Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Tips for Travelers to North Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth [DFW])

For those of you lucky enough to be able to afford seats or win tickets to the (highest attendedSuper Bowl XLV game on February 6, 2011 and are from out of town, this blog is for you.

There are a million hotels in the DFW area. There are a million restaurants in the DFW area. There are also a million churches and shopping centers. I spent some time in Dubuque, IA and we had a saying there: "There is a bar and a Catholic Church on every corner." Well, in Dallas, "we have a shopping center and church on every corner."

As a non-native of Texas who has resided on the northern side of Dallas for the past 8.5 years, I have some good ideas for you to consider if you will be spending any time on the northern side of Dallas. DFW is a good size, and there are locals who know what they are talking about in each area. Take their word for it. North Texans are pretty welcoming people. They pride themselves with Southern hospitality. While I won't know much about all of the DFW area I do know a bit concerning the northern half of Dallas.

I was a graduate student at Dallas Theological Seminary, so I am not a man with money. I am not going to have all the rich people's favorites, because, frankly, I just don't run around with that kind of money. So consider your source for the recommendations below. Most will not be swanky selections. I love food and I will miss the favorite spots I have here if/when I move away. So if you are looking to save a buck but want a good time, I think I'll be of service to you. I have no financial connection to any of the recommendations other than these are the places I have spent my time and money at. I have no loyalties to any one particular item whatsoever. Check out their menus and prices online first before heading to them if you'd like.

Tip #1: North Texans speed on the highway so step on it and stay with the flow. Not many cops patrol the highways either, and if they do, they are on motorcycles so look out. I imagine there will be a campaign to get North Texans to slow down before hand. I will also say that when I moved here there were less people on the roads than there are now. The highways are much more crowded even after all of the improvements. The populace just grew way faster than the infrastructure upgrades which were upgraded. So if you are going to be on the highways the week of the Super Bowl, expect some delays because there are too many people but don't be the type to slow things down when things are going because North Texans speed on the highways normally. The HOV lane is dangerous so I do not recommend using the HOV since you may be forced to miss your exits too.

If you are renting a car, be sure to not use the toll roads in North Texas because the rental car companies will hit your pocketbook/wallet hard for doing so. My parents got hit with a high extra charge of nearly $200 for having done so. So look out!

Most streets are either 2 or 3 lanes wide. This is nice. It makes you want to go fast like on the highway. However watch for the speed limit because they will be much slower than you might first expect. 35 MPH speed traps exist for a reason. Don't make your stay in Texas more costly than it needs to be.

NOTICE: If the weather in North Texas deteriorates watch out! Most of the highways have lots of sections in the air and those sections freeze first and North Texans generally don't know this information. Icy conditions, not snowy conditions, exist in the wintry mixes of DFW. Combine this with the fact that North Texans can't drive slow or don't know how to drive in slick road conditions in their big ol' vehicles and you will have a lot of traffic difficulties in the region. So plan for extra travel times on those days.

Tip #2: Downtown Dallas is not the kind of downtown you park your car and walk around a ton to see all the wonderful shops. You can do that in Chicago and Brooklyn etc. but not in downtown Dallas. People work down there. On the weekends downtown Dallas is pretty much empty of pedestrians and such. Texas has a lot of land so they spread things out here. There are things close to downtown that I'll point to but you won't park your car somewhere and expect to walk there; just drive to the spot you're going to and find a parking spot.

Tip #3: Food.
A lot of ink can and will be spilled here.
First things first. Texas only has one natural lake. North Texas doesn't own that lake. There isn't water here to fill your seafood desires so take my advice and just stay away from the seafood mostly. McCormick & Schmick's is the only exception.

The Original Pancake House soooo good! And the coffee is excellent.
Beef and BBQ
Baker's Ribs
Bob's Steak & Chop House Expensive but very good.

