Tuesday 16 July 2019

Dallas Flyers' Club: Direct flights from Ireland make Texas an easy trip

Direct flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Ireland take off this summer. Eugene Masterson gives Texas a try...

Dallas Arts District. Photo: Joseph Haubert / Visit Dallas
Dallas Arts District. Photo: Joseph Haubert / Visit Dallas
Deep Ellum, Dallas. Photo: Joseph Haubert / VisitDallas.com
Eugene Masterson at Southfork Ranch
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey, Dallas
AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Photo by James D. Smith
NorthPark Center in Dallas. Photo: Justin Clemons / Visit Dallas

Eugene Masterson

Dallas resonates with many Irish people for various reasons, ranging from the celebrated TV series to the tragic scene of the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

But this bustling hub has lots to appeal to varied tastes, ranging from its lively restaurants and bars to its fantastic shopping emporiums.

If you want a unique way of seeing the city then book a tour with Efrogs, which is a golf cart–type  buggy which carries small groups or couples and careers around the streets.

My first and last visit to Dallas was in 1991, and back then the Deep Ellum neighbourhood was already established as a vibrant area, where eateries and clubs catered for crowds out for a good night. It’s nice to see that this area is still flourishing, with over 60 busy restaurants and music venues.

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Deep Ellum, Dallas. Photo: Joseph Haubert / VisitDallas.com

Deep Ellum (above) is located near the vibrant Dallas Arts District, spanning 68 acres and 19 continuous blocks. There is a whole range of attractions in the arts district, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.

While in downtown Dallas, be sure to stop by for a wonderful photo opportunity with sculpture feature of a herd of bronze longhorn and cowboys. They are on an outcropping that drops in elevation to a water pool and pays homage to Dallas’s cowboy heritage.

If you watch to catch a real life rodeo the sister city of Fort Worth holds weekly events in the Stockyards, where many of the folk attending wear stetsons and drink beer while watching exhibitions or competitions (it is about a half hour ride from Dallas city centre).

I based myself in the Hampton Inn and Suites hotel in the business downtown area of the city, which is located just a couple of blocks from one of the city’s few Irish bars, the Crafty Irishman.

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The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey, Dallas

A definite must-see is visit to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza (above), which sprang to worldwide infamy on November 22 1963. It was in the Texas School Book Depository that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly carried out the assassination of JFK, who was passing in a motorcade below.

There is an extensive collection of artefacts from that day, as well as films analysing what happened and also various conspiracy theories. ‘Ireland in mourning’ proclaims the now defunct ‘Evening Press’, which is used as a clipping in a showreel of reaction from around the world at the time.

The John F Kennedy memorial was erected nearby in 1970, with Jackie’s approval, and although it looks quite stark in structure it is worth some sombre and peaceful reflecting at its cenotaph.

Located just a few minutes away is the Reunion Tower, which is the iconic centrepiece of the impressive Dallas skyline and the city’s 15th highest building. But it’s the 561 ft (171 m) observation tower which attracts hordes of visitors, who enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding metropolitan area and surrounding countryside.

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AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Photo by James D. Smith

One building that can be seen in the distance is the AT&T Stadium (above), which is the largest domed structure in the world and cost over €1 billion to build.

The stadium in Arlington is the home of the Dallas Cowboys American football team and anyone interested in sport should hop along – Conor McGregor was recently feted there by the club’s owners, while Ed Sheeran sold out the 100,000 capacity venue shortly after my trip there.

A VIP tour for around €30 allows you access to the players home dressing room – and intriguingly I was also allowed check out the cheerleaders changing room which is adorned with individually framed pictures of the various beauties above each locker.

For fans of horticulture, it’s also worth a jaunt to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, which is a lush oasis of 66 acres and has fabulous blooms all year around. When I was there recently it has a Halloween theme, complete with 90,000 pumpkins, big and small, littered throughout its grounds.

Shoppers will also be in seventh heaven by taking in the North Park Center, which has over 200 stores, including a favourite with many Irish folk, Macys. There are also a couple of designer malls, such as the Allen Premium Outlets, which are much like Kildare Village and have discount ranges stores such as Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Armani and Banana Republic.

Finally, my personal favourite aspect of my trip to was to see Southfork ranch and get inside the actual house where the famous Dallas TV series was set.

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Eugene Masterson at Southfork Ranch

It’s hard to believe that it’s just over 40 years ago this year that the Ewing clan first burst onto our screens (April 1978). Most of Ireland had just one TV channel at the time (RTE1) and when JR was shot (1980) it was the biggest ‘whodunnit’ telly viewers had ever seen. The original TV series lasted until 1991, before being rebooted in 2012 for three seasons.

When I last visited Dallas in 1991 it was impossible to get into the grounds let alone the mansion back then, but today visitors from all around the world flock to see where the show was filmed.

First stop is the ticket office/store where all sorts of souvenirs can be purchased. An adjacent museum houses memorabilia from the show, such as the famous gun used to shoot JR.

A cart waits outside to transport you through the grounds until you reach the mansion itself, where replica rooms are laid out (most of the interior scenes were actually shot in Los Angeles).

It was an added treat to go horseriding around the ranch, which can be done for about €40 for an hour. Definitely a once in a lifetime memory.

American Airlines will launch their new direct service from Dublin to Dallas in June and will be the only direct link between Ireland and Texas. Flights will be operated by 787-9 Dreamliners with lie-flat beds in Business Class, Premium Economy seats and Wi-Fi (see below).

The new flight will not only give Irish travelers access not only to Dallas, but one stop connections in DFW airport but as it’s a hub for American Airlines has links to other exciting destinations in North America such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, Las Vegas and San Diego.

But it’s Dallas that’s calling now and it certainly is a city that sparkles bright in the Lone Star State.

Get there

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NorthPark Center in Dallas. Photo: Justin Clemons / Visit Dallas

American Airlines will fly direct daily between Dublin and Dallas/Fort Worth between June 6 and September 28 of this year. Prices start from €491pp in Economy, €820pp in Premium Economy and €3,55 pp in Flagship Business Class (see aa.com) for more.

The Hampton Inn and Suites (hamptoninn3.hilton.com) is a good downtown location to base yourself in. Prices start at around €130 a night for a double room.

For more information on Dallas, check out visitdallas.com.

This feature originally appeared in The Sunday World.

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