Insiders Guide to Dallas

With the Cowboys’ NFL season off to a highly anticipated start and the Red River Showdown—one of the biggest events in college football—on the horizon, we asked The Scout Guide Dallas Editor Brittany Gaskill to plan a dream fall weekend in her city. From what to wear on game day (pick either orange or red—or blue and silver, of course) to how to order your margarita (frozen with a swirl, thank you), here’s how to make the most of a weekend in the Big D.

Where to Stay:
It doesn’t get more iconic than the Mansion on Turtle Creek (2821 Turtle Creek Boulevard), housed in an impeccably restored mansion that oozes old-world charm and high luxury. For a more downtown boutique experience, Brittany recommends local hotel The Joule (1530 Main Street). Located in thriving downtown Dallas in a 1920s art deco landmark building, it’s known for fabulous art installations and has an impressive spa and fitness scene. Two added bonuses: proximity to the Neiman Marcus flagship store—one of Brittany’s must-see visits for guests to experience—and a to-die-for bloody Mary at the hotel restaurant. Hotel Lumen (6101 Hillcrest Avenue) is a chic boutique option located across from SMU (close to the new Bush Library) with a lively bar and pool scene.

What to Do on Game Day:
Everyone should visit Dallas for The Red River Showdown and the State Fair of Texas at least once in a lifetime. The game pits the Longhorns of the University of Texas at Austin against the Oklahoma Sooners from the University of Oklahoma—one of the top three college rivalries in the nation with conference and national championship significance. And right inside is the legendary State Fair of Texas.

On Game Day, fans in both orange and red start early at the fairgrounds with a Fletcher’s Corny Dog and a Wax Cup Beer. Don’t leave without taking a photo with Big Tex, the 55-foot cowboy in the five-hundred-gallon hat that has come to represent the Lone Star State to all who encounter him. Animal lovers will want to catch the Lone Star Horse Exhibition, a uniquely Texan equestrian experience. And come hungry, because at the fair, it’s all about the food. “Fair food gets crazy,” says Brittany, with fried options from Oreos to bacon.

Where the Locals Shop:
“You simply cannot come to Dallas without shopping,” says Brittany. When you come into town for a football weekend, you’ll want to start at Highland Park Village (known to locals as simply, The Village). This picture-perfect outdoor shopping center goes absolutely electric during the Red River Showdown weekend. Your first stop at the Village? Mi Cocina (77 Highland Park Village), a popular Mexican Restaurant, for a Mambo Taxi. Be careful, warns Brittany: this frozen margarita swirl is delicious and strong. She recommends splitting one with a friend if you intend to get some serious shopping in after lunch.

The Village features the perfect mix of upscale brands and local gems, of which Brittany recommends visiting Market (26B Highland Park Village), a women’s boutique where you can get your hands on pieces from some of  Dallas’s most of-the-moment designers. From there, she suggests heading over to NorthPark Center (8687 North Central Expressway) to experience retail at its finest, with a wonderful mix of shops, art, and chic lunch options.

Since everything else in town is big, why not visit the country’s biggest independently owned department store, Stanley Korshak (500 Crescent Court, Suite 100)? Beneath the iconic black and white striped awning you’ll encounter a luxurious shopping experience with an extensive, well-curated collection (it’s where you can find the highly coveted handbags and clutches from local designer Allison Mitchell, one of Brittany’s personal favorites). Nearby you can stop into two more of Brittany’s recommended local shops, The Loveliest (2417 Mahon Street) for the city’s finest monogrammed linens, and Blue Print (2707 Fairmount Street) for design inspiration.

Where to Eat:
For a healthy breakfast and fantastic coffee to fuel your day of tailgating and shopping, Brittany recommends Ascension (see locations herefor farm-to-table fare and sensible breakfast options like avocado toast and house-made granola with coffee taken seriously. Henry’s Majestic (4900 McKinney Avenue) does a festive brunch on weekends, with delicious takes on classic items and a lively atmosphere. Taverna (see locations here), owned by local restaurant powerhouse Lombardi Family Concepts, has a varied brunch menu with an Italian bent and happy crowds on weekends.

After you’ve had your fried fix at the fair or spent the day grazing on goodies like the popular chicken and waffles sandwich at AT&T Stadium, you may want to find some more refined options for dinner. And when it comes to dining in Dallas, it’s all about the beef. “At the root of it,” says Brittany, “Dallas is a city surrounded by ranching communities. Our chefs do a fantastic job of highlighting our local, farm-raised and grass-fed beef.” For a quintessential Dallas steak dinner, she recommends Al Biernat’s (4217 Oak Lawn Avenue) or Nick & Sam’s (3008 Maple Avenue). Neighborhood Services (5027 West Lovers Lane) is one of Brittany’s favorite local spots for steak, and the delectable Butcher’s meatballs appetizer.

Take a Time Out:
If you’re craving some fresh air, Brittany recommends checking out Klyde Warren Park (2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway) for wide open spaces and a variety of walking trails. The public park connects uptown, downtown, and the arts district through a series of walkways and green space and features free yoga and concerts daily. It’s a popular place for Texas’s famous food trucks, but there’s also the opportunity for a sit-down dining experience if you choose at the all-glass restaurant Savor Gastropub (2000 Woodall Rodgers Freeway), which lets you experience the splendors of the park from within its air-conditioned comfort. For a true time out, Brittany suggests enjoying a cold glass of white wine with the lobster puffs.

After refueling, take the deck walkway to the Arts District where you can enjoy some peace and quiet at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science (2201 North Field Street), a spectacularly designed museum with exhibits for all ages and the quiet calm of nature brought indoors.

For history buffs, Brittany recommends a trip to the new George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (2943 SMU Boulevard)“If you’re lucky you can spot W and Laura near SMU or checking out an SMU basketball game with their secret service details, but the museum any time of year is something truly worth visiting.” She recommends the 9-11 Exhibit and the full-size replica of the Oval Office and Texas Rose Garden.

Photograph by George Fiala. Find more local recommendations for Dallas here, and follow Brittany on Instagram at @tsgdallas