Big­ger is bet­ter in this Texan city

Size def­i­nitely mat­ters in Dal­las, where ev­ery­thing from its arts district to its an­nual state fair ranks among the largest in the coun­try

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS - WORDS CRAIG BRIGHT

“Howdy, folks!” ex­claims Big Tex, the gi­ant 16-me­tre cow­boy that has wel­comed vis­i­tors like me to the an­nual State Fair of Texas for the past 65 years. Dressed in a Western shirt, jeans and the oblig­a­tory cow­boy hat and boots, the statue has be­come the of­fi­cial mas­cot for the event as well as a cul­tural fig­ure for both Dal­las and Texas.

Sur­rounded by storeys-high car­ni­val rides, stalls sell­ing mas­sive ba­con-wrapped turkey legs, and in the shadow of the enor­mous Cot­ton Bowl Sta­dium, one could hardly ask for a more apt demon­stra­tion of the catch­phrase as­so­ci­ated with Amer­ica’s largest state: “Ev­ery­thing’s big­ger in Texas”.

True to form, since its es­tab­lish­ment in 1886, it has be­come one of the largest state fairs in the US, wel­com­ing some 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple in 2017. It’s also one of the long­est, be­gin­ning on the last Fri­day of Septem­ber and run­ning for 24 con­sec­u­tive days.

The State Fair alone is an event that makes Dal­las worth vis­it­ing. The grounds are re­plete with all man­ner of clas­sic Amer­i­can fair­ground foods, from corn dogs to fried cheese curds. Screams over­head in­di­cate the de­light – and ter­ror – from car­ni­val-go­ers con­tend­ing with the cen­trifu­gal force of Grav­it­ron and the pun­ish­ing pen­du­lum swing of Rock It. There are also plenty of sideshow at­trac­tions such as bas­ket­ball free-throw­ing for those not look­ing to lose their din­ner.

On the other side of the fair­ground is the Texas Auto Show – touted, of course, as one of the largest new car shows in the South­west – with some 400 ve­hi­cles show­cased to the pub­lic. Vis­i­tors can also head to the pop­u­lar Chevro­let Ride and Drive to tear up the track in a Corvette or Ca­maro. For more fam­ily-friendly pur­suits, the state’s rich her­itage of live­stock and agri­cul­tural farm­ing is cel­e­brated through ed­u­ca­tional sem­i­nars, shows, com­pe­ti­tions and pet­ting farms.

Live mu­sic is an­other cor­ner­stone of the fair, with sched­uled per­for­mances on the Chevro­let Main Stage from in­ter­na­tional per­form­ers such as Flo Rida and coun­try mu­sic stars like Maren Mor­ris. Nightly pa­rades with colour­ful floats and live per­form­ers are also not to be missed, as are the fab­u­lous fire­work dis­plays.

But for vis­i­tors whose trip to Dal­las doesn’t co­in­cide with the three-and-a-half weeks that the fair is open, the city of­fers plenty of other at­trac­tions.

TOUR DE FORCE

Per­haps the quick­est ways to get a con­densed over­view of Dal­las is with a city tour. Dal­las City Tour’s “Combo Tour” of­fers a com­pre­hen­sive look into the city in an ef­fi­cient 90-minute time frame. The tour takes in 65 sites in­clud­ing Pi­o­neer Plaza, a pub­lic park fea­tur­ing 49 life-size bronze stat­ues of longhorn cat­tle and three trail rid­ers to com­mem­o­rate the 19th-cen­tury cat­tle drives along the Shawnee Trail.

The sec­ond half of the trip fo­cuses on one of the most in­fa­mous mo­ments in Dal­las’s his­tory – the 1963 as­sas­si­na­tion of US Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy. The tour fol­lows the route Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s mo­tor­cade took through Down­town Dal­las on the day of his as­sas­si­na­tion, be­fore trac­ing the move­ments of the shooter, Lee Har­vey Oswald, in the mo­ments im­me­di­ately af­ter. Among the lo­ca­tions vis­ited are the Texas School Book De­pos­i­tory on North Hous­ton Street, from which Oswald fired the ri­fle that killed the Pres­i­dent, to the room­ing house in which he was stay­ing, the in­te­rior of which the owner has main­tained in the ex­act state that it was on Novem­ber 22, 1963. While or­gan­ised tours can some­times feel too re­stric­tive, the Kennedy seg­ment was one of the most stim­u­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I had in the city. The guides were highly knowl­edge­able re­gard­ing the events sur­round­ing Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion – even though I’m some­thing of a his­tory buff, there was plenty that I took away from the tour – and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing video clips from events be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion shown on board the bus pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive con­tex­tual over­view.

The quick­est way to get an over­view of Dal­las is with Dal­las City Tour’s “Combo Tour”

SOLO SIGHT­SEE­ING

Trav­ellers pre­fer­ring to go it alone, how­ever, can make use of a num­ber of ini­tia­tives and ser­vices de­signed to make ex­plor­ing Dal­las more ac­ces­si­ble. Key among these is the Dal­las City Pass, which pro­vides ad­mis­sion to four of the city’s most pop­u­lar at­trac­tions: the Perot Mu­seum of Na­ture and Sci­ence; Re­u­nion Tower Geo-Deck; a choice be­tween The Sixth Floor Mu­seum or Dal­las Zoo; and ei­ther the Ge­orge W Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum or the Dal­las Ar­bore­tum and Botan­i­cal Gar­den. The City Pass costs US$48 per per­son (US$32 for chil­dren) and is valid for nine con­sec­u­tive days af­ter the first use.

