Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ten To Do in Dallas

I love my city. I love the both, actually, Dallas and Fort Worth. The recent census ranked the area as the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago though I'm not exactly sure how they came up with that result. What I am very much aware of, however, is that short of a ton of highways I really had to sit down and think about what the area has to offer in the way of tourist attractions.

Oh sure, the Convention and Visitor's Bureau will hop up and down to point out the seemingly endless list of things to do but I looked a little closer. Once they rattle off all of the trendy shops and restaurants or the W Hotel what was left? Well, I'm just an ordinary citizen who chose this part of the country on purpose to spend the rest of my days so I cannot say that I am employed to promote the area or claim to know it as well as others. Then it hit me: my friends and family consider me to be a more than competent tour guide and I do have a list of things I like for people to see when they come to town. Here for your edification, then, is my list of ten things to do in Dallas.

1. Dealey Plaza

Sadly the plaza where JFK was shot and featuring the School Book Depository remains the singular most popular tourist attraction in the city. Flip-flopped tourists mingle with hawks selling cheap maps and homeless offering low-budget "help" in pointing out Oswald's Window and the spot on the road where Kennedy's car was when the shots rang out. Sometimes there is even a macabre entrepreneur offering pictures in the back seat of a replica limousine by the side of the Grassy Knoll. At the same time the area is almost eerily peaceful and quite beautifully landscape.

2. Trees

"Trees" is one of the last joints standing in Deep Ellum where the area was once lined with bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors and counter-culture clothing stores. I had the pleasure of a live concert at "Trees" that offered four acts on the bill with the Lords of Acid as the headliners. Anyone who remembers that band yes, they are still touring and you now have an idea what kind of scene to expect just about any given night. Deep Ellum was never a scene for quiet jazz; "Trees" carries the torch for the loud, the electric and the indie vibe.

3. Oak Cliff

'Round these parts it's called "O-Cliff" and it used to be the part of town that people didn't go to after dark. Over in "Sowf Dellis" (South Dallas) across the Trinity River from downtown the area was an remains primarily Black American and farther down on the economic scale to the rest of the city. Long and loud were the fights in City Hall to figure out how to revitalize the area. The fights have paid off with the area slowly being gentrified and rebuilt one block and one neighborhood at a time with young families and affluent professionals "flipping" low-end properties then deciding to keep them once the renovations were in place.

4. Mia’s

One of the original Tex-Mex restaurants in town and still owned by the same family, the rule is first come first served at all times so timing at Mia's is everything. It is in a converted house with the walls stacked with photos of the rich and famous who have dined here. The food is good, the prices very reasonable and the service lightning fast only don't linger over dinner. It is cozy and intimate in some areas but others are waiting and the tables too close together for that kind of evening.

5. Sonny Bryan’s

Sonny Bryan's is to Dallas BBQ what Lou Malnadi's is to Chicago Pizza. Fights have broken out for all the same reasons - they ran out of food, somebody claimed a competitor was better or some fool from out of town said that he'd tasted better back home. This is Texas so there are a ton of choices; this is Dallas so almost all of them are quite good. Everybody bows, however, to Sonny's.

6. White Rock Lake

As close to the feeling of the Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park as one can get in the heart of Dallas, Texas. The views of downtown are breathtaking over the water while the lake itself is lined with tony neighborhoods and hole-in-the-wall restaurants the locals swear by. This is a quieter side of Dallas with trails, parks and play areas for one and all.

7. S4

The "S4" is nothing short of a multifaceted warehouse of a nightspot. A patio and balcony out back or a quiet lounge inside allow revelers to get away from the excitement without having to leave. Wallflowers can watch the action on the main dance floor from the upper balcony railings while live entertainment is in the Rose Room ranging from tongue-in-cheek to hilariously wrong from the word go. It is in the heart of Dallas' main "gayborhood" so go only if you don't mind mixed company.

8. The Majestic

This was Dallas' answer to the Palace during the heyday of vaudeville. Major touring productions, musicians, speakers and other artists keep the place busy and the memories alive. It is a very tall theater so while few seats are bad, the upper balcony is way up there.

9. Reunion Tower

Revolving bars and restaurants seem to have been a fad that never really caught on but Dallas has one of the good ones. The cocktail lounge and restaurant in "The Microphone" offer gorgeous views of downtown and the surrounding area some 500 feet up. While some will say the Dallas area is too flat for their liking absolutely no one comes away unimpressed after a sunset evening at the Tower. Locals come for special occasions, tourists are well advised to spend an evening here on their last night in town.

10. Greenville Avenue M-Streets

Arguably one of the more famous neighborhoods in Dallas for not having a long list of notable residents, the M-Streets are a section of cross streets centered on Greenville Avenue that simply defy logic in being there at all. Not the streets themselves but the houses. These small to medium sized bungalows are all brick, nearly all Tudor in style and unique to any other part of the city. These homes often feature original hardwood floors, detached garages and "cozy" rooms and common areas for those who appreciate intimacy in their domestic environments. Location fetches serious bidders only for the boutique homes along McCommas, Morningside, Mercedes, Merimac and Monticello but it's always free to pass by.

There is more to Dallas than malls, mansions and the Mavericks. This is just one man's list of things to do just within Dallas. Fort Worth has its own list of compelling attractions as do the surrounding communities of the area or the rural stretches from Tyler to the east to Abilene and Jacksboro to the west. The only thing left after all these choices for the visitor to consider is the weather. Is it cool yet?

Gotta go.

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