Travel to Dallas, Texas – Episode 508

categories: USA Travel

What to do, see and eat in Dallas, Texas - Amateur Traveler Episode 508

Hear about travel to Dallas, Texas as the Amateur Traveler talks to Penny Sadler from about her hometown of Dallas, Texas. Penny tells us why we might be surprised at all Dallas has to offer and why we should leave our cowboy hats at home.


Penny says, “Dallas has changed obviously a lot in 30 years but in the last five years it is just exploding in a very good way. There is so much more nightlife, there is so much more culture. There’s a lot to see and do here. I have people come and stay with me for a week and I never see them. They’re out doing stuff every single day.”

Penny starts us with a JFK themed morning at the Sixth Floor Museum at the old Texas Book Depository, the grassy knoll, and the JFK Memorial. She then takes us up to the Reunion Tower for a view that goes on for miles across the Texas prairie.

We meander through a number of small neighborhoods for the restaurant scenes and the nightlife. We talk about a wide variety of restaurants from the high end or high up and revolving to a good old smokehouse. (Texas does seem to have a habit of frying weird things like Cappuccino at the Texas State Fair).

Penny exposes us to Dallas’s music scene which includes blues and jazz clubs, opera, a symphony, small clubs with live music and large concerts at the American Airlines Center. Dallas has a number of art museums including the Crow Collection of Asian Art. It also has a great science center for kids in the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

We get out of town to visit the nearby Fort Worth (cowboy hat optional) and out to the Southfork Ranch where the old TV series Dallas was filmed.

Listen to Penny and you might find a reason to fly to Dallas and not just through Dallas.

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Show Notes
The Sixth Floor Museum
JFK Movie 1991
Reunion Tower
Travel to Fort Worth, Texas – Episode 370
Dallas: The Complete First & Second Seasons
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck (closed)
Midnight Rambler Bar at the Joule Hotel
The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge
508 Park
Poor David’s Pub
Shelley Carrol (saxophonist)
Jimmie Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan
American Airlines Center
Hotel Zaza
Hotel Zaza reviews
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Minute Suites DFW
Dallas Love Field
Pink Magnolia (closed)
The Kessler
Bishop Arts District
Ten Bells Tavern
Trip Guide to Lower Greenville
Texas State Fair
Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series
My All American
Big Tex
You Can Fry That? 10 Unusual Deep Fried Foods from the Texas State Fair
Sonny Bryan’s
Smoke Restaurant
Lockhart Smokehouse
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
The Margot & Bill Winspear Opera House
Wyly Theatre
Nasher Sculpture Center
Crow Collection
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Klyde Warren Park
White Rock Lake
Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art
Scat Jazz Lounge
Fort Worth Stockyards
Southfork Ranch
Walker, Texas Ranger
Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete Series
Fair Park’s Esplanade
Santiago Calatrava
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
5 Great Places for Jazz Music in Dallas


on Travel to Buffalo, New York – Episode 507:

Erik left a comment

Hey Chris,

Chris Bogdon here from the Pittsburgh and Poland episode. How are you doing? BTW – I listened to you on the Mac Power Users Podcast a few weeks back. Really enjoyed that.

Anyway, last night, I listened to the Buffalo episode and I really enjoyed it. I mentioned in my last two podcasts about a Polish Polka Band that I play with. Well, one of the things that Buffalo is very famous for is Dyngus Day. It is always the Monday after Easter and it is more of a americanized holiday similar to St Patrick’s Day for the Irish. It is definitely a national holiday in Buffalo:

There is a massive parade, fun, drinking and polka bands in like every bar. Definitely something to see when you are in Buffalo.

Also, not far from Buffalo but on the trip between Erie, PA and Buffalo is the great Lake Erie Wine Trail: Although not like Napa Valley wines, but there are alot of bed and breakfasts and wineries. Definitely something to check out.

Keep up the good work!

Chris Bogdon

What to do, see and eat in Dallas, Texas - Amateur Traveler Episode 508 #travel #trip #vacation #dallas #texas #what-to-do-in #podcast


Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 508. Today we will be talking about art museums in an opera house, blues and jazz music, fried cappuccino, and the Texas book depository building as we go to Dallas, Texas. Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. No sponsor for this episode, so let’s jump right in and talk about Dallas. I’d like to welcome to the show Penny Sadler from, who’s come to talk to us about Dallas, Texas. Penny, welcome to the show.

