Category Archives: Texas

What to See in Dallas, Texas

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The last time I was in Dallas, Texas was about 30 years ago, so I was excited about making a return visit. Of course, since that time length, Dallas has been undergoing a boom in growth and development. Even a short stay like mine offers much to see and do. There are museums showcasing artistic wonders and artifacts spanning the centuries, plus two presidential legacies are recognized here. Other interests cater to dining, nightlife, and shopping. So, based on my recent three-day trip, here is a suggested list for exploring Dallas.

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Dallas Arts District
Dallas Arts District is said to be the country’s largest, continuous urban arts district. It’s got a number of cultural attractions within an easy walking distance. Some are just across the way from each other.

With general free admission, the Dallas Arts Museum is a treasure trove of over 24,000 works spanning across centuries, continents, and cultures. In all, the museum’s collection incorporates 5,000 years of creativity! A signature spot within one museum wing replicates a villa in the south of France, originally built by fashion designer Coco Chanel and once owned by a couple who were museum benefactors.

Another venue to visit is The Nasher Sculpture Center. It holds more than 300 modern and contemporary masterpieces by artistic greats including de Kooning, Matisse, Rodin, Picasso, and Miró. It also contains a really nice outdoor garden area, with sculptures and seating areas.

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Klyde Warren Park
This green space place is a central gathering spot for locals and food trucks. Built over a six-lane freeway, this 5.2-acre park has enough room for running around, laying down a blanket, or starting a Frisbee game. Free daily programming is also scheduled. Besides food trucks, there’s a snack area and a restaurant called Savor Gastropub that has a sleek floor-to-ceiling window setting, inventive cocktails and New American-style lunch, brunch and dinner choices.

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Dallas Farmers Market
For a meal or look around, this market in the downtown area will fill you up. It’s got various sections that operate throughout the week or only on weekends. The Market, a 26,000-square-foot food hall and artisan vendor marketplace, is a cornucopia of anchor restaurants and specialty food booths. Do a complete walk around this place and you’ll spot coffee shops, taquerias, ice cream stands, or seafood shops. Go for Taqueria La Ventana, an authentic Mexico City eatery that’s casual and a bit eclectic. While street tacos are their specialty, their menu also offers breakfast versions of tacos and quesadillas pairing egg and cheese with bacon, chorizo, or potato. From Friday through Sunday, see The Shed, an open-air pavilion where regional vendors and craftspeople sell what they grow or make.

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Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Based in the former Texas School Book Depository, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. While educating visitors about what happened on November 22, 1963 in Dealey Plaza, and its aftermath, the museum also focuses on Kennedy’s overall legacy. News footage, historic images, and artifacts further enhance this chronological exhibit. After seeing this museum, walk over to Dealey Plaza. Now a U.S. National Historic Landmark, a ground plaque marks its place in time.

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Deep Ellum
A commercial district dating back to mid-19th century, Deep Ellum has a modern-day feel described as New Orleans meets New York City’s SoHo district. Nowadays it’s a hotspot for live music venues, art galleries, unique stores, breweries, and eateries.

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, a restaurant/taproom, makes creatively named suds such as their American Blonde Ale, Dallas Blonde. Braindead Brewing has both indoor and outdoor sections with craft brews and a pub menu with choices like their hefty-named Coma Burger.  At Pecan Lodge, a popular barbecue joint, it’s possible to encounter a waiting line but your patience will pay off.  Place your order, get a ticket, listen for your name, and then head up to the pickup counter to obtain your meal tray. Get a two or three meat plate with a choice of brisket, sausage, ribs or pulled pork paired with one side like their crowd-pleasing mac and cheese.

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Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Built on the ground of two former mansions, this well-manicured, 66-acre oasis blossoms with 19 various named gardens graced with different landscapes and flower beddings. A children’s adventure garden connects youngsters with nature by offering over 150 kid-friendly activities. Anticipated to open in fall 2017, a two-acre food garden called “A Taste of Place” will include an orchard, vineyard, and edible plantings. A teaching kitchen will hold tastings, cooking demos and classes, and other events relating to “garden to table” cuisine.

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George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum touches on our 43rd U.S. President’s life and time as Commander in Chief. Find a chronology of Bush family photos (including his dad, George H.W. Bush), a replica Oval Office, and a multi-media retrospective on the events of September 11, 2001. In the center of the building, look up at the walls to see a revolving projection on the American spirit. Temporary special exhibits also take place. Displays have included a collection of Bush’s oil paintings of military veterans from his “Portraits of Courage” book project. There’s also a farm-to-table café, named “43,” on the premise.

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Bishop Arts Center
South of downtown, in the North Oak Cliff borough, Bishop Arts Center is a historic shopping district that now incorporates an eclectic selection of art galleries and independently owned boutique stores with their respective offerings. Bishop Street Market is stocked with unique gift ideas, and Epiphany carries boho chic and contemporary styles for men and women’s clothing. Ordering a slice from Emporium Pies is a must. Selections rotate with the season, but these handmade treats could range from fruit-filled to chocolaty. If in need of caffeine, go to The Wild Detectives, a cool coffeehouse/bookstore combo. Then, have dinner at Tillman’s Roadhouse, a chic Texan-style eatery with regional favorites. End your evening outing at Bishop Cider Co., a tasting room featuring usually six flavorful cider varieties on tap.

Exploring Fort Worth, Texas

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Recently I traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for two work assignments. For three days, I ventured about its different districts, exploring its culinary, historic, and cultural offerings. Although I’m going to leave most of what I did out – I’ll post the published articles once they’re online – here are some places to consider seeing or dining at.

