More than any other city, Dallas personifies the Texas spirit of big, brash and bold. America’s fourth largest metro area boasts a giant international airport, one of the world’s largest stadiums, and an imposing skyline funded by energy, ranching and information technology.
Over several decades, the city has evolved into a place where gourmet restaurants and fine art galleries are more conspicuous than oil wells and honky-tonks. But Dallas hasn’t completely abandoned its past. Newer attractions are spit-shined with Southwestern spirit and hospitality; lush countryside is spangled with ranches, hiking trails and nature reserves; and Fort Worth—the western anchor of the Metroplex—clings to its cowboy image and frontier history.
Spend the weekend getting to know the international city and discovering its prominent country roots with this itinerary.
Day one: downtown Dallas
Photography Q-Images / Alamy Stock Photo
The sprawling Dallas Museum of Art, one of the best collections in the southern U.S., deserves a whole day. Across the street is the smaller but equally magnificent Nasher Sculpture Center. Designed by Renzo Piano—the architect of Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou—the dramatic structure contains pieces by just about every major modern sculptor, from Rodin and Picasso to Calder, Moore and de Kooning.
From the Dallas Arts District, head down Erway Street to the Neiman Marcus flagship store on Main Street. Opened in 1914, the legendary department store flaunts designer fashion, jewellery and home décor. The original Zodiac café (on the sixth floor) is a popular spot for a Saturday midday meal.
After lunch, stroll down Main Street through the heart of the city’s high-rise district to Dealey Plaza. This is a prime spot for photographing the architecturally eclectic Dallas skyline. History enthusiasts also have a reason to visit: this spot gained notoriety with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Overlooking the plaza, The Sixth Floor Museum tells the story of the Kennedy assassination and all of those involved in the fateful event.
Behind the museum is the lively West End Historic District, with its antique brick buildings, boutiques and assorted eateries. Shop for Stetson hats, boots and bolo ties at Wild Bill’s Western Store. As the afternoon fades into evening, grab a drink at one of the sidewalk cafés and then a fresh-off-the-range steak at the famed Palm Restaurant.
Return to the Arts District for a performance at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Designed by I.M. Pei, the futuristic building hosts the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and other leading groups like the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Dallas Wind Symphony.
Day two: river, roots and rodeo
Photography Mary Loh / Alamy Stock Photo
On Sunday, venture out from the central city for a trip back in time to the Dallas of old. Located just 10 minutes from downtown, the Trinity River Audubon Center is a pristine patch of prairie, marsh and forest that shows how North Texas looked before the arrival of European settlers. The birdwatching is especially good, but the 120-acre (48-hectare) nature reserve is also great for hiking, biking and enjoying the fresh air.
For a glimpse of the region as it was during pioneer times, visit Dallas Heritage Village, a collection of 27 historic buildings from around North Texas reassembled in a leafy park setting. Volunteers clad in period clothing speaking the vernacular of the past show what life was like on the Texas frontier. For another authentic slice of Texas, head to the nearby Off the Bone Barbeque for a lunch of local specialties like brisket, pulled pork and smoked pecan baby back ribs.
Continue discovering the Wild West in Fort Worth, located on the opposite end of the Dallas metro area. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame pays homage to the great women of the American West, from sure shot Annie Oakley and super-guide Sacagawea to artist Georgia O’Keeffe, singer Patsy Montana and Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The Fort Worth Stockyards preserve the historic neighbourhood where millions of cattle were auctioned from 1889 through the late 20th century. It’s now a lively shopping, dining and entertainment district with daily cattle drives and rodeo shows.
If you haven’t bought your Stetson and boots yet, the stockyards offer a large selection of Western wear at places like The Best Hat Store and ML Leddy’s Boots. Billy Bob’s Texas honky-tonk—the Stockyards’ most celebrated bar—offers Western dance lessons at 5:00 and 6:00 pm on Sunday afternoons. Stick around for dinner and dancing that runs late into the night.