As I have stated in the past, I am not one for resort living. Sure I enjoy relaxing on a beach or sipping fruity cocktails poolside but once the sunscreen wears off I get antsy. I am usually good for a day or two max sitting idle so when friends of ours invited us for a week at their resort in Nuevo Vallarta I was hesitant. The price however, was too good to pass up so I began looking at connection options to spend a couple days elsewhere on the way.
It didn’t take long until I stumbled on direct connections through Dallas/Ft.Worth for a $20 difference than heading straight to PVR. Sold. I then, as I do, checked what events were going on that weekend and found the Dallas Cowboys were playing at home. Double sold. Lastly I found out that the Texas State Fair was going to be in full swing. Giddy up. With that I clicked and confirmed our cheap seats to the Lone Star State. Now what to do with only 48 hours in Dallas?
Time to dig out your over-sized belt buckle
After landing (2 hours late and 2 less in our 48 hours in Dallas) we collected our bags and headed for Dallas. My first impression of DFW was that it is really, really spread out. Fitting with the “everything is bigger in Texas” motto. I knew this from looking at Google maps prior to the trip but had no idea how much empty space there would be in between building and towns. Because of this distance I booked hotels in different cities for each night. This was to reduce in travel time and taxi fare – we would later find the less you have to deal with a taxi driver in DFW, the better.
Welcome to the Frat House
We arrived at our Priceline booked Sheraton hotel to find a scene straight out of “Animal House.” The lobby of this massive hotel was swarming with drunk college kids getting primed for the Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners football game played at the nearby Cotton Bowl. Literally everyone staying at the hotel was there for the game…and then there was us. It was an exciting scene to say the least. We found our room, conveniently located next to what sounded like a bro party, cleaned up and headed out so we could hit the Texas Fair in time to catch an ostrich race.
While waiting for the DART train I decided against bringing my sunglasses and headed back to our room to drop them off. As I walked the halls of our floor I noticed the room numbers were missing. “Wait a tick…didn’t these doors have some sort of identification on them before??” In the short period of two elevator rides someone pried off all the signs on our floor, leaving me with a fun game of trial and error. Crazy kids! Man I feel old.
We were pretty excited when we found out the Texas State Fair would be going on while we visited. We were even more excited when we stepped through the gate and found you could drink while walking the grounds. Fried food, carnival games, rides, aaaannd beer?? God Bless America.
I would later find this fun titbit on the State Fair website as well:
Concealed Handgun Policy
A person holding a valid Texas Concealed Handgun License (or valid CHL from a reciprocating state) is permitted to enter onto State Fair property with his/her concealed handgun…
Wow. What a country!
After sampling a selection of gourmet (or not so gourmet) fried delicacies we waddled our way to the ostrich races…cause that’s what people do in Texas? This was my first time seeing an ostrich up close and man are they odd looking. They are one of those creatures that simply makes you think “why?” As I anxiously snapped close-ups the gentleman next to me reassured me they were harmless. “Really? They look angry” I replied. “They won’t bite” was the last thing I heard from him before one of the particularly large and particularly mean-looking birds (?) took a chunk out of his camera. Eat your words friend.
As the race started we were delighted and confused to find out that this wasn’t just ostriches running around a track. No, this was ostriches with little jockeys riding them. Amazing. These jockeys were pint sized. I imagine you get into ostrich racing as a jockey when you find out you are “too small” to be a horse jockey.
Anyway, we watched (and bet) as these little guys tried (and failed) to race these weird birds. Odd but entertaining to say the least.
Confused by what we just witnessed we continued on the carnival side of the fair. One of the roller coasters we rode left us thinking we would need to visit a chiropractor after as it was the most violent jolting my body has ever experienced. I may have let out a loud “This was assembled by someone making less than minimum wadge!” during the ride. I wasn’t scared at all.
Feeling sore and a tad concussed from our rides we decided it was time to spend way to much money trying to win stuffed animals we didn’t want. Prize of the day went to Erin who quickly gave it away to this cute little girl who was playing the same game:
After the worlds worst haunted house we made our way past the Cotton Bowl to see the brand new Big Tex. The Texas State Fair mascot since 1952, this 55 foot tall cowboy was horribly burned in a fire last year. Big Tex returned bigger and better this year and was nice enough to say howdy.
The Hip Side of Dallas
Full up on stadium beer and fried eats we waived goodbye to Big Tex and stumbled out of the park. On the way in we spotted a bar serving craft beer across the street so we decided to check it out. Upon entering The Craft & Growler we couldn’t help think that we had been transported to a microbrewery in Portland (or to the up and coming scene in Vancouver) Awesome but not exactly the Texas experience we were looking for. We sampled a selection of wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) beers before heading out to a nearby bar that was recommended to us by the bar tender. “It’s only a few blocks back towards downtown” he said. This would be fine in any other dense city but this was the outskirts of Dallas.
Did I mention that Dallas is spread out? A few blocks there meant a brisk walk through empty lots and highway underpasses. We arrived safely at the Double Wide – which appeared to be the only bar within mile, and were surprised by what we stumbled upon. This rad spot was a great find. It had a funky bar that had a great little courtyard dividing the live music venue and the main lounge. Most importantly, it had cheap drinks. We had a great time chatting up locals, asking them for recommendations and thoughts on their city. When we brought up our excitement about going to the Cowboys game we quickly found that they didn’t “give a fuck about Football.” We managed to find the only hipsters in Texas. We had a great time and enjoyed the bar but again, not the Texas experiencing we were expecting.
