap in science learning among school age children. Thus far, over 1,000,000 people have visited this touted museum, exceeding all expectations.
Another unique attraction in Dallas is The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, located in the former Texas School Book Depository where significant evidence of a sniper was found following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The museum presents the social and political landscape of the early 1960s, chronicling the assassination and its aftermath, while reflecting on JFK’s lasting impact on our country. Exhibits abound with historic photos, documentary films, television and radio broadcasts, artifacts and interpretive displays, as well as an oral history collection that includes over a thousand firsthand accounts from eyewitnesses, law enforcement officials and others. It’s a fascinating walk down memory lane that leaves visitors with a deeper insight into JFK’s legacy and the tragic event that forever changed this nation.
All ages will love the Dallas World Aquarium. Once inside, your immersive adventure begins in the rainforest exhibit where exotic and colorful birds fly from perch to perch, along with anteaters and two and three-toed sloths that hang semi-comatose from branches above. From there, you can move from zone to zone, espying endangered animals such as Orinoco crocodiles, Antillean manatees and even a jaguar, all which are part of the aquarium’s many conservation projects. Interesting marine life, including Japanese crabs, jellyfish and an assortment of sea dragons are also on display, along with comical penguins and playful otters. The highlight is a 400,000 gallon walk-through exhibit full of sharks, rays and sea turtles of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Dallas has plenty of green space, but locals will most always point you in the direction of Klyde Warren Park or the verdant and lush Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The park is an open air community center with plenty of activities and a food truck scene to boot. The 66-acre Arboretum is in the top ten botanical gardens in the U.S. and contains a marvelous children’s garden that was completed this past summer. Dedicated to teaching children about earth and life science, the garden is an educational facility comprised of seventeen “galleries.” It’s an outdoor lab that allows for real world connections through numerous hands-on activities and demonstrations.
If it’s shopping you’re after, Dallas is home to a myriad of eclectic stores and boutiques, as well as large malls and the flagship Neiman Marcus. For swanky, designer duds, upscale Highland Park Village is akin to L.A.’s swanky Rodeo Drive. Fans of vintage wear and handcrafted items will enjoy historical Bishop Arts District. It’s one of Dallas’ best kept secrets, with an assortment of independently owned shops, cafes and restaurants, all within a two-block radius. When you’ve shopped till you’ve dropped, pop into Dude, Sweet for sinfully, homemade dark chocolate or Emporium Pies, where you’ll have to choose from such mouthwatering creations with names like Drunken Nut, Cloud Nine, Drop Dead Gorgeous, or the mother of all apple pies, the Lord of the Pies.
There’s no end to the options when it comes to food in Dallas. No matter what you’re craving, you can find it in this city of nearly 7,000 restaurants. For tasty Tex-Mex, I’d head to Mr. Mesero, but if you have a yen for something a little different, book a table at the recently opened Stampede 66 where you’ll find Texas style dishes served up with a modern twist.
Choices also abound when it comes to lodging options. In the downtown core, there are thirteen hotels alone with Homewood Suites by Hilton the latest to enter the scene. Opened in October, the hotel is one of the best deals in town with spacious, all-suite accommodations that include daily hot breakfast and dinner four nights a week. The place boasts additional amenities such as an indoor basketball court, pool, golf simulator, media room, fitness center, game room and even a snooker table. It’s the ideal property for vacationing couples and families, as well as the corporate traveler in need of an extended stay facility.
The Big D aims to please on all levels and you’ll find residents to be some of the most hospitable and friendly folks around. In true Texan style, they’ll invite y’all to come back real soon!
If you go:
For all things Dallas: www.visitDallas.com
Homewood Suites: http://bit.ly/15XnWrE
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Deborah Stone is a features and travel writer, whose column has covered everything from Washington’s San Juan Islands to exotic Egypt. She enjoys writing about soft adventure experiences, cultural forays, wildlife encounters, romantic getaways and spa retreats. A long-time resident of the Seattle area, she is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.