Surprisingly, deep in the heart of the world-famous George Bush’s ranch country, amidst ominous dark clouds there’s a ray of sunlight and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow–gay-friendly Dallas, Texas. This vibrant, lively city legitimately boasts the sixth largest gay population in the United States and once you spend a few days enjoying gay Dallas this claim is easy to understand. After all there must be good reasons why openly gay pop singer George Michael now makes Dallas his home.
So what makes Dallas so appealing to the gay traveler? Firstly, there’s good ‘ol southern charm mixed with warm hospitality and colorful culture. Secondly, the GLBT community is comfortably and solidly woven into the fabric of the city. Thirdly, the community groups and gay businesses work together creating a vibrancy to this city’s hospitality, entertainment and retail organizations. Throughout the resident gay community a stranger is almost always recognized immediately and welcomed to the “gaybourhood”.
It seems as though there is always something happening in the Dallas GLBT community so whatever time of year one visits this city there are plenty of gay activities to entertain and fulfill your vacation needs. The diverse local resident community is integrated throughout Dallas and the gay scene is identifiable in several different areas. The heart of gay life can be found in the Oaklawn/Uptown district on Cedar Springs Road and the surrounding area. But there are also several smaller enclaves like the Bishop Arts District and local neighbourhoods such as Oakcliff. With approximately thirty gay and lesbian bars, pubs and clubs plus an equal number of gay or gay-friendly restaurants this city for sure knows how to entertain gay holiday-makers.
Local community groups include the Dallas Tavern Guild whose twenty-plus nightclub proprietor members strive to make your “night on the town” a positive, friendly experience. The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce promotes and supports the economic development of the community. Dallas is home to the largest gay mens chorus in the country-The Turtle Creek Chorale-and the largest gay and lesbian church in the world-the Cathedral of Hope. Each spring the Texas Gay Rodeo Association organises the Big D Rodeo in Dallas and since 1984 throughout Texas they have raised an estimated two million dollars and donated this mostly to AIDS-related charities. The annual Pride celebrations take place in mid-September including the Texas Freedom Parade, Festival in Lee Park and the Voice Of Pride talent contest.
Undoubtedly these strong organizations are the very pulse and heartbeat of this vibrant GLBT population for which Dallas is becoming widely renowned.
If you’re interested in some arts and culture then the Dallas Arts District is the place to call home. Comprised of a nineteen block, sixty-eight acre downtown locale it’s the largest urban arts district in the country. The area residents include thirteen facilities and organizations dedicated to the arts. It is also the future site of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts. Here you will find the Nasher Sculpture Center and Garden next door to the Dallas Museum of Art. A look and see here will reveal exhibitions similar to the recent Matisse: Painter as Sculptor-a combination of the artists paintings, drawings and sculptures-showcased between the two galleries.
Completed in October 2003 the 70 million dollar structure for the Nasher Sculpture Center and Garden houses the Nasher Collection of over 300 sculptures plus touring exhibitions. The unique building is enclosed by a glass ceiling with glass facades which allow the galleries to virtually extend into the garden and for the artworks to be viewed in natural light. The indoor and outdoor exhibition space totals 72,000 square feet on a 1.4 acre site which is probably the largest facility of its kind in the world. Strolling in the garden is akin to a tranquil sanctuary in the middle of the city where you are surrounded by unique, contemporary works of art. Art lover or novitiate this is a must visit during your stay in this cosmopolitan city.
History buff,or not, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza houses a not-to-be-missed important tribute to the life and times of the late President John F. Kennedy, his legacy and the era in American history often referred to as Camelot. Located on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository this is a fascinating, educational audio-visual journey back in time to an important part of history from the ’60s. Even if this particular historic time is unknown to you it’s an interesting, eye-opening lesson which will be well worth approximately an hour of your time to experience the Kennedy family impact on society yesterday, today and perhaps tomorrow. Be sure to rent the audio headsets which provide an uncanny reality to this presidential era and the period following.
As you would expect in any large city the available accommodations in Dallas are many and varied in style, location and budgetary considerations.
Major hotel chains include the Westin City Center Hotel and the nearby Adam’s Mark Hotel each of which proved to be extremely gay positive. Both are located in the heart of downtown a convenient distance to all the attractions and nightlife.
