Big thanks to CityPASS for the swag and for helping me get so much out of my short time in Dallas. As always, all opinions are my own and I will never promote something I don’t personally use and believe in, regardless of who foots the bill.
Soo… what is Dallas all about? I wanna say… cowboys? But also mavericks. And Cubans! Mark Cubans, that is. Texas tea. It’s where somebody shot J.R. and also J.F.K. ⇠ One of them we know who dunnit, the other we don’t. I think it’s obvious everything I knew about Dallas before last week I learned either from SportsCenter or Nick at Nite.
But after just 1 day in Dallas I can finally say I know a little bit more–all thanks to Bill O’Reilly, the Dallas CityPASS, the folks at E-Z Rent-a-Car, and my husband who let me hitch a ride to Texas for his work conference. Go team!
Never turning down the opportunity to cram as much of a new city as I can into an impossibly short amount of time, I laced up my Converses and strapped on some cojones. I spent one sweat-filled day and three beer-filled nights in Dallas, during one of which no one wore pants.
WHAT IS THE CITYPASS?
Maybe you noticed the CityPASS banner show up on my sidebar a couple of weeks ago. Or maybe you are actually busy with important life stuff and you don’t stop by every day. I get it; those toes aren’t going to pedicure themselves.
CityPASS is a booklet that includes entry tickets to a city’s top attractions sold as a bundle for a mega-reduced price. We’re talking significant savings; not just a couple of dollars here and there. This isn’t the Valpak. We’re not old ladies over here clipping coupons for hand cream and Dr. Scholl’s inserts. We’re the cool kids and we’ve got places to go and beers to drink.
CityPASS booklets are currently available for:
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Southern California
- Tampa Bay
- and Toronto
…and I plan on checking out every single one. Yes, even Boston where I live now and have talked about going to all those attractions but haven’t. And Tampa where I used to live and never made it to any of those either… well, except for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where I used to de-beak squids for the sea turtles. I’ve lived many lives.
The Dallas CityPASS offers admission to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza OR the Dallas Zoo, and either the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden OR the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum with a savings of 41%.
WHY I LOVE CITYPASS
With only 1 day in Dallas, the CityPASS is perfect for the way I travel.
- Umm, you heard me on the big savings thing, right?
- When you have limited time in a city, not having to wait in ticket lines is priceless!
- You have 9 days from the first visit to use the tickets. I used them all in one–call me an overachiever, fine. Just don’t call me unambitious.
- You often get a choice of attractions you can visit.
- All your admission tickets are in one handy booklet.
- The CityPASS booklet contains vital information like opening hours/phone numbers/websites, a city map of all attractions, discounts to the chosen sites you don’t visit, other local coupons, and gift shop discounts.
- You can buy online ahead of time or at any of the participating locations when you get there.
- Because it just makes life (and travel) so much easier. It’s the electric can opener of speedy travel. Or that thin rubber circle that helps me open jars. So simple!
Here’s how I used my CityPASS for…
1 DAY IN DALLAS
Yes, I saw all the Dallas CityPASS sights (and then some) in one very hot but ridiculously fun day. To follow in my footsteps you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes (simple Converses always do the job for me), hydrate your brains out, eat fried chicken for lunch, hydrate some more, and rent your own vehicle. (If you want my professional opinion, I go with E-Z Rent-a-Car for their super affordable prices and wicked friendly staff I’ve never had to shout at over the counter at the airport. That means a lot, actually.)
When I’m speed-traveling, nothing is more helpful to my cause than having my own car. Besides being pretty crappy most of the time, public transportation is unreliable and so slooow. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I don’t trust Uber and I like to be 100% in control. I can pick it up at the airport and get my ass moving. Plus, I’ll be hitting up two more cities in two more days and, here in the US of A, renting my own car is the only way to get it done. It’s also the only way to experience those posted 85 MPH Texas highway speed limits.
I’ll skip past the airport arrival, the hotel check-in (I stayed at the Hilton Anatole, btw), and breakfast because that’s just a given. On to more fun things and much, much learning!
DALLAS ARBORETUM & BOTANICAL GARDEN
Pretty flowers. A gazillion bees. So much water I was constantly tempted to jump in. Haha, a duck butt. Oooh Hell, it’s hot. Don’t wear black. ⇠ a summary of my morning at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden. Basically I was sweating so much you’d have thought I was portraying the Store Brand in a deodorant commercial.
I visited on a Thursday morning and chose it as my first CityPASS stop for a few reasons: it’s the farthest from downtown (though really just a few minutes), I’ll most likely have the place to myself, and the earlier the better when thinking in terms of how hot that summer Texas sun can get.
