- North America,
- United States
Texas is home to first-rate arts, music, and shopping – and Austin and Dallas are known for their supreme offerings. In Dallas, you can experience upscale boutiques and ice skating in the Galleria or museums and opera in the Dallas Arts District. In Austin, the "Live Music Capital of the World," there are nearly 200 live music venues to visit and unique shops in the South Congress shopping district. Both cities offer a glimpse into all Texas has to offer. Visit www.TravelTex.com to learn more.
Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas 75201
Tel: 800 542 8680 (toll-free), Tel: 214 922 0200, Fax: 214 720 7575
The 2007 opening of this Dallas hotel marked the first new Ritz-Carlton to be built in the U.S. in three years, and this time, they're clearly aiming for something beyond the wealthy-gramps set. The hip restaurant and the sleek Rattlesnake Bar have a tech-boom feel but, this being the Ritz, still seem to attract mostly ladies who lunch. The lobby embodies yet another aesthetic: Marble floors support wooden sculptures, and a delicate chandelier hangs over curving bronze vases. Futuristic amenities (think television screens in bathroom mirrors) adorn the 218 rooms, but the decor still tends toward the classic with muted brocades and dark wood furniture. A note of caution: Suites aren't that much nicer than regular roomsit's a lot of money for a little extra space. In addition, you won't get much in the way of views: Most rooms look out on cranes working on hotels and luxury high-rises hoping to be Dallas's new hot spot. The cutting-edge spa with everything from Ayurvedic treatments to a "Hill Country Aromatic Manicure" is worth the trip, even if you're not staying in the hotel.
See + Do
Dallas World Aquarium, Texas
Dallas, Texas 75202
Tel: 214 720 2224
The aquarium isn't the half of this ambitious, privately operated zoological garden in Dallas's West End Historic District. An enormous glassed-in habitat reproduces Venezuela's Orinoco rain forest, monkeys and toucans gambol in the treetops, and crocodiles and manatees swim down below. In the new junglelike eight-story Mundo Maya habitat, hummingbirds and butterflies flit, panthers prowl, and bull sharks lurk over visitors' heads in a glassed-in tunnel. The aquarium has gorgeous saltwater environments ranging from British Columbia (giant octopus) to the reefs of Palau. Have a drink and a bite in the Eighteen-O-One restaurant while the kids go wild.
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.
See + Do
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Dallas, Texas 75201
Tel: 214 922 1200
Though it is the least distinguished architecturally of the area's major museums, Edward Larrabee Barnes' sleek, modern building is dramatically ambitious if somewhat overbearing. The collections broadly survey European, American, Asian, and African art while also showcasing cutting-edge contemporary work, often from some of Europe's biggest stars. Decorative arts are another strength, with a definitive collection of American silver. But the premier collection is ancient art from South and Central America, and it's one of the world's finest, featuring stunning displays of Incan gold and Mayan ceramics. The museum also functions as a site for frequent concerts, readings, and lectures.
Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11 am to 5 pm, Thursdays 11 am to 9 pm, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.
Dallas, Texas 75205
Tel: 214 559 3111
When this foodie landmark opened in 1999, the combination of celebrity chef Kent Rathbun's Asian-Southwestern-Parisian fusion menu, the wackily geometrized but impeccably finished Miami-meets-Kyoto decor, and the gourmet glitterati crowd seemed almost insufferably chic. But Abacus has toned it down with age. A muted palate of cream, champagne, and brown now highlights new artwork, mostly by servers from the restaurant. The signature starter here is the lobster "shooter," a little lobster-filled deep-fried dumpling chugged from a shot glass full of chili-spiced coconut curry cream and sake. Pork belly is all the rage these days, and here it's crisply seared, with tamarind barbecue glaze and so-called "Thai style" pickled English cucumbers. There's also a full sushi menu in addition to the small plates and big plates. The menu changes frequently based on the seasonality of ingredients.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 6 to 11 pm.
This neighborhood just north of downtown Dallas, which is roughly defined by the route of the McKinney Avenue Trolley, is chockablock with charming older residences that house many of the city's best art galleries, florists, frame shops, boutiques, and antique shops. Shaded sidewalks actually encourage walking, so begin with Stanley Korshak. Located in the Crescent Court (Philip Johnson's massive 1985 French Second Empireon-steroids concoction), this impeccable local specialty store is fitted out in a luxuriously contemporary Milanese style, with designer boutiques, bridal shop, and the most stylish menswear in town. Uncommon Market consists of two picturesque houses and an adjacent warehouse, all overflowing with a global selection of reasonably priced furniture, decorative accessories, and architectural salvage. There are whole rooms devoted to leather-bound books, old leather luggage, and light fixturesand an entire yard full of stone and cast-iron urns. Riddell Rare Maps & Fine Print has a rich selection of 17th- to 19th-century cartography and historical prints, focusing on Texas and the West. Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery features cutting-edge fine-art photography by regional icons as well as international stars. At the north end of Uptown is the West Village, a two-block retailresidential development with more than 30 glamorous, young-thinking shops where you can buy Vespas, custom-tailored shirts, gourmet dog biscuits, or really outrageous urban cowboy attire. Ahab Bowen is bursting at the seams with vintage dresses and costume jewelry.