A num­ber of these tourist land­marks are lo­cated along the route taken by The McKin­ney Av­enue Trol­ley, also known as the M-line Trol­ley, an over­ground tram sys­tem op­er­ated by vin­tage ve­hi­cles. Thanks to plenty of fund­ing for the non-profit McKin­ney Av­enue Tran­sit Author­ity, the trams are com­pletely free to use and run ev­ery day of the year. They op­er­ate on a loop that runs through McKin­ney Av­enue in Up­town, with close to 50 stops to hop on and off, and pass a num­ber of ho­tels in the area in­clud­ing The Ritz-Carl­ton, the Fair­mont and the Sher­a­ton. Trav­ellers can also opt for the more com­pre­hen­sive – but less scenic – Dal­las Area Rapid Tran­sit (DART) sub­way sys­tem that cov­ers many of the city’s ma­jor neigh­bour­hoods.

BIG BITES

Texas is home to some of the US’s most pop­u­lar and fa­mil­iar cuisines, from bar­be­cue to Tex-Mex, and with some 12,000 restau­rants Dal­las is one of the best places to gorge on au­then­tic Texan food.

Lo­cated just a short dis­tance east of Down­town, the neigh­bour­hood Deep El­lum is known for both its live mu­sic and its culi­nary of­fer­ings. One of its most prom­i­nent res­i­dents is bar­be­cue joint Pecan Lodge (pecan­lodge.com) on Main Street, which has won nu­mer­ous awards since it opened in 2010. The restau­rant de­scribes its cui­sine as “just like home­made but with slightly less curs­ing”. Ex­pect to find ribs, mac­a­roni and cheese, and South­ern-fried chicken.

Lock­hart Smoke­house (lock­hartsmoke­house.com) is an­other pop­u­lar op­tion for bar­be­cue lo­cated in the Bishop Arts District south­west of Down­town. Meat here is gen­er­ally or­dered by the half-pound, and if you’re not sure what you fancy you can ask for a small slice as a taster. Mean­while,

if you’re on the look­out for some top-notch steak, head to Nick and Sam’s (nick-sams.com) on Maple Av­enue in Up­town, whose 16oz rib-eye will go down as one of the best steaks I’ve ever tried.

For Tex-Mex lovers, Mi Cocina (mic­ocinarestau­rants.com) of­fers a slightly more up­scale take – it also has mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions around Dal­las. Mean­while, Meso Maya (me­so­maya.com) on McKin­ney Av­enue serves de­li­cious, au­then­tic dishes and is an ideal spot to grab a bite for vis­i­tors ex­plor­ing the city us­ing the M-Line Trol­ley.

ARTS AND AC­TION

An­other ad­van­tage of the M-line Trol­ley is that it goes di­rectly through one of the city’s pri­mary cul­tural hubs, the Dal­las Arts District in Down­town – which claims to be the largest con­tigu­ous arts district in the US. The area is in­deed im­pres­sive – it spans close to 28 hectares and 19 neigh­bour­ing blocks – and com­prises, among many other build­ings, the Mar­got and Bill Win­spear Opera House, the Mor­ton H Mey­er­son Sym­phony Cen­ter, and the Dal­las Mu­seum of Art. The mu­seum alone con­tains more than 22,000 art­works from across the globe – some stretch­ing as far back as 5,000 years – and is one of the largest art mu­se­ums in the US.

If you pre­fer your art to be of the phys­i­cal va­ri­ety, sports fans would be re­miss if they didn’t at­tempt to catch a game while in town. The Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter, lo­cated close to the cen­tre of Dal­las in Vic­tory Park, is home to the Dal­las Mav­er­icks bas­ket­ball team and the Dal­las Stars ice hockey team. For those feel­ing a bit more ad­ven­tur­ous, the AT&T Sta­dium lo­cated mid­way be­tween Dal­las and Fort Worth in Ar­ling­ton is the home of the Dal­las Cow­boys Amer­i­can football team.

Both sta­di­ums reg­u­larly host con­certs and other per­for­mances, along with tours that al­low vis­i­tors to go be­hind the scenes. The mas­sive AT&T sta­dium in par­tic­u­lar is worth ex­plor­ing: not only was the sus­pended HDTV dis­play named the world’s largest by Guin­ness World Records in 2009, but the venue is also one of the largest Na­tional Football League (NFL) sta­di­ums in the US. Reach­ing 98 me­tres from the pitch to the clos­ing point of the re­tractable roof, the AT&T Sta­dium is re­port­edly able to fit the en­tirety of the Statue of Lib­erty within its grounds. As they say, ev­ery­thing is big­ger in Texas…

The M-line Trol­ley goes right through one of the city’s pri­mary cul­tural hubs, the Dal­las Arts District

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT PAGE: Dal­las night view; the Arts District; and the M-line Trol­ley

FROM TOP: Amer­i­can Air­lines Con­trol Cen­ter; and the Dal­las Mu­seum of Art

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