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Dallas Travel Guide

Dallas is the largest business center in the Southwest. The city is known as the “Big D” and lives up to this billing – big people, big cowboy hats, big boots, big spenders, big cars, big homes, big skyscrapers, big convention centers, big monuments, big shopping malls, and all in a big city spread out over a 9,000-square-mile metro area of prairies sweeped by wide, open skies that are, well…. big. The motto among residents is that everything in Dallas is bigger and better. This motto and attitude has come to symbolize Texas and has given us the stereotype we all have of Texans.

Dallas, however, is more than a living synonym of the word “Big”, more than just the eighth largest city in the U.S, and more than the oil, energy, and aerospace companies that have made it rich and politically conservative. It beams with youth, vigor, innovation, philanthropy, and true southern hospitality. And with the modern amenities of fine dining, first-class hotels, world-class shopping, and a thriving nightlife noted for its alternative music scene, Dallas is not surprisingly a top destination among business and leisure travelers in Texas. In fact, in the country it ranks as the second most popular destination for conventions, its Dallas Convention Center drawing the bulk of the traffic from this segment.

Geographically, the Big D sprawls over 12 counties of prairies. While the city proper is only 400 square miles, its metropolitan area is a staggering 9000 square miles with Fort Worth only 35 miles out west. Dallas is very much flat, with only a few rolling hills, the Trinity River, and the enormous White Rock Lake, to interrupt the monotonous landscape.

The weather in Dallas is very hot and humid during the summers. Winter is milder and you’ll encounter the occasional snow storm. Late spring brings the worst weather, not because of the temperatures but because of the threat of tornadoes.

Dallas was originally inhabited by the Caddo Natives, but the territory was claimed by Spain in the 16th century. When Mexico gained independence in 1821, Dallas became a part of Mexico. In 1836, Texas broke off from Mexico and became an independent country, during which Dallas was founded. In 1846, the U.S. annexed Texas and Dallas, along with it.

For much of its early existence, Dallas was a frontier town in the Wild West, the birthplace of the notorious gambler and gunfighter Doc Holliday. The city took off, however, after the Civil War when two railroads – one that had a north-south route and another with an east-west route – converged in Dallas, making it a center of trade and business. In particular, the city became a leading cotton and grain producer in the early 20th century as well as a regional fashion capital after Neiman Marcus was established in Dallas in 1907. But the discovery of oil in 1930 also turned the city into a banking and financial center for the oil industry. In 1963, one of the most famous events in U.S. history occurred in downtown Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was gunned down while he was in his motorcade, allegedly shot by Lee Harvey Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas State Book Depository.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Dallas became a city at the forefront of high-technology, with the invention of the integrated circuit computer chip by Dallas-founded Texas Instruments. The 1980s brought international fame to the city as a result of the hit TV show, Dallas. Many of the oil companies moved to Houston, however, to be closer to the Gulf of Mexico and the offshore operations there. The city experienced a recession much into the early 1990s, but was pulled out of it during the dot-com years. Dallas today is still a hotbed of tech companies and has earned the nickname of Silicon Prairie.

Dallas offers an array of cultural and architectural sights. Among the architectural highlights include the Adolphus Hotel, which was built in 1912 in the Edwardian Baroque style. It is the grande dame of hotels in Dallas, having welcomed celebrities and royalties to its lavishly furnished abode for years. The most recognized landmark of Dallas is probably the Reunion Tower at 300 Reunion Boulevard with its iconic geodesic glass dome at the top of a column. This dome is an observation tower and restaurant that illuminates with its lights at night. Also of note is I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall, a modern landmark featuring a cantilevered façade.

Culturally, there are a few “must” see attractions, including the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza located at 411 Elm Street. This is the famous former Texas Book Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly gunned down President John F. Kennedy from the sixth floor. The building is now used as a museum retracing the life and legacy of the president through films, photographs, artifacts on display.

The Dallas Museum of Art at 1717 North Harwood is another worthwhile visit. It has a collection of ancient and contemporary American Art as well as African and Indonesian art work. The highlights of the collection list art paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Renoir, and O’Keefe.

Another favorite is the Kimbell Art Museum, which is considered the best small museum in the United States. It features a large collection of Asian Art including a sampling of works by Rembrandt and Picasso.

The Amon Carter Museum is to place to visit if you are more interested in recent American Art. It has more than 250,000 objects of art from the 19th and 20th century, including exhibits displaying the works of Remington, Winslow Homer, Russell, and Eliot Porter, among others.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fair Park and its 280-acre complex as a tourist attraction offers more thrilling and entertainment-based fun. As the site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, it has been designated a historic landmark. It boasts several great examples of Art Deco structures and is home to nine museums, a half-dozen performance stages, and North America’s largest ferris wheel. The Fair Park is also known for its Hall of State, a Beaux-Arts 1,500-foot esplanade constructed of limestone amid a long reflecting pool. The monument memorializes the heroes of Texas’ past. And standing 52 feet tall is the statue of the cowboy, Big Tex, wearing his bit hat and size 70 boots.

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