Penny: Thanks for having me.

Chris: Now, Penny, some people are going to be wondering why we’re talking about Dallas because you don’t sound like you’re from Dallas, but in fact, you are.

Penny: Right. Well, my secret is I that I spent my teenage years in the Los Angeles area. So when you’re a teenager, you want to sound like everybody else. You don’t want to sound like you’re from someplace else. So I ditched the accent really quick.

Chris: But have moved backed to Dallas and have been back there for more than a few years.

Penny: I’ve been in Dallas for 30 years. Yeah. If you give me enough wine, you might hear a little accent.

Chris: Good to know, good to know. Why should someone come and visit you in Dallas, Texas?

Penny: Well, Dallas has changed obviously a lot in 30 years, but in the last 5 years, it is just exploding.

Chris: In a good way.

Penny: In a very good way. There’s so much more night life, there’s so much more culture, there’s a lot to see and do here. I have people come and stay with me for a week and I never see them. They’re out doing stuff every single day.

Chris: Excellent. And what kind of things would you recommend to your house guests or your friends who are coming to visit in Dallas?

Penny: Well, I have kind of my standard list of must-see things, and I’ll certainly talk about those, but there’s a lot more too. The place that I recommend that everybody goes and that I take people is the Sixth Floor Book Depository Museum. Do you know about that?

Chris: Well, I know about the event that led up to that being an important place would be in 1963, the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Penny: Yes, and that museum is fantastic. It’s really, really well done. It’s very well laid-out and there’s a lot of photographs and campaign information about Kennedy and Johnson. And they have some film clips. Television was still kind of new. It was a big deal that this was captured on live television and it’s very moving. I get teary-eyed, really every time I go there. It’s just so well done. It’s on the same floor where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly shot JFK. So you can stand in the window and look out on Dealey Plaza where the motorcade went by and kind of imagine, did that really happen the way they said it did? Because there are still conspiracy theorists and speculation, and I think it’s a great place loaded with history. And then after the museum, you can go to Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll. There’s always a lot of people, conspiracy theorists that are hanging out that want to talk to you.

Chris: What is it like to talk to a conspiracy theorist on the grassy knoll? That seems like that could be a little surreal.

Penny: It is, and they have newspapers and pamphlets and information. They’re very passionate about it.

Chris: And the most interesting theory you’ve heard while standing in the grassy knoll?

Penny: I’m a believer there was more than one shooter. I think there was more than one shooter, for sure. I actually worked on the movie.

Chris: Oh, interesting. Okay.

Penny: Yeah, I worked on “JFK.”

Chris: Because you do makeup artist work.

Penny: Right.

Chris: Interesting.

Penny: Yeah. And so the day that they filmed that, the motorcade scene, there were people who were children the day that happened that are now, of course, adults, and they were so excited to be there and be part of the film and making history, and it was very interesting and a very cool experience.

Chris: I was a very young child and happened to be visiting Washington, D.C. that weekend, but don’t remember any of it because I was way too young.

Penny: Yeah. I don’t remember it, but when you talk to people that were there, you can feel it.

Chris: I’ll bet.

Penny: Yeah, and I actually took a visitor from England there. He wanted to go there. He knew about it, he’s interested in history, and he thought that was the best place that I took him the whole time he was here.

Chris: Excellent. Where we going to go next?

Penny: Okay. This is the little tour. As you go to the depository, go to the grassy knoll, and then there’s a memorial just a block or so away. And then you can walk down to the old courthouse where Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on the steps. And then if you’re really dedicated, you can go to the Texas Theatre where they arrested Lee Harvey Oswald. So, that’s that. You can do a half a day doing that. From there you go to Reunion Tower, which is part of the Hyatt Regency Reunion Hotel. That’s a great place to go because the tower is 560 feet high. So you can take the elevator up, and there’s an observation deck and telescopes and stuff, and you get a 360 degree view of the area. So that’s a pretty great way to get a lay of the land.