Four Seasons Hotel Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas 78701
Tel: 512 478 4500, Fax: 512 478 3117
Think cowhide can't be classed up? Try camping out in the Southwestern-themed Four Seasons for a few days. The primo downtown location on the banks of Lady Bird Lake puts you near both the trendy Warehouse District and the convention center, but many guests stick close, descending from their rooms for an afternoon by the fireplace on the hide-covered sofas or ordering drinks from the VIP-heavy bar ("Was that Matthew McConaughey toting a bongo?"). The 291 rooms have goose-down pillows, full-size desks, and oversize armchairs. (The Congressional Suite has a wraparound terrace.) From March through October, ask for a terrace room overlooking the Congress Avenue bridge, so you can watch the bat colony fill the sky at sunset. But any time of the year is ideal for savoring a wine flight at the bar-restaurant's lovely outdoor patio by the lake.
See + Do
The Hill Country may not be as dramatic as Big Bend or the Piney Woods, but many Texans say it's the most beautiful region in the state. In the spring, when bluebonnets and other wildflowers add a splash of color to the limestone cliffs and live oakcovered hills, it can be downright spectacular. You'll see hordes of families pulling over on the highways to take photos in the flowers. You can see why Lance Armstrong trains here. In fact, cyclists of all types come for the challenging terrain and stunning beauty. Hill Country Bicycle Works in Fredericksburg rents high-quality mountain and road bikes and recommends the best trails (830-990-2609; www.hillcountrybicycle.com). For hiking and camping within an hour of town, drive west on Highway 71 to Llano, then head south on Highway 16 until you reach Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (830-685-3636; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/enchantd). Get there early, though, as the park fills up fast. For a more sedentary afternoon, take Farm-to-Market Road 1431 to Marble Falls and savor the chicken-fried steak at the Blue Bonnet Café; (830-693-2344; www.bluebonnetcafe.net). The journey home at sunset is even more enjoyable on a full stomach. Better still is Café 909 (830-693-2126; www.cafe909.com), where the menu goes beyond mere comfort food to haute Texas cuisine with dishes like grilled peaches wrapped in Speck and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan and balsamic syrup.
See + Do
It's hard to get more landlocked than the interior of Texas, but Austin has three lakes nearbytwo essentially within townthat on weekends explode into social scenes.
Lady Bird Lake (renamed from "Town Lake" for Lady Bird Johnson, who recently passed away) isn't actually a lake, but rather the Colorado River. The wide part of the river that runs through downtown is ringed by hiking and biking trails; sculling is also popular, though motorboats are prohibited.
Lake Austin sits between two dams on the western edge of town and is rimmed by million-dollar homes; its usually calm surface is perfect for waterskiing. The Hula Hut has a deck on Lake Austin and is massively popular after work (3825 Lake Austin Blvd.; 512-476-4852; www.hulahut.com)probably because the cocktails are better than the food. Next door is Mozart's, whose magical lakefront location makes it one of the most romantic coffee shops in Texasperhaps America (3826 Lake Austin Blvd.; 512-477-2900; www.mozartscoffee.com).
Located 20 minutes outside of town, Lake Travis has more than 270 miles of shoreline. Though there might be fewer cigarette boats spraying rooster tails than in the go-go days of the dot-com boom, the waters are still full of ski boats, and there's as much boat-to-boat socializing as actual waterskiing. A handful of marinas offer day rentals for powerboats, party barges, and wave runners; try Just for Fun (Emerald Point Marina; 5973 Hiline Rd.; 512-266-9710; www.jff.net). Johnny Fins (16405 Clara Van Trail; 512-266-2811; www.johnnyfins.com) and the Lakehouse Café; (512-264-7040; www.lakehousecafe.com; weekends only) are the main options for float-up dining and drinkingbut take heed of strict local policies on drinking and boating. There are several beaches, but the curious steer toward Hippie Hollow, the only public clothing-optional park in the state.
Tel: 512 474 4452
Velvet Elvises papering the walls and hubcaps on the ceiling set the mood; the Hatch green chile sauce provides a caliente kick to the enchiladas and burritos; the potent margaritas—made with fresh limes, not sour mix—keep the buzz going. (Yes, this is where First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush got busted for underage drinking in 2001.) Chuy's food is pretty straightforward Tex-Mex but it compensates for a lack of surprises with gargantuan portions and gregarious service. Three other locations have sprung up around town, but the original on Barton Springs remains the classic.
Red River, Texas
An area that was down and out just a few years ago, this three-block strip just north of Sixth now boasts the city's tightest concentration of clubs. Glamorous gals are drawn to the fancy mixed drinks at the Club de Ville lounge; hipster boys are drawn to the gals; everyone loves the setting, a tree-lined patio sitting under a limestone cliff (512-457-0900). Across the street, Stubb's dishes up satisfactory barbecue and doubles as an outdoor venue for up-and-coming touring bands; during South by Southwest, the speakers never seem to get a break (512-480-8341; www.stubbsaustin.com). One more block down, the Red-Eyed Fly gets the punk fans, alterna-chicks, and the bands they love (512-474-1084; www.redeyedfly.com).