And… I was right. It was as hot as a branding iron on a bull’s butt and I was there alllll alone, for the most part. (What I’m saying is… no one would have seen if I jumped in… just for a second…)
The Dallas Arboretum is listed among the top arboretums (tree museums) in the world and saw almost a million visitors in 2015. It reminded me a lot of the Ringling in Florida, Park Güell in Barcelona, and that I really should be wearing my husband’s deodorant (weak ass Secret Clear Gel). It calls itself an “urban oasis” though this is Texas and green wide-open-spaces aren’t really lacking soooo try again, folks.
I’m more into strolling the paths and watching the bees than I am reading the names of flowers and plants but I imagine that kind of thing is great for coupon-clippers and orthopedic-shoe-wearers. It offers beautiful views and waterfalls, quotes about getting high (see photo at the top), funny ducks, and most importantly, plenty of shade.
My favorite part was the temporary installation of bronze statues collectively known as Great Contributors. This exhibit is only on display until November 27th, 2016 and features life-size statues of some of my favorite people: Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, the Wright Brothers, Abraham Lincoln, Claude Monet, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. I didn’t find them all but it’s a fun scavenger hunt to play while you’re there alone because, let’s face it, the maps they give you at the entrance do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Challenge accepted!
Time spent at the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden: 1 hour 45 minutes (I’d recommend more but I was hungry)
Need to know: While the CityPASS covers your admission, parking here is $15. ⇠ I definitely pumped the breaks before I pressed the button for the ticket but this is the most money you’ll spend today.
Why is it called ‘Reunion Tower?’ That was my question as soon as we entered. The sweet girl at the ticket booth could’ve just said “I don’t know” but instead began the most awkward five minutes as she tried to simultaneously figure it out herself and explain something back to us. I still have no idea why it’s called “Reunion Tower.” Some things are just too painful to watch.
What I do know it to be though is an observation tower in downtown Dallas offering badass views from 470 feet up and panic attacks free of charge! We’re not talking about me, obviously, but word to questionably wise: if you’re afraid of heights, for the love of God, sit this one out. We almost saw a grade-A freak-out on the elevator from some guy whose friend wanted to go to the top. And, according to the elevator operator, this happens ALL THE TIME. Don’t get me wrong, kudos to ANYONE who faces their fears–but it doesn’t count when you actually face the elevator control panel instead of the scary window.
At the top of Reunion Tower is the GeO-deck. Why is it called the “GeO”-deck? No idea!
Here you have both an indoor and, my preference, an outdoor 360° observation deck 48 floors up. Inside are tables and chairs where you can gather yourself if need be and interactive touch screens to explore Dallas from above. They highlight and provide information on nearby points of interest–if only they provided information on themselves… hmm…
Doesn’t matter, I came for the views. As I’ve said a million times, I love to climb things. I love to see a city the way it was meant to be seen–like a bird. Not to mention, Reunion Tower has THE BEST BREEZE IN TEXAS and that is not something to be underestimated.
On the floor above the observation deck is the Cloud Nine Café where you can purchase drinks, snacks, meals, and BEER. I passed, a rare thing, but for good reason–I didn’t really need a beer to feel deeee-runk.
Arriving on the café level, my husband and I immediately made our way to the window and I put my left foot up on the ledge like I always do. Only this time, something weird happened. I started to fall over. I couldn’t find my balance. I grabbed my husband for support and thought something was seriously wrong. Is this what a stroke feels like? Yup, this is happening.
Or…. it’s just a revolving café and NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THIS. With one foot on the stationary ledge and the other on the revolving floor my body began to fold in on itself. What would it be like to drink in a revolving bar? That gives me vertigo just thinking about it BUT of course I’m going to find out next time and get back to you. “I’m not drunk, officer. It’s just the room is spinning.”
Time spent at Reunion Tower: 30 minutes (not including the awkward history lesson)
Need to know: There is parking onsite, $6 for the first four hours.
Need to know: Park here, go up the tower, come back down, then walk two blocks to Dealey Plaza for the Sixth Floor Museum. All can be done in under four hours. (Otherwise you have to pay to park at the Sixth Floor Museum as well.)
Need to know: The soundtrack at Reunion Tower is heavy on the Nickelback and Hinder. Just prepare yourself. Maybe wear some earbuds.
Need to know: Make sure to check out Reunion Tower after dark (from afar) for some kickass nighttime lighting displays.
DEALEY PLAZA & THE SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM
Like the city of Dallas in general, I really knew less about JFK than I do about what all those brushes at Sephora are for. I knew he was killed in Dallas by Lee Harvey Punkass Oswald and something about a “grassy knoll,” but that’s about it. I wasn’t even sure if Jackie Kennedy and Jackie Onassis were the same person–I had to look it up. (Spoiler alert–they are! Well, all psychological insinuations aside.)
The week before my trip I read Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly that taught me everything I needed to know about JFK. He is such a huge part of Dallas history I thought it would be the perfect book to read before I visited and the Sixth Floor Museum quickly became the attraction I looked forward to visiting the most.
