Easy Escapes: Dallas

Victoria Moss heads to Texas to shop, feast and catch some art in fine Southern style

Victoria Moss heads to Texas to shop, feast and catch some art in fine Southern style

Why go? If you thought Dallas was just about big hats, big hair and cowboys, then think again. This cosmopolitan city is chock-full of high fashion, history, the arts and, frankly, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. If you find New York too hectic and LA a bit kooky, then check in here and bag yourself some good ol’-fashioned Southern charm.

Dallas: not just a famous TV series © DCVB

When? The high summer heat is outrageous, so really spring or autumn are ideal. Gorgeous sunny days are perfect for exploring and shopping without your shoes getting melted to the sidewalk.

You really must: Hire a car (and if you want to blend in – get as big a truck as you can find). This is a typically American, widely-spaced city, so forget walking. Just make sure to get a sat-nav and it’ll be super-easy to find your way around. Do note that the freeways are toll roads – check with your car hire provider as to how they incorporate these charges.

The first place to head has to be the JFK Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (jfk.org). Stand by the grassy knoll and look onto the frankly mundane strip of street where one of the most infamous assassinations in history took place. It’s quite extraordinary. The exhibition itself, inside what was the School Book Depository building, is housed on the floor where Lee Harvey Oswald (for those on board with the official version of events) took his shot. You can stand feet away from where he did, and look down onto the road where two rather morbid Xs mark the spots where the bullets hit. The exhibition is thoughtful, measured and quite affecting: the reams of footage and photography from the day (22 November 1963), plus methodical and careful exploration of the politics and events leading up to the assassination, is quietly outstanding.

Learn about one of the defining moments in US history at the JFK Sixth Floor Museum © DCVB

After that, you’ll probably want a bit of light relief. In this part of town you’re not far from West Village (westvillagedallas.com), a fun hive of cool shops and chic little bars and eateries, plus a Magnolia cinema (think Everyman). If you want to shop then Dallas is not short of opportunities. For your J Crews, Victoria Secrets and Alexa Chung-favourite Madewell the easiest spot to head is NorthPark Center (northparkcenter.com) – a huge mall which has everything from the aforementioned to Louis Vuitton and Gucci. For more mega-luxe brands in a quainter setting, go to the adorable Highland Park Village (hpvillage.com). Amongst Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent and DVF you’ll find great lunch spots (try Bistro 31, bistro31dallas.com) as well as quirky gift stores.

The cross-road area at Knox Henderson is not dissimilar to Melrose Avenue in LA. Designer boutique Forty Five Ten (fortyfiveten.com) is worth checking out – even if you’re not in the market for Celine (any self-respecting Dallas lady’s preferred high fashion store), do stop for lunch – the peoplewatching is just as good as the yummy salads. Further up are cute vintage stores Art is Art (artisart.biz – more furniture than clothes) and Pandemonium (pandemoniumltd.com). It’s also impossible to come away empty-handed from the exceptional Dolly Python Vintage (dollypythonvintage.com – a bit of a schlep but worth it). If you’re after vintage cowboy shirts/boots plus everything from 50s prom dresses to old badges and taxidermy this is a palace of discovery.

Once you’ve fried your brain exploring the retail opportunities, move on to Dallas’s incredible art scene. The wealth here is off the chart (it’s home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other US city) and art collecting is serious business. Try and get an appointment to see the private Rachofsky Collection at The Warehouse (thewarehousedallas.org), while the Goss Michael Foundation (gossmichaelfoundation.org), co-owned by George Michael, has a great collection of Brit artists (think Tracey Emin, Hirst and the Chapman brothers). Head to the Dallas Arts District (dallasartsdistrict.org) for inspiring architecture as well as the epic Dallas Museum of Art (dm-art.org).

Shop then drop: the pool at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek © DCVB

Stay at: For easy access to the city and efficient service, the Rosewood Crescent Hotel (from £240, rosewoodhotels.com) is conveniently situated at the bottom of the Arts District. It’s a little on the corporate side, but the spa is excellent. A sister residence, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek (from £240, rosewoodhotels.com) is quite something else and you can’t do much better if you want indulgent surroundings. Set in a huge period property, it’s all thick damask, homely furnishings and grand entrances. If you’re not staying, go to the Mansion Restaurant Terrace for supper to sit in the candlelit courtyard and be spoilt rotten. For something altogether more modern (and cheaper) try Hotel Lumen (from £164, hotellumen.com).

Dine at: For a big blow-out meal Fearing’s (fearingsrestaurant.com) at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas hotel is a treat. Sit at the bar, chat to the waiters and chefs in the open kitchen, and go mad on delicious surf-and-turf washed down with a mean martini. You can’t leave the South without maxing out your daily calorie allowance on some Tex Mex: there are plenty of options, but locals love El Ranchito (elranchito-dallas.com).

Flying into Dallas is just the start…

Onwards: After you’ve done Dallas, get out of the city and onto the road – you’re in America after all. If you feel like you need a proper good bit of cowtown stop at Fort Worth for rodeos and as much cowboy paraphernalia as you can fit in the trunk. For an altogether different experience, head to arty Austin, the hippie capital of the South and home of epic music conference South by South West (7-16 March, sxsw.com) – if it’s live music you’re after, this is the place.

Book now: British Airways (ba.com) has direct flights from London Heathrow to Dallas, from £599 return in March. On 3 March the airline launches direct flights from the same airport to Austin, from £519 return.

Info: Get in the mood by watching JFK and Bonnie and Clyde, both filmed here. Texas (£15.99; Lonely Planet) is an up-to-date guide, and see visitdallas.com and traveltex.com.

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