A taste of Texas came to Sydney on 1 May when Visit Dallas and Visit Forth Worth held an event to showcase Tex-Mex fare, frozen margaritas (which originated from Dallas!), guacamole at Bar Patron and to offer updates on the Metroplex.
Visit Dallas’ Senior Vice President of Tourism, Mark Thompson, said people tend to feel like they already know the city because of the classic TV series Dallas, or the hype that surrounds the Dallas Cowboys – which is the world’s most valuable sports team.
“There’s a lot of perception about who we are and what we are, but there’s also a lot of things that Dallas is that you may not know,” Thompson said.
For past visitors to Dallas, he said the city has changed vastly over the past 5 years.
“It’s a completely different place to visit.”
A new light-rail system from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport has made it much easier to get around the city and throughout the greater region.
“We now have the largest light rail system in North America, as well as the fastest growing,” Thompson said. The 40-minute journey from Downtown to the Airport costs less than US$3.
Dallas also now offers free historic trolleys operating to the city’s arts district, entertainment district, Uptown and Downtown, which is complemented by shuttle services.
“It’s really easy to get around. Five years ago you needed to rent a car to get around the city, which can be a little bit daunting on some of our 16-lane highways. Now we see most of our international visitors not requiring a car at all. It’s also very affordable.”
Dallas also has a thriving arts and culture scene, including one of the largest collection of modern and contemporary sculptures anywhere in the world at the National Sculpture Center. The next opening will be the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, scheduled to open in November.
One of the “most exciting things happening right now” is Dallas’ culinary-scene which is centred around Tex-Mex flavours, BBQ and Southwestern cuisine; from high-end restaurants to food trucks.
The Margarita Mile app showcases some 20 locations serving frozen margaritas in the city and has been a huge success among visitors. Originally planned to roll-out for a six-to-eight week period, the app is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. “It’s taken Dallas by storm,” Thompson says.
The city is also one of 12 in the United States that is part of the CityPass program, which offers savings of up 39% on top attractions in Dallas, including Reunion Tower Geo-Deck, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (in the former Texas School Book Depository building), Dallas Zoo or George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Thompson said other drawcards for Dallas were the fashion and shopping, from luxury brands and outlets to unique boutiques, as well as six professional sports teams based in Dallas across US football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey and soccer.
Dallas’ neighbouring city, Fort Worth is just 45 minutes away.
Mitch Whitten, Executive VP for Marketing & Strategy, Visit Fort Worth said the destination previously had three primary districts that tourists would come and explore. That number has soared into the dozens.
Earlier this year, a new train from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to downtown Fort Worth commenced operation. The TEXRail – Trinity Metro commuter train costs US$2.50 one-way.
Whitten said hotel development has spiked in Fort Worth after a long period of quiet. Four 4-star hotels are under development, including the conversion of a historic office block in the city’s CBD into a Kimpton Hotel.
One of Fort Worth’s major hooks, the Stockyards, is in the process of being revamped.
“You won’t recognise it now. The family that owns most of the site has partnered with Majestic, who are re-imaging the 100 year old buildings, converting them into shops, restaurants and commercial businesses and offices. The Stockyards will have a completely new vibe – it’s really a rebirth,” Whitten said.
A boutique hotel is also under construction in the precinct, called the Hotel Drover. It will offer 400 rooms in a rustic resort setting.
Other lures for Fort Worth include the city’s “amazing” art scene, museums, music and ale-and-whiskey trails.
“Dallas is for excitement and energy, and come to Fort Worth for the small-town, Texas hospitality,” Whitten said.
Visit Dallas and Visit Fort Worth are also in Sydney for this weekend’s Meatstock event at Sydney Showground. Now in its fourth year, Meatstock is a celebration of music and barbecue and attracts thousands of visitors. The tourism organisations will be attending to show off the Texas BBQ experience.
Vendors at Meatstock will be displaying a range of proteins and some seafood, with most plate and meal prices ranging between $10-$25. Some vendors also do mega or jumbo boxes that will feed more than one person.
Lead image: Mark Thompson, Senior VP Tourism, Visit Dallas; Mitch Whitten, Executive VP for Marketing & Strategy, Visit Fort Worth; Lucy Rowe, Account Director for Visit Dallas and Visit Fort Worth and Geoffrey Hutton, Kent Marketing.