Newer boutique hotels are to be found all over Dallas and they also offer a wide range of choice in every way. The Hotel Belmont overlooks downtown with a spectacular skyline view providing garden, loft or bungalow rooms and suites reinventing 1940s cool with a mix of modern luxury. In the Uptown Art District Hotel Zaza is a stylish property reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa outside and dramatically eclectic inside. The recently renovated-perhaps more accurately rebuilt-Hotel Palomar is a structure infused with a spirit of renewal and is a true urban resort. In this luxury lifestyle boutique hotel you will discover that art is an integral part of the decor.
The restored historic Grande-Dame of Dallas hotels is the Warwick Melrose located right by the Cedar Springs gay village where entertainment can be found within a few short minutes walk from the hotel lobby.
For a home-away-from-home Bed & Breakfast experience The Daisy Polk Inn is also located a block form Cedar Springs Road and offers fully restored antique furnishings with comfy bedrooms and common areas. Gay owned and operated you can be sure this will make for a perfect holiday home.
Whatever your choice for a place to stay be ready for some southern hospitality with a gay flair and a genuinely warm welcome.
When it comes to nightlife the Dallas gay scene is probably the envy of residents from most North America cities for this is a true smörgåsbord of selection and choices to suit absolutely every gay desire for a night on the town. It would be impossible to describe everything in one short story but the Dallas Tavern Guild website provides extensive listings along with brief descriptions of what to expect from each restaurant or bar venue.
However, worthy of mention–in random sequence–are some of the highlights of my nightlife tour: Kaliente Dance and Show Bar with a young and vibrant crowd of the community’s hottest Latinos and Latinas keep this place smoldering with great salsa and Tejano music; Buddies II Womens Nightclub, a really popular spot, especially on weekends with good dance music, regular karaoke nights, pool tables and in the summer, a swimming pool and sand volleyball courts; Illusions where a friendly, welcoming staff make this bar a regular hangout for locals who enjoy darts, karaoke and female impersonator shows; Alexandres for live jazz and blues musicians on a nightly basis; Barbara’s Pavilion near the popular and trendy Bishop Arts district in Oak Cliff is known for a friendly atmosphere, great neighborhood crowd and a tropical patio; Phases for karaoke in a neighbourhood pub atmosphere.
Dining out in Dallas offers an international flair but also includes traditional barbecue steak and ribs with famous Texas beef. Dining variety in downtown might include the trendy new Stephan Pyles Restaurant with his famous culinary style or traditional Texan fashion at Sonny Bryan’s Bar-B-Que for ribs or steak. For a real culinary delight Uncle Julio’s Restaurant will satisfy the most discerning gourmet palate. Breakfast choices might include the non heart-healthy feast at Lucky’s Diner or a light start to the day at Buli Café. Whatever your favorite food might be you can be sure you will find it somewhere in this sophisticated city.
As you can see variety is the spice of life during a night on this town.
A good source of local information is the weekly newspaper the Dallas Voice published each Friday and available at practically every gay establishment. The 150 page Dallas/Fort Worth Lambda Pages is also a great reference guide to everything gay or gay-friendly in the community. To help find your way around this big city be sure to pick up the comprehensive Columbia FunMap which is loaded with helpful tips and local maps. For a broader look at the state of Texas the Red Nightlife or This Week In Texas magazines cover statewide GLBT activities.
If you were a fan of the hit 80’s television series Dallas then a short thirty-five minute drive to tour the home of the Ewings-Southfork Mansion and Ranch Museum-might be the highlight of your trip. If this is the case you probably won’t want to tell the locals you’ve recently befriended the next time you see them. They will politely tell you that on Cedar Springs Road JR’s Bar and Grill for cowboys or Sue Ellen’s Women’s Club for cowgirls would have been more fun. Instead of a TV land fantasy these clubs will make you feel like you know the real Dallas!
When making your travel plans it’s important to note that the extremely gay-friendly carrier American Airlines is headquartered here. The Dallas/Fort Worth international airport is a major hub making it easy to think of them as your airline of choice. They provide a great deal of sponsorship support to the Dallas GLBT community and deserve a consideration in return. They even have a special rainbow website for you to visit.
The City of Dallas motto is “Live Large. Think Big” and you have probably guessed by the end of this story that everything is larger in Texas which leaves a really big impression on every gay visitor to the misnomer Bush Country