This year, the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting will be held in my hometown of Dallas, TX. I won’t be attending, but I thought I’d help out some of my colleagues by providing a guide to cool, fun, and bookish things to do when you’re in the Dallas area. In this 4-part series, I’ll give you the lowdown on Dallas from the point of view of a very nerdy librarian and long-time former resident of the city.
There’s quite a lot to see in Dallas, no matter what you’re interested in. I’ve focused here on things that I think librarians might be interested in, but also things that are hard to find elsewhere or are truly unique to Dallas or Texas.
Places to Shop
For booklovers: Half Price Books
Ah, Half Price Books – I miss it so much. As far as I’ve found, there’s nothing that comes close to it in LA. In addition to nice quality used books, they do have some new ones, somehow available for half price (as their name implies). In addition to books, there are also CDs, DVDs, and I think even records. There are locations all over the Dallas area, but the best one is on Northwest Highway a few blocks east of I-75. Librarian heaven, I tell you. I challenge you to come out of there without at least a couple of awesome finds.
For fashionistas: NorthPark Center
This is the best mall in Dallas, hands down. They have every store you could want, from your basic stuff to your fancy, high-end designers. Highlights include a great Anthropologie, Lush (for the most incredible-smelling bath products you’ll ever try), a Lego store, and Paper Source (for beautiful stationary and crafting supplies). There’s a La Duni here, too, so you can kill two birds with one stone!
For getting a taste of “Texas”: Bass Pro Shop
Dallas is a fairly cosmopolitan city. Stereotypes that people generally hold about Texas and Texans don’t really apply to the people of Dallas. Of course, there are still people in Dallas who are into hunting, ranching, fishing, boating, and other such activities that one might stereotypically associate with Texas. Since everything is bigger in Texas, of course Dallas has the biggest, craziest amusement park of an outdoor store that I’ve ever seen. Checking out the Bass Pro Shop in Grapevine, near DFW Airport, is like taking a trip into a strange back country hunting expedition. Plus, there’s an enormous aquarium, several stories-high (like something you’d pay to see) of native Texas fish, and a display case with three live rattlesnakes that mostly just lay there all curled up. I’m sorry to report that you’ll have just missed the Texas State Turkey Calling Championship, which was held there on January 14.
Landmarks and Points of Interest
For history buffs: The Sixth Floor Museum, JFK Memorial Plaza, and the Grassy Knoll
It’s a sad page in Dallas’s history, but of course the city was the home of Lee Harvey Oswald and the site of the JFK assassination. Kennedy is remembered at a Memorial Plaza built in his honor, which is located about a block east of Dealey Plaza, the site of the Book Repository where Lee Harvey Oswald took aim from a sixth story window. The Book Repository is now a museum. It’s been a very, very long time since I was there, but if memory serves, I think you can actually go to the window from whence the fatal shots were fired. Heading down to the street below, walk west along Main Street toward I-35 (the big freeway right in front of you). Just before the Grassy Knoll, on your right, you’ll see an X painted on the curb. This is the spot where the motorcade was when Kennedy was hit. If you’re interested in the Kennedy assassination, check out Don DeLillo’s very strange novel Libra. It’s fictional, but still an interesting read.
For those wanting a view of the city: Five Sixty at Reunion Tower
The featured pic on this post is Reunion Tower, located in the heart of downtown Dallas and the best spot to see all of the city. The ball at the top of the tower revolves at a rate of one full rotation every 55 minutes, so don’t worry – it’s not so fast that you’re going to be falling all over the place or anything. It’s beautifully illuminated at night, but if you want to check out the view, obviously I’d recommend going during the day. The tower now houses a Wolfgang Puck restaurant called Five Sixty. I can’t speak to the quality of the food, as I haven’t been since the restaurant changed hands (it used to be a sort of average and over-priced restaurant you mainly went to for the view), but even if you just go there for a drink or a quick bite, the view is well worth it.
For foodies: Central Market
I know it’s kind of weird to recommend a grocery store for a sight-seeing expedition, but this is no ordinary grocery store. Also, I’m not the only person who thinks of this as a place for city visitors to check out, as when I used to shop there, I used to regularly see bus-loads of Japanese tourists touring the store. Central Market is a chain of absolutely incredible grocery stores for the food-obsessed. The location most convenient to downtown is located on Lover’s Lane, a block east of I-75. You’ll find difficult-to-find gourmet and ethnic/foreign foods; an incredible bulk section where you can buy as much or as little as you want of a spice, an unusual flour, granola, and tons of other stuff; a great wine and beer selection; and if you go on the weekends, lots and lots of delicious samples. Truly a foodie heaven.
Again, this is just a very, very tiny sampling of everything Dallas has to offer. If you’re in the mood to have a certain kind of experience, let me know about it in the comments, and I’ll send you where you need to go!
Image credit: By Batrak [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons