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A Weekend in Downtown Dallas

Written by , published February 25, 2010

I give a solid thumbs-up to a City Weekend in Dallas. I'd heard a lot about the new developments in downtown and the nearby Arts District, so I decided to investigate this past weekend. My husband, Randy, and I booked a room at the beautiful new Joule Hotel, a few steps away from the original Neiman Marcus, on Main Street. Downtown Dallas, with its gargoyle-festooned buildings that date to the early 1900s, is still primarily a financial district, but that's gradually changing. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels are drawing more nighttime visitors downtown, imbuing the streets with fresh energy.

You can find a great rate at the Joule (as low as $99) if you "friend" the hotel on Facebook), and on the weekend we visited, the hotel offered a $129 rate online. Well worth it! The standard rooms meet my criteria for comfort: high-thread-count sheets, luxurious bath products, reading lights on both sides of the bed, etc. But the decor and attention to detail really put the Joule in another league. Artwork by the likes of Andy Warhol and Julian Stanczak decorate the public areas, books on fashion invite reading in the library, a 30-foot water wheel languorously rotates in the lobby. We enjoyed brunch at the hotel's romantically lit restaurant, Charlie Palmer's; I can recommend the salmon and sautéed greens for an instant jolt of health and vitality.

Or so it felt when we set off on foot to explore the nearby Arts District, a mere 15 minute walk away. Major change is taking place here. The Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, and the Meyerson Symphony Center have been joined by the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, a complex that includes the stunning Winspear Opera House and several other venues for art, dance, music, and theater.

Our downtown location proved perfect for exploring other destinations in central Dallas, too: We hopped across the Trinity River to explore the former Industrial Boulevard (now renamed Riverfront), where a number of vintage furniture shops have opened since October. (Fuel City, a much-lauded truckstop-taco-joint that serves killer picadillo tacos, is on Riverfront, too.) We ventured south of downtown to have tapas at Café Madrid, in the hip Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff. (My favorite tapas here: the artichoke hearts with pancetta, plus the salty fried smelt.) And finally, we returned to Oak Cliff en route back to Austin, where we had brunch at Smoke, the new restaurant at the hipster Belmont Hotel. Huddled over plates of barbecue, eggs Benedict, pancakes, and other stick-to-your-ribs items, diners awakened and recovered from late-night debauchery. Or so I imagine. I was asleep by 10:30, lulled into sweet dreams by Spanish wine, crisp sheets, mellow hotel lighting, and the pleasant fatigue of exploration.

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