Texas is eternal. It’s so big you lose all sense of scale. The city of Dallas itself is sprawling, but when you include the DFW metroplex, you’re talking about 7.5 million people in over 9,000 square miles. That’s almost the population of New York City in an area bigger than the state of New Jersey.
Wait! Don’t worry, this isn’t a Wikipedia article. I’m just pointing out that trying to write about the entire Dallas area is an impossible task, so we’re going to focus on a slice that's called the Katy Trail- a pathway that extends 3.5 miles from Victory Park to Mockingbird Station. It’s an oasis of green in the otherwise open, grassy plain of north Texas.
The trail itself is wide, well kept, has room for pedestrians, dog walkers, bikers, skaters, walkers and runners. The trail is great, but what you can find along the trail is what makes it more than just your average city greenspace.
Right at the beginning of the trail is American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, as well as a ton of incredible concerts and shows. The arena has two great outdoor spaces. Victory Plaza for watch parties, concerts, press conferences and live events, as well as Woodall Rodgers Plaza. Right across the freeway you can get to the Aquarium and the 6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, from which Oswald shot JFK (if you like history or conspiracy theories, this is a fantastic place to go).
At about the halfway mark, you’ll hit the iconic Katy Trail Ice House. Located right on the trail, the Ice House is a great place to take break while walking the trail or to meet some friends on a night out in Uptown. Do yourself a favor and grab one of the many excellent local beers on tap and some loaded cheese fries (this is good advice at almost any casual restaurant in Dallas) and find a seat at one of the picnic tables outside. There are big screens, shady trees and a relaxed beer garden vibe. It should be noted that they have great barbecue (this can be said of Dallas in general) and D Magazine voted their margarita best in the city- and there’s some stiff competition on that one.
A few blocks further up, to the west you can pop over to Turtle Creek Park for more greenery and a bit more space to run (in case the trail isn’t quite long enough) or east into The West Village for some shopping, coffee, beauty treatments or an independent film. A bit further than that is the Knox Henderson corridor, known for some great furniture stores and excellent restaurants. This is also where you’d exit if you want to head into Highland Park to do some house gawking. It’s one of Dallas’s oldest and leafiest filled with (mostly) impressive mansions and the place to go Christmas light viewing when the season is right.
This second to last stop on this tour of the trail is kind of what I really want to talk about. It’s the thing I miss most from Dallas and the place my partner and I talk about most often: Velvet Taco. There are seven in the metroplex, and (I just learned) several in other Texas cities as well as Atlanta, Charlotte and Chicago (pleasepleasepleaseplease come to NYC), but this one is the OG.
No, it’s not just another taco joint. My three go-tos were the Picnic Chicken (with potato salad and crispy chicken skin), the Bacon and Eggs (what I considered to be the Texas version of the bacon, egg and cheese from your favorite bodega) and the Cuban Pig, which is legit just a Cubano sandwich transformed into a taco. For those of you that like slightly more exotic flavors, there’s a Falafel Taco, a Korean Pork Taco and a Tikka Chicken Taco that are constantly raved about. DO NOT forget to check out the special taco of the week. There are gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options, too. The margaritas and red velvet cake are insane. And you can’t forget the Elote or Tots + Egg. I’m starting to drool a little bit over here. Come hungry.
The last stop is Mockingbird Station. Apartments, restaurants (Urban Taco is a standout), bars, a movie theater (an Angelika no less), and shopping. Nothing you can’t find in other places- the real appeal here is either getting comfortable in SMU country or to grab the DART light rail to Texas State Fairgrounds, Plano, Irving, or to the airport (take your pick). You can also ride a few stops and transfer to the TEXRail that will take you to Fort Worth and the world-famous stockyards and rodeo.
One last thing about DFW, it’s worth noting that D and the FW are 45 minutes apart on the highway but feel entire worlds apart in personality. Dallas is faster, more blended, bigger businesses, more ‘cosmopolitan’ (you can read that as ‘filled with transplants’) while Fort Worth seems older, has a more leisurely pace and a much more distinctly Texas vibe.
- Donna B
Donna is the CMO of SNAPS and occasionally strays from her hometown of NYC, but always returns. She spent a year in Dallas,a few blocks off the Katy Trail. She might have gone insane without it.