Don’t go to Dallas during a heat wave.
That’s probably super obvious advice to anyone who’s been to Dallas during a heat wave, but if you haven’t here’s the deal: in a Texas heatwave when there’s a breeze it’s not a relief. Oh no. It’s like being inside a convection oven where the breeze simply brings more heat.
And with that, let’s get on to my not-so-timely musings about Dallas.
What’s Dallas like?
Physically, downtown Dallas reminds me a lot of downtown Los Angeles — the oldest buildings are from the same era, the sidewalks are nice and wide, and there are freeways criss-crossing the area.
In terms of the people, they are by and large “city folk” who are not reflective of the general Texas population. You’re not going to find many people with thick Texas accents, and plenty of them (gasp!) don’t even own a pickup truck.
Oddly, many of the locals seemed blissfully unaware of some of the hidden gems in their own city, including a somewhat well hidden mall (more on that later.)
Call it morbid, but one of the bigger tourism draws in Dallas is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the above photos, the one that looks like an oversized bathroom stall is the JFK memorial. It’s meant as a quiet reflection area. The brick building is the School Book Depository Building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired two bullets from a window on the sixth floor (on the right, second window down from the top.) The two spots where JFK was shot are marked by big Xs on the street.
Oh and before anyone says “grassy knoll!” I should mention that when you see it in person, it’s plainly obvious that if someone fired a gun from there, the bullet would have been traveling in the wrong direction. So there’s that.
First Baptist Church of Corporate America
When I first spotted the complex of buildings known as First Baptist Church, I thought it was a bank. In my defense, it looks like a series of office buildings and there are plenty of banks that have “First” in their name. Yet apparently this is the largest “megachurch” in the region.
Now I’m not religious at all but I can’t even begin to imagine wanting to spend my Sunday mornings in an office building. What next, eating Sunday brunch in a cubical?
The main public transit operator in Dallas is DART, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Really creative name, wonder where they got the idea. They have a fairly decent light rail system that goes to and from downtown, and even connects to the Dallas Fort Worth airport. But it’s largely a bus system. Although it could use more frequent service, their app is pretty good and makes it easy to pay for rides. One unique feature they have are AM and PM tickets, valid for either the first half or second half of the day.
In downtown Dallas there’s also a free historic streetcar line called the M-Line Trolley operated by McKinney Avenue Transit Authority. These vary quite a lot from typical PCC streetcars to custom streetcars made of wood.
Mercifully, all the public transit I experienced in Dallas had air conditioning. Your mileage may vary.
AT&T Discovery District
The company currently calling itself AT&T — formerly known as Southwestern Bell or SBC — is now headquartered in Dallas. This headquarters consists of several buildings connected by a big public plaza and includes a food court, a 3D model of the AT&T logo, an AT&T store, and the original Spirit of Communication statue with its big gold penis.
The food court is pretty pricey though they do have a lot of options, including a full bar. Be aware that it’s a strictly cashless affair.
The “secret” mall
The downtown Marriott is actually a collection of seemingly unrelated buildings connected by a massive atrium. Inside that atrium is a small and apparently struggling two story mall. Since the Marriott mainly caters to business travelers, this impressive space seems to largely escape the radar of locals.
Of the five or so locals I asked about this place, only one recognized the above photo. None of them could tell me what it’s called. It’s not even marked on Google Maps.
I stayed at an Airbnb located in the old Statler Hotel, a very retro 1950’s building that was partially converted into apartments, and a chunk of those apartments were then converted to Airbnbs by Sonder. Everything that’s old is new again, right?
Well, sort of: these apartments feature in-unit laundry and full kitchens, perfect if you’re traveling light and/or on a budget. I had a couple frozen pizzas and did my laundry twice. And the view (see above photo) was fantastic.
Some of the tours I had booked were unfortunately cancelled due to the heat, but here are the two I went on.
- ExperienceFirst Dallas Highlights Tour: This is a long, detailed tour that covers a lot of ground in downtown Dallas. Many of the places I visited in Dallas — including places in this post — I found out about while on this tour. I did this tour on my first day in Dallas and would highly recommend doing the same. It’s a great intro to the city.
- Dallas Terrors Ghost Tour: Covering some of the less savory aspects of Dallas’ history, this somewhat short tour touches on both the JFK assassination as well as an unfortunate history of lynchings that occurred in downtown Dallas. It’s reasonably priced, though they do offer ghostly upsells as well as a pub crawl option for those inclined.