Chris: And before you move off, when we’re talking about the lay of the land, we haven’t put Dallas in Texas, but we’re talking about pretty much the middle of Texas and when you say you can see for a ways, I’m guessing from there you could see quite far because we’re not in a very hilly part of Texas.

Penny: It’s very flat.

Chris: It’s flat, I would guess, pretty much as far as the eye can see.

Penny: It is flat as far as the eye can see. Yes, sir. So, from there, if it’s clear, not raining or anything like that, you can see Fort Worth, which is 30 miles away. So you can see at least 30 miles in every direction. And Dallas is kind of central, but it’s more north.

Chris: Yeah. I say central, but I wasn’t being that literal.

Penny: Just don’t want people to be confused.

Chris: Or maybe I was just being that ignorant, okay.

Penny: I take everybody there. I think that’s a great place to go and I was there when it opened and so I kind of have a special fondness for it.

Chris: Before we go on, you mention we can see Fort Worth. We’ve done actually a separate show on Fort Worth because Fort Worth is not Dallas.

Penny: No.

Chris; In fact, I think when you pitched me this show, I think you knew that we’d already done the show on Fort Worth and pointed that out to me, but it’s been pointed out to me on other occasions. What makes the two cities different? They share an airport is definitely the thing the lot of us know.

Penny: They couldn’t be more different, really. People expect to see cowboy hats when they come to Dallas. There are no cowboys, not even football players anymore. They’re someplace else too. Fort Worth is really the cattle culture and Dallas is more banking. And Dallas really kind of exists because of big money guys that wanted it to, and R.L. Thornton who brought the State Fair to Dallas. He had the most money, he won the bid, and that’s kind of what happened. It really put Dallas on the map, was the State Fair. So Dallas is more a business culture.

Chris: Okay. So everything I saw in the show “Dallas” growing up was wrong, you’re saying?

Penny: Okay. There were cattle ranches in the area. There were. But Fort Worth was where the cattle drives ended. That’s where everybody brought their cattle to bring them to market, that’s where they stayed, that’s where the bar rooms and the dance halls were. It was really more of a Fort Worth thing. So if you want to see real cowboys, you have to go to Fort Worth.

Chris: Okay. And then you started taking us down a floor in the tower before I interrupted you here.

Penny: Oh, right! No, so you want to go up a floor to the restaurant 560, which is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. So if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, just go to the bar and have a drink. And what’s really cool about this restaurant, besides the view, is it revolves. So you can just sit in one place and in one hour you will make the entire circumference and you can see the city and the area from all these different vantage points. And at sunset, it’s a pretty nice spot. Take a date.

Chris: And where to next?

Penny: Right. So if you’re not going to have dinner at Wolfgang Puck, from there there’s so much in that immediate area. Downtown Dallas has grown and changed for the best and added a lot of great hotels and night life and restaurants.

Chris: What are some of your favorites?

Penny: Downtown? I love the bar at the Joule Hotel. They have that rooftop swimming pool, which can get pretty entertaining.

Chris: I don’t know what to think about that.

Penny: That’s also a great place to see if you’re somebody who likes to hang out where the celebrities go. That’s where a lot of notable people in Dallas will stay. The Joule, and then on Main Street there’s kind of just one after another of little tiny restaurants and bars and there’s a great live music place called The Free Man, and you just never really know what’s going to be happening in there, but it’s a great place to drop into.

Chris: And what style of music?

Penny: Well when I was there it was jazz.

Chris: Okay. I wanted to ask because I assumed that other people, like me, were assuming country-western because we’re talking about Dallas and I want to get it out on the table so we can address some of the stereotypes and maybe blow some of them up.

Penny: Yeah. Actually, since you brought up music, we can talk about that. Dallas is actually one of the major centers for blues and jazz music, believe it or not. And there’s a place, if you love that kind of history, 508 Park Street is where Robert Johnson recorded a ton of his blues music. Eric Clapton has recorded there. It’s 508 Park Avenue. So, they were going to tear that building down, but it’s been preserved and now, of course, they’re going to turn it into more of a memorial for the blues. So, there’s a lot of great blues around Dallas. In fact, there’s even a place called Poor David’s Pub, which is known for blues. And there’s a lot of great jazz as well. Shelley Carrol is a Dallas local. He plays all over the world. He plaed with Count Basie Orchestra and Shelley is one of the best of the best. Jimmy Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, they’re from Dallas. A lot of the guitar slingers that everybody knows, they’re from Dallas. A lot of great music in Dallas and not that much of it is country and western.

