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A Lone Star Shines in Texas

Hometown girl Sandra Ramani—author of “Day Trips from Dallas/Fort Worth” (Globe Pequot Press)—gives us the lowdown on what’s up in Big D.

Big things are happening in Dallas. Though the city often evokes all that’s quintessentially Texas to out-of-staters, Big D has always had a different feel to it than what tourists might expect: more glass skyscrapers than ranches, more high-end fashion than ten-gallon hats, more world-class museums than rodeos. Set in north Texas—apart from cities like Houston, Austin and San Antonio, which are closer together and further south—Dallas does trace its roots to the region’s cattle ranching, railroad and oil industry. In recent decades, though, the city has emerged as a preferred location for international and domestic corporate headquarters, as well as the home of prime luxury, hotel and real estate markets.

With so much currently happening in town—from the emergence of booming art and dining scenes to notable upgrades at DFW (click here for the scoop on that)—now’s the perfect time to taste what’s new, notable and maybe a bit unexpected in Dallas, Texas.

Arts & Culture

Spread out over 19 contiguous downtown blocks and a total of 68 acres, the Dallas Arts District is the largest urban arts neighborhood in the country, thanks to more than 30 years of dedicated planning. Scattered throughout the area’s mix of museums, performing arts centers, residences and offices is an array of architecturally fascinating buildings dating from the 1880s (40 years after Dallas was founded) mixed with contemporary structures by a roster of Pritzker Prize–winning architects like Rem Koolhaas (the Wyly Theatre), Norman Foster (the Winspear Opera House) and I. M. Pei (the Meyerson Symphony Center). Top spots for a culture fix include:

• The Dallas Museum of Art: Offering free general admission, this city classic is home to works by boldface names like Renoir, Van Gogh, Warhol and O’Keefe, as well as collections dedicated to art from Africa, Asia and South America. The popular café is set in a striking atrium and serves a casual lunchtime menu of dishes inspired by current exhibits.
• Fresh off its 10-year anniversary in 2013, the Renzo Piano–designed Nasher Sculpture Center is a two-acre homage to contemporary creations. Showcasing the private collection of the late Raymond and Patsy Nasher, as well as exhibits on loan from other museums, the peaceful indoor/outdoor galleries and gardens are dotted with works by artists such as Serra, Rodin, Picasso, Calder and de Kooning.
• The newest addition to the city’s art scene, the year-old Perot Museum of Nature and Science has become a fast hit with both kids and adults for its cutting-edge celebrations of engineering, conservation and technology. Beginning with the 35-foot Malawisaurus fossil in the lobby, five floors of galleries encourage participation, with interactive kiosks, educational games and lifelike simulations.
• A serene garden helps plant the contemplative vibe at The Crow Collection of Asian Art. Along with a breathtaking assortment of painting, sculpture, textiles and architectural pieces, the museum organizes lectures, gallery talks and even classes in yoga, meditation and wellness.

Hotel Headlines

Along with still-strong classics like the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons and two Rosewood Hotels, the luxury hotel scene in Dallas includes some boutique brands that have launched new offerings in recent months.

Originally opened in 2008 as part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, the Joule Hotel re-emerged in late 2013, following a two-year, multimillion-dollar renovation. Now independently owned and run, the 2.0 version has been expanded to span three interconnected historic buildings. Under the direction of renowned interior designer Adam D. Tihany, the property now features an airy, block-deep lobby with an outpost of Weekend Coffee (using beans flown in weekly from Seattle); a library curated by Taschen; CBD Provisions restaurant; and the hip, indie-design-focused TenOverSix boutique, already a favorite with locals. The hotel also added 21 Premier guest rooms, eight Deluxe suites and three penthouses, two of which are bi-level and boast their own private terraces. One thing that remains from the original incarnation: the famous cantilevered, glass, rooftop pool.

A pioneer in the local trendy boutique hotel scene, Hotel ZaZa has become a Texas-grown mini-chain over the past decade, with properties in Houston and, most recently, Austin. In mid-2013, the brand took things to another level at its Dallas outpost with the launch of The Bungalows at Hotel ZaZa, a collection of 12 plush one- and two-bedroom suites set one treelined block away from the main hotel. The suites occupy two former residences, including a 1930s-era historic home, and have been designed to evoke coastal-chic private apartments, complete with kitchens, living areas and private patios or porches.

A Taste of Dallas

True, you could toss a horseshoe (or more likely, a Jimmy Choo stiletto) and hit an excellent Tex-Mex, barbecue or steak restaurant in Dallas, but the city’s food scene has grown beyond those classics to meet the demands of its savvy foodie residents. Today, you’ll find things like chicken tikka tacos at Velvet Taco, street food–inspired Vietnamese at Mot Hai Ba and Spanish-Indian-Eastern Mediterranean tapas at Samar. You can enjoy a taste of some notable nibbles during a guided neighborhood food tour ( Or, explore on your own, after reading up on a few of the most buzzed-about new openings listed on the next page.

CBD Provisions: Opened at the end of 2013, just in time to top many critics’ annual “Best of” lists, this restaurant celebrates the flavors and bounty of Texas with a contemporary and sustainable twist. Past the bustling bar, the brick-and-wood dining room serves dishes like green chili pork tacos, homemade pastas and shrimp and grits, using as many locally sourced and sustainable ingredients as possible. The thoughtful wine list includes a selection of star Texas vintages.