Alfredo's Buy pizza by the slice. Great Calzones.
Adelmo's Ristorante

Middle Eastern
Ali Baba

Campisi's is it's own distinct taste. Multiple locations although I recommend the one on Mockingbird Ln since it was the original one and is where Jack Ruby ate one his final meals before killing Lee Harvey Oswald.
Angelo & Vito's Buy your pizza by the slice.
Zini's Pizzeria
Piggie Pies

Sothern Style
Southern Recipes Cafe It is in the same parking lot as Richardson Bike Mart, the place Lance Armstrong bought his first bike, so I'm told... or they are his first sponsor. Check their history. Get the Blackened Pork Chops with the White Wine sauce... so good. Their Chicken Fried Chicken is quite good too.
The Sting Bean

Wild About Harry's
Best Tirami su I've ever had is at Isabella's

JG's My favorite. They serve more of a boardwalk style french fry. So if you'd like it crispy ask for it to be extra crispy.
Jakes is all right.
Snuffer's is nice. Try the cheddar fries.
Keller's is pretty old and you'll be able to drive up and sit in your car and order an alcoholic beverage. They serve tater tots instead of fires if I remember right.

Tip #4: Sites to See
Dealey Plaza
Okay, when you think of Dallas, if you are old enough, you are reminded of the JFK assassination at Dealey Plaza. The city likes to promote the Sixth Floor Museum. There is a lot of people on the street level too. On the street you will see 2 X's or a double X that marks the spots. You'll see the Grassy Knoll and the fence. I have no idea what to say here other than if you are driving on that 3 Lane street go slow and don't hit anyone. If you want to take pics, go for it, but be mindful that if you are standing in the middle of the street by the X's you'll have traffic coming your way at times. Do some research on the maps and the Internet before you go down there to Dealey Plazza. You can spend 30 minutes there on the street being educated by people hoping to inform you (and some are worth listening to as they were involved in Government hearings on the matter etc., although the police and such have been harassing them illegally lately with tickets and fines). Others are only selling stuff, and that is fine too. I will say that if you decide to pay money to go into the museum, there is a lot of material there and you will need to carve out a good chunk of time to go up there and learn all you want. Isn't that the normal Museum experience? Too much to learn and not enough time.

I would have recommended going to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo at the Resistol Arena but their season hasn't begun. I have no idea if there will be any other Rodeos going on in, or around North Texas. Search for it. You may be surprised. Small town Rodeos are good from what I've heard. The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is huge and is going on now too.

The Fort Worth Zoo is better than the Dallas Zoo according to everyone I've heard talk about it. I haven't been to either one. I will say that if you hit the exhibit at the Dallas Zoo that includes the spiders, look for the Texas Brown Tarantula. A few years ago my friend once took his daughters there and saw they had none in their exhibit where there had been some previously and offered to catch some out of his yard and donate them to the Zoo. If they are still there I do not know. But they came from his yard in Cedar Hill, TX (just south of Dallas). They are here and they eat bugs in the area. They cannot hurt a human. So do not fret. There are big bugs and small reptiles all across the southern portion of the USA but if it is cold enough you shouldn't see many.

If you are interested in seeing real dinosaur tracks in the wild go to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX. It is south of DFW and is a good day trip if you have a whole day. There is a good mom and pop place to eat at in down town Glen Rose too but I forgot the name of it. There is a Fossil Rim Wild Life Center not far from the main street in Glen Rose on the opposite of the State Park entrance. It is expensive to go there but if you have kiddos who want to see it and they aren't clamoring to get out of the car because of boredom (the drive is a stay in your car experience I believe) then give it a try. A day in Glen Rose is quiet compared to the time in DFW's traffic. If you want the best desserts in Texas go another 30-45 minute drive from Glen Rose to The Koffee Kup Hico, TX. AMAZING! You will not regret it. It is so deceiving too. They serve there food and deductibles on cafeteria looking plates and bowls but it is awesome. Bread Pudding and Pies galore! It is busy at all hours of the day.

Tip #5: Exercise
If you need to walk off a few pounds and it is nice enough weather (which could very well happen here in North Texas as we always seem to get an 80 degree day or two in Winter) get out to White Rock Lake. Park anywhere around the lake and just walk or bike what you feel like and return back to your car. Shouldn't cost you a thing (other than calories). Most locals will head there regularly on their exercise routine. It is on the northeastern side from downtown Dallas. If you bring a mountain bike check out Dallas Off Road Biking Associations website for places to bike and for updated Trail Conditions. My favorite is Erwin Park in McKinney, TX.

