“Hello old friend,” I whisper to the cityscape looming closer through the thick glass of my airplane window. I’ve never lived in Dallas, Texas, but I’ve spent dozens of weekends there enjoying time with family, or friends, or friends I consider family. So, I’ve done all the things Dallas is known for: Six Flags over Texas, Dallas Cowboys Football Games, The Galleria, SMU, Fort Worth Zoo, Dallas World Aquarium, Fair Park, and Fort Worth Stockyards.
And yes, some of DFW’s appeal has worn thin. But I still have family-friends that lure me back a few times each year. So how does one make an old city new again?
Book a Hotel Outside the City Center
This past month my little family of three booked a few nights at the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront, about 20 miles northeast of Downtown Dallas. The area had a small town feel, but is still located within the sprawling Texas metropolis. It provided us with a gateway to all the draw of the city on the west, and progressively smaller towns with their quaint shops to the east. It is sort of like two vacations in one.
Find Independent Dining
I adhere to one very strict rule: no chain restaurants. For the most part, I eat out when I travel. Sure, I could book an extended stay hotel and save money by cooking for myself, but who wants to do dishes on vacation?
Since I have a social network in the area I benefit from the knowledge of the locals. Otherwise I might have never found out about Bread Winners Cafe, where they serve cinnamon rolls the size of one’s head. Their California Turkey Club is slightly smaller, but just as amazing.
I’ve known about Bread Winners for a few years now, but this last trip I was introduced to China Royal, where you can watch a happy chef make the noodles from scratch, and Zanatas. Words fail me when it comes to describing the crab-stuffed avocados or their flourless chocolate cake served with gelato. I understand if those last five words were enough for you to book a trip.
Seek Out Local Events
There are the usual (highly advertised) suspects — concerts, ballets, state fairs — but there are also small-scale happenings that cater to more specific interests. Make a group reservation for Paint Nite or get to know the city’s true nature on a guided nature hike or geocaching adventure. For my next trip I’m totally gonna snag tickets to a Social Science mystery night at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Come on, it is a museum, science, murder, and beer ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
Remember You Are On Vacation!
You know: a break, time off, respite. In other words, you have set aside time to do enjoyable things, including those you never get around to doing at home. There is no law saying you have to do travel-specific activities while you are traveling (except, of course, my rule about chain restaurants). When at home we could go ice skating, shopping, or to the movies. But we don’t typically. I could schedule a massage or a facial in my home town, but I prefer to sleep during the spare hours I find between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am. But when I’m on vacation…
Speaking of that last tip, I also give you permission to do a few other vacation-enhancing things:
- Go ahead and order the expensive wine for at least one of your meals.
- Also order dessert.
- Be sedentary for a spell — take a nap, read, float in the pool. JUST RELAX ALREADY!
I’ve never dreaded going to Dallas, but it has been a long time since I was ready to go back before I’d even left. This time, though, as my plane barreled down the runway, I bid my old friend goodbye glad to know I’d be back to do more.
Photo Credits: FraukeFeind, author, Yelp Inc., and rhythmuswege.