While Austin may be the capital of Texas, it is Dallas that embodies visitor's impressions of the state - where everything is bigger and bolder. Dallas, or 'The Big D', is a glittering oasis of towering skyscrapers that juts out from the vast Texan prairie. While the city offers the quintessential Lonestar State experience with big steaks, slick cowboy boots and more cowboy hats per capita than most places, it is not a city that is stuck in the past. It hosts impressive shopping options, a sizeable art district and it is a Mecca for Texan nightlife.

Cowboy Up With Some Dallas Shopping

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There are quite a few goods that Dallas does better than anywhere else in the world. It's not like shoppers can march into any store in Paris and buy a pair of snakeskin boots and a belt to match. However, in Dallas, shoppers will never find a shortage of cowboy wear or indeed anything leather in the stores.

For all those Neiman Marcus fans, Dallas is the birthplace of the high-end department store. Shoppers in downtown Dallas can browse the newest clothes and shoes on display in the original 1960s building for a historical shopping treat.

Shoppers interested in some leather goods should head down to either Wild Bill's or the Western Warehouse. Both stores sell beautiful handmade boots from snakeskin, crocodile skin and Texan leather. They also host an array of belts, hats and Western shirts as well.

Aside from leather, there is one last purchase that cannot be missed while in Dallas - steaks. Texas is the 'bigger is better' state, and that applies to their steak. Huge, thick cut slabs of premium beef can be found in any steakhouse. However, when choosing some steaks to take home, visitors have to be discerning. Corn-fed beef is alright, but it does no justice the flavour of the steak. To get the best flavour out of these massive (and massively expensive) steaks, shoppers will want only grass-fed beef for the purest flavour. The best butcher for getting huge, locally-sourced steaks is the Local Yocal. The farm to fork spirit is alive and well there. Their grass fed beef is even raised by the shop owners. For those that have to travel a long way back home, they will package your purchase up and ship it to wherever you live.

Touring Dallas

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Dallas is a city of tours; they have a tour for everything visitors could possibly imagine. From food, art, chocolate and even a few wine tours, all visitors have to do is decide what they want to see. Outside the city there are horseback riding and dude ranch experiences to be had.

One of the can't-miss tours in Dallas is of its expansive Arts District. In a collaboration between the Dallas Arts District and the Dallas Centre for Architecture, they provide both public and private tours of the largest urban arts district in the United States. For $10, the 90-minute walking tour leads visitors around the district providing insight and historical information of the buildings, which date back as far as the 1880s. The tour also offers up information on the individuals and visionaries that are part of the fascinating history that is Dallas. The tour concludes with the option of a separate visit to the legendary Dallas Museum of Art.

If it is a tour of the food on offer in Dallas that piques interest, then Food Tours of America offers an amazing walking tour that visits all the best restaurants for a small sample of their wares. However, guests best come hungry, because they will leave unbelievably stuffed. While the food tours are more than filling, for a little dessert consider a tour from Dallas by Chocolate, which takes visitors to all the chocolatiers in town. For some more grown-up fun, consider a tour from Deep Ellum Brewing Company or Times Ten Cellars to sample some of the best beer and wine in the city.

Hiting The Dallas Nightlife Scene

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While Dallas has quite the lively club scene with enough bars and nightclubs enough to please the young and the restless, it also hosts enough performing arts and theatre to please the discerning visitor.

The Morton H Meyerson Symphony Centre is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and is led by  Andrew Litton. The auditorium was designed by master architect IM Pei and hosts excellent acoustics, as well as a massive pipe organ. Alternatively, the Dallas Opera performs at the beautiful Winspear Opera House with its massive horseshoe shape stadium encased in a glass box that was designed by Sir Norman Foster.

For those looking to break-in those cowboy boots and don that fancy Stetson, there are a number of bars to do so in Dallas. However, places like the Round Up Saloon and the legendary Gilley's are fine honky-tonk bars where visitors can not only get a good Lonestar beer but can try their hand at two-steppin' and Western swing dance.

Dining In Dallas

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Food is one of the Dallas local's favourite hobbies. Strike up a conversation with a native and you are sure to get a number of great places to eat. However, just because the state is known for steaks the size of your head - doesn't mean that they cannot be upscale about it.

Pappas Bros Steakhouse is the most prestigious steakhouse in the Dallas area. Their contemporary design is less masculine and less 'sawdust lining the floor' than the typical Texan steakhouse. However, it isn't the design that draws those with a big hunger and a full wallet - it is the beef. Their meat is locally-sourced and dry aged and cut on site. Their filet mignon is the most popular cut of beef, coming in three massive sizes and can be paired with any number of their popular sides. With good beef also comes a legendary wine selection but an added bonus is that cigars are also offered in 60 different sizes and brands.

For those who are strangely sick of world class steak, Fearing is the namesake restaurant of Dallas celebrity chef Dean Fearing. Located inside the Ritz-Carlton, this prestigious establishment is gracefully designed with a beautiful airy glass pavilion. The gastronomic creations in Fearing's hint at the chef's southwestern roots, but leans more heavily on his own adventurous spirit. The maple-marinated buffalo tenderloin is unlike anything diners have probably ever tasted and his jalapeño grits with butternut squash taquitos provide a marvelous twist on the classic dish.

Fine Dallas Lodging

Accommodations in Dallas have gotten swankier in recent years with the addition of high class chain hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, but those can be found in most places in the world. Instead, visitors should try to hunt down some of the higher-end local hotels for a more Texan stay.

A stay at the Hotel ZaZa truly provides a stay unlike any other. With high ceilings, Italian linen and pampering non-stop, discerning visitors will not want for comfort. However, each room is decorated with a different theme. With the traditional Texas suite made of cowhide and Austin stone, or the sleek and chic Metropolitan suite, there is always something new to see for multiple stays.

For a more traditionally classy stay, the Rosewood Mansion is the pinnacle of a luxurious stay. The opulent rooms are filled with antiques, fine linens and original artwork, providing a pleasantly homey feel to the hotel. A major perk of a stay at the Rosewood Mansion is that guests are given complimentary use of the property's Lexus vehicles, as well as a house car that can ferry visitors around town. Such amenities come at a steep price, however it is well worth it, as the Rosewood Mansions is a celebrity favourite.

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