If you have gym memberships in some of the bigger band name gyms, you will surely be able to find them here in Dallas too. If you are near downtown Dallas and do not have a gym membership, but are craving to go to one, I would recommend the Tom Landry Fitness Center at Baylor Medical Center. I have no idea what it would cost to go there once so call them ahead of time and find out. I had the pleasure to have been able to utilize their facilities as a student. It is not a meet/meat market.

Tip #6: Arts
I'm not an art junkie. I'm more interested in sports. But if you want a few ideas on some of the arts in the city I'll give you some ideas of places I have gone and enjoyed. Dallas has an Art scene.

Before mentioning any museum or the like, look at the free art. I love to look at the buildings all the time. I even understand what some of the designers must have been thinking. For instance there are building on 75 ("Central") that look like gold bricks/bars standing on the ground. On your way to work downtown you see the gold and you it must inspire some to work hard that day. On the way home, seeing the gold might make some depressed... is that all I am working for? Look at the buildings. Be safe, if you are trying to drive and look at the same time. I have seen very cool special effects on some buildings too. For instance, the Tower at City Place on the corner of Haskell and 75 has at times light up only the top corners of the buildings at night. If none of their other lights are on, the top corners look like a 3D skull. So cool. One side of the skull is lit up and the other side is shadowed (but is the dark black night sky). Very neat effect. Not many notice it. Some buildings look like flowing water fountains. Others have had other optical illusions. Once I was driving south down 75 and on my right there was the setting sun beaming bright. Well, whoever designed a set of buildings nearby did so that at a particular point in the year the sun set appears to be seen through the building! In reality it is sunset light reflected off of an opposite building and reflected onto the building you "see" the setting sun through. Very very cool.

All right, the other artsy stuff is as follows: The Dallas Museum of Art has different exhibits at different times. So check out their site for what's going on there now. There is also a Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth that I have not yet been to. There is also the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It looks like there are concerts during the Super Bowl week. So take a look and see if you need some "culture" before or after the Big Game. I hear there are many other places to check for

Tip #7: Events
Cirque du Soliel OVO is in town.
NHL Dallas Stars
NBA Dallas Mavericks
Horse Racing at Lone Star Park?
Concerts and other events Nokia Theatre
Angelika and the Magnolia movie theatres feature more artistic films not necessarily found in other theatres.
Billy Bob's Texas
NFL Experience
Legends of the Game Museum at the Ballpark in Arlington, Home of the reigning AL Champions Texas Rangers.

Tip #8: Go To Church
Because the Superbowl is always on a Sunday evening you will have time Sunday morning to go to church before the big game. So do so. Dallas is home to a number of mega churches and famous named preachers. Dr. Tony Evans preaches in Oak Cliff. Dr. Charles Swindoll preaches in Frisco. If you hear a guy on the radio that you like, see if he is in the DFW area over the Superbowl week. I just found out yesterday Tim Keller preached at a church nearby on Tuesday. There are Seminary professors who also preach in the area. There is Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over in Fort Worth. Take a look at their websites and see if you know a professor you have read their books or articles before and figure out what church they go to and I'm sure they'd be glad to meet you in person.

Tip #9: Parking for the Superbowl
All right, this is crazier than anything I've ever seen: $900 parking. Yes it will be packed. If you aren't willing to even pay for the parking at $55 then you ought to find a DFW person and pay them to drive you to the game and drive you out of there when it is over. They don't even have to get you terribly close as you can walk a long while there to the football stadium. Just so long as you have your good walking shoes of course, but really, I would encourage you to buck the system. Look for some sort of longer distance parking and a bus. Whatever you do shop for the best deal. Even if you need to consult a taxi service... and if you're real good at selling it, talk to a nice local and see if you can pay them to take you as close as possible to and from the game! I'm willing to do so at the right price!

Tip #10: Don't Waste Your Time
Whatever you do, don't spend your time doing things here in DFW that you could do elsewhere back home. Forget the movie theatres (for the most part). You've traveled this far to see a football game, so enjoy being away from the norm. You must try some Texas BBQ (brisket and ribs). Treat the locals nicely because they pride themselves in being hospitable and really do like to be hospitable. Hope you enjoy your trip to the  Dallas-Fort Worth area.

No comments:

Post a Comment