I am originally from Sweden, however, in the fall of 2000 we moved from Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas (we came from Sweden to Wisconsin January 1996). Dallas is located in Northern Texas and has 1.25 million inhabitants. The Dallas-Arlington-Forth Worth metropolitan area has 6.1 million inhabitants and it is the fourth largest metropolitan in the United States after New York-New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Dallas is a good city to live in. The economy is still fairly good and there are a lot of things to do for families with kids. In addition the cost of living is not too bad, and there are good shopping. There are also more then 10,000 restaurants in the Dallas Metroplex, which is more restaurants then there are in New York City. People are friendly, laid back, and down to earth, and slightly conservative. In this sense Dallas is different from both New York and Los Angeles in a way that pleases me. One thing that I like about Dallas is that even though Dallas is a big cosmopolitan city the country side is right outside the door. There are lakes, forests, prairie, good fishing, hiking, and hunting, and country folks just outside the city. However, unlike New York and Los Angeles, Dallas is not a great destination for tourists. There are not enough highly interesting attractions in Dallas and Dallas also have some dangers that people may be unaware of. I have had many overseas visitors coming to visit me, and I have shown them everything I think that Dallas has to offer and then I have taken them to Houston or San Antonio. Dallas is a lot better to live in then to visit as a tourist and therefore I can only give Dallas three stars as a "destination". In my opinion San Antonio, Houston, Galveston, and most likely Austin and Corpus Christi are more interesting cities in Texas for a tourist. I think that as a tourist destination Dallas is average for large American cities (like Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, etc.). For your information, Dallas, is often referred to as the "Big-D".
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The unexpected dangers of Big-D
One morning when I was on my way to work an 18-wheeler suddenly steered right into my lane. I quickly surveyed the other lanes and literally threw my car into a good spot in another lane. Had I been one second slower I would have been dead today. This kind of stuff had happened to me quite often on the Dallas highways and I was tired of it. I subsequently did something I very rarely do (once per decade, maybe), I gave the truck driver what is referred to as "the bird" when I passed him. In retrospect I should not have done that. About one minute later I see the truck in the rear mirror driving excessively fast and weaving in and out of the lanes behind me, and finally he catches up with me and the truck driver (having a crazed look in his face) throws his 18-wheeler across the road and tries to ram my car, on purpose this time. I got off the road and I called the police. Well that is the first unexpected danger of the Big-D, the trucks and truck drivers, which are probably among the worst ones in the world. Dallas is a major truck route hub for both Texas and the rest of the nation and the truck drivers often drive recklessly and very aggressively on the highways in the Dallas metropolitan, in all lanes by the way. More than one thousand trucks passes through Dallas every hour and there are typically around 500 fatalities in Texas caused by truck drivers every year. In the Dallas Morning News (Sept 18 2006) you can read "The Dallas-Fort Worth area is both an important hub for the nation's trucking companies and a crossroads in the movement of goods" and "The state consistently leads the nation in fatalities". The same article also states "When accidents occur, trucking companies defend their drivers and often blame the other vehicles - and in many cases the dead occupants - regardless of the evidence. They typically fight any release of information about their drivers and vehicles, and wage protracted legal battles to avoid blame". This is an unfortunate problem which neither visitors to Dallas or the residents of Dallas are happy about. The article also states that truck companies in Texas often hire criminals, illegal immigrants (with no driving license) and even drunks to keep the salaries low. For you as a visitor this means that driving on Dallas roads will present a special danger with regards to trucks that not you as a visitor may be unaware of.
In addition to the truck drivers Dallas also has other traffic problems. There are some bizarre road constructions going on and some highways can suddenly become so severely jammed that that you might get stuck for several hours. In downtown Dallas there are three highways that cross each other at the same point where there are also 3-4 down town street exist and one on-ramp entrance from a fourth highway (Dallas North Tollway). In this crazy mess many cars in the left lane of I-35E are trying to cross six lanes to get to the right lane in a very short distance, and there are many cars in the right lane which are trying to cross six lanes to get to the left lane in a very short distance, and then you have crazies who think that they can drive 80-90 miles per hour through this mess assuming that everyone else should watch out for them. On the I-30-I-35E intersection there are lanes merging into each other without any particular lane having the right away and naturally everyone thinks that they have the right away. Texas drivers are also not the best drivers and this fact has made some of the visitors that we have hosted wonder if the Texas driving licenses come in Cereal boxes; or something like that. The truth is that many Texas drivers don't even have a driving license. Texas roads are among the most dangerous in the nation, especially in Dallas. Watch out when you are driving in Dallas.
