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Our experience with Dallas is mainly work-related travel or transiting through DFW (hard to avoid as American flyers), so we can’t say we are experts by any stretch.
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Everything is bigger in Texas, but that does not mean you need a big budget to enjoy this town. I managed to get by on a modest budget by taking advantage of all the city has to offer.
I have been told you need to rent a car to get around in Dallas but I managed to do so without one. I was fortunate enough to book a hotel, the Crowne Plaza Downtown, that offered a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. If you are planning to stay mostly within the downtown region, you will probably be fine without a car because there is a decent public transit system. There is the free and air conditioned D-Link 722 bus, which loops around downtown. For exploring beyond downtown, there is the free M-Line, which gives you a ride to the artsy McKinney Avenue area in their old-timey trolley. Between these two lines, this probably offers enough places to explore for those in town for just a few days. That being said, there are a few places beyond this area worth exploring if you have wheels.
As previously mentioned, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Downtown on Elm street for about $100 USD/night. The rooms were clean albeit a bit dated. The high rise building and outdoor pool offer good views of the city. There should be comparable hotels, some offering free shuttles as well.
I am sure there are endless articles written about big fat steaks in Texas but let’s not forget all the other cuisines this region has to offer. Tex-Mex for one and you may even experience exotic meats like cabrito. Southern comfort food can be had here too; some of the best grits I have ever had was at Ellen’s Southern Kitchen. For barbeque, the place to hit up is Pecan Lodge, where you can get smoked meat in a casual cafeteria-like setting (Editor’s Note – Pecan Lodge is great. If you have a 3+ hr layover and have TSA Pre-Check, Hard Eight BBQ in Grapevine is about a 10 minute Uber / Lyft ride away and it’s really good). Dallas is also home of the Okrapalooza festival and many places serve up fried Okra including the aforementioned restaurants.
For drinks, Dallas is known for the frozen margaritas, which were popularized here due to the invention of the frozen margarita machines in 1971. While the restaurant that originally served it no longer exists, you can still pick up this refreshing elixir almost everywhere and sometimes even in the blue curacao variety. Dr.Pepper is another beverage originated in Texas in the nearby city of Waco. If you decide to head out to Waco, they even have a Dr. Pepper Museum.
For the active type, consider going across the Trinity River. There are many bridges that will get you across but Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge offers the most perks. On the bridge are much needed lounge chairs and misting fountains under the Dallas sun. It is also adjacent to the iconic 40-story Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Once over the river, you can walk along the Trinity Skyline Trail to enjoy the views of the skyline, which won the Best International Skyline Award in 2014.
It may be too hot to walk around at times, so for those who looking for more leisurely activities, there are a lot of entertainment surrounding Klyde Warren Park. There are theaters, concert halls, and museum all within walking distance. Should those places be too costly, there are also stands at the park with board games and newspapers. Food trucks also gather around this park should you want to eat something on the go.
Tucked away in the heart of downtown is the little Thanks-Giving Chapel. Although small in stature, it makes up for it in grace. An enormous Ring of Thanks and a Bell Tower marks the entrance to the park that leads up to a small chapel overshadowed by the surrounding buildings. There is no cost to visit the chapel; inside the stained glass windows spiraling up in the ceiling offering visitors a serene space in the midst of this big city. This is also a picturesque opportunity for avid photographers that appreciates the golden spiral.
You can pay tributes a US President without spending a dime by visiting the John F. Kennedy Memorial, a post modern design of famed architect Philip Johnson. While the memorial isolates you from the big city, you are only a short stroll from the grassy knoll, also known as Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, hence it has remained mostly unchanged from 1963 so one can still come here and ponder what really happened that day. For those who want more history, around the corner is the Book Depository Building, where the shot was supposedly fired — this historic building is now a JFK Museum. Also in the area is an Old Red Museum dedicated to Americana culture and history.
This is a fraction of what is available here. There is a lot more to offer especially if you explore beyond the downtown. For those with just a few days and want to get the most for their money, these are a few places to get you started on your exploration.
About the Author:
Min Lee is an artist, photographer, and videographer. Min spent a few months as an artist-in-residence in Central America using art and photography as a means of promoting conservation. You can find Min tinkering in his Fuglee Studio or wandering the world in search of a meaningful way of putting his skills to use. Follow Min’s work at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or his website Fuglee Studio.
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