I grew up on the east coast where people are aggressive, angry, and closed off. Then I lived in Russia for several years, where people are closed off, angry, and aggressive. And then I moved to Boulder. Boulder is a magic land. Boulderites sincerely welcome newbies into their friend group. They mean what they say and do what they promise. They are genuinely happy for the success of those around them and the fact that others are out enjoying nature and leisure time as much as possible. I’ve never been in another place where people always smile at each other as they pass by on the street or a trail and where strangers so frequently strike up conversations beyond small talk with one another. When I exit our magical borders, I kind of expect the whole rest of the world to be in a Mad Max state of affairs.
OK, that’s all a bit of an exaggeration, but my point is, I believe Boulder is an anomaly, so when I travel somewhere else and find people every bit as lovely as they are at home, I’m surprised…and thrilled! And this was my experience in Dallas. I recently spent 11 days in the city where big things happen and had a wonderful time. Everywhere I went people were friendly and open and pleasant, and I don’t only mean the people I was with. Shopkeepers, servers, bartenders, gas station attendants, and so many people I encountered seemed to be in a great mood, and that made my trip even better.
If you happen to be heading that way soon and are looking for recommendations, here are a few of the highlights of my trip.
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This stop is purely for the novelty factor. The cupcake was delicious, though not a standout in the vast world of desserts. But it’s literally a cupcake ATM, so… you know you want to go. Also, it has pupcakes for your fuzzy friends.
Maybe I was just extra hungry, but I’m going to put this out there – this is one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. For real. I had the Pork Cheek Hash and Ironman had the Badass Bacon Waffle. Oh my good lord feed those dishes to me again please. The atmosphere was a little strange – lots of wood grain – but the bar looked spectacular. Next time, I’d like to head over at night for a drink. And do brunch again. Most definitely.
What an unusual place to grab a drink. The bar area is on two floors and there are couches to lounge on, nooks to curl up with someone in, round tables at which to get a drunken philosophical discussion going. I was there on a Saturday night and it wasn’t crowded at all. The drinks we ordered were A++ and the mellow vibe was exactly what we were looking for.
This place serves up wood fired Neapolitan style pizza that was voted best in Dallas five years running, as their website informs you. Yup, easy to understand why! I got the Prosciutto e Rucola but that was a tough decision. I wanted all of them.
This wins for best all-around date night experience. The food was excellent, the service was good, the patio was a pleasant place to sit in the warm night air, and the atmosphere was lively and fun but not so loud and obnoxious that you couldn’t have a conversation. Also, this taste bud thrilling cocktail: Devil’s Advocate (pear & cinnamon-infused bourbon + lemon + jalapeno + ginger + Angostura bitters + ginger beer).
This is your something-for-everyone park in Dallas. Walking, picnicking, cycling, boating, off-leash dog park, and kayaking. Be warned, you will get soaked kayaking! There are lots of boats on the lake that make it choppy. You can leave the lake and kayak through Dallas as far as you want by heading down White Rock Creek. Take a picnic lunch and make a whole day of it. Heads up though – if you are from Colorado and used to bringing beer to the park – alcohol is not allowed in the parks in Dallas. But, like anything, if you are subtle (or maybe not so subtle) and adult about it, you aren’t likely to have a problem.
This is a well-maintained, not overly crowded walking/biking/running trail in the city, with water fountains and a lively beer stop (The Ice House) along the way. If you are just starting to run or training for an event, the trail has markers every quarter mile to help you keep track of distance. My second to last day in Dallas, I ran the whole trail and back – seven miles! It’s the furthest I’ve ever run, but still a long way from the 13.1 I’m going to run for my first half marathon in the spring. The Katy Trail is also at about 400 feet elevation and my half will be at more than ten times that…but I’m getting off track now. Get outside and walk the Katy Trail.
This vast open space offers good running trails, fields to sit in and soak up the sun, and an incredible view of the Dallas skyline at dusk.
Your Own Space
The October/November weather in Dallas is spectacular. You need to be outdoors all the time. If you don’t have a patio, yard, or rooftop where you live, you are doing Dallas wrong. Also, having a goofy muppet dog with you makes all the outdoors time even better!
Nothing I could add to the article I’ve linked to about this store would express better how weird it is. Just go, gawk at the oddities, and maybe buy something like this fabulous, 1950s(?) cold weather dress I found.
Audience participation required at Pocket Sandwich Theater! The show begins with a sing-a-long and a tray of popcorn to throw at the actors during the show whenever you see fit. The actors often ignore the popcorn raining down on them, but occasionally work it into the action with a witty line or two, or a glare or point a finger or a dump a hatfull of popcorn on the offending audience members. The chaos slightly irked me – mostly because there were a few front row audience members who were indiscriminate in their popcorn throwing – but I had a great time.
If you are looking for a mellow evening of writing and reading but want to get out of the house, this is your place. Grab a coffee or join the “club” and get a liquor drink. I don’t quite understand this Texas alcohol club thing: they swipe your driver’s license and you sign a piece of paper joining the club so they can legally serve you booze. But go along with it, peruse the book selection, grab a table, and settle in for the night. No wireless internet available on the weekends. Enjoy.
Out of Town
I had never been to Dallas before this trip, so there wasn’t much reason to head out of town when there was plenty to see in town, but we did head out twice.
If you do nothing but stay at the Country Woods Inn, your visit to Glen Rose will be a success. The cabins are adorable and it would be easy to never leave. You can grill, watch the moon, feed the animals (they have all the barnyard animals), play horseshoes, make a campfire, walk around the trails to the little chapel and beyond up on to the bluff, and get in some serious romantic time with someone you care about. But there is plenty to do off site as well. Walk around town and look at the strange architecture, check out the shops where the owners are happy to talk your ear off about all things local and personal, enjoy surprisingly (because of the location) incredible dining, and walk along the river. And then, the must-do, Dinosaur Valley State Park. The park wasn’t crowded at all and we got in a great hike. Then, on the way back, we encountered a park ranger and a scientist taking molds of the some dinosaur prints. Like the shop owners, they were happy to answer our questions and tell us about what they were working on. The most interesting fact I learned? The dinosaur prints will only last about 30 years after the river uncovers them before they are eradicated through erosion.
This doesn’t really count toward getting out of town because all we did was go have steak and barbecue at H3 Ranch and then head back to Dallas, but the Stockyards look like a fun place to spend a day. I’d like to go back on my next trip and check out more of what the area has to offer. It looks a bit touristy, but also a bit real cowboy. And the ribs at H3 are a must-do again, as is literally saddling up to the bar.
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So there you have it. Of course the most wonderful part of Dallas the company I was with (and lying out poolside in November – such a treat for a Boulderite!) but everything about the city was enjoyable. I’m looking forward to my next visit.