Chris: Excellent.

Penny: Yeah and then there’s also the American Airlines Center, which is where the Mavericks and the Stars play, but they also do concerts there. So if you’re in town and you like big venue live music, that’s the place to check. Bruce Springsteen’s going to be here in a few weeks. Lady Gaga was here not too long ago. I mean, that’s where the big shows go. And that’s Downtown.

Chris: Interesting. Are there other neighborhoods besides Downtown you might recommend that we stay?

Penny: Yeah, definitely. Uptown and West Village, which kind of blend together, but they’re just north of Downtown. And West Village is nice because in this very condensed area, just a couple of blocks, you have alternative movie theater, you have good restaurants, you have good shopping, you have a nice wine bar, and you can walk that whole area. And I guess Uptown is the same. There’s residential mixed in with the retail and the restaurants and the night life. A little bit younger crowd, I would say. A lot of people that want to hang in that area stay at the Hotel ZaZa, which also has a very busy bar scene.

Chris: Boutique hotel it sounds like?

Penny: Yes, exactly, with kind of theme rooms. We filmed Richard Branson there last year for some promo stuff for the…Virgin flies out of Dallas Love Field now. So he was in, I don’t know, some rock star suite or something. He is kind of the rock star of the airline business.

Chris: He is indeed. Well, and you mentioned Love Field. I’m not sure that everybody knows that there are the two different airports for Dallas, obviously Dallas Fort Worth, which is huge, which I’ll say I used to hate and now really like. It’s been really updated a lot and I spent I think 11 hours in it last year on the way back from South America. So I’ve spent a fair amount of time just waiting for planes in Dallas and if you’ve got to be waiting for a plane, that’s not a bad airport to be doing it in.

Penny: Hey and they have minute suites there.

Chris: Oh do they? Okay.

Penny: Yeah, they do. I like Love Field. If you’re traveling within the U.S., try to get a flight into Love Field because it’s so local, so convenient. You can get a taxi or an Uber very cheap from anywhere you want to go in Dallas from there. And hey, there’s a Cru wine bar in Love Field.

Chris: And that’s the first place where Southwest Airlines flew out of.

Penny: Yes. And now Virgin.

Chris: And now Virgin. That I didn’t know, excellent. Yeah, I have flown in there because I’ve flown into Dallas to do business with Southwest Airlines. So, oddly enough, we flew them in because otherwise it’s just rude. You mentioned earlier getting in touch with the Dallas culture and you’ve talked about the music culture, where else can we get in touch with what it means to be a temporary resident of Dallas?

Penny: Another great neighborhood is Oak Cliff, which is just slightly south of Dallas, it’s on the other side of the river as we say here. And it’s now connected by part of the DART Rail system. So, you don’t have to have a car to get there. I do recommend a car if you’re going to stay in Dallas for a week and you really want to see a lot of stuff. It’s just going to be easier.

Chris: I’m assuming we’re not going to want one in Downtown, but if we want to leave Downtown?

Penny: Yeah. But again you don’t need a car to go over to Oak Cliff. So in Oak Cliff, they have a really nice selection of restaurants, upscale, new place called Pink that just got really good reviews. Probably about $100 a person with wine. Kessler Theater, which is an old theater that now hosts very small, intimate, live music acts. I would recommend Oak Cliff if you want to get away from the city, the Downtown area and just see something a little different, a little different flavor. Bishop Arts District is all foot traffic. You can have upscale Southern cooking, barbecue, Mexican food, pretty much anything you want there. And there’s another little great music place over there called Ten Bells.

Chris: Okay. Only bell-ringing bands, right?

Penny: Not to be confused with Eight Bells, which is another sister place. Lower Greenville is another great neighborhood that’s been recently sort of revitalized, if you will, you can check the Attractions in Greenville, SC which are awesome. Again, it’s just a couple of blocks where you can walk from restaurant to restaurant, bar to bar. There’s everything from sushi to handcrafted popsicles to your Trader Joe’s to Persian food. And a very hip vibe, I would say.

Chris: Okay. And you mentioned walking restaurant to restaurant. That brings up weather. When is the best time to be in Dallas? I’m going to guess I’m going to enjoy that experience more at some times a year than in others.

Penny: I would avoid the summer. In a nutshell, winters can be cold. A lot of people don’t know that. It can be brutally cold.

Chris: And when you say cold, cold by whose standards? How cold is cold there?

Penny: Well, we had some Canadians here one time. I was working on a show with them and they were freezing. It can get really cold. We didn’t have a cold winter this winter, but don’t ever underestimate how cold it can get here. But summers are brutal and that’s a guarantee. It is humid and it is hot.

Chris: Now you don’t have quite the humidity that, say, Houston is going to have over closer to the coast.

Penny: A little bit better.

Chris: But you still have humidity and heat.

Penny: I’m seeing more and more people just learning to tolerate the heat and to be outside no matter what. I’m impressed because I don’t have it.

Chris: But when do you think is the best time of year to be in Dallas and then what is the best day of year to be in Dallas? You know, maybe a festival or an event.

Penny: Right, well I love fall here. I think fall is the most predictable of the two nice seasons, which is spring and fall. Spring can be really wet. So I like fall. And of course in the fall, you have the state fair.

Chris: Ah, okay, which you alluded to earlier.

Penny: Right. And there’s a lot of other festivals. There’s an Oktoberfest and the state fair brings in a lot of good music acts and, of course, there’s the competitions and the fried foods, which they’re kind of famous for.

Chris: So competitions like food competitions. What other kind of competitions are we going to see?

Penny: Livestock. It’s also the time when they have the Texas-OU football game, which is a legendary kind of rivalry in this area.

Chris: Football being kind of big there.

Penny: Football is huge here. And I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it very much because I’m not a football fan.

Chris: It’s okay. You should at least give a nod to the fact that kind of big in Texas.

Penny: It’s huge, yeah.

Chris: And at all levels. Not just at the professional level. That’s the other thing we should say.

Penny: Oh, yeah. Even high school.

Chris: And I think a lot of people, fans of “Friday Night Lights” may know that by now, so we’re not probably bringing that as a surprise to anybody.

Penny: I did work on the football movie “My All American” with Aaron Eckhart. They filmed that at the Cotton Bowl. Parts of it were filmed at the Cotton Bowl.

Chris: Now, I’m curious. You’re talking about the state fair. When we did an interview a long time ago on Wisconsin, the thing that stands out for me about the Wisconsin State Fair was they have butter heads. They have sculptures of people in butter. What is going to stand out for me that I’m going to remember five years from now about the Texas State Fair? What’s different about the Texas State Fair?

Penny: Well, there’s Big Tex who welcomes you to the state fair. Everybody knows Big Tex.

Chris: I don’t know Big Tex. I’m sorry.

Penny: Big Tex, he greets you. He’s not a real person of course, but he greets you and talks random facts and stuff about Texas as you enter the fair grounds. If you’re Tex-centric, you’re a fan of Big Tex. And so the other thing about the state fair is fried food. There’s fried bubblegum, fried cappuccino, fried…if you can cook it up, you can fry it.

Chris: Okay. I thought you were going to get to Snickers, but you’ve passed me there. Fried bubblegum?

Penny: Yeah. I haven’t tried it. I did try the fried cappuccino. It was good.

Chris: How does one fry cappuccino?

Penny: I just remember I liked it. I think it was frozen, like a frozen cappuccino.

Chris: Yeah? Battered and fried?

Penny: Somehow, yeah. I just remember it was tasty and not at all what I expected. And then, of course, corny dogs. Those are a big deal at the state fair, corny dog.

Chris: That’s just a corn dog?

Penny: Yeah. I think it’s Fletcher’s Corny Dogs? I think those are the ones everybody goes for.

Chris: Hey, I’m a sucker for corn dogs, so you got me there.