Dealey Plaza is the otherwise unassuming block around which John F. Kennedy’s presidential motorcade was to travel before heading to a nearby reception. We all know what happened next (right!?) and this adorable little green plaza is now associated with one of the shittiest American historical events. The Sixth Floor Museum is located on the 3rd floor of the former Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK. Psyche! It’s actually on the 6th floor… hilarious. It’s dedicated to the life and legacy of JFK and to his assassination and the following investigation (complete with conspiracy theories that make my brain boil).
It wasn’t until this museum visit that I realized I tend to drift towards visiting the sites of tragedies (ahem, previous post). I don’t have some morbid fixation; I just find it thrilling to visit the otherwise mundane spots that at one time held the focus of the entire world. I mean, I’ve been hearing about that “grassy knoll” my whole damn life! I didn’t know what all those grownups were talking about until this particular day but that’s beside the point.
If you find yourself in the same traveling trend, PLEASE, by all means necessary, try to maintain a sense of respect, people. Don’t be the lady at the Civil Rights Museum taking selfies inside the fake prison cell or the guy at Dealey Plaza standing on the spot of JFK’s assassination making the shape of a shotgun with your arms. Just W… T… F. Some things I wouldn’t believe if I didn’t see them with my own wide eyes.
The museum uses video, written accounts, actual artifacts, an audio guide, and eyewitness interviews to take you back to one of the most significant eras in American history. I didn’t see evidence of that time Forrest Gump told JFK he had to pee after drinking fifteen Dr. Peppers though. They must have forgotten that… Photography is prohibited on the 6th floor but on the 7th, go nuts. The 7th floor houses temporary exhibits, the current one dedicated to the 1960 Kennedy/Johnson presidential campaign.
Time spent at Dealey Plaza & Sixth Floor Museum: 1 hour 45 minutes
Need to know: There is no photography allowed on the 6th floor.
Need to know: Your CityPASS includes an audio guide so don’t forget to pick it up when you enter from the woman who calls you “Sugar.”
PEROT MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE
Yes, Ross Perot (whose five children donated $50 million for this museum–Whaaa??).
We arrived at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science at 3:30 PM thinking we’d really have to rush since it closes at 5. However, we were promptly told that the first Thursday of every month the museum is open late, until 9:00 PM. Score one for time-budget travelers! We were finally free to take our sweet time which led to me having to pry my husband away from the Tinker Toys exhibit in the Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall an hour later.
In addition to trying to build your own earthquake-proof skyscraper (he succeeded), there are halls dedicated to weather, energy, gems and minerals, oil drilling (obvs), the expanding universe, dinosaurs, birds, and my favorite, being human.
I’m a big fan of science museums… even though they tend to be geared towards children. I don’t get that. Is science not interesting to grownups? I was always a science-y kid but I feel I’m even more intrigued as an adult. It’s kind of like, when you’re a kid you think, “Yeah this is cool but I don’t get it ’cause I’m just a kid.” But then you grow up and realize this stuff is pretty amazing and no, you still can’t figure out how magnets work!
Besides, no one was more excited to see the 3D IMAX film Tiny Giants, about a chipmunk trying to store acorns for the winter, than me.
We looked at sparkly shiny colorful gems and minerals, rode an earthquake simulator (just in time for the actual earthquake two days later), destroyed a tornado, flew in the eagle flight simulator, smelled coyote urine, and pretended we were groundhogs. All in all, a pretty decent Thursday afternoon.
Time spent at Perot Museum of Nature and Science: 2 hours 30 minutes
Need to know: We parked at the meters on the street outside the entrance. BUT they are pay-by-phone which is doable and cheap but suuuuucks. I think there’s parking across the street though.
Need to know: On the first Thursday of the month the museum is open until 9:00 PM.
You’re making such good time on your 1 day in Dallas, why not spend a few minutes checking out some real Texas longhorns… sculptures?
Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas celebrates the city’s beginnings with a recreation of a cattle drive in bronze longhorn steers. With man-made cliffs, a waterfall, a flowing stream and native plants, the plaza is meant to represent the trails that the original settlers of the area took in early Dallas times. The sculpture features three cowboys, 49 steers, and one husband pretending to get bitten by one.
I just think they’re super cute.
Time spent at Pioneer Plaza: 15 minutes
Need to know: There is a free one-hour parking lot to the right of the plaza on Griffin Street.
I really like you. Especially Texas you. You’re fun. You make me want to line dance and not care who sees. You have funny names like “F🖕🏼#ktoberfest” and “Neato Bandito.” You make me laugh really hard at really simple things. And people don’t even need to wear pants to drink you. Do you like me, too? Check one:
❏ Put yo’ pants back on!
