- Lifestyle & Sports
- 11 Apr 14
To most Irish people, it's synonymous with JR Ewing, cowboys and bucking broncos. But Dallas has more to offer than oil wealth and stetson hats (though there's plenty of those too)
Where exactly is it?
Dallas is in the north-east of the ‘Lone Star’ state of Texas and is the ninth biggest city in the US with a population exceeding 1.2 million. Oklahoma lies to its north and to the west, Arkansas and Louisiana. The city’s connected to the Gulf of Mexico by the Trinity River, which flows to the sea east of Galveston.
How do I get there?
There are no direct flights, but lots of ways to get to Dallas. One is to fly Aer Lingus to Chicago and connect with an American Airlines flight heading south. Another is to hop over to London and travel direct with British Airways, flight time nine hours. There are numerous other routes via-Boston, New York etc. It certainly pays to shop around…
What language do they speak?
English is obviously the first language of the vast majority of the citizens, but Texas’ rich history and prosperity, mainly due to the oil industry, has always attracted inward migration. There’s a wide spread of nationalities based in the Dallas area, particularly Arabic migrants and South-East Asian communities from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. There are also sizeable populations of Sikh and Hindu people. Spanish can still be heard on the streets. The fledgling United States and Mexico fought a bitter war for control of this territory in the 1860s.
What’s the local beer like?
The craft beer revolution has really taken off in the ‘Big D’ with microbreweries offering selections of interesting tipples springing up throughout the state. Whilst a decade ago, there was only a handful of brewers, nowadays it’s passed the hundred mark and you’re never too far from a brewpub or dive bar offering the finest in local beer. If you want to sample the latest and greatest, check out the Meddlesome Moth, a brewpub that also serves up classic Texan cuisine. For a taste of something a little more mainstream there’s always Lone Star, the unofficial ‘National Beer of Texas’!
Texas has witnessed a steady growth of its wine industry over the last 20 years. Whilst it doesn’t export very much, it produces some excellent ranges, particularly varieties such as Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the best Texan wine comes from the central and southern area known as Texas Hill Country. However, the state’s vineyards have experienced some very mixed times in recent years, with late frosts decimating crops on a number of occasions. The state’s spirit industry is also undergoing something of a renaissance, particularly demand for its single-malt whiskey brands and even vodka!
What is the transport like?
Downtown Dallas and its surrounds are well serviced by an integrated transport network. The city’s a major confluence for interstate highways, which criss-cross its perimeter, most notably the gigantic, twelve-storey tall ‘high five interchange’ which ensures the city’s considerable traffic doesn’t come to a grinding halt during rush hour. Dallas even has its own DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transport), incorporating both bus and light rail. Amtrak’s Texas Eagle train service connects onward to cities such as Chicago and LA. To the north sits Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which continues to expand and now occupies an area larger than Manhattan, making it the ninth largest airport in the world! The city has made a concerted effort to provide greener alternatives for its citizens, including investment in a network of cycle paths and sidewalks.
What’s the food like?
Influenced by everything from European settlers to neighbouring Mexico, Texas can boast some of the most delectable local cuisine anywhere in the ‘Lower forty-eight’. However, much of it is bursting with calories so be sure to pack your running kit! It’s hard to beat Tex-Mex, particularly such mouth-watering offerings as fajitas, burritos and tacos. Texan chili-con-carne is seriously delicious; the Lone Star State is also famous for its beef and you’re never too far from a delectable steak or some scrumptious barbequed brisket. There’s also countless varieties of smoked sausages, served up in diners and restaurants, made from recipes handed down the generations by migrants from central Europe. Dallas is credited with creating the first hamburger in the 1880s. This momentous moment in culinary history is attributed to Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. The rest, as they say…
What’s the nightlife like?
