Travel - Going to Dallas

October 30, 2005

WHY GO NOW

With the unveiling of the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2003, this year's eyebrow-raising bequest of three major private collections to the Dallas Museum of Art and the announcement of plans for a Rem Koolhaas-designed Center for the Performing Arts, Dallas finally has cultural draws to eclipse Southfork and the Kennedy assassination for good. Long a shopping and foodie draw for Southwestern visitors, Dallas is now attracting international art connoisseurs, who formerly bypassed Big D's offerings in favor of Fort Worth and Marfa. The Dallas Arts District has created a focal city center out of a once-decrepit downtown. And gallery openings have become high-profile social events. Yet Dallas maintains an equal appreciation for high and low: getting a "Howdy" from Big Tex, the Texas State Fair's 52-foot talking cowboy mascot, has been a popular pastime every fall since he appeared in 1952.


WHERE TO STAY

The Uptown neighborhood, a mix of historic homes and new high-rise residence towers, restaurants and shops, is adjacent to the Downtown Arts District and the best place to base a concentrated visit. Two choice hotels are off of the McKinney Avenue Trolley line, a free streetcar system that runs through the Uptown district to the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Hotel Crescent Court, 400 Crescent Court, (214) 871-3200, www.crescentcourt.com, is the more classically elegant of the two, with 220 rooms, a 23,000-foot spa and a new outpost of Nobu restaurant. Doubles start at $380.

Cater-corner across McKinney Avenue, the see-and-be-seen Hotel Zaza, 2332 Leonard Street, (214) 468-8399, www.hotelzaza.com, is a stylish retreat for visiting celebs and cool-hunting hipsters. Inside the theatrically themed suites - like the velvet and Versace-clad Medusa ($525) or the safari-themed Out of Africa ($450) - the hotel lives up to its name. Request a room facing the quiet side street unless you want to overlook (and hear) the nightly scene at Urban Oasis, the hotel's trendy poolside nightclub. Doubles start at $295.

For Texas-style grandeur, there's no place to splurge like the Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard, (214) 559-2100, www.mansiononturtlecreek.com. The lavishly restored Italian Renaissance-style estate of a Texas cotton mogul is in a residential neighborhood, but the "house car," a Lexus sedan, will shuttle guests anywhere within a five-mile radius free. Doubles start at $405.

The Stoneleigh Hotel, 2927 Maple Avenue, (214) 871-7111, www.stoneleighhotel.com, covers the "historic hotel with character" category - a charming, if slightly fraying, midprice option. Built in 1923, the Art Deco and Federal-style Stoneleigh has 153 big rooms with high-speed wireless Internet access. A head-to-toe renovation is planned for the spring. Doubles start at $129.


WHERE TO EAT

In mid-November, Stephan Pyles, the local chef known for putting Dallas - and Southwestern cuisine - on the culinary map, will open a restaurant on Ross Avenue in the Arts District. Until then, try the new Uptown restaurant from a rising star chef, Tim Byres, at Standard, 2816 Fairmount Street, (214) 720-9292, whose New American cuisine - featuring his signature braised beef short ribs ($28) and steamed Alaskan halibut served in a copper pot ($26) - attracts a society and fashion industry clientele. Lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday; dinner only weekends. Closed Monday.

Local, 2936A Elm Street, (214) 752-7500, www.localdallas.com, is a small, airy bistro in an old building on the edge of the Deep Ellum area, a center for blues musicians and artists in the 1920's that still features a young bohemian music scene - and, unfortunately, a rising crime rate. Local's 13 tables are packed nightly with a diverse group of sophisticated regulars - designers and artists, business people and fashion types - sampling the innovative American menu of Tracy Miller, the chef and an owner. Entrees include a Niman Ranch tenderloin filet with free-form hash browns and a petite herb salad ($35) and a crispy Chilean sea bass with an asparagus saute and citrus risotto ($28). Open Wednesday to Saturday for dinner.

Texans hold strong opinions about their barbecue, and at lunch, bankers, lawyers and stockbrokers with their ties thrown over their shoulders, down ribs, sausage and sides like fried okra, zucchini casserole and baked potato casserole at Sammy's Bar-B-Q, 2126 Leonard Street, (214) 880-9064, in a former grocery store near the Dallas Federal Reserve Building. Order a two-meat combo ($9.80) with two sides in the cafeteria-style line, and then take your tray out to the patio, and don't forget extra napkins. Lunch only; closed Sunday.

Tex-Mex is the other indigenous cuisine of Dallas, and those passionate about it will tell you that Mia's, 4322 Lemmon Avenue, (214) 526-1020, is legendary. Now Manny Rios, Mia's brother, has branched off with his own spot, with Manny's Uptown Tex-Mex Restaurante, 3521 Oak Grove Avenue, (214) 252-1611. Manny's specialties include a new version of the original restaurant's popular brisket tacos ($8.25) and a sour cream chicken enchilada ($7.75).


