In 1979, when I graduated from college and came to Dallas, the city was basically known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and the television show Dallas. It was a city full of banks and corporations. Men wore ostrich-skin cowboy boots with their Brooks Brothers suits. Women teased their hair and went to lunch dressed in shiny Chanel suits. “Dallas,” sneered outsiders. “Big D. So boring.”
Today, people I know who live somewhere else call to tell me that they just had a blast spending the weekend in Dallas. Of course, they talk about the shopping. Dallas is a retail mecca, and I’m not just referring to the luxurious Highland Park Village or NorthPark Center, which sells some of the world’s finest clothes. In the last decade or so, at least a dozen retail-packed neighborhoods have sprung up, from Bishop Arts, the hipster haven south of downtown, to the trendy West Village and Knox-Henderson districts north of downtown.
Along with the new retail have come countless restaurants, bars, and other assorted watering holes. Deep Ellum, a former warehouse district, has become Dallas’s version of Brooklyn, filled with music venues, breweries, barbecue joints, funky apartments, newly built high-rise hotels and condos, and even a great independent bookstore called Deep Vellum, which sells literary novels published by true independent presses. The city’s Arts District has grown so quickly that it’s now bigger than New York’s Lincoln Center.
And downtown itself is taking off. When I came to Dallas, the population of downtown residents was less than a couple hundred. It has grown to more than 14,000 today. What’s more, city officials are determined to bring green space to downtown—an idea that seemed unfathomable just a decade ago. Built over one of the freeways that used to encircle downtown like a moat is the 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park. Plans are in the works to create more parks and hike-and-bike trails. (There are already 160 miles of trails, making Dallas the most bike-accessible city in the state.) One of the projects involves a massive greenbelt development in the Trinity River bottoms that could give Dallas its own version of Central Park.
But what’s most impressive to me is that a whole new generation has taken over the city, and I’m not just talking about fashionable, party-loving millennials. Dallas, which used to be characterized as a city dominated by an all-male, all-white power establishment, is thriving with diversity. All you have to do is look at what the new restaurants in Dallas are serving up, everything from Japanese tacos to Albanian sausage to Laotian fried chicken.
Or take a look at who’s moving to Dallas. It’s now home to tech geniuses, socially conscious lawyers, designers, a horde of social media influencers, artists who work out of studios around Fair Park, and musicians who used to think they had to live in Austin. There’s a much more diverse political culture (including a Black mayor and a Black district attorney). Fortune 500 corporations have set up shop in Dallas and brought in smart people from around the world.
In other words, there’s a lot more to do today in Dallas than watch the Cowboys and its cheerleaders. We’ve got far more interesting residents than J.R. Ewing.
Indeed, we’re so much more than the old “Big D.” I can’t wait to see what happens next.
5650 Village Glen Dr, Dallas, 75206
At his sleek Brazilian restaurant, executive chef Junior Borges forgoes typical crowd-pleasers from his native country, instead offering inventive dishes inspired by cuisines around the globe.
4931 W Lovers Ln, Dallas, 75209
Find out why executive chef Anastacia Quiñones-Pittman is a leading figure in contemporary Mexican cuisine in Texas at this rustic but chic eatery, featuring seasonal aguachilé, the ever-changing chef’s special taco, and more.
13628 Gamma Rd, Farmers Branch, 75244
This joint’s beef bologna, spicy beef boudin, and Wagyu pastrami ribs are just three reasons why it made Texas Monthly’s top ten list of the best barbecue spots in the state.
205 N Akard St, Dallas, 75201
Located in the historic 51-story First National Bank tower, the Thompson boasts a $2 million-plus portfolio of artwork throughout the public spaces and 219 guest rooms and suites, along with a full-service spa.
The Adolphus Hotel
1321 Commerce St, Dallas, 75202
A renovation several years ago brought this storied, grande dame hotel into the modern age; don’t miss the afternoon tea in the French Room.
Deep Ellum Hostel
2801 Elm St, Dallas, 75226
Housed in a historic building in the thick of the trendy downtown district, this hostel offers dorm rooms as well as private suites.
1618 Main St, Dallas, 75201
Visit the flagship Neiman Marcus department store and headquarters, which was built for the retailer after its first location burned in 1913.
Dallas Museum of Art
1717 N Harwood St, Dallas, 75201
One of the largest museums in the country, it features more than 25,000 pieces in its permanent collection, which is always free to the public.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
8525 Garland Rd, Dallas, 75218
This popular urban escape, stretched out over 66 acres on the shore of White Rock Lake, contains a series of interconnected garden beds teeming with flowers.
Where to Stay
With packages designed for Texans, these new luxe lodging options feature museum-quality paintings, sculpture, and other artwork.
The Thompson Dallas hotel has transformed the First National Bank tower into a sleek and sophisticated space. Luxury residences and shops are coming soon, too.
What to Do
The People of Dallas
First published in 1987, ‘The Accommodation’ still resonates today.