When I studied abroad, I would tell people that I went to college in Dallas, Texas, and almost immediately, they would mention either women with big, poofy hair, or they would start singing the theme song to the 1980s drama series “Dallas.”
Stereotypes about the Big D abound. Dallas is known as both “the armpit of American capitalism” and as the “buckle of the Bible belt.” Although true to varying degrees, these caricatures do not honor the richness of the city we have before us.
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, we live in the ninth largest city in the United States, and the city has been among the top ten largest cities since the 1970s. As of 2008, Dallas-Forth Worth had the 14th largest GDP in the world, and the seventh largest in the United States.
Dallas is clearly an important American city. However, economics and size do not always equal culture.
I am not a native Dallasite, and I don’t claim to know or understand every cultural or historical idiosyncrasy. However, I do know one thing: Dallas is not culturally monolithic.
The city of Dallas offers vibrant art and cultural scenes, a wide range of things to do and an incredibly diverse populace.
Perhaps some of Dallas’ best-kept secrets are the art scenes boasted by Deep Ellum and the Bishop Arts District, which give Dallas a gritty, sensual appeal.
The suburban perfection, characteristic of much of Dallas’ architecture, is left behind in the urban, graffiti-laden haven of Deep Ellum. Having deep roots in Dallas, the neighborhood has historical appeal as well. The art and music in the neighborhood range from the edgiest of bands and artists to the most familiar folk tunes and portraits. Not only is this cultural hotspot eclectic and groovy, the people are among the friendliest I’ve encountered in Dallas.
The Bishop Arts District, while equally diverse, presents a more refined, chic cultural center. Born out of hopes to revive North Oak Cliff, the Bishop Arts District embodies a culinary, artistic and cultural renaissance. If you are looking for a funky outfit, a great place to window-shop or a delectable bite to eat, this is the place to go.
Arts and culture are also one of the staples of downtown Dallas. The Windspear Opera House, Myerson Symphony Center, Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center provide any art patron a refined, formal setting to appreciate masterpieces of all kinds.
In addition to the arts, Dallas also offers a profusion of ways to have a good time.
In my experience, the meal is the main attraction in Dallas, and the Big D sure does have some impressive culinary chops. The breadth of Dallas’ cuisine includes unique places like Rise No. 1 or Tillman’s Roadhouse, green dives like Bliss or Cosmic Café, troves of authentic Mexican food (and Tex-Mex), late night cafés like Buzzbrew’s Kitchen or Café Brazil, not to mention steak houses and Dallas institutions.
If you put on your boogie shoes or are just in the mood for a nightcap, Dallas has got you covered. No matter what your taste, Dallas has a bar, pub or club for you. From the bars on lower Greenville to Deep Ellum, to Uptown bars to Downtown bars, there is no shortage of places to make sure that tonight is a good night.
If you would rather be reading a book or sipping on a chai tea latté, do not fear. Dallas possesses a number of “indie” coffee shops the likes of which include Crooked Tree Coffee House, The Pearl Cup, Legal Grounds and White Rock Coffee. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to a guy named Joe strum his acoustic guitar to “Free Fallin’,” there’s no need to move to San Francisco.
Other sites like the Grassy Knoll, Fair Park, the Farmer’s Market and White Rock Lake further reveal the potential for fun and adventure in Dallas.
Without a doubt, it is easy to get disillusioned with the Dallas experience, especially living in University Park or attending SMU. But Dallas cannot be reduced to a mere capitalist celebration, Christian neighborhood or “big hair” enclave. It can, however, be your culturally rich playground of adventure.
Drew Konow is a senior religious studies, foreign languages and literatures triple major. He can be reached for comments or questions at email@example.com.