Of course everything is bigger in Texas — and nowhere does big better than Big D. With big buildings, big hair, big business, big culinary scene, big museum district, big amusement parks, big hotels, big freeways, Dallas earned that popular nickname. And even though, Houston and San Antonio are actually bigger, when counting the entire Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, comprising 12 counties and 7 million residents, Dallas is bigger. In fact, it’s the largest metropolitan area in the South and the 4th largest in the USA.

Most Texans think they know all about Dallas, but lately it’s exploded with exciting growth and changes, so it may not be the same old Big D they once knew. Sure, many favorite old-stand-by attractions like Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the JFK memorial, Sixth Floor Museum, and the Dallas Zoo remain popular, but there there’s a lot more to do and see. Don’t miss the George W. Bush Presidential Center, museum and library, or the great tours of the AT&T Stadium where the Cowboys play in Arlington. So, let’s mosey on over to Dallas for spring and see what big discoveries await.

Head Uptown
This shiny hip Uptown district is the “new Dallas” you need to see. Here well-heeled locals, happy visitors, and suit-and-tie business folks tend to congregate. Just up McKinney Avenue from the downtown area, they know they’ll find Dallas’ hottest restaurants, bars, art galleries, shops, coffee bars, bakeries, spas, salons and more. Try everyone’s favorite restaurants there, like Mia Cocina, where you can enjoy icy margaritas and sizzling Tex-Mex fare. The West Village area with its many galleries is also especially popular with art lovers, as is most of McKinney Avenue, which is the main Uptown strip. No need to walk — just jump on the free M-line trolley to ride up and down McKinney Avenue. This streetcar line connects with Dallas’ Dart light rail system at Uptown’s Cityplace Station. When you’re ready to head downtown again, the M-line Streetcar will take you south to the Dallas Museum of Art and other nearby museums and music venues. Along the way you can stop at the West Village area or get off at the trendy Hotel Zaza.

Explore the West End
Downtown Dallas is a historic part of town which was once home to factories and railway tracks. Today the West End district’s handsome century-old brick warehouses are now urban residences, restaurants, clubs, bars, and shops. Besides the Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza, where you can learn all about President John F. Kennedy’s life, death, and legacy, there are more than 25 pubs, bars, and restaurants in this area, many near the intersection of Munger Avenue and Marker Street, called “Dallas Alley.” Learn about Dallas’ history at its Old Red Museum, and enjoy the West End’s Dallas World Aquarium in this area. Stay downtown at the elegant and historic Adolphus Hotel, the pride of Dallas since 1912; recent restorations have made it stylish and modern without eroding its classy historic charm.

Families like its casual Wild-West Rodeo Bar, but this time try the hotel’s new City Hall Bistro, which opened in July. Sporting gleaming white subway tiles, brass accents, and buttery leather, the bright bistro offers breakfast, lunch, and supper, and a snazzy cocktail menu featuring craft libations. I love it, even though I’m still
ardently awaiting the reopening of the Adolphus’ famous French Room later this year, for one of the most elegant dining
experiences in the city.

Enjoy Music and More in Deep Ellum
On the eastern side of downtown, the edgier Deep Ellum area is home to great live music venues, funky art spaces, good restaurants (like Local, with its fresh New American fare), shops and more. If you’re there in April, be sure to plan on attending the three-day Deep Ellum Arts Festival.

Big on the Arts
Of course, the best part of the newer scene in this city has been the evolution of its fabulous Dallas Arts District, home to such treasures as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Dallas Museum of Art, The Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the AT&T Performing Arts Center with its multiple venues, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas City Performance Hall, and Klyde Warren Park.

Other still-rather new Dallas attractions include the George W. Bush Presidential Center Library and Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus.

Big Texas Eats
For more than a half-century, it’s been a Dallas tradition to have lunch at the Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room. For other great eats, celebrated James Beard award-winning chef Stephan Pyles wows foodies at new (1 year old) Flora Street Café at Hall Arts, in the heart of the Dallas Arts District. Another Pyles eatery we love, Stampede 66, offers more casual atmosphere and warm comfort foods with a Southwest flair, but my husband also loves the Dallas-based family owned Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. For a taste of local Tex-Mex, take the kids to El Fenix, a longtime Big D favorite since 1918, known for its hot sopapilla treats, near the Perot Museum. For zestier fare try Mia’s Tex-Mex, Uptown.

Lounge by the Lake
Visitors may not know that just five miles from downtown rests the lovely White Rock Lake, a 1,015 acre city lake and park area with a popular 9.33 mile hike and bike trail, parks, pavilions, picnic areas, boat ramps, a dog park, kayak rentals, wetland, a small museum and more.

Dallas is an open, inviting and exciting city year-round. It’s host to many festivals and surrounded by quaint towns just waiting to be explored. So grab the family and head on up to Big D.

By Janis Turk

You won’t want to miss these North Texas events for May:

Scarborough Renaissance Festival
Prepare for eight weekends of festivities on grounds styled to look like a 16th-century English village. There’ll be plenty of costumed revelers and nonstop performances each day across 24 stages, artisan demos, giant turkey legs and more. April 8-May 29 on the fest’s grounds in Waxahachie. srfestival.com.

This celebration along the Trinity River features live entertainment, children’s activities, stilt walkers, zip lining and more. May 4-7 at Trinity Park, Fort Worth. mayfest.org.

Dallas International Guitar Festival
The 40th annual event includes acts like Andy Timmons, Eric Gales, Derek St. Holmes, Mark Lettieri, George Lynch and Wes Jeans, as well as hundreds of exhibitors. May 5-7at Dallas Market Hall. guitarshow.com.