During a quick stopover in America's ninth largest city you'll happen upon world-famous art and stylish eateries before you see a pair of spurs or chaps. And like elsewhere in Texas, hearty cuisine and wide smiles come in large portions in Dallas.
Dallas combines competing images of the Lone Star State. As one of the largest cities in Texas, Dallas’ skyline is a glassy dream, packed with jutting high-rises and LED-lined architecture. But within these city streets lives an only-in-Texas vibe, where cowboy hats and snakeskin boots adorn night-out attire, and the aroma of barbecue lasts until well after midnight.
The Dallas Central Business District (CBD) is the heart of the city, bordered by Reunion Tower’s iconic GeO-Deck to the west and the 75-year-old farmers market to the east. But a real experience of Dallas’ charms should include a foray into its ultra-hip neighborhood, Deep Ellum. Follow this itinerary for the perfect quick trip to this iconic Texan city.
Morning brunch and vertigo-inducing sightseeing
Mix class with culture by heading downtown for breakfast at CBD Provisions (cbdprovisions.com), a big-city eatery with a rustic feel. The green chili pork migas – a Mexican-influenced bowl of eggs, pork, bread and chili – will set you up for a morning packed with sightseeing. To get a real view of the majestic city skyline, head over to Reunion Tower and take the elevator 560ft up (vertigo sufferers beware!) to the top of the impressive GeO-Deck, an observation deck giving 360° views of the city. From the viewing platform you can see the grassy banks of the Trinity River and the distant horizon beyond. Also try to spot Dealey Plaza, the place John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Afterwards, spend some time getting lost in the city streets. If you want to take home some cowboy boots as souvenirs, the best place to pick up a pair is at Wild Bill's Western Store on North Market Street.
Afternoon fusion food and a cowboy experience
For lunch head to Trinity Groves (trinitygroves.com), a 15-acre patch of restaurants, retail spaces, a brewery and an art gallery. Swing by Chino Chinatown (chinochinatown.com), a unique Asian and Latin American fusion restaurant, for creative specialties like lemongrass guacamole. Their fish tacos go down particularly well with a lunch-time cocktail (the Cointreau Rickshaw is highly recommended).
After, head over to the River Ranch at Texas Horse Park (riverranch-texashorsepark.com) to go on a horse trail ride led by real Texan cowboys. Complete the package with your very own cowboy hat and spend the afternoon imagining you're the straight-shootin' star of a Western. During the tour of the sprawling brush, your guide will be happy to tell you all about the heart-warming social projects that the horse park supports.
Evening in Deep Ellum, music and beer district
Deep Ellum is East Dallas' music neighborhood, a distinction first established during the height of the jazz and blues era back in the 1920s. The area is still true to its roots, and you can see some of the best live music in the city. Singer-songwriter Erykah Badu is a local and is known to love this part of her hometown.
The Braindead Brewery (braindeadbrewing.com) in Deep Ellum offers exceptional craft ale and delicious fast food with a Latin American twist. Any of the brewery's selection of beers go well with a queso starter, but for the main, pair the Coma Burger with a citrusy Dry Hopped Wheat ale and settle in for the titular food stupor.
Mexican breakfast and world-class art
If you're an early riser, the glorious view of the Dallas CBD at sunrise from your hotel window will be a highlight of your trip. Head uptown and enjoy breakfast at La Duni (laduni.com), which has an impressive range of coffees and high-end Mexican food. Spend the rest of the morning exploring Klyde Warren Park and the Dallas Arts District (thedallasartsdistrict.org) at your leisure. The Arts District has the city's leading visual and performing arts venues. Impressive collections are always held at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Centre.
An afternoon steeped in history and reflection
Next, head over to Elm Street to be taken back in time to one of the most shocking moments in American history. The Sixth Floor Museum is a trove of information about the John F. Kennedy assassination. Get an audio guide to hear details on the former president's personal and professional life, his death and the events that followed his assassination in the building from which he was shot. A white X on the road outside marks the spot where he was killed. Spend a few minutes near the grassy knoll and you'll more than likely come across a couple of conspiracy theorists who dedicate their lives to uncovering the mysteries behind the murder.
Calorifically delicious evening meal and cocktails
For a hearty and traditional dinner, Tillman's Roadhouse combines Texan courtesy with delicious cooking. A great restaurant with quirky upmarket décor, high ceilings and warm lighting, Tillman’s isn’t likely to disappoint with the atmosphere or anything on the menu. Leave the diet at the door: locals don't make a fuss about Tillman's chicken fried steak and s'mores for nothing – these dishes are packed with big, Texan flavors (and calories). Mixologist Lucy Brennan's Low Country cocktail blends Buffalo Trace bourbon with cherry, lemon and passion fruit. After you head home for the night, drift off to sleep as you recount memories of pleasant Texas mannerisms, cowboy tales, and meals the size of, well, Texas.
Where to stay
For real, unadulterated luxury, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is unsurpassable. You might feel like you've been transported to Europe in this upscale, Italianate villa, with its ornate carvings and staff who will cater to your every whim.
Arguably the best view in Dallas is seen from the Hyatt Regency hotel. Next to the Reunion Tower, the Hyatt has rooms towards the top of the building looking out on the glittering skyscrapers of the CBD. Sunrise with a coffee on the chaise longue is quite some way to start off a morning.
Budget travelers can save the cash and head to the Wild Wild West Backpackers' hostel in for a basic yet clean stay.