True Food Kitchen: Although it follows the principles of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, the menu at True Food Kitchen is anything but boring. Packed since opening in the upscale Preston Center area in late 2013, the California-based eatery inspires mindful eating with flavorful, fresh ingredient–packed dishes like grilled tuna sliders or thin-crust butternut squash and smoked mozzarella pizza. Dairy- and gluten-free items are also available and, in keeping with the “everything in moderation” concept, alcohol, coffee and desserts are served—but not soda. You won’t miss it, though, when instead you’ll find delicious drinks like the antioxidant-rich Medicine Man: a mix of cranberry, black tea, soda water, sea buckthorn and pomegranate.

Soda Bar: Set on the rooftop of the hip, eco-friendly Nylo Dallas South Side hotel, this poolside bar boasts the best views of the downtown skyline, making it the preferred locale for sunset and pre-dinner cocktails. As the colorful skyscraper lights flicker on, stay for shareable plates like eggplant fritters, shrimp nachos and “two-hand sandwiches.”

Green Dreams

As the city’s building and revitalization boom continues, Dallas has made it a priority to commit to environmental sustainability, becoming one of the first cities to officially adopt a green building program by pledging to achieve Silver LEED certification on all new municipal building projects of 10,000 square feet and larger. As a result, in 2011, it was ranked tenth among the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas for green job creation. The private sector has followed suit, opening green spots like the Nylo Dallas South Side hotel, Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum in Victory Park, while upcoming plans include a Dallas Bikeway System linking 1,296 miles of paths.

The exciting Trinity River Corridor project is a massive venture that aims to protect downtown against flooding and turn the area along the river’s path into a series of trails, sport fields, nature centers and leisure areas. A few phases of the project have already been completed, including one of three bridges designed by Santiago Calatrava; when finalized, the Trinity River Corridor will be ten times the size of New York City’s Central Park. For more on green developments, visit

Know Your Nabes
As the combined Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex continues to expand, the neighborhoods within the Dallas city limits are enjoying a revival—and, in some cases, a reinvention. This breakdown of ten neighborhoods-to-know will help you impress the locals.

Bishop Arts: Surrounded by historic homes and former warehouses in the South Dallas/Oak Cliff area, this stretch has gone from run-down relic to hipster haven to “featured on travel shows” status in just a few years. Browse galleries and quirky boutiques, savor a Southern meal at Tillman’s Roadhouse and save room for the legendary baked goods at Emporium Pie.

Design District: This lively enclave boasts the country’s fourth-largest concentration of luxury-furnishing showrooms as well as art and antique galleries, making it a major stop for interior designers from all over the map. Window-shop the high-end antique showrooms along Slocum Street and the galleries on Dragon, then grab a beer at Meddlesome Moth or a bite at the trendy Oak.

Deep Ellum: Live music venues, clubs, galleries and indie shops line Elm and Commerce Streets in this formerly industrial area just east of downtown. Join the locals for a meal at Twisted Root Burger Co., then enjoy the bands playing at Trees and Club DaDa—from jazz to rock to hip-hop, you never know what you’ll hear. A short walk from easternmost Deep Ellum brings you to Fair Park, site of the annual State Fair and home to the African-American Museum, Hall of State and Texas Discovery Gardens.

Oak Lawn: Since the 1980s, this area at the “Crossroads”—the term for the intersection of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street—has been the hub for the LGBT community of Dallas. Today, you’ll find a diverse population of residents and an eclectic mix of dining, drinking and dancing spots frequented by patrons both gay and straight.

Uptown: A free historic trolley runs north from downtown along McKinney Avenue, which is lined with high-end residences, five-star hotels and designer shopping meccas like the iconic Stanley Korshak department store and the West Village, a trendy living/shopping/dining complex popular with twenty- and thirty-somethings.

Knox-Henderson: Named for two streets that cross the Central Expressway thoroughfare, this neighborhood has two distinct vibes: Along Knox Street, on the west side, are chic home-décor and kitchen shops, spas/salons, outdoor dining spots and the 3.2-mile Katy Trail running path. On the east, Henderson Street is lined with vintage shops and, more recently, some of the city’s most interesting restaurants.

Highland Park: Palatial homes, impeccably manicured lawns and some of the swankiest shopping in town are all found here, the “Beverly Hills of Dallas,” where you can stroll the famous Spanish Mediterranean–style Highland Park Village open-air shopping complex, home to names like Chanel.

Greenville Avenue: One of the city’s oldest and most beloved neighborhoods, Greenville Avenue changes from leafy streets with lovely houses and family-friendly retail spots along its northern blocks, to funky boutiques, international eateries, dive bars and the historic Granada Theater (a live music venue transformed from a 1930s movie house), along Lower Greenville.

Downtown: Not so long ago, this area was a ghost town after office hours. These days, though, the revitalized neighborhood is always humming, thanks to an influx of restaurants, designer boutiques, luxury loft residences and various gathering spots. Don’t miss a visit to the flagship Neiman Marcus department store on Main Street, then stroll the area to check out the contrast between the original early-1900s architecture and all those shimmering glass towers.

West End: This 55-acre historic district near downtown is tourist central, where you’ll find the Visitor’s Information Center (inside the Old Red Courthouse, now an interactive city history museum), the excellent Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (exploring the life and assassination of JFK) and “old Dallas” spots like traditional barbecue joints and Wild Bill’s Western Store.

Courtesy: Premier Traveler

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