I grew up in San Francisco. It's an authentic, incredible city, and a part of me will always be sad I no longer live there, but a bigger part of me enjoys eating on a regular basis, and I don't think I could do both there (at least not at this point in my life). Also, when I go back and drive around the city, I wonder how anyone ever gets around by car because you can't seem to turn left ... anywhere. But there is this indescribable feeling, when you're walking along one of the busy downtown streets, and you're shivering because it's the middle of July and you didn't realize you would need a parka but apparently you do and then, all of a sudden, you step into a patch of sunlight, and you are warmed from the inside out, and it's magical, really.
But these days, and for a long time now, I've lived in Texas. And—what's more—I love it here. I work in Dallas and live in a suburb about thirty miles away.
I realize when you're planning your next vacation—listing cities you desperately want to visit, sites you just have to see—Dallas or Fort Worth probably don't spring to mind. I realize if given the chance to visit NYC or Boston or Chicago or, hell, even Santa Fe, or Dallas you probably wouldn't describe yourself as conflicted. But, in case you are here (work/by choice/against your better judgment), I've decided—with the help of the wonderful Stara—to help make your trip enjoyable.
Also, Metalia's post the other
day month inspired me. (And I know she was recommending NYC—a slightly different dot on the map than Dallas.)
First things first: a disclaimer.
Disclaimer: If you are traveling to D/FW, and you plan to visit each letter (the "D" and then the "F" and "W") rent a car. The cities aren't close to one another. When I lived in a suburb just north of Dallas for EIGHT years I went to Fort Worth a total of three times. And one of those times was only because I was insanely lost.
Now, let's begin!
Jennie's Pick: Something Is Fishy
In the heart of downtown Dallas is the Dallas World Aquarium. It is an incredible experience, filled with animals, plants and fish from all corners of the globe. (Such a silly expression, I know! The globe is round—no corners!) There is a black jaguar, a shark tank and manatees, and all exhibits are surrounded by lush vegetation. I've been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a dozen times, and the Dallas World Aquarium still blew me away.
Stara's Pick: Best Hot-Spot Off The Beaten Path
If any of your time in Dallas includes an extended period of time in the Uptown area, which is quite possible due to its proximity to downtown and many Dallas hotels, you will likely be craving an escape. An escape FROM THE DAMN YUPPIES. It’s okay. I am one of them, but I’m not offended. I need to get away from myself sometimes. Lee Harvey’s is the place to do that.
Traveling to Lee Harvey’s is a harrowing experience, I will not lie. I’m generally terrified each time I go. (Fun Fact: One time, on my way there in a cab, we got so lost that the cab driver actually threw us out of his cab because he was sick of dealing with our Yuppie selves who could not find the damn bar. Thankfully, he took us back to Uptown first, or I likely might not be alive to tell the tale. Anyway, take directions is what I’m saying.) Do not let this dissuade you. Once you get there, you will find outdoor seating—at picnic tables no less—dogs, fire pits and rather strong libations. In case you are, well, ignorant, Lee Harvey’s is named after Lee Harvey Oswald, whom we all know was the victim of a mass government conspiracy and alleged to be JFK’s assassin. (I’m totally kidding about the conspiracy theory thing. OR AM I?) Anywho, get yourself down there and you are guaranteed to have a good time
Jennie's pick: A Day Trip
Get out of both cities for a day if you can. Head over to Grapevine for a day of wine tasting and good eating. Lined along Main Street in Grapevine, TX—about a half hour from both Dallas and Forth Worth—you'll find incredible places to grab a quick lunch* before the wine starts calling your name. You can stop in the nearly ten wineries on and just-off-of Main Street to do a little tasting. My favorite stop: Su Vino where you can taste five generous pours for $5. On the list of must-taste-selections, almond champagne and the red Ruby wine.
(*That second suggestion, Guadalupe's, has the best margaritas I've ever tasted. Order a half-and-half—half frozen, half on-the-rocks with no rocks. Also, order the blanco queso.)
Stara's Pick: The Perfect Dinner/Dessert stops
Dinner: If you are in Texas long enough to require a meal, you simply must enjoy a chicken fried steak. And if you are in Dallas, you will probably find out that we regard ourselves as somewhat more cosmopolitan than other Texas cities (You love Austin so much? HA! They don’t even have a Galleria.), as such, the CFS I recommend isn’t comprised of the traditional beef steak. It’s a freaking Rib Eye! So classy! It is served up at Perry’s Restaurant in Uptown Dallas. Have it along with the steak fries, which are made up of a quartered and deep-fried potato. Best things ever.