WHAT TO DO DURING THE DAY

Though Arts District is rather large, the major sites are concentrated into one walkable area. Start at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 North Harwood Street, (214) 922-1200, www.dallasmuseumofart.org, established in 1903, which holds 23,000 works, including one of an important holding of American silver. Some recent, highly publicized acquisitions are on view to Jan. 8 as part of a show called "Dialogues: Duchamp, Cornell, Johns, Rauschenberg." The Museum store offers Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry, Nambe silver and crystal and regionally designed crafts. Admission $10; closed Monday.

Across the street, the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora Street, (214) 242-5100, www.nashersculpturecenter.org, is a glass-roofed and travertine-clad gallery designed by Renzo Piano to display a fine collection of modern sculpture donated by Raymond D. Nasher, a Dallas developer. Allow a couple of hours to walk in and around the dizzying array of Rodins, Picassos, Giacomettis and Calders, both inside the understated gallery spaces and outside in the tree-lined sculpture garden. Admission $10; closed Monday.

Another impressive private collection on public view is the Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, 2010 Flora Street, (214) 979-6430, www.crowcollection.org, a serene setting with 600 paintings, objects of metal and stone, and large architectural pieces from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia. Admission is free, and guided tours of the permanent collection are offered Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.

An afternoon of gallery hopping is the perfect antidote to hands-off museum visits. First stop for most visiting art groups is to Dunn & Brown Contemporary, 5020 Tracy Street, (214) 521-4322, www.dunnandbrown.com, a 10,000-square-foot U-shaped warehouse complex three miles north of the Arts District that has attracted much art-world attention for its success in building the international careers of its artists.

The more intimate Barry Whistler Gallery, 2909B Canton Street, (214) 939-0242, www.barrywhistlergallery.com, is a place near Deep Ellum where many local young collectors make their first purchases, with prices from $4,500 for an Ann Stautberg photographic landscape to $36,000 for a painting by Johnnie Winona Ross.


WHAT TO DO AT NIGHT

Take in a concert the at the I. M. Pei-designed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora Street, (214) 670-3600, www.meyersonsymphonycenter.com, where ticket prices range from $8 to $102, and there's not a bad seat in the house, which some consider close to acoustically perfect. Or, for a taste of the local music scene, head to Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm Street, (214) 747-4422, www.sonsofhermann.com, a German fraternal lodge still run by its members, who rub elbows with other concertgoers in the large hall. Swing nights and polka bands are the big draws. Even more unusual is Double Wide, 3510 Commerce Street, (214) 887-6510, www.double-wide.com, a kitschy, trailer-trash-themed bar decorated with strewn old car and R.V. parts. Its band bookings lean more toward hard rock or punk with a country edge.


WHERE TO SHOP

Shopping is sport in Dallas, and it's a perfect Monday activity, when most museums and galleries are closed. Global shopaholics still dress up to go to Neiman Marcus's Downtown flagship store, 1618 Main Street, (214) 741-6911, www.neimanmarcus.com, which was established in 1907 and has brought global retail attention to Dallas ever since. The bargain alternative is available on the way to the airport at the Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center, (19) 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine, (214) 513-1527, with 20 to 75 percent discounts.

Forty Five Ten, 4510 McKinney Avenue, (214) 559-4510, www.fortyfiveten.com, is the other major source for high-end goods, with a beautiful 9,000-square-foot store and a cafe that has attracted a clientele from Oprah Winfrey to Gwyneth Paltrow to Laura Bush since it opened in 2000. The well-selected boutique features clothing designers like Stella McCartney, Chlo and Marc Jacobs, as well as a large selection of home accessories and jewelry - all wrapped up with the store's signature chocolate and robin's egg blue packaging.

For concentrated shopping in a pleasant outdoor plaza, visit the West Village, 3699 McKinney Avenue, www.westvil.com, where specialty shops like Cowboy Cool, which sells custom-made western wear, or Premium93, which features designers like Marc Jacobs and Theory, are mixed in with the requisite Banana Republic and Gap.


YOUR FIRST TIME OR YOUR 10TH

If you can, visit Fair Park, 1300 Robert B. Cullum Boulevard, (214) 670-8400, www.fairparkdallas.com, during the 24-day State Fair of Texas, the largest exposition in North America, which occurs every October. Three million visitors attend for the amusement rides, pig racing, auto show, Texas-Oklahoma football game and, most notably, the fried food, like the classic Fletcher's corny dog, fried Snickers and fried marshmallows. Admission, $13.


GETTING AROUND

A taxi from the airport is $38 to most hotels near downtown. For Uptown and the Arts District, you can ride the McKinney Avenue Trolley Line or walk. If you want to go farther, rent a car.
 

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