In a word: Dallas defies stereotypes about Texas and buzzes with energy, youth, and beauty.


Standing on the pier, the glowing sky swirling toward infinity and shimmering off the water, was like sailing at the edge of the cosmos.

I had been driving through Dallas — madly rushing from one appointment to another on a work trip in October — when the glowing began. I pulled over and soon found myself on the banks of a lake. Behind a curtain of half-autumned willows, a man flung a net into the golden water. He dragged it in, then picked three shivering fish from the tangles. He tossed them in the bucket. “Bait” he said when I asked. “I’ll catch a few hundreds pounds.”

I watched the man as the sky and the lake faded around us. He told me about fishing through the winter and fishing with his father, before his father died. When the glowing grayed, I moved on.


My week in Dallas upended everything I thought about the city. I know some Texans may chafe at the mention of stereotypes, but having only previously passed through the Lone Star state’s airports I expected Dallas to be physically inhospitable. I imagined something like Phoenix — a sprawling, formless city surrounded by an unforgiving landscape — except with slightly cooler temperatures and much bigger trucks. Instead, it felt more like Denver or Portland: young, vital, and independent.

I make no claim to know all about the tourist side of Dallas. I didn’t have time for that on my trip. And I recognize that my preconceived notions about Texas were naive and entirely un-researched. But I also know that I’m not alone; there are a lot of people who haven’t been to Dallas and might not heard accurate buzz.

So, here are the three things that surprised me the most:

1. Historic neighborhoods: I imagined Dallas’ neighborhoods mostly consisting of beige-stuccoed sprawl from the 1990s onward. I’m sure there’s plenty of that somewhere but I ended up wandering through the M Streets, a historic neighborhood just off of U.S. 75. The neighborhood is filled with early 20th Century homes and apartments, many in the Tudor rival style, and big leafy trees.


2. Breathtaking natural landscapes: Having lived my entire life in mountainous states, Dallas’ flat horizon was striking. I’ve been to other flat states before, but for whatever reason the sky seemed more expansive in Dallas. The flora also surprised me; it was somewhere between the dense vegetation in parts of the South I’ve visited and the drier West.


3. An exciting, revitalizing urban core filled with great architecture: The size and composition of downtown Dallas reminded me a lot of downtown Denver. It was architecturally diverse and a number of older buildings had been converted for other uses. Downtown also was served by light rail, which of course is a must for any place worth visiting for pleasure.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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