Penny: Then you’d enjoy the fair.

Chris: Anything else on the state fair?

Penny: Well, you can actually ride the DART Rail to the state fair now. So you don’t have to pay for parking, which is good. And, on certain days of the week, you can bring cans and get reduced admission. Stuff like that. There’s a lot of different ways to cut your cost down.

Chris: Different promotions and things going on. Excellent. You mentioned corn dogs and we’ve gone from corn dogs to spending $100 per person at Pink. If I wanted to have a great Texas dinner and I didn’t want to spend the $100 per person, where would we go?

Penny: Well, everybody comes here to eat barbecue.

Chris; Yes. I’m guilty as charged.

Penny: Yeah. I still like Sonny Bryan’s, which is the original barbecue place. It’s over by Love Field and it still gets written up and talked about. So I think they still got it. And they have great ambiance there, they really do. It’s a tiny, tiny, little, old place that’s probably been there for over 50 years.

Chris: And when I’m there, I’m ordering brisket, or what am I ordering while I’m in Texas?

Penny: Well, depends. Do you like ribs?

Chris: I do like ribs.

Penny: Ribs, brisket, and if you are at Sonny Bryan’s, onion rings. The onion rings are really good.

Chris: Fried.

Penny: Fried, of course! What other way could they be?

Chris: I’m catching on here.

Penny: Yeah. Definitely Sonny Bryan’s. And then, there’s a couple new places that are a little bit more upscale, but good. One’s called Smoke and that is by the Belmont Hotel, which is kind of up on a hill so you get a nice view of Downtown from there, and with your barbecue, you get a view. And then there’s a place called Lockhart Smokehouse, which is known for their barbecue and I guess they’ve opened this restaurant in Bishop Arts District here in the area. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s getting good reviews. And, barbecue and a cold beer, that’s what you do.

Chris: I’m going to skip the beer, just not a fan, but I will have to say, and my apologies to Memphis, my apologies to Kansas City, to Southern California, to North Carolina, my favorite barbecue in the U.S. is Texas.

Penny: Well, they don’t do much with sauce here. It’s really more about the meat.

Chris: Interesting.

Penny: Yeah. And then, the other thing that you should do is have tacos. You should definitely have tacos.

Chris: Now I want to take you in another direction. That’s what I expected to find. What’s going to surprise me when I get out of the airport and actually see Dallas? What’s the classiest thing about Dallas that people are going to go, “You’re kidding. In Dallas? In Texas?”

Penny: I think the Arts District is pretty cool.

Chris: Excellent. Tell me more.

Penny: You have the Meyerson Symphony Center, you have the Winspear Opera House, you have the Wiley Theatre Center, you have three museums, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center. All of this is in just a couple of blocks.

Chris: Why is there an Asian museum? What’s the connection to Dallas?

Penny: The Crows were just big collectors. The Crows are one of kind of the big founding families of the city. Real estate developers. And they’re collectors of Asian art, so this is their museum. And they do a lot of interesting things there. They do a Chinese New Year festival, they have ongoing yoga classes, meditation classes. The Tibetan monks come and do their sand mandalas and they have all sorts of activities scheduled around that. It’s actually a little jewel in Dallas that a lot of people don’t go to, but it’s very much worth going to. I like it a lot.

Chris: I believe you rose to the occasion there and surprised me. You said three museums, did I get all three? The Art, the Asian Art, and the?

Penny: The Nasher and the Dallas Museum of Art. And just on the other side of the freeway is the Perot Science Museum, which is new. And I haven’t been there myself, but everybody raves about it and it’s a great place to take kids because there’s all sorts of interactive things to do. And in the middle, in between all of this, is Klyde Warren Park, which was recently nominated, I think it was USA Today top ten list for best urban park in the USA.

Chris: Excellent.

Penny: Yeah.

Chris: Your favorite part of the park?

Penny: You know what? Dare I say, I don’t go to that park.

Chris: You can say. Because there’s a better one, which is?

