Posted on August 22, 2016 by Janet Steinberg
Dallas, Texas: The Big D

Part 1 of a series


Many decades ago, when I first visited Dallas, the “Big D” stood for drab, dull, dreary, Dallas.  It was a city where you had to go on business, or to change planes for a trip to Mexico.  It was certainly not a city where you would ever plan to go for a vacation.   Today, the “Big D” might stand for a different destination… dynamic by day and dazzling by night.  You can play cowboy or princess, art critic or gourmand…the choice is yours for the asking in Dallas, Texas. 



“Little D” had its beginnings in 1841, as a trading post on a knoll overlooking the Trinity River. The small settlement established by John Neely Bryan soon consisted of 300 inhabitants.   When Bryan chose the site for the city it had no mountains, no seaport, and a non-navigable river.  However, what it did have was the allure of wide-open spaces, with lots of room to spread out.   The small log structure, located downtown on the Dallas County Historical Plaza, is a reconstructed model of the home and trading post erected in 1841 by Dallas founder John Neely Bryan.





And, as we now know, Dallas did spread out…in spades!   Today, the “Big D” is the 9th largest city in the United States with approximately 1.3 million people calling it home.  Finding things to do in this dynamic cosmopolitan city is not a problem. 


First on most visitors’ list is Dealey Plaza, the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza is a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became famous following the assassination.  The knoll is bounded by the former Texas School Book Depository Building, from which it was concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the rifle that killed President Kennedy.   The John F Kennedy Memorial is a four-wall cenotaph, an open tomb designed by Philip Johnson, a friend of the Kennedy family. 






Thanks-Giving Square is a beautiful three-acre garden, chapel and museum in the heart of downtown Dallas. The garden, in a setting meant to inspire gratitude, is an oasis set apart from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The chapel, designed by world-famous architect Philip Johnson, has a unique spiral exterior and an interior spiral of 73 stained-glass panels created by French artist Gabriel Loire. The museum is a rare compilation of historical documentation around Thanksgiving, as it takes place all over the world, but especially in the United States. The entrance to the chapel is at the end of a 125-foot-bridge that runs over a cascading waterfall. 





The Old Red Courthouse, which was built in 1892, houses the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture.  There are four terra cotta winged serpents, two of which are original, perched atop the building. 






The Nasher Sculpture Center is one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world. The 55,000-square-foot space is enclosed by a glass façade, providing continuous views from the street, through the building and across the length of the 1.4-acre outdoor gallery and garden. 





Whether you are a shopper or a history buff, a stop at Neiman Marcus Department Store (originally Neiman-Marcus) is a must.  The store opened in 1907 with the singular purpose of bringing the finest merchandise available in the markets of the world to the discerning customer.  A few hours in this century-old luxury specialty department store is at the top of every shopaholic’s bucket list. 


“The stars at night, are big and bright…  “ So goes the opening line from the song Deep in the Heart of Texas.  And, when evening arrives, a starry nightlife thrives deep in the heart of Dallas.  Night owls can roost at a myriad of spots from honky-tonk Country Western Bars to swanky upscale lounges.  However, nothing beats capping of your evening with a nightcap and a 360-degree panoramic view of Dallas at the GeO-deck at Reunion Tower.  Nicknamed "The Ball," the 1978 sphere-topped tower is Dallas' most iconic structure.  The Tower, that soars 470-feet up in the air, was featured in the opening credits of the TV show Dallas




Sophisticated evening entertainment can be enjoyed in the many architecturally splendid venues located in the AT&T Performing Arts Center that has been hailed as the most significant performing arts center built since Lincoln Center in New York City.  Included among the Center’s venues are: The Kalita Humphreys Theater, a historic theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Being one of Wright's last completed creations (1959), the theater is today one of Dallas' architectural highlights.  The only theater design by Wright, the building has been termed an “architectural shrine”.  


Other venues include : The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, one of five Dallas buildings designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei; The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, a traditional horseshoe shaped facility that was engineered specifically for opera and musical theater performances; and the iconic Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre that is one of the most versatile theatrical performing spaces in the world.  The theatre’s Potter Rose Performance Hall can be shaped into a number of configurations, including thrust, proscenium or flat floor.




Wherever I go in the world, I am drawn to the architecture of the prominent neo-futuristic Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.  Calatrava’s Trinity River Project, that will ultimately consist of a series of three sister bridges, continues to positively impact the city and the Dallas skyline. The first two creations: The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (2012) and the soon-to-be complete neighboring Margaret McDermott Bridge (2017) are already leaving their mark on Dallas. When the third bridge is erected, Dallas will be one of two cities in the world showcasing three Calatrava bridges. 




“Big D” is an exciting big city with small town hospitality…a city where booted urban cowboys jostle their Jags in-between pickup trucks.  “In Dallas,” it has been said,  “it hardly matters…here or there or almost anywhere you go…the whole place is studded with a kind of golden ambiance.” 





JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer/Editor and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio

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