The college experience we weren’t expecting was waiting for us back at our hotel. We were kindly greeted outside the hotel by the local fire department and a few thousand guests. I immediately thought it was just someone pulling the fire alarm however there was talk, albeit drunken talk, about smoke coming from the 15th floor. To kill time and fill our stomachs (clearly 5000+ calories worth of fired crap wasn’t enough) we headed to a 7-11 around the corner.
Not surprisingly we were not the only ones with this smart idea as we arrived to a store that looked like it belonged in a movie where man kind was in serious trouble. The store was, to say the least, picked over. I stared at the lone burnt taquito rotating in the display case before decided on frozen bagel bites. Smart choice?
The next day we awoke at the crack of noon and headed out to the JFK Museum. We opted to grab breakfast and a much needed coffee along the way. Surprisingly, we did not pass 1 coffee shop. If this was Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver we would have had our fill of choices. Not one in 12 blocks! Is this the Texas I was hoping for? My hangover said no.
We arrived at the 6th Floor Museum to find a huge line out the door. We didn’t have a ton of time so I asked a worker what the deal was. After some prodding she advised me that tickets could also be purchased from the gift shop across the street. Not sure why this wasn’t common knowledge as there was no line up there. Our loss, your gain. Never the less we made our way through the famous old Texas School Book Depository building learning all about JFK’s rise and demise along the way. What I found most interesting from the visit was the angle Lee Harvey Oswald (allegedly) had for his shots. Not only was it sharp but the road starts a decline at the building making it one tough shot. Hmmmm…What’s this about a grassy knoll?
We toured the grounds around the building and visited the famous “grassy knoll,” a patch of grass that would be difficult to conceal a 2nd shooter. On the road out front there are two X’s painted in white where JFK was shot – the first to the throat, the 2nd to the head. Thank you city of Dallas for pointing this out. We stood in shock as tourists took turns dodging traffic to get a picture standing on the X’s. A tad morbid and completely odd thing to do don’t you think? “Sweet #selfie where JFK was shot or something like that #gangsta #ThugLife” Thanks a lot Instagram. #Douche. We would later drive over these x’s while taking a cab. That was creepy enough for me.
Another Tailgating Fail
After our fill of American history it was on to the main event – Cowboy Stadium. Our half hour taxi ride to Arlington took us to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Turns out the middle of nowhere Texas is the 7th largest city in the State. After another quick turn around at a hotel we were off to the game with plenty of tailgating time to spare. I was determined to do tailgating proper. Without a “tailgate” of our own, this has been a difficult task in the past. In San Diego we wandered around admiring other peoples setups but didn’t really join in the fun. In San Francisco we drank in the park next to the stadium because we thought our beer would be confiscated by the security guard at the gate.
How naive we were. Our plan this time was to buy some lawn chairs and tailgate with the locals as everyone I have ever asked had said that people will be friendly and invite you to have a drink and maybe some food with them. In the past this has obviously not been the case. Just a few dudes awkwardly walking around a parking lot looking for a good time. Who wants to party with that? This time would be different. This time we had girls. This would help our odds, or so I thought. The night before we chatted up some local girls that offered us access to their companies tailgating party. Great! The invite became fuzzy once they found out we had girlfriends with us.
After spending an entertaining 30 minutes or so in a massive Walmart across from the stadium we headed for the parking lot in search of fun. After awkwardly walking around (again) we settled on a spot at one of the entrances and enjoyed a few drinks while people watching. From our brief time sitting there it became pretty evident that I would be overweight if I lived in an NFL city. Disappointed with our tailgating experience (again) we decided to try our luck inside the stadium. As we walked we did find that having girls with us does make a difference…for them at least.
What to do with the copious amount of beer we have left? Why throw rocks at a can of course!
Yup. It came to that. A simple game designed to drink as much beer as possible in the little time we had left before kickoff. Maybe we belonged in that frat hotel after all?
Upon entering the stadium all of our jaws dropped. The sheer size of it was overwhelming. Add to the fact that a live band was playing in the concourse, fireworks were going off in the distance, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were shaking their stuff on the massive (MASSIVE) screen and you have got yourself some serious sensory overload. It. Was. Awesome.
Heading to our way up to our seats, somewhere up in the stratosphere, I couldn’t help but notice I had taken less than a dozen steps since entering the stadium thanks to the intricate escalator system. Again, what a country!
The Biggest Screen in the Biggest Stadium in the Biggest State I have ever been in.
Our seats were amazing and the game, although a blowout for the home team, was great. We were situated close to center field and right in line with the world’s largest HD screen (although this may be beat by a new Texas speedway.) It became difficult to not watch as it was so amazingly clear. Your eyes can’t help but stray from the tiny players on the field to the larger than life picture in front of you. Essentially it was like watching Sunday night football on TV with 90,000 friends. So cool.
Post-game our college like drinking continued at a nearby pub – Thankfully we exited just before we were to be thrown out. Probably for the best as we had an early flight in the AM. All and all a great two days of punishment to the senses.
Punishment To be continued in Mexico!
Cover photo courtesy of Flickr Creative commons – Robert Hensley