Dallas has a car culture. On my first visit to the city, I refused to give into it, opting instead for public transport. I had a good time on my self-guided Dallas sightseeing tour, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the city was spread out enough that having a car would have been helpful.
My second visit to Dallas, which came on my way home from Chile, was very different. It happened to fall on a Sunday, when my generous friend Emily offered to show me around her city by car.
I arrived in Dallas at 7am after a 10-hour flight from Santiago. Dizzy with sleep, I dragged myself into the Admirals Club at DFW airport, took a shower, and caught up on emails in the lounge.
At 9:30am Emily pulled up outside of baggage claim and I hopped into her car. In what felt like 30 seconds we were downtown, and heading to her boyfriend Jamie’s apartment. It was a very different experience than my previous trip to Dallas, when I took the much slower bus and train from the airport to the city.
At 11am, Emily, Jamie, and I again got in the car and drove to meet some of their friends for brunch at a restaurant called State & Allen. It had been months since I had last eaten a true American brunch, and I was excited to discover what unique twists Dallas would put on the meal.
The standard fare was all there. Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys quickly filled the table, and American brunch staples dotted the large menu page. But there were also some great Southern and Texan specials, including several dishes with biscuits and gravy, and my Tex-Mex favorite, chilaquiles.
Soon the food arrived and the conversation covered everything from popular TV shows to the entire table’s shock when I told them that there was a way to get from DFW to downtown Dallas without ever setting foot in a car.
After brunch Emily’s friend Dave, a Dallas native, offered to take me, Emily, and Jamie on our own personal Dallas sightseeing tour. In a car. Naturally.
As we drove from State & Allen to downtown Dallas, I began to see why the Texans were so fond of their motor vehicles. It was easy to get around, street parking was plentiful, and not all of Dallas’ main attractions were close to one another. It also didn’t hurt that the driver knew the area well.
Our first stop in Dallas was perhaps the most famous sightseeing destination in the city: the JFK memorial. As we got out of the car, Dave pointed out the route along which President John F. Kennedy’s car was driving on the day he was fatally shot in 1963. An X marked the spot on the road where he was first hit.
On the corner, the building from which his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, fired the tragic shots, still stood. Even the grassy knoll, around which many conspiracy theories about a second gunman swirl, was marked by a rather irreverent yellow sign.
Next to the street was the Sixth Floor Museum, which was dedicated to the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. One block away was the JFK Memorial Plaza, which featured a large stone monument to the fallen head of state.
When we were done paying homage to our country’s history, we climbed back into the car and continued our Dallas sightseeing tour. Our next stop was an outdoor sculpture consisting of a cowboy and his herd of cattle.
Hordes of young cheerleaders (yes, the Texas cheerleading stereotype seemed to prove very true that day) worked diligently to climb on top of the sculptures to pose for photos. Unfortunately a few of their parents thought it would be fun to do the same. The results were less than tasteful.
Moving on, we stopped quickly to see the first Neiman-Marcus in America. The high-end department store was founded in Dallas, and now enjoys a national reputation as a purveyor of luxury fashion. Although its window displays were up to the company’s haute standards, the Sunday closure meant that we didn’t get a chance to see if the inside was too.
From there we drove to the spacious parking lot of the Nasher Sculpture Center. After parking the car, we walked across the street to the museum. On the way I noticed a sculpture of a man sitting high up on a raised platform. It was the same one that I had seen many of in the Place Massena in Nice last October. Small world.
We visited the Nasher to check out the Alexander Calder exhibition, which featured many of the artist’s famous works. The real highlight, though, was the sculpture garden outside. The garden had a number of works that we liked, but the unanimous favorite was James Turrell’s Tending, (Blue).
Housed in black granite blocks, the “skyspace” sculpture formed a small square room with a large square hole cut into the ceiling. After passing through a lighted entry way, we could sit on a bench that lined the perimeter of the room and look up at the sky as interior lights changed with the atmosphere. The effects were so mesmerizing that none of us could take her or his eyes off the sky.
When we finally left Tending, (Blue), we had coffee and a giant Texas-size chocolate chip cookie at the museum cafe. Afterwards it was time for me to head back to the airport. Dave generously offered to drop me off, and a quick half an hour later I was back in the lounge, pre-flight glass of wine in hand.
Reflecting on my two very different days in Dallas, I had to admit that Dallas had a car culture for a reason. Although I didn’t mind taking the train from DFW to Dallas, it was easier to get around by car than it had been by public transport. But the real advantage on my second Dallas sightseeing tour wasn’t just the vehicle. It was the friends that had taken me around their city and showed me the best of Dallas. Car or no, I would have enjoyed my day with them immensely.