Dallas: Like No Place Else

From art and landmarks to sports and shopping, Dallas has it all.
By: Suzanne Marta
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Locals often boast first about Dallas as a great place to work and make money. Dallas is certainly a dynamic business town, but it also has a lot to offer visitors, whether you're interested in the arts and culture, shopping, sports or great food.

With the largest contiguous urban arts district in the country, Dallas is home to the Nasher Sculpture CenterDallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and soon the Dallas Opera and Dallas Theater Center.

A sizable number of megachurches are located in Dallas, notably The Potter's House, a nondenominational church of more than 30,000 members led by Bishop T.D. Jakes. The city, which boasts the sixth-largest gay population in the nation, is also the home of the Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ that is widely considered to be the world's largest predominantly gay and lesbian church.

Shopping is king in Dallas's NorthPark Center and the Galleria. For a taste of retail history — not to mention luxury — head to the Highland Park Village, which opened in 1931 and is noted as the first shopping center in America. Dallas is the hometown of the luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, whose downtown flagship store is still open for business.

Sports: Dallasites love sports, and there's no shortage of opportunities for them to pursue their passions. The Dallas Mavericks basketball team and the Dallas Stars hockey team play at the American Airlines Center downtown. Major League baseball's Texas Rangers play at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The world-famous Dallas Cowboys are based at a new $1.1 billion stadium in Arlington. Soccer fans head to Pizza Hut Park to watch FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn) MLS soccer team.

Fine dining is a whole other kind of sport here: celebrity chefs such as Fearing's Dean Fearing, Abacus's Kent Rathburn and Stephan Pyles create innovative cuisines, and recent newcomers have included restaurants by Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Palmer. Tourism boosters here boast that Dallas has more four- and five-star restaurants than even New Orleans. With only a few exceptions, Dallas's easygoing spirit reigns, and although jackets aren't required at most places, if you're going to wear jeans, make sure they're nice ones.

Here are some places you shouldn't miss in Dallas:

Learn about the JFK assassination: Dallas became infamous as the the city that "killed JFK," who was shot in his motorcade from a sixth floor window in the Texas School Book Depository. You can pore over historical documents and analysis of evidence at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, or you can walk around the famous "grassy knoll" and hear some of the conspiracy tales from local hawkers. Don't miss the museum's seventh floor, which has rotating special exhibitions.

Relive Dallas: Fans of the popular TV series can step inside Southfork Ranch, home of the famed Ewing Mansion. Visitors can see the gun that shot J.R., Lucy's wedding dress and Jock Ewing's original 1978 Lincoln Continental and watch video clips from the series and interviews with the stars. The ranch also houses herds of Texas longhorns and American quarter horses. Facilities are also available for private events, in case you'd like to throw your own Dallas party.

Celebrate women at The Women's Museum: An Institute for the Future: At the Smithsonian affiliate museum at Dallas Fair Park, which opened in 2000 to showcase women's history, thousands of stories help to weave a rich picture of women's contributions, struggles and triumphs. Don't miss the Electronic Quilt, a 30-foot-tall matrix of 35 "squares" that include photos, quotes and video cubes.

See the sky in a new way: The Nasher Sculpture Center's outdoor garden is well worth a sunny afternoon, although you may get a sore neck from looking up at Jonathan Borofsky's Walking to the Sky. And don't miss James Turrell's Tending (Blue), which was commissioned for the garden and offers an interesting "frame" for the sky, especially at sunset or nighttime. Located at the far end of the garden, the entrance to the installation can be easy to miss.

Cowboy chic, new and old: Need some custom-made ware for some cowboy street cred? Head to Wild Bill's Western Store in Dallas's historic West End. Hats here are measured and shaped to your taste. Boots can be customized, made to measure or designed by hand. Thinking something with a more contemporary edge (say, cowboy boots with pink-bow-wearing skulls and crossbones)? Try Cowboy Cool at West Village.

Head to one of the biggest state fairs in the country: Dallas's Fair Park, with its collection of historic Art Deco buildings, hosts the State Fair of Texas for more than three weeks each year, starting at the end of September. Fairgoers make a pilgrimage to the Fletchers for their famous corny dogs, and the fair has an annual fried-food contest that always results in some inventive concoctions (fried Coke or mac and cheese, anyone?). If you plan to meet friends, the place to go is Big Tex, a 52-foot-tall talking cowboy that is one of the most recognizable symbols of the fair. At sunset, take a ride on the Texas Star, the largest Ferris wheel in the Southwest.

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