Texas Traveler: Must-Do Dallas

So maybe, like Texas Traveler, you're exiled to Dallas for a business conference, or an extra-long layover at DFW airport, or relocated for work and have no idea how to pass the time. Well, Texas Traveler has a few ideas, some off the beaten path, and some right smack square in the middle of it.

6. Deep Ellum Deep Ellum is but a shadow of the often-interesting, sometimes frightening neighborhood it used to be, but it's still worth a visit if only to grab lunch and check out some of the historical plaques on the crumbling buildings. It's held a variety of identities, from Freedman's Town to black city center to ghetto to punk mecca to burgeoning gentrification. It's kind like the Midtown/Montrose of Dallas. Texas Traveler has memories of attending many concerts there as an underage girl from Oklahoma, though most of the filthy warehouses where those shows took place are now lofts or condos.

Stop by the Angry Dog, winner of dozens of Best Of awards from Press's sister paper the Dallas Observer, including Best Hamburger (it's damn good). They also serve a number of beers on draft and bottle, including, occasionally, St. Arnold's, and the locally brewed Franconia.

After lunch head east on Main to Century Modern and look at some vintage furniture. If you decide to buy, prices are notably cheaper than those in Houston.

5. Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center The massive music hall in downtown Dallas was designed by I.M. Pei and is world-renowned for its acoustics. Docents offer tours at 1 p.m. on an irregular schedule (dependent on planned performances), but if you're lucky enough to catch them on the right day you'll get to experience a half-hour demonstration of the hall's $1.36 million pipe organ, featuring more than 4,500 pipes. Tours are free, call (214) 670-3600 for the schedule.

4. Franconia Brewing You could skip Angry Dog (or any other number of Dallas drinking establishments) and just drive up to McKinney, TX (about half an hour north-east of Dallas) to tour the Franconia Brewery. The brewery was established last year by real-life German person Dennis Wehrmann, who studied real German beer brewing in Germany (and who later worked for Two Rows). One of the brewery's unique points is its effort to go green. We like their Bavarian Wheat, brewed with real live German yeast. Tours are at 11 a.m. every Saturday and cost $5, which includes tastings.

3. Mary Kay Museum Yes, there is a museum. It's located inside Mary Kay Cosmetics World Headquarters in Addison, TX, about 20 minutes north of Dallas.

The tour focuses heavily on the bio of company founder and lover of pink Mary Kay Ash and the history of the brand that made millions of stay-at-home-moms entrepreneurs in their own right. Challenge yourself to avoid the urge to become a seller too .

FYI, the company has an blog with an oddly personal voice too. Tours require reservations but the headquarters are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call (972) 687-5720

2. Trader Vic's After World War II, an obsession with Polynesia was brought to the U.S. by military men returning from service in the Pacific. But Polynesian Pop didn't seek to authenticate the experience. Instead, proprietors like Victor Bergeron romanticized the island ideal and sold it wholesale via a chain of restaurants that stretched from coast to coast (and eventually to cities as far away as Abu Dhabi and Muscat, Oman.)

At Trader Vic's, diners could sip on Mai Tais while sarong-clad honeys served pu pu platters and duck roasted in Chinese ovens. But the chain hit a rough spell in the 70s as the novelty wore off, and many locations, including Houston's (located in the old Shamrock Hotel) were closed.

The Dallas Trader Vic's closed its doors in 1989 but was never demolished, and in 2007, it was reopened in almost the exact same condition as the day it closed. For vintage purists and cocktail lovers, its a Southern mecca, a step into another world both in time and place. Sadly the chain is again seeing rough times, as they're trying to find the right balance between nostalgia and the tastes of modern patrons (techno music now plays at the bar). The Dallas location even has a Twitter account where they promote drink and food specials. If you go, forgo the Mai Tai and order Texas Traveler's favorite drink, the Peachtree Punch.

1. The Sixth Floor Museum Texas Traveler's number one not-to-be-missed attraction in Dallas is the morbidly fascinating Sixth Floor Museum, located in the building once know as the Texas School Book Depository. Dedicated not just to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but also to his legacy and the world climate that preceded his presidency, the museum features hundreds of photographs of the Kennedys, the original Zapruder film of the assassination, and the "sniper's window," preserved to look the same as it was found after Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly killed the 35th president.

The museum also gives heavy attention to the role of media in covering JFK's presidency and death, including the recently deceased Walter Cronkite (In fact, Dealey Plaza, location of the "Grassy Knoll", was named after a Galvestonian who became the original publisher of The Dallas Morning News); and to the dozens of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. The museum was just as interesting to Texas Traveler during a recent visit as it was 15 years ago when she first went. It's not unusual to see museum visitors moved to tears by some of the exhibits.

Through July 2010 the building's seventh floor features a retrospective of the work of Bob Jackson, a junior photographer for the Dallas Times Herald whose lucky and infamous photo of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald won a Pulitzer Prize. Also, no visit to the museum is complete without a walk around Dealey Plaza, just to the south.

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