Dallas has plenty to offer after dark and it’s not all hard-drinking cowboys in Stetsons either! The Big D has caught up with some of its more illustrious rivals and can now boast one of the most eclectic bar and club scenes of anywhere in the US. From wine and cocktail bars to pumping dance clubs and a thriving gay scene, Dallas really covers all the bases. Of course, there are also plenty of old-skool cowboy haunts, complete with everyone’s favourite late-night drinking challenge, a ride on a mechanical bull! Mega-clubs such as Zouk and Plush draw huge crowds on weekends and the ultra-hip Avenu Lounge is where some of the city’s well-heeled revellers go to dance the night away. For a taste of traditional Texan cowboy hospitality, head along to one of the city’s renowned Country & Western bars, where you’ll soon be two-steppin’ and sipping some ice cold brews. If you want to really fit in, pick up a pair of tight jeans and that ultimate symbol of Texan masculinity, a ten-gallon hat!
Why should I go?
Many of us have a nostalgic image of the Big D, formulated by the hugely successful and iconic eighties TV show, Dallas. Famed for its unscrupulous oil barons, most infamously the morally depraved JR Ewing, the show painted a picture of southern rednecks done good from the state’s vast deposits of black gold. However, the reality is somewhat different! Dallas is hugely cosmopolitan, boasting great dining, shopping, nightlife and more than its fair share of historical landmarks and cultural and sporting hotspots.
What are the touristy things to do?
The city is synonymous with one of the most defining moments in the history of the United States. On November 22, 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, in Dallas’ west-end. The area is now preserved as a national historic landmark and these days, thousands of history buffs and conspiracy theorists visit the grassy knoll and the book depository to relive that fateful day. The vast Dallas Arts District is certainly worth a trip. It’s home to some of the city’s most impressive architecture and numerous institutions such as the Museum of Art, Symphony Centre and Opera House. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is the latest and greatest addition to the city’s cultural landscape. No visit to Dallas is complete without taking in Cowboys Stadium, especially when the world-famous Dallas Cowboys – and their cheerleaders – are strutting their stuff in the NFL. A short spin from the city’s bustling, skyscraper dotted downtown is the Dallas Arboretum, a beautifully manicured city park where citizens go to jog, stroll or simply unwind.
A half-hour north of the city in Parker, you can visit the home of the no-good, backstabbing and philandering Ewings of Dallas fame, better known as Southfork. Tours are available year-round and people flock daily to relive a TV show that captivated a global audience for over a decade and feast their eyes on iconic memorabilia, most notably the gun that shot JR!
Anything to avoid?
Dallas is a very safe and hospitable city, but with plenty of rich and affluent citizens, it’s attracted its fair share of pickpockets. Avoid showcasing your wallet to the world and certainly avoid placing it invitingly in your back pocket.
What should I bring home?
How about a pair of cowboy boots, a massive buckle belt or a fetching tengallon hat? Fans of vintage clothing should check out the amazing Dolly Python store, which stocks everything from period costume to garish ‘80s wear. Gridiron enthusiasts could certainly do worse than picking up some merchandise from Cowboys Stadium and bric-a-brac lovers can trawl the city’s countless gift and souvenir shops.
When should I go?
Avoid the baking hot Dallas summer, where temperatures are in the mid-thirties and getting about becomes a serious, sweat-inducing chore. Spring and autumn are still bathed in glorious sunshine, but you won’t feel the need for a shower every 15 minutes!
What’s my challenge?
Dive in and sample a wide variety of the cultural, culinary and historical sites Dallas has to offer. Whilst the tendency for many is to seek out the grassy knoll, cowboy bars and maybe even a country rodeo, don’t neglect the city’s awe-inspiring arts district and multitude of eclectic eateries and night-time hotspots.
What’s the currency?
The United States Dollar (USD$) Something to remember... Dallas is no stranger to both good times and bad. In the ’30s the Texas oil boom transformed the state and during the war years Dallas was a manufacturing hub for the US military, producing everything from tanks to jeeps. A massive property boom in the late 70s resulted in the Dallas skyline of today. But it didn’t last. Overly generous lending resulted in a crippling recession, bringing the Big D to its economic knees in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Sound familiar?