Experience 2 Sides of Texas in Dallas and Austin
By Suchi Rudra
Dallas, Texas, the ninth biggest city in the USA, and Austin, the Texas state capital, are just three-hour drive from each other, but a world apart. Dallas embodies traditional Texas culture, whether you are seeking urban cowboys, country music or inspiring architecture. Meanwhile, Austin offers a laid-back and artsy slice of the Lone Star State, with a vibrant music scene, inviting outdoor spaces and a festival for every occasion.
Go Big in Dallas
Famous for oil money and skyscrapers, Dallas would seem to do everything on a grand scale. But the true Dallas lies in the details, including its historic architecture, flourishing arts scene and appealing public spaces.
On your first day, get a better idea of the city's layout, by signing up for a walking tour and discovering stunning architecture in three distinct districts. Art Deco lovers should know that Dallas holds the most Art Deco buildings and sculptures in the country, many of which are found in the 90-hectare Fair Park. History aficionados will want to visit the John F. K Kennedy Memorial Plaza and Sixth Floor Museum to learn more about the 35th U.S. president's life and death.
On your second day, head to the Dallas Arts District, a sprawling neighborhood filled with art, science and history museums, as well as performance venues. For something unique, visit the gargoyle-laden Old Red Museum, Nasher Sculpture Center or the Crow Collection of Asian Art. You can catch a concert in the Arts District, enjoy free activities at the nearby Klyde Warren Park, or make your way to Kessler Theater, an intimate setting for country and folk music.
For great sunset views over the city's skyline, visit the renovated, 143-meter GeO-Deck atop downtown's Reunion Tower. For dinner or drinks with the best view in town, head further up to Wolfgang Puck's Five Sixty revolving restaurant.
How to Get From Dallas to Austin
You can fly from Dallas to Austin in just under an hour, with non-stop, one-way fares starting at $70 USD. For about the same price, you can travel on the luxury charter bus service, Vonlane, which takes about three hours. Another option is to rent a car and drive yourself.
The Quirky and Cool Await in Austin
Although Austin is well known as a live music hot spot, it is a many faceted place. As home to the University of Texas, Austin, the city's large college student population ensures a lively and creative atmosphere. Even as more tech firms move into the Texas capital, longtime locals actively embrace their duty to "Keep Austin Weird," the city's unofficial slogan. SoCo, a happening area along South Congress Avenue, embodies this quirky spirit, through its vintage boutiques, Western wear shops, live music venues, funky art galleries and trendy eateries.
For a day under the wide-open Texas skies, take a picnic and a towel to Lake Travis, where you can rent a boat, scuba dive and explore the coves and trails at Pace Bend Park. If you're seeking more unconventional adventures, attend a roller derby bout.
Austin helped revitalize the sport, and its Texas Rollergirls league is top-rated in the USA.
On another day, tap into Austin's offbeat cultural spots, from the Thinkery Museum, which offers interactive learning experiences and exhibits for children and adults alike, to the Hyde Park Theatre, a cool insider spot to catch one-of-a-kind plays from local writers.
To sample Austin's lively music scene, check out the Broken Spoke, a honky-tonk venue established in 1964. After your two-step dance lesson, enjoy true Texas comfort food and live music from local and regional legends. For a night out with the locals, make your way down Sixth Street, which is jam-packed with bars, clubs and live music venues.
Don't leave Austin without sampling its famous, slow-cooked barbecue at joints like La Barbecue, John Mueller Meat Co and Franklin Barbecue. Or head 30 minutes south the small town of Lockhart, the home of well-known barbecue spots, such as Kreuz Market and Black's BBQ.
Whatever time of year you visit Austin, there's always a festival going on. From local to international, fashion to craft beer, find your kind of festival here.
Here are some of the best shops and cafes to round out your experience:
Artisan's Collective (410 North Bishop Ave.): Representing 150 Dallas artists, this is the place to pick up a truly distinct souvenir.
Cowboy Cool (3699 McKinney Ave.): Upscale shop for cowboy hats, boots and accessories.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (10477 Lombardy Lane): Enjoy Texas-sized steaks and chops.
Smoke (901 Fort Worth Ave.): Modern Texas barbecue spot owned by acclaimed chef Tim Byres.
Veracruz Cafe (408 North Bishop Ave.): A rare chance to experience the traditional Aztec, Mayan, Mesoamerican and Huasteco cuisines.
JM Drygoods (215 South Lamar Blvd.): A must-stop for stylish home decor.
Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3825 Lake Austin Blvd.): Popular cafe features a two-level patio overlooking Lake Austin.
The Picnic Food Truck Park (1720 Barton Springs Rd.): Some of Austin's most popular, outdoor food trucks, among some 1,500 total, are based here.
Stubb's Bar-B-Q (801 Red River St.): Enjoy some of Austin's best barbecue, with live music from national and local acts.
Toy Joy (403 West 2nd St.): Spend hours poring through the selection of weird and wild toys from the past and present.