The large cities on the east and west coasts of the US may be among its most famous, but there are plenty of other great places to visit in this vast and diverse country. Dallas is an excellent example. It is a modern, fashionable metropolis, and those seeking a sophisticated city experience will discover that there is much to enjoy.
With a population approaching 1.3 million, Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the USA and the third largest in Texas. Located in the north of the state, it is within a four-hour flight of most major cities across North America, and has a major international airport in the shape of Dallas/Fort Worth International, one of the busiest airports in the world. Visitors will find a wealth of shopping and dining opportunities in the city, as well as superb arts, entertainment and sporting facilities. Not surprisingly, Dallas is now the most popular tourist destination in Texas.
Many images of Dallas may initially spring to mind: for example, the legendary television soap opera of the same name, or the Dallas Cowboys, one of the most successful teams in American Football with five Super Bowl titles to their name. The city was also the setting for the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. This infamous event is an important part of the city's history, but it is only a part. The birth of Dallas dates back to 1839 when John Neely Bryan first visited the area. Recognising its potential as a trading post, he returned in 1841 and created the settlement that has grown into the city we see today.
Dallas expanded rapidly throughout the 20th century with the discovery of oil in Texas playing a pivotal role. It became the commercial and technical centre for the Texan oil industry, a position it still enjoys today. Hard work and business acumen are considered a big part of the Texan character, and these are in plentiful supply in Dallas. The city's character is illustrated by the spectacular modern architecture, including several impressive skyscrapers that dominate the skyline. Downtown Dallas, meanwhile, has a wide range of interesting buildings, many dating back to the 19th century.
An impressive range of international cuisine is available in the city, but no visit is complete without sampling some of the best barbecues in the world; Dallas is renowned for its barbecue restaurants - try Mike Anderson's BBQ House on Harry Hines Blvd. You can also add steak houses to your list. With the addition of Tex-Mex cuisine and authentic Mexican cooking to the mix, those who love their food meaty and spicy will be in heaven. That's just for starters, with South American, Asian and European bistro-style restaurants also well represented in Dallas, and seafood is another popular option. When it comes to drinks, there's no shortage of tequila and margaritas in the city with the frozen margarita being a speciality.
Sports fans won't be stuck for things to do in Dallas. When the American Football season ends, there's always basketball and ice hockey with the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars representing the city respectively; both teams play at the American Airlines Center. When it comes to baseball, it's the Texas Rangers based in nearby Arlington who take centre stage. Arlington is also home to the Cowboys Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play.
Extensive sports facilities can be found throughout the city, including numerous parks, swimming pools, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, and six 18-hole golf courses.
Shopping may not qualify as exercise, but you can certainly shop till you drop in Dallas. In fact, there are more shopping centres per person than in any other city in the US. Modern shopping malls can be found in most parts of the city, with the Galleria Dallas, NorthPark, being the second largest shopping mall in Texas, and West Village offering a dazzling array of stores. For those fancying a trip outside of the city centre, Grapevine Mills in the Grapevine district, with over 180 shops and restaurants is well worth a visit, while Plano is another suburb well worth checking out with its several malls.
There are alternatives to the glitz and glamour of the city centre malls. The Dallas Farmers Market downtown, for example, dates back to the 19th century. It is a great place for fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, and includes many farmers that sell direct to the public. The market is open seven days a week, and there are regular festivals, workshops and cookery classes. There is also a flower market nearby.
Top Dallas Attractions
Dallas has much to offer the tourist as a destination for city breaks, especially when it comes to culture and the arts. Head downtown and you'll find the Arts District, which houses many of the city's leading cultural facilities. Major exhibition spaces include the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Contemporary, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art. Music lovers have the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. The latter is a major arts complex with the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and the City Performance Hall being located there. There's also the Annette Strauss Square, which is used for outdoor performances.
For a more Bohemian atmosphere, there's always Deep Ellum. This nearby neighbourhood is steeped in the history of jazz and the blues. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson all played there back in the 1920s and 1930s, and the area retains a strong musical tradition, with several live venues and numerous bands. As well as a wide selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, Deep Ellum is known for its graffiti artists.
The main public space in Dallas is Fair Park, a National Historic Landmark featuring nine museums, the Dallas Zoo, the largest Ferris wheel in North America and much more. Many of its buildings were constructed to house the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 and are fine examples of Art Deco architecture.
As with any holiday, good quality hotel accommodation is essential; visitors to Dallas will have no worries on that score. North Dallas is the main district for hotels including most of the major chains, but the city is also well suited for those seeking more of a boutique experience, particularly downtown. The diversity of the downtown area is such that it is also a good option for budget accommodation. The popular suburb of Irving, meanwhile, is ideally located for regular travellers as it is close to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Most hotels also come with an extra helping of southern charm as standard.