Dessert: I would then skip dessert at Perry’s, and instead head over to nearby La Duni for a piece of the Nutella Milk Chocolate Cake. La Duni has a variety of desserts, each better than the next. This is my absolute favorite restaurant in Dallas, and the prices are fairly reasonable—entrees range from $8- $22, and cakes are $7.25 slice.
Jennie and Stara's Picks: Forth Worth Must-Sees
Fort Worth Zoo—The best zoo I've been to next to San Diego. (And, oddly, I've been to quite a few zoos.) Wear comfortable shoes, bring your camera and make sure to see the interactive Texas Wild section, featuring more animals, fishes and birds than I ever thought Texas was home to. Also, try and make it there on any given Wednesday—half-price day.
Stockyards—If you think you can't be smacked in the face with too many cowboys and longhorns, you'd be wrong. You'll get your cowboy-fix here, but it's still a fun, interesting place to learn about the history of Fort Worth and it's perfect for kids. With that said, if you have time, stop at the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, a kid-friendly attraction you may remember from the season-five finale of The Amazing Race.
Billy Bob's—Billy Bob's purports to be the world's largest honkey tonk. I didn't take measurements, but Billy Bob's is damn big. I'm not much on country dancin' and country ... whatever else, but Billy Bob's is a concert venue, and a great place to people watch. If you're in Fort Worth, and looking to validate all of your Texas stereotypes (mullets, tight jeans, big hair, gas-guzzling trucks, bull riding), Billy Bob's is the place to
get it done get 'er done.
Joe T. Garcia's—After a long day of taking in as much as you can in Fort Worth, stop at this famous Texas restaurant. The menu is small (fajitas and enchiladas only), they only take cash, they don’t take reservations and the wait is usually hours on the weekends, but people can’t seem to get enough of this place. Rest assured, the hype is warranted. (Again, try the margaritas and also try to sit outside. The ambiance is amazing.)
Jennie & Stara's Pick: SHOP!
Any guide to Dallas would be remiss without mentioning shopping. Though I gripe a fair amount about Dallas, one thing I cannot complain about is the shopping. So, if you have time and money to burn, stop by these places:
Northpark—Stara's favorite place to shop is Northpark Center. Northpark has all the usual suspects—Nordstrom, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, and of course the requisite Neiman Marcus. But North Park also has a variety of real (i.e. sit down) restaurants, a large food court, a movie theater, and is one of the more aesthetically pleasing malls I have ever been to. It is not overwhelming in size, and a large portion of North Park is one story. It is also an excellent place to people watch.
Southlake Town Square—A cool new trend is the outdoor shopping mall and one fantastic thing about Texas is you can enjoy shopping at one of these establishments eleven months and three weeks of the year. Southlake is near Grapevine and is also about a half hour from both Fort Worth and Dallas (although closer to Fort Worth). The shopping at this Square is insanely good, and there's also a Cheesecake Factory conveniently located, so you can reward yourself for not buying everything you laid your eyes on with a piece of brownie sundae or key lime cheesecake.
Highland Park—Highland Park is an area just adjacent—though miles away in many respects—from my (Stara's) neighborhood of Uptown. One of the nation's wealthiest suburbs, Highland Park is home to a fair number of famous peeps—Mark Cuban, Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon, and I don't know ... some other people. Jessica Simpson and Owen Wilson, for example, are often seen shopping in Highland Park Village. The homes of Highland Park are quite a sight to see, and if you have some time to kill, it is pretty entertaining to check out the multi-million dollar mansions and wonder what life is like inside them.
If you are looking for cowboys of a different persuasion, you can always visit the Round Up Saloon. Or, if you want a healthy lunch stop—with delicious salads, wraps and soups—try Greenz in three Dallas locations. If beer is your drink of choice, well, we could definitely be friends, but also stop at Flying Saucer the Draught Emporium with two D/FW locations. Another great thing about Texas is the sheer number of patios available to eat on. Sure it gets stifling hot here in the middle of July and August but there are a few weeks in May when the weather is so glorious it's painful to stay inside. Stop at Ozona on a Monday night, for $1 margaritas and a beautiful tree-heavy patio experience. There is also live music from time to time. Or, if you're a sports nut, purchase tickets to a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball, football, basketball, soccer, minor-league baseball and probably a helluva lot more I'm not aware of because I mostly go to sporting events for the excuse to eat more than one hot dog in a single sitting.
Really, the most important thing to remember when visiting north Texas is to call us. Let us personally show you around we'll allow you to buy us margaritas.