YOU MIGHT ASSUME Dallas, being smack-dab in the middle of Texas, has a Western vibe. You’d be right … and a little wrong. You’ll spot plenty of cowboys and cowgirls wearing 10-gallon hats across the city, but you’re just as likely to see ladies rocking high-end designer handbags or men wearing sustainably harvested ostrich leather boots.“What a time we’ll have on Greenville Avenue with the big shots in Big D,” as hometown heroes the Old 97’s sing, and they know of which they croon. You’ll notice a definite energy crackling through the city. Willie Nelson might be the patron saint of Texas, but in Dallas itself, J.R. Ewing is the spirit animal. Oil money continues to fuel this town, which still has a lot in common with the 1980s prime-time soap opera that shared its name. JR’s and Sue Ellen’s are the names of two long-standing local gay and lesbian bars, respectively.If you want to dress the part of an urban cowboy, Wild Bill’s Western Store will deck you out in the right duds. You’ll strut out feeling like the real deal, even if the only ranch you’ve ever known has been next to Buffalo wings. Cody Newport, who bought the store last summer with his wife Julie, says the popularity of shows like Yellowstone brings a constant stream of new customers, some from as far away as Europe. Hundreds of boxes filled with cowboy hats are neatly stacked in the shop, just waiting to be shaped to virtually any style using the custom-made steamer grafted out of bull horns. Can’t find the right pair of boots to complete your outfit? You can special order a pair to your exact specifications. Just be prepared to shell out at least $900.Tequila is a Texan’s spirit of choice; the frozen margarita, in fact, was invented in Dallas. So it’s only fitting that these days, visitors can embark on the Margarita Mile, a host of bars located throughout the city, each offering a unique spin on the cocktail. Beto & Son takes the frozen margarita concept to a whole other level, using liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze the concoction. You can also try the chili margarita at Ruins. It has just the right amount of spicy kick, as does the Picarita at Yellow Rosa, a speakeasy-style cocktaileria behind an unmarked door.Although sister city Austin rightfully claims the “Live Music Capital of the World” title, Dallas hosts a wealth of both local and national musical artists performing in the Deep Ellum neighborhood most nights. If you’re lucky, you might even catch rising stars the Vandoliers playing a warm-up show at The Kessler before embarking on another whirlwind tour. Country might be the default music genre of Texas, but in Deep Ellum, you’re just as likely to hear a band cover Taylor Swift as Ryan Bingham. The quintessential dive bar, Adair’s Saloon, is the go-to favorite for last call. The bar has live music most nights, but if you swing by earlier, you can play free selections from the expertly curated jukebox.Want more of an authentic cowboy experience? Head to neighboring Fort Worth. There, you’ll find a host of honky-tonks, including Billy Bob’s, the self-proclaimed world’s largest. While mechanical bulls are all over this city, you won’t find one at Billy Bob’s—because they have an actual rodeo ring with live bulls. Only professionals can hop on, but cheering from the sidelines is nearly as much fun.
One of Dallas’s first skyscrapers and former home of the Magnolia Petroleum Company, the Magnolia offers gorgeous views of the skyline from well-appointed rooms.
Get your reservations early for Las Palmas, which serves upscale Tex-Mex. Be sure to order the killer Akaushi wagyu fajitas, cooked on a fire of mesquite and hickory wood. The cliché is warranted here: they melt in your mouth. And you can’t end the night without sampling their sopapilla cheesecake and a carajillo, a coffee-based cocktail. (Pro tip: You may want to skip lunch.)Photos courtesy Visit Dallas.