Dallas is a fairly modern city with a nice looking down town, a relatively good economy, high tech industries, and a lot of nice looking suburbs filled with affordable housing and not too expensive mansions. It does not look like a city that would have a lot of crime. In fact where I live, in northern Dallas (Dallas proper) it is very safe, however, in and around down town Dallas, especially the Oak Cliff area south west of down town Dallas, there are some very dangerous areas. Did you know that the Dallas crime index (9,328) is higher than that of Washington DC (7,175)? These are some selected crime statistics for a few major American cities (all data is per 100,000 inhabitants). This data is from the Times Almanac 2006. As you can see Dallas does have a problem. Dallas is hardly the worst city in the U.S. but it is far from a safe city, something many visitors do not expect.
Crime Index - 9,328
Murder rate - 18.4
Robbery -- 647
Aggravated Assault - 656
Motor Vehicle Theft - 1,416
Crime Index - 2,917
Murder rate - 7.4
Robbery -- 321
Aggravated Assault - 386
Motor Vehicle Theft -- 292
Crime Index - 4,809
Murder rate - 13.4
Robbery -- 432
Aggravated Assault - 795
Motor Vehicle Theft -- 874
Crime Index - ****
Murder rate - 20.6
Robbery -- 597
Aggravated Assault - 683
Motor Vehicle Theft -- 786
Crime Index - 7,054
Murder rate - 13.6
Robbery -- 538
Aggravated Assault - 586
Motor Vehicle Theft - 1,051
South Fork Ranch
As I stated already, Dallas does not have enough outstanding tourist attractions to be considered a good tourist destination. However, if you visit Dallas anyway there are still some tourist attractions that are worthy of a visit. One attraction that all my older overseas visitors greatly enjoyed was the South Fork Ranch located at 3700 Hogge Dr north of Dallas. For all of you old enough to know the TV series "Dallas" this might be a fun place to see. "Dallas" was the longest running and among the most successful soap operas in history and people all over the world was watching it. In Sweden people were glued to the TV set on Saturday night to watch "Dallas" despite the fact that "Dallas" was running several years behind "Dallas" in the United States. People in Europe found J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman), Bobby Ewing, Jock Ewing, Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal), Sue Ellen, Miss Ellie, to be incredibly fascinating people. I've encountered Swedish guys who were in love with Victoria Principal. Dallas supposedly took place at "South Fork Ranch" in Parker, Texas, north of Dallas, and some of it was recorded there (the rest was recorded in Hollywood). The episodes always began with a bird view of down town Dallas, and then it zoomed in on South Fork Ranch. My dad, my uncle, and an older German couple I was acquainted with, loved South Fork Ranch. They thought it was the best thing to see in Dallas.
However, there is actually not that much to it. South Fork is a small white mansion with some nice artifacts inside that you may recognize from the series. You can see Jock's car in the barn and some other "Dallas" things. Sometimes Larry Hagman came to visit. Despite the humble nature of this tourist attraction it seems to be a hit with older Europeans, and I stress "older". For younger visitors who have not seen "Dallas" this attraction would be incredibly boring.
The Sixth Floor Museum
The Sixth Floor Museum is probably the main attraction in Dallas, and liked by both older visitors and younger visitors (but to a lesser extent by younger visitors). It is located on the sixth floor of the book depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy on November 23 1963. The admission for an adult is $13.50, for youth and seniors $12.50, and for children $3.50. The museum is located down town (by the Dealey Plaza) and there is good parking nearby. I guess what makes the museum special is the emotion and the history of the place. You don't need to stay longer than an hour, however, if you are visiting the sixth floor museum for the first time it will have an impact on you. It even had an impact on me, and I am not even an American citizen and too young for this history to be part of my life. I have visited the sixth floor museum many times and every time it surprises me that people actually seem to want the assassination to be some sort of conspiracy. I guess it makes this history more interesting. I have no opinion on that issue since I do not know enough about it, and the museum does not seem to take a position on the issue either. However, I know that shooting someone from that window at that distance using a rifle with a scope, is something my eleven year old easily could do. Still people look out the window and exclaim, "Oh it is obvious it is impossible", "look at that distance, and look at those trees", forgetting that the trees were very small back in 1963 (which you clearly can see on the pictures on the walls). There are also conspiracy theory peddlers selling various items outside of the museum. It does not bother me, but I find all this excitement around conspiracy theories that are mere speculation somewhat curious. I can add that one of my older good friends here in Dallas was at the scene when it happened and in addition he knew both Mariana Oswald, and Jack Ruby, and he dated the daughter of the chief of police of Dallas at the time. He and his girlfriend accidentally got a hold of Jack Ruby's classified files but they found nothing weird in them except records of the drugs he had been taking before the assassination. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell on this issue but he does not believe in any conspiracies himself. In any case the Sixth floor museum is a small museum but it is another guaranteed hit, at least with an older overseas visitor.