Penny: I go to White Rock Lake. And that’s another big surprise. If you haven’t been there, the next time you’re in Dallas, you should try to go. It’s nine miles around the perimeter of the lake, but it’s in the middle of the city. Nobody expects this, it’s like a little oasis there. There are walking trails, biking trails. You can paddle, canoe, kayak, row. You can sail. There are a couple of little sailing clubs. It’s really a beautiful spot for just being outside, being near water, which is always so nice and tranquil. If I want to be outside, that’s pretty much where I go. I like to go early in the morning when there’s not too many people there.

Chris: While we’re outside, other day trips that you would recommend from Dallas?

Penny: Well, we were talking about Fort Worth. I would recommend Fort Worth as a day trip, maybe even an overnight day trip. Spend the night downtown and go to the museum. There’s a beautiful museum district there as well. The Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. Beautiful building, inside and out. And one of my favorite speak-easy type bars is called the Scat Jazz Lounge, and that’s in Fort Worth. You could walk there from wherever you were staying around the downtown area. And then the Stockyards. I do take a lot of people to the Stockyards. A friend of mine asked me today, he said, “Why would you take people there?” and I said, “Because there’s a lot of history in the Stockyards.” And if you want to see longhorn cattle, which a lot of people who come here want to see, go to the Stockyards.They have a cattle drive twice a day. You can watch some cowboys herd a small herd of longhorn cattle down the street. If you’re interested in the TV show “Dallas” and a lot of people are, which always sort of shocks me, but Southfork is a day trip. Half a day.

Chris: Southfork being the ranch?

Penny: The ranch where they filmed the TV show. And the house is a museum, you can go inside, you can see where they shot J.R. There’s longhorn cattle out there.

Chris: I imagine there’s some younger people who are listening to this show having no idea who J.R. is and why he was shot.

Penny: Yeah, I wasn’t sure if I should mention it.

Chris: But this is the first big cliffhanger in TV where they shot him in the final episode of the season. We had to wait all summer to find out who shot him. And you don’t understand, if you weren’t around, what a big deal that was, and how much speculation there was. And what a good job actually, they did of keeping that a secret too. So, you just got to be there.

Penny: Yeah. And when I go to Europe now, people still talk about that show. It’s very funny.

Chris: It was quite popular internationally.

Penny: It was. And I worked on “Walker, Texas Ranger” for awhile. That’s one of the first things that sometimes people will say to me in Italy is, “Oh, you worked on TV! ‘Walker, Texas Ranger!'”

Chris: Which means that you actually know, probably, more Chuck Norris jokes than I do.

Penny: Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure about that.

Chris: There is a whole genre of jokes about just how tough Chuck Norris is. But as we start to think about wrapping this up, having lost completely control of myself in this process, what else should we talk about before we get to my last four questions?

Penny: Okay. There’s one place I have to tell you about that I don’t think gets enough attention. And this is in Fair Park, the Esplanade. The Esplanade at Fair Park was built in the ’30s and there are these magnificent Art Deco sculptures that line each side of the Esplanade, and each one represents one of the countries who was controlling Texas. So you have Mexico, Spain, France, the Republic of Texas, the USA, and…

Chris: And the CSA.

Penny: So, the sculptures are wonderful. There’s a beautiful reflecting pool with fountains that go off to music. It’s just an outdoor Art Deco museum, and hardly anyone goes there. It’s fantastic. It’s like you have the whole place to yourself. If you like Art Deco history, walking in outdoor spaces relatively on your own, it’s a pretty cool…I take everybody there and everybody loves it.

Chris: We named the five countries that have ruled over Texas, but I know that the flag is called “Six flags over Texas,” so I knew there was a sixth. And that would be France that ruled portion of Texas as French Louisiana. I knew there was a sixth because otherwise the theme park was named incorrectly.

Penny: Yes. Mexico, Spain, France, USA, the Republic, and what’s the other one though?

Chris: CSA. Confederate States of America.

Penny: Okay.

Chris: So, you’re standing in the prettiest spot in all of Dallas. Where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Penny: Oh, wow. I think Rock Lake. Definitely.

Chris: Okay. At what time of day are you there?

Penny: Sunrise, sunset. Either is good. If you’re there at sunset, you probably want to be, obviously, on the east side of the lake, or not. I think White Rock Lake, it’s just lovely and you don’t expect it.