I Might Need Help – Boston, MA
(On a side note: MAC OS gave me a choice of six different skin colors for that bird… At least now you can be politically correct while giving someone the finger.)
DEEP ELLUM BREWING COMPANY
I always make it a point to find local breweries and taprooms when I travel. Besides the beer being brews you can’t find anywhere else, the fun and laid-back setting is the closest thing I can get to my own living room while I’m on the road–complete with guy who has completely fused with his chair who begs girl to bring him another.
Deep Ellum is perrrrfect. Besides the beers being fantastic (how many Dallas Blondes did I kill on this trip? I lost count. I should reword that.), the atmosphere is just what you want on a Southern summer night: lively indoor space, chill patio space with fans, artificial turf, and neon lights. I tried convincing my husband we need turf installed in our front lawn. He assured me that when animals pee on it, it’ll drain right through but still vetoed the idea. One of these days he’ll see what a genius I am!
Deep Ellum–what’s that mean anyway? I’m pretty sure it’s Spanish for “you’ll never win at Connect Four everrrr” but I could be wrong.
Address: Deep Ellum Brewing Company // 2823 St. Louis Street, Dallas
Hours: Monday–Thursday: 11am – 10pm // Friday–Saturday: 11am – 12am // Sunday: Closed
Dude-on-dude love next to a beat up ol’ pickup truck. Is this what life’s about or IS THIS WHAT LIFE’S ABOUT?
Truck Yard. When my Dallas-living friend suggested I check it out, I assumed it was… maybe… a parking lot with some food trucks in it? Why did she suggest that? Food trucks are everywhere at this point to the chagrin of short people who can’t reach the window everywhere. Regardless, I usually trust the recommendations of those living in a place I’m merely visiting.
To say I was amazed at this place is an understatement in the most embarrassing way. They clearly spared no expense in creating this space. And by that I mean not a penny was sacrificed. It’s straight up JUNK.
The Truck Yard is… well, if you could see the sheet of paper full of crossed-out adjectives you’d understand why I can’t finish this sentence. It’s hillbilly heaven. It’s a redneck paradise. It’s, in my Southern opinion, the way food was meant to be ate and beers was meant to be drunk–it’s a junk yard. And, by golly, it’s trendy af.
I mean, who doesn’t appreciate a good stacked-tire-trashcan or drinkin’ beers in the bed of a broken down Ford pickup with your buddy’s hound at your feet? All beers should be poured from a keg inside an Airstream, if you ask me.
But guess what? I wasn’t entirely incorrect: you can get food out of a truck here. When we went there was a taco truck, a BBQ truck, and a something else truck–that I can’t recall because I was too distracted by the Texas Naked Cowboy that just showed up–but their food trucks rotate daily. They also have a permanent cheesesteaks-only kitchen in the main building. The deliciousness of this I can vouch for.
I randomly took the above picture because I thought it was funny. Who even likes wearing pants? See? Funny. I clearly didn’t notice the dates and never thought about it again.
Fast forward a couple of hours to when we saw the Texas Naked Cowboy entertaining a bachelorette party. Obviously he wore nothing but Texas-flag Speedos and a guitar. Ain’t no thang. But then my husband pointed to the girl that was his “keeper,” for lack of a better word. “Uhh, that girl’s not wearing any pants.” He was right. Just a girl and her granny panties. Texas is weird.
Ten minutes later I’m in line in the ladies’ room.
Girl behind me in line: “So have you heard about the No Pants Party?”
Me: “Yes… I went to college.”
Her: “You get free beer if you’re not wearing pants.” [Something about a clothing donation for victims of the recent Louisiana flooding.] “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not wearing any pants.”
Me: “This is the strangest pickup line ever…”
After leaving the bathroom I told my husband about the encounter. We stopped, looked around, and saw ALL THE PEOPLE WITHOUT PANTS. Men, women, German shepherds. Thongs, tighty-whities, some boy shorts that said “may the force be with you” on the butt. I gotta admit, I love a place where clothing at a bar is optional; it’s like living in Florida all over again. We decided to stay for another beer.
Address: 5624 Sears Street, Dallas
Hours: 11am – 12am Everyday
Parking: Free valet beside Truck Yard, self-park behind. Free parking in the Trader Joe’s parking lot across the street after 9pm.
Need to know: Order the ZiegenBock and it comes with a koozie shaped like a brown paper bag. GENIUS!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPOT IN DALLAS?
LET ME KNOW BELOW!
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A huge, Texas-sized thanks to both E-Z Rent-a-Car and CityPASS for sponsoring this post and for helping me have one hell of a rip-roarin’ good time in the Lone Star State. As always, all opinions are my own and I will never promote something I don’t personally use and believe in, regardless of who is footing the bill.
Also, some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a teensy-weensy percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting My Wanderlusty Life!