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Horseshoe Hill Café
In the Stockyards National Historic District, this restaurant is all about cowboy cuisine – Texas food influenced by ethnicities and ingredients found in the state’s various regions – and serves up Western favorites. Its specialty is chicken fried steak. You can order the traditional version with peppered gravy to inventive twists like chili con carne and queso blanco or chili gravy and a fried egg. There are also other offerings like sides of red chile cheese enchiladas and a nice 16 oz. dry aged ribeye.

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Guided Tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort Worth’s history with the cattle industry began as being the last stop for cowboys and their steers en route to Kansas’ railheads around the mid-1860s through 1880s. Although the industry has changed much over time, the Stockyards are still a visual reminder of this period. One way to learn more about the Stockyards is through Stockyards Historic Walking Tours. Starting from the visitor center, a guide takes you along specific spots throughout the Stockyards and gives the backstory on these buildings. Tours happen daily. While at the Stockyards, see the twice a day Fort Worth Herd parade. At 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., a small set of longhorns and their handlers walk down East Exchange Avenue.

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Esperanza’s Mexican Cafe and Bakery
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to sit down and eat here. However, I kept hearing from locals about how good this place is. So I decided to a quick run over and see what I could grab. There are two locations, but I went to its site near the Stockyards. This venue gets a lot of nods for its breakfast and lunch, but it also has a side bakery in the front featuring Mexican pastries. I grabbed what I could say a version of a jelly-filled, powder sugared donut. It was messy but tasty!

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National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
Based in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, this museum is unique in that it solely is about cowgirls and pioneering women who promote Western heritage on many different levels. And it pays tribute to them. Some of them are known, while some might be surprises. On the lower level, there are a number of displays dedicated to Annie Oakley. A holographic Annie speaks about her days as a gunslinger, and her clothes and other items are on view. Upstairs, the hall of fame features photos of various American women of the West.

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Dine out on Near Southside’s West Magnolia Street
This section in Near Southside is a place to go for dinner or after drinks. Coffee shops, cocktail bars, and restaurants are lined along here. One night, I just walked up and down this street, and going into places that looked appealing. Desserts will always get my attention, so I went inside Stir Crazy Baked Goods, a cozy bakery along this district. Inside, there are cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and muffins in different flavors good sizes, but with prices that are easy on the wallet. Another venue that was recommended to me for more of a meal was The Bearded Lady. It has more of a pub atmosphere, with a full board of craft beers (including Texas suds). Apps are interesting like fried cactus strips, fried leek rings, and whole fried okra. Sandwiches and burgers have their say on the menu. There’s a fancy grilled cheese selection and a Build Your Own Damn ½ Lb Burger (I opted for the former; it was good.).

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Acre Distillery LLC
A recent newcomer to Fort Worth’s Downtown area, this venue is a combination of an espresso bar and distillery. In the morning hours, this place serves up caffeinated brews and light breakfast orders, particularly to nearby Texas A & M students. At night, the scene changes to more of a cocktail environment featuring in-house made gin, vodka, and two types of bourbon. These distilled spirits also get mixed up as cocktails paired with flavored moonshine infusions such as a cinnamon and can be served alongside charcuterie boards.

A Night with Texas Tourism

photo 1(2)Being a native Texan, it was fun to get an invite from Texas Tourism for their media night in New York City earlier this week. At Lightbox Studios, representatives from the tourism offices of Galveston, Houston, El Paso, Midland, Amarillo, San Antonio, and Rio Grande were on hand to share latest news about their destinations.

photo 1(1)Along with them, staff members from Texas’ Wine regions, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country, Hotel Emma in San Antonio, and restaurants The Granary ‘Cue Brew in San Antonio and Prohibition Supper Club & Bar in Houston.

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Delicious pork sandwich with Vietnamese-style slaw from Houston’s Prohibition Supper Club & Bar.

Here are some highlights from what’s happening with tourism throughout Texas:

In Houston
Downtown Houston’s Historic District and Market Square is experiencing an ongoing major revival that is ushering in new restaurants and bar openings to turn it into a happening area again.
Other news for Houston involves public transportation. An expansion of METRORail includes three rail lines recently completed or under construction to give the city 22.7 miles of rail so that locals and visitors can head by train to neighborhoods including Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District, East End, East Downtown (EaDo), Third Ward and the Texas Medical Center.

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A Texas take on pastrami from the Granary ‘Cue Brew, San Antonio.

In San Antonio
San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions have been nominated for inclusion as a site on the World Heritage List organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). If you’re not familiar with it, the World Heritage List recognizes the most significant cultural and national sites in the world. If awarded, San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions would be the first World Heritage Site in Texas and only the 23rd in the U.S.

Another reason to consider a visit to San Antonio are festivals. Especially for foodies, Culinaria – A Culinary Arts & Wine Festival, happens this year from May 13 through May 17. Culinaria will feature internationally renowned vintners, top Texas wine producers and the hottest San Antonio chefs. Another fun one is the Fiesta Noche Del Rio, running May through August, a 50-year musical tradition that features the songs and dances of Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Texas. Performances are at the River Walk’s Arneson River Theatre.

Historic Grapevine
Did you that Texas has a Wine Trail? It’s is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the U.S., and a way to learn and taste its offerings is to head to Historic Grapevine region, which centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Its Urban Wine Trail contains eight wineries offering different varietals or blends and holding tastings regularly.

As for me, I’m hoping to make a trek back to Texas soon!