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What's So Great About Dallas?

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by Jonathan Thompson - 30 May 2018

BIG WINNERS IN THE BIG D 

Big hats; big cars; big attitude. They do things bigger in Texas – and biggest of all in Dallas

Among America’s fastest growing cities, the ‘Big D’ also boasts the nation’s biggest arts district: a sprawling 19 blocks crammed with museums, restaurants and theatres, including a striking Norman Foster-designed opera house and a sculpture gallery conceived by The Shard architect Renzo Piano.

That’s not all that’s big here, either. With 381 officially-designated greens and parks inside the city limits, Dallas also boasts one of the largest urban park systems in the US - making it one of the greenest cities in North America (and the perfect place to get to grips with some horse riding, in true Texan style).

The city is a big deal for shoppers too (not least because it’s tax free). From Neiman Marcus’ glittering flagship store on Main Street and Highland Park Village (the first outdoor shopping centre ever built in America, renowned for its haute couture) to the epic North Park Center – an award-winning colossus marrying 235 stores with a 1.4 acre garden and water features – there’s more than enough choice to keep even the most ardent of shopaholics satisfied.

Then, of course, there’s the sporting appeal. Dallas is one of the few US cities with all five major sports represented at elite level. (In particular, the Dallas Mavericks basketball games at American Airlines Center are always a fun outing, as are Dallas Stars ice hockey matches, played at the same venue). The undisputed kings of this town, however, are the Dallas Cowboys - who play their American Football at the spaceship-like AT&T Stadium, and recently leapfrogged Real Madrid and Manchester United to become the most valuable sports franchise on the planet.

BIG EATS


Whichever way you slice it, barbecue is king in Texas – and Dallas has some of the finest BBQ restaurants in the state. Chief amongst them is Pecan Lodge , where the pit-smoked food is so good that the queues snake around the block pretty much every lunchtime (top tip – if you order more than 5lbs of meat, you can skip straight to the front). Lockhart Smokehouse in the fashionable Bishop Arts District also has an impressively large and loyal following of ravenous smokeheads (the burnt ends here are worth the trip alone), while Baby Back Shak in the heart of downtown has won countless awards for its lipsmackingly awesome ribs.

Tacos are another staple part of the diet here in North Texas – with many Dallasites happily grabbing a couple of “breakfast tacos” en route to work. Join the best of them at Fuel City - a petrol station whose ‘picadillo’ tacos have been voted the best in Texas – or the more gourmet Velvet Taco in the trendy Knox-Henderson neighbourhood, but be warned: the tikka chicken tacos here are seriously addictive.

BIG DRINKS


With an average temperature of 25 degrees centigrade year-round, outdoor drinking is understandably popular in Dallas, with terraces, patios and roof gardens filling up every evening. Many are clustered together around the lower end of trendy Greenville Avenue – particularly Truckyard, a hip junkyard-cum-beer garden, and HG Sply, where the roof terrace boasts some of the finest views out over the Dallas skyline.

Hipster-friendly Deep Ellum, on the Eastern edges of downtown, also boasts some fantastic al fresco drinking, from the terrace at popular Braindead Brewing to the lively outdoor space at Dot’s Hop House and Cocktail Courtyard. For something a bit more upscale, there are also a number of well-heeled speakeasies to be sampled downtown, most prominently Midnight Rambler and Bourbon & Banter – situated in the basements of luxury boutique hotels The Joule and The Statler respectively.

BIG DAYS OUT


If you’re one of the many who still believe JFK’s assassination in Dallas on 22 November 1963 was part of a larger conspiracy, you’ve come to the right place. The infamous Texas School Book Depository is now The Sixth Floor Museum - a state-of-the-art centre dedicated to investigating the wider story from every angle. You can even stand at the exact window Oswald fired from, before walking down the grassy knoll and boarding the JFK & Dallas bus tour to explore the key sites first hand, including the Texas Theatre, the art-deco cinema where Oswald was finally apprehended.  

Across town there’s a museum dedicated to a very different US President: the George W. Bush Library, offering a genuinely fascinating perspective on the American Presidency in the early years of the 21st Century.

Above and beyond the world of politics, Dallas also boasts an embarrassment of world class art, science and sculpture museums, with standout stars incuding the Dallas Museum of Art (frequently attracting major international shows) and the Nasher Sculpture Center, hosting popular outdoor movie screenings and concerts amid the sculptures on summer evenings.

Jonathan Thompson has chronicled his journeys through 50 states and more than 100 countries in myriad magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, from Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveller to GQ, Esquire and National Geographic Traveller. Follow his travels on social media: @JT_travels.

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Article by Jonathan Thompson

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