Overview

With Dallas' concentration of technology companies, corporate headquarters and wholesale trade markets, the nation's ninth-largest city is a Texas metropolis devoted to business. Residents of Dallas, Texas, seem to enjoy spending money with the same passion with which they earn it. The result is a mercantile mecca that appeals to visitors: The metropolitan area of Dallas affords shopping opportunities that rival those in New York City.

Dallas is also known for the arts; spanning 19 city blocks in the heart of downtown, the Dallas Arts District is the largest urban cultural district in the country. The AT&T Performing Arts Center, a multivenue center for music, opera, theater and dance, is the most significant performing arts complex built since the Lincoln Center in New York.

The city of Dallas, along with Fort Worth, its neighbor about 35 mi/56 km to the west, anchors a vast, 12-county area of north-central Texas that is home to more than 6 million people. It's a fast-growing region that's become an oasis for entrepreneurs and a fertile ground for young singles and families alike.

Dallas sightseeing offers a pleasant mix of the Old South and the New Economy. The new urban high-rises in downtown Dallas are balanced by comfortable family suburbs just minutes away from the hubbub. Residents are generally congenial and welcoming to Dallas visitors, and as with other Texans, Dallasites are proud of their ability to do things the Texas way—big.

Geography

Dallas sprawls across the northern Texas plain, and its suburbs sprawl even farther. Loop Interstate 635 (also called the LBJ Freeway), I-20, I-30, I-35 and the President George Bush Turnpike are a few of the major highways that connect the various suburbs in and around Dallas. From the busy North Central Expressway to the congested Dallas North Tollway, driving around Dallas County presents challenges during rush hours, but it is worth the effort for the exciting sights and activities offered.

Such top attractions as The Sixth Floor Museum, the West End Historic District, the Arts District and the original Neiman Marcus department store are downtown, the area that sits between I-35 and I-45, north of I-30. The lovely residential areas known as the Park Cities lie north of downtown, and Deep Ellum, with its lively entertainment scene, is east of the city center. Uptown is a trendy arts and shopping area northwest of downtown. North Dallas, along the northern rim of the LBJ Freeway, is home to the Galleria shopping mall. Plano and and Frisco, with their myriad shopping offerings, are northern suburbs with booming populations.

Dallas sits at the eastern edge of the "Metroplex," as it is sometimes called. On the western edge is Fort Worth. The 35 mi/56 km in between are filled with densely populated cities and towns with unrecognizable boundaries, stretched along two east-west interstate highways, I-20 and I-30. In the middle of the Metroplex lies Arlington, a sizable city in its own right. Irving occupies the land between Dallas and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

History

Dallas has its southern charms, but the city's history is rooted in the spirit of the Old West—the city is full of examples of pioneers whose old-fashioned hard work created the aggressive entrepreneurial atmosphere that still exists today. In 1839, John Neely Bryan visited northern Texas where the three forks of the Trinity River intersect. The site seemed destined to be a place where trade and travel would converge—it was also on the route of the planned Preston Trail (now Preston Road), a trail that was intended to join the east and west halves of Texas.

Bryan, considered the founder of Dallas, began luring settlers from other nearby colonies. As the postmaster and owner of the general store, he was basically the heart of the burgeoning little town. In 1845, 29 of the 32 eligible voters cast their ballots to become part of the U.S. After it was incorporated as a city in 1856, more settlers arrived—including some from La Reunion colony, a Utopian community of French immigrants originally established in 1855. These residents brought an appreciation of culture to the fledgling city that defines it to this day.

Following the Civil War, the westward migration of the country's citizens led to a huge boom in commerce. Many pioneers who stopped in Dallas to restock their supplies wound up staying. By the beginning of the 20th century, Dallas was firmly established as a major city and business center. A regional Federal Reserve Bank opened there, along with Southern Methodist University. In the 1930s, the city's reputation as a financial center made it an anchor for the blossoming oil fields in West Texas. Love Field became an important air-traffic hub, especially during both World Wars.

Dallas has continued to attract attention. The most infamous moment in the city's history was the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Nearly two decades later, the city achieved a different kind of notoriety with the international success of the flamboyant prime-time soap opera Dallas. The city continues to make headlines today—as much for its renowned performing-arts organizations as for its championship sports teams.

Sightseeing

Dallas offers visitors an interesting mix of attractions, both historic and new. The city is permanently etched in the world's memory as the site of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination. The Sixth Floor Museum documents the events surrounding that somber event.

Be sure to visit the Arts District, touted as the largest urban arts district in the country. The 19-block downtown area contains the Nasher Sculpture Center and the nearby Dallas Museum of Art, with its prestigious permanent collection. Art lovers will also want to stop at the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University for its collection of Spanish and Mexican art. The George W. Bush Presidential Center also occupies part of the SMU campus. Take a stroll through Pioneer Plaza or visit the many attractions at Fair Park.

Dallas is a sprawling metropolis with many smaller cities that almost seamlessly begin and end within the metropolitan area. Sites generally are spread out, but certain areas contain a number of attractions within a relatively compact space. For instance, Fair Park includes The Science Place, the Music Hall and many other points of interest. Although Dallas has a number of popular attractions, visitors will be pleased to find very few of them overcrowded.

Nightlife

Dallas nightspots offer the kind of variety you might expect from a major urban center—plus plenty of indigenous honky-tonks and western-themed establishments. Nightlife is clustered in Deep Ellum (east of downtown), where clubs populated by teens and twentysomethings predominate; along Knox and Henderson Street with several new bars and restaurants; in downtown's West End Historic District, where you'll find a collection of bars and restaurants; and in Addison (on the Dallas North Tollway at the Belt Line Road Exit), where suburbanites congregate.

Generally, bars that serve food open as early as 11 am, and nightclubs open around 8 pm. Most bars and clubs remain open past midnight.

Dining

Dining in Dallas is very much a social event, and discriminating locals take their food seriously. The sheer number of choices means that you will find many places that meet your tastes and budget: You can dine at a AAA Five Diamond restaurant or an excellent hole-in-the-wall cafe or taqueria.

On the upscale side of the equation, the city boasts some of the most highly acclaimed chefs in North America. At the top of our list are the Mansion on Turtle Creek (elegant dining at the inn), the French Room at the Hotel Adolphus (sophisticated fare in luxurious surroundings) and Al Biernat's (fancy steaks and seafood in a quintessentially Dallas setting).

Keep in mind that you're in cattle country, so if you go out for barbecue (an essential part of the Texas experience), it'll be beef brisket and pork ribs rather than pulled pork.

Dallasites eat out often, so be prepared for a wait during peak times. It is usually a good idea to call and inquire about reservations.

Dining times are generally 6-10 am for breakfast, 11 am-2 pm for lunch and 5-10 pm for dinner.

Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a dinner for one, not including drinks, tax or tip: $ = less than US$10; $$ = US$10-$20; $$$ = US$21-$50; and $$$$ = more than US$50.

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