Dallas, Texas: Following in the footsteps of JR and JFK
The US can be expensive, but Michelle Jackson finds bargains can still be had on a visit to the vibrant city of Dallas.
There was a time when the Irish flooded across the Atlantic, grabbing bargains in malls like New York's Woodbury Common, but the strong dollar has seen a slowdown in travel shopping.
However, with the euro making a slow comeback I arrived into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport with an empty suitcase to see if I could make up my fare like we used to in the halcyon days. I booked my flight in the January sales and got good value at €498 return.
I stayed at the Fairmont, located conveniently downtown, close to the arts district and buzzing McKinney Avenue where the best restaurants can be found. The views from our hotel room were on par with JR Ewing's office! Great coffee making facilities and a huge bathroom are also a bonus.
My travelling companion is an avid shopper and accountant, great help when working out conversion rates. We set off on our first excursion to the highly recommended Stampede 66 Texas restaurant. The decor is very cool with wire sculpted horses protruding from the ceiling. Dallas is buzzing and it's no surprise as the state of Texas has the 13th richest economy in the world, on a par with Saudi Arabia.
After dinner, the Fairmont sent its courtesy car - one of the nice luxuries in our room rate - to bring us to Reunion Tower. Ten minutes later we were on the Geodeck observation point on the 68th floor. With spectacular views of the Dallas skyline, it's well worth a visit day or night and helped us to get our bearings. For an outlay of $44, the Dallas CityPass booklet covers the entrance charge. The CityPass is good value and covers admission into four major attractions.
We took a cab to Deep Ellum, the trendy music district, for the rest of the evening. Most of the bars have live bands with no cover charge. We chose The Free Man, a Cajun bar and lounge, where the beer is reasonably priced and the band exceptionally good.
Next morning, 30 minutes by car took us to The Grand Prairie Shopping Mall. It's one of the Simon Group Premium Outlet Malls and opens at 10am. We found great shops and excellent value at Columbia and Aeropostale. I brought a cardboard cut-out of my daughter's foot to help find a pair of runners in the Nike store, picking up a pink pair of trainers for just over $30. The Vans store also offered savings. For my tween daughter, Justice is perfect and one of the last stores that can't be found in Ireland. Everything in the shop had 30pc off on the new season range - reasonably priced trendy gear and different to all that will be seen on the streets of Dublin. The Converse store was another with great offers with two T-shirts for $25.
But a brand purchase such as a Micheal Kors handbag is where real savings can be made and a big purchase like an engagement ring from Jared Vault could save the price of flights or hotel, or both. The exchange rate doesn't mean that all items are as cheap as they used to be but they are definitely about 30pc cheaper overall than at home.
The hotel courtesy car brought us to the Sixth Floor Museum and Book Depository, saving on taxi fare. This is a must do - it takes visitors through the final hours of JFK's life and I left with more questions than answers about who actually killed him. The Grassy Knoll is marked with a bright yellow banner and the actual spot where the president was shot is marked in the middle of the road by a white x.
With spring in the air, the Dallas Arboretum is a wonderful attraction and, including the admission to the Sixth Floor Museum, we have already more than made up the price of our CityPass.
Art isn't the first thing that comes to mind when in Dallas but any city that is booming and prosperous has funds to support the arts.
The Dallas Museum of Art is currently showing an exhibition of Dutch masters including Vermeers.
The space and interactive information areas makes this one of the most impressive galleries I have been to in a while.
The city that gave us hours of television viewing in the 1980s and where the much-beloved JFK came to a sad end, proved to be a wonderful destination for a fun-filled few days while in the US.
United Airlines fares (united.com; normally via Toronto from Dublin) start from around €600 return. For Fairmont hotel details see fairmont.com/dallas.
Shopping: simon.com or premiumoutlets.com/outlets/grand-prairie: register online to download coupons and make savings. The Dallas City Pass costs $44.
For more info visit visitdallas.com.