Chris: Okay. Finish this thought, you really know you’re in Dallas, Texas when what?

Penny: Yeah. So you really know you’re in Dallas when you see Reunion Tower and there’s an LED light show on the exterior of this ball. It’s like a tower with this ball that just sits on top of it and this where you can go inside and go in the revolving restaurant. But from the outside, it’s an LED light show every night and it’s always different. Sometimes it’ll be, if it’s Fourth of July, it’ll be stars and stripes. If it’s St. Patrick’s Day, it’ll be green. So yeah. You really know you’re in Dallas when you see the ball, because it stands out in the middle of this very flat terrain.

Chris: And you can see it for miles the other direction, I imagine.

Penny: Yeah. And also we have the newly opened, well in the last couple of years, Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which is a Calatrava bridge, and everyone here is very proud of that.

Chris: And I’m going to have you explain that.

Penny: The Calatrava bridge? Well, because Calatrava is a very famous architect, Spanish architect. And so we had all of these small bridges from the ’30s that connected Dallas to the other side of the Trinity River. So they decided that those weren’t very functional and we needed a really cool bridge. And so they decided we needed a Calatrava bridge. And it’s not actually 100% complete, that project, but the main bridge is now open and once a year, I think it just happened a week ago, they closed down the bridge to auto traffic and it becomes a big yoga studio.

Chris: Because that’s really what I think of when I think of Dallas. Excellent. And last question, you had to summarize Dallas in just three words, what three words would you use?

Penny: Bigger, better, and hotter.

Chris: Excellent, excellent. Our guest, again, has been Penny Sadler. And Penny, where can people read about your travels?

Penny: My personal travel blog is

Chris: And is there a great post there about Dallas that we can read?

Penny: You know what? There are. There’s a lot of the stuff I talked about. Obviously I like it and so I’ve written about it.

Chris: Do you have one that you would recommend for us?

Penny: There’s a great one on places to go listen to jazz music. Actually, there’s two. So if you’re looking for a little cozy venues to go hang out and have dinner or not and listen to jazz, definitely check out my blog for that. Five great places for jazz.

Chris: Excellent. And I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. And, Penny, thank you so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for Dallas.

Penny: Thanks for having me, Chris

Chris: Eric left a comment on last week’s episode that we did on Buffalo that said, “Thanks for the episode about Buffalo, a truly underrated place to visit, of which I have only scratched the surface. Your guest didn’t mention Buffalo Central Terminal, the old train station which dominates the skyline of the east side of town. It was built during the city’s hay day in anticipation of the growth that never happened. It was eventually abandoned. Preservation efforts are underway and I was fortunate to pass through town on a day when it was open for visits. For folks interested in history and architecture, it is an unmissable site.” And I put a link to that,, in the show notes. Thanks, Eric.

I also heard from Chris Bogden, former guest on the show from the Pittsburgh and Poland episodes, who also commented on the Buffalo episode. “I mentioned in the last two podcasts about a Polish polka band I play with. Well, one of the things that Buffalo is very famous for is Dyngus Day. It is always the Monday after Easter, and it is more an Americanized holiday similar to St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish. It is normally a national holiday in Buffalo. There’s a massive parade, fun, drinking, and polka band in, like, every bar. Definitely something to see when you are in Buffalo. Also not far from Buffalo, but on a trip between Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo is the great Lake Erie Wine Trail. Not like Napa wines, but there are a lot of bed and breakfast and wineries. Definitely something to check out, keep up the good work, Chris.” Thanks so much Chris.

With that, we’re going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. I’m trying to get out one more episode before the trip to Cambodia next week, so it’s a little hectic around here, but I’m looking forward to seeing some of you in just a few days in Saigon. If you have any questions, send an email to host at, or better yet, come ask them in person in Saigon. And, as always, thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

One Response to “Travel to Dallas, Texas – Episode 508”



One of my favorite things that Dallas did was created a park overtop the highway connecting the mid-cities with Dallas and North Dallas.

It’s called Klyde Warren Park and it may be one of the best city parks I’ve been to. They put on so many great events and there’s endless things to do there.

Plus it’s very unique in it’s placement!

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