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If you’ve watched the TV series of the same name, you may expect Dallas – a city of 1.3 million that basks in balmy weather most of the year – to be all cowboy hats and big belts, dripping with oil. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike Houston, the economy here never revolved around oil. There are also fewer barbecue joints and honky-tonks than elsewhere in the Lone Star State. Residents of neighbouring Fort Worth like to joke that the much-romanticised American West begins with them because “the East peters out in Dallas” – a slight that betrays a hint of jealousy about Dallas’s international make-up.

Hop in a car, gawp at the glass-and-steel highrises of Downtown and ogle the space-age Reunion Tower, with a kitsch revolving restaurant at its top (itself not a culinary highlight). But there are surprises here, from the warehouses of the Design District in the northwest to the Arts District centred on the Dallas Museum of Art and Renzo Piano-designed Nasher Sculpture Center. Add in the shifting neighbourhoods of Lower Greenville and Oak Cliff – the latter home to the Bishop Arts District – and it’s clear that change is afoot. But Dallas – three hours’ drive from Austin – is also about the details: a neon sign here, a hole-in-the-wall taquería there and an art deco gem in the most unexpected of places.

Tale of two signs

The Pegasus sign – the symbol of the Magnolia Oil company – has long been an emblem of the Dallas skyline. Today there are two: a replica that sits atop the Magnolia Hotel and the restored original from 1934 in front of the Omni Dallas Hotel.

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