Recently, the folks at NASA released a satellite photo of Dallas-Fort Worth. From outer space, DFW looks like a colossal nebula. From ground level, that’s what DFW is, too: Grandly sprawling but anchored by distinct communities, DFW is made up of several individual stars that shine brightly on their own; yet, taken as a whole, they form one giant light. Considering the grandness of the region and the variety of what it has to offer, such a metaphor is essential. How else can one describe a place large enough to make room for its cowpoke tradition and its globalist future?Both towns overflow with variety, and such symbiotic fusing of disparate cultures is what sets DFW apart.In Dallas, for example, you’ll find honky-tonks right next door to alternative music venues. Just to the west, denizens of Fort Worth might dine on a humble chicken-fried steak in the old Stockyards, then hustle downtown afterward to see the opera at the resplendent Bass Hall. You want rodeos? We’ve got them. You want shopping worthy of Rodeo Drive? We’ve got that, too.
Both towns overflow with variety, and such symbiotic fusing of disparate cultures is what sets DFW apart. What this means for a visitor is being ready for tradition and surprise—you’d better bring your blue jeans and your little black dress. No matter where you choose to wear them, you’ll find things in DFW are bright indeed.
When to Go
North Texas is at its best during autumn. This time of year, the prairie’s ample, mature oak, maple, and pecan trees blaze with color, and the smell of burning mesquite logs fills the air as the weather gets colder. Fall also marks the beginning of football season. It may sound silly to the uninitiated, but the sport lends the air an extra crackle as high school, college, and pro teams kick off their seasons. The weather is generally crisp but comfortable. Spring is also a lovely time here. Moderate temperatures and the hint of summer in the air encourage outdoor activities and several open-air festivals. Many visitors love the mild winters, but the leafless trees and dead grass come off as somewhat stark. Most of all, however, make all attempts to avoid the scorching heat of summer if you can.
Where to Go
Anchored by a cluster of skyscrapers, the central part of Dallas is where you’ll find all the perks of the big city, along with a number of historical sights. Downtown Dallas also encompasses the Arts District, home of world-class visual and performing arts, alongside the more laid-back, historic West End.
The denizens of Uptown tend to fall into three categories: gay, upwardly mobile, or some combination of the two. This is a part of town where you’re most likely to find the trendiest food, clothes, drinks, and entertainment. Some of it is quite charming, especially the older high- and mid-rise apartments you’ll find flanking lush Turtle Creek and the bars and clubs that make up the “gayborhood” off Oak Lawn Avenue. Other parts are a bit plastic, though with all the amenities and the high concentration of fancy joints, it’s hard to complain.
Butting up against the busy concrete bustle of Uptown and the vibrant Oak Lawn party scene, Park Cities is an opulent oasis of giant houses, Lexus SUVs, and exclusive shopping centers (and the home of former president George W. Bush). This is the best place to go if you need the latest Chanel bag or a unique (and probably expensive) gift.
Lower Greenville Avenue is the central artery that connects the patchwork of neighborhoods and aesthetics that make up this area. On the southeastern end of the street, you’ll find the outer edges of Lakewood, which is populated by an improbable combination of yuppies and hipsters, lured by beautiful older houses and bungalows. They are also lured by their proximity to the heart of Lower Greenville, long a raucous, popular destination for nightlife, dining, and shopping, although lately it’s suffered a downturn.
East Dallas has almost always been the bastion of Dallas’s funky, edgy population. Shaded by tons of old oak trees, the neighborhoods here are charming and old-school, though there are definitely some rough edges. Deep Ellum—long the epicenter of Dallas’s music scene—is perhaps the most well-known neighborhood here, with its low-slung redbrick clubs, restaurants, and shops, but hipster Expo Park and the more family-oriented Lakewood have plenty of shopping, food, and entertainment to offer.
Long a troubled, blighted area, South Dallas has experienced quite a renaissance lately. Fine-dining establishments now stand where crumbling warehouses once did, and a number of old hotels and structures have been rehabbed into new, hip watering holes and down-home restaurants, with stunning views of the downtown skyline and the surrounding refurbished homes. The Bishop Arts area is particularly hopping, especially on weekend nights when young revelers, queer folks, and hip families stroll the streets and peer into the cute, unique boutiques before grabbing dinner.
Irving, Grand Prairie, Plano, Frisco—the greater Dallas area contains many a suburb and “mid-city,” as the towns between Fort Worth and Dallas are known. Usually rivals, citizens of both Dallas and Fort Worth used to agree on one thing: their mutual disdain for the greater Dallas area and its “boring” suburban feel. Nowadays, however, as these small cities continue to grow and make a name for themselves, city dwellers actually view them as sports, food, recreation, and shopping destinations.
Downtown Fort Worth
It’s almost hard to swallow, but downtown Fort Worth just might be giving the Stockyards district a run for its money when it comes to attracting revelers, at least on weekends, when the streets come alive with partiers, shoppers, diners, and music lovers. The center of all the activity is about 20 square blocks of renovated, refurbished, and renewed city center called Sundance Square.
TCU and Vicinity
The acres upon hilly acres upon which stately Texas Christian University now sits were once the hinterland. Now, they’re prime real estate, just down the road from the Cultural District and minutes from downtown. Yet, thanks to the university, the area has its own distinct personality: The crisp, green lawns of the school, the lights of a new football stadium, and a good concentration of clubs, bars, and hangouts lend the neighborhood a perpetually collegiate air.
West Side Fort Worth
In many ways, Western Fort Worth is the heart of the city. Many year-round activities and festivals take place in this section of town, and this is the part where culture reigns supreme, be it in the form of world-renowned museums or a wide variety of food and shopping. Most recently, the area around Foch Street and West 7th Avenue has erupted with life; where there once sat tepidly design 1970s buildings, old leathercraft warehouses, and boring offices, now you’ll find bars, restaurants, and boutiques.
Greater Fort Worth
No other part of town reflects Fort Worth’s history more genuinely than in the North Side Forth Worth area, which embraces the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The Stockyards continue to maintain old traditions with wooden sidewalks, brick streets, and a daily, real-live cattle drive that attracts tourists and locals alike. Glen Rose and Grapevine are beautiful, full of nature, country air, and fun activities. Arlington is the ultimate mid-city, made up of mostly concrete and gargantuan-scale tourist attractions, which happen to be some of the best in the world, including the Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Dallas & Fort Worth.