Dallas World Aquarium
For younger visitors (kids) the Dallas World Aquarium down town Dallas is the best attraction in my opinion. The Dallas World Aquarium is a large indoor rainforest with lots of different aquariums and animal exhibits. It is not as big as the shedd aquarium in Chicago but it is clearly the best aquarium and indoor rainforest in northern Texas. They have anaconda snakes, crocodiles, manatees, birds, bats, penguins, insects, spiders, monkeys, and lots of different kinds of sea creatures in various aquariums, as well as a couple of restaurants. They recently extended the Dallas World Aquarium and it is much larger then it used to be. You can easily spend a few hours here with your kids, and they will have a good time. It is not far from the sixth floor museum so you could easily combine a trip to the sixth floor museum with a trip to the Dallas World Aquarium. There is always enough parking at the Dallas World Aquarium.
Fair Park and the arts district
The Fair Park is an area in Dallas South East of downtown Dallas which has several museums and other attractions. It is also a nice open park with a big turtle pond and art work scattered around and across the pond. You can also rent swan or duck shaped paddle boats and take a paddle ride on the pond. There is a Science museum (the Science Place) with an IMAX theater, a Natural History museum, a steam railroad museum, an African American museum, and an aquarium. None of these museums are particularly impressive; however, the Science Place is pretty good. You can easily spend a nice day with the kids down at the fair park. The Natural History museum is also decent but it is nothing compared to the Natural History Museum in, for example, Houston or Chicago. The fair park also has a concert hall where we sometimes go to watch plays or musicals. The arts district downtown Dallas is another destination geared more towards adults. The art museum in Dallas is pretty good and so is the Nasher sculpture center. One of the malls the North Park Mall also has a lot of art in it. If you are interested in art you should visit the arts district and the art museum.
The Dallas Zoo, Reunion Tower, American Airline Center, and other attractions
Dallas Zoo is a decent Zoo but it is not impressive enough for a large City like Dallas (in my opinion). I think the Fort Worth Zoo is a better Zoo, at least for the younger kids. The Reunion Tower offers a good view over Dallas, and the rotating restaurant at the top might be a fun place to visit (I thought it was OK). When my dad, brother, or uncle comes to visit me they want to see Dallas Stars playing Ice Hockey. The American Airlines Center downtown Dallas hosts the Ice Hockey and the Basketball games, as well as circuses, shows, and concerts. The football stadium is located in Irving a suburb to Dallas, and the new Dallas Cowboys football stadium is currently being built in Arlington, Texas, right next to the Texas Rangers baseball stadium. I happen to work in Arlington (suburb to Dallas) so I see the construction of the football stadium from my window. Dallas is also a good place to go and see a Rodeo. There is a big Rodeo in Mesquite and the Stockyards Rodeo show in Fort Worth which is 50 minutes from Dallas is very good. Walking down town Dallas can also be fun but is not recommended after hours.
In Arlington about 15-20 minutes West of Dallas you have Hurricane Harbor which is a fairly big water park which I do not recommend, and six flags over Texas an amusement park. I like Six Flags over Texas but again it is nothing spectacular, there are many amusement parks like it around the country. In my opinion the most interesting place to see in the Dallas area is Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie which is half an hour south of Dallas. Scarborough Faire is a renaissance festival held in April and May every year. It is very large and there are hundreds of booths and buildings, artisans, shops, elephant rides and camel rides for the kids, games, mazes, human chess, jousting, shows, and good food. The staff dresses up in various renaissance and medieval costumes, and there is plenty of entertainment for the kids. To read more about Scarborough Faire click here.
As mentioned Dallas has a lot of restaurants (10,000+), Texas steak houses, Mexican restaurants, Tex-Mex food, Sea Food restaurants (mostly Louisiana-gulf food), and international restaurants (Indian, French, German, Spanish, Brazilian, Colombian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Greek, Romanian, Swiss, Turkish, Peruvian, Belgian, Korean, Irish, Russian, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Tapas bars, and the list goes on). A few of my recommendations are Steve Pyles restaurant (expensive but good), Arco Doro Pomodoro a Sardinian restaurant down town Dallas, La Duni Latin Café, Three Forks, Chogo de Fao, Texas du Brazil and other Brazilian restaurants, Asian Mint, India Palace, Abacus, Benihana, Cantina Laredo, The French Room, Old Warzaw, Clay Pit, Simply Fondu, and the many Texas steak houses and chains. Recommended areas in Dallas to eat, visit pubs and jazz cafes, are Deep Ellum, and the Knox/Henderson area.
Conclusion and final recommendation
There are a lot of attractions in Dallas but nothing that you should come to Dallas for (in my opinion). There is no Sea World, no shedd aquarium, no large museums, no Sears Tower, no Disney theme park, no beaches, city night life is not the best, and there is not much culture. As a place to live I give Dallas four or five stars, but as a tourist destination it is average. In addition Dallas has problems with traffic (trucks) and crime. However, if you happen to visit Dallas then I suggest that you see some of the attractions that I have mentioned.
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Best Suited For: Families
Best Time to Travel Here: Mar - May