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Best of DFW

Choose your own DFW adventure

Where will you absolutely take your next out-of-town visitors?
Posted 11:17am on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

The turkey has been eaten. The belts have been loosened. The Cowboys have scored their final touchdown (come on, it's too soon to lose faith!)

Now comes the really tricky part of the holiday weekend: What to do to keep all the out-of-towners who have graced you with their presence entertained. These days it's even harder, with DVR and iPods the norm -- everyone expects a customized experience.

DFW.com to the rescue. With these six itineraries, we've conjured up the perfect menu for every category of visitor, from the sports nut to the music-loving hipster to the artsy snob. Each plan of action was designed with a newcomer in mind, but they work just as well for those who know the Metropex well. And each plan includes a hotel recommendation, just in case you can't quite squeeze everyone into your two-bedroom.

Oh, and you might want to clip and save this article: Between the December holidays fast approaching, followed by New Year's Eve, and then the Super Bowl in early February, we have a feeling a lot of folks are going to be knocking on your door looking for someone to show them the sights.

The cowboy way

When newbies first step onto Texas soil (or asphalt), some of them crave a complete immersion in all things cowboy. You can search for signs of the Old West in Dallas, but hey, Fort Worth ain't called Cowtown for nothin'. You'll find all you need. And you'll find much of it in the Stockyards national historic district, home to a former livestock market.

Stay: If you're looking for Old West ambience, nothing beats the Stockyards Hotel (109 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth; 817-625-6427), a 103-year-old resting spot. It's chock-full of history: The hotel has been home away from home to famous folks such as Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi and even the notorious Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They famously scouted a bank from Room 305, which offered a good view of Main Street and Exchange Avenue. (Rooms start at $189 a night; some weekday discounts available.)

Nosh and drink: For full-on cowboy kitsch, Booger Red's Saloon (109 E Exchange St.; 817-624-1246) is a must for its saddle bar stools. Be sure to try a Buffalo Butt Beer, "named for the aft end of the mighty beast prominently mounted" in the center of Booger Red's. Or if you need some real country music, grab a Shiner and sit a spell at the White Elephant Saloon (106 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth; 817-624-8273), where you can hear live music seven nights a week. Grab a Dirty Love burger at celeb chef Tim Love's Love Shack (it comes with a fried quail egg and some Love sauce).

Shop: The entire Stockyards is a Western wonderland, and then some. You'll find everything from antiques ( Cross-Eyed Moose, Bum Steer) to general-store tchotchkes to all the Western wear you can shake a spur at. For upscale Western wear, make sure you hit Leddy's and the delightful Maverick's Western Wear. (Confession: We have a soft spot for Maverick's because it has a bar inside.) And under one big roof, you'll find a collection of shops known as the Stockyards Station. Itching to get outside the Stockyards? Don't miss the adorable Retro Cowboy in downtown Fort Worth's Sundance Square (there's also another Leddy's just down the street). But if you're not on a Leddy's budget, the best place to get a hat and boots is Cavender's, which has locations all over DFW.

Dine: In a word: Moo. Be prepared for a veritable stampede of great beef, from the steak and game of Tim Love's Lonesome Dove (2406 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817-740-8810) in the Stockyards and downtown Fort Worth eateries like Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse (812 Main St.; 817-877-3999) and Reata (310 Houston St.; 817-336-1009) -- you can't go wrong with Reata's tenderloin tamales.

Nightlife: There are several country bars in town, but a don't-miss-it stop is Billy Bob's Texas (2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth; 817-624-7117), the world's largest honky-tonk. Of course there are the musical performances -- mostly country acts like Pat Green and Reckless Kelly (Dec. 11, Dec. 17), but the occasional Cheap Trick (Dec. 3) sneaks in. Billy Bob's is also a town unto itself, from its 24 stocked bar stations to its famed wall of clay handprints of country royalty to the mirrored disco saddle. You just have to see it to believe it.

Attractions: Twice a day (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.), there's an honest-to-goodness cattle drive through the Stockyards; there's also Stockyards Championship Rodeo, and the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze. Music fan? Be sure to browse through the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Two-step out of the Stockyards for a little culture: the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth's Cultural District is renowned for its collection of Remingtons and Russells; there's also the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (1720 Gendy St.; 817-336-4475), and, in downtown Fort Worth, you'll find the Sid Richardson Museum (309 Main St.; 817-332-6554), dedicated to Western art. If you are a hard-core fan of the TV series Dallas, you can tour the real South Fork Ranch (3700 Hogge Road, Parker; 800-989-7800), about a 75-minute drive northeast of Fort Worth.

Go for it: Ride an actual horse. Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced rider, Benbrook Stables has you covered. The lovely 70-acre property just southwest of Fort Worth offers trail rides daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but requires reservations. So get along, little dogie, and call 'em: 817-249-1001.

Culture crash

We all know the type, the arts-obsessed friend from New York or Los Angeles who thinks you can't possibly have a sophisticated experience in the state of Texas. This handy itinerary will force them to eat their words.

Stay: Location is key for the arts-minded visitor, but so is character -- and most of the hotels near Fort Worth's Cultural District are of the corporate/chain variety. So book a room at Etta's Place (200 W. Third St., Fort Worth; 817-255-5760), a downtown bed-and-breakfast with a quirky historical touch -- the entire place is inspired by Etta Place, the famed beauty who notoriously ran off with the real-life Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Dine: The true cultural omnivore doesn't like to waste too much time eating, not when there are more museums to visit and galleries to dip into. In which case, why not combine lunch with an essential museum: the Nasher Sculpture Center (2001 Flora St., Dallas, 214-242-4118), designed by Renzo Piano, is a gorgeously airy home for the stunning array of classical and modern sculpture that belonged to the late Raymond Nasher. Grab a sandwich or salad from the museum's surprisingly tasty Nasher Cafe, and take a seat overlooking the outdoor sculpture garden. It's a soothing oasis square in the middle of busy downtown Dallas. After that, you can pop over to the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 N. Harwood St.; 214-922-1200) just across the street.

The Museums: No matter how many times we visit -- and how many newcomers we bring here -- we remain dazzled by the one-two- (and three-four-) punch offered by the Fort Worth Cultural District. The Kimbell Art Museum (3333 Camp Bowie Blvd.; 817-654-1034), the crowning achievement of architect Louis Kahn, is one of those buildings that manages to be even more blindingly beautiful than the art that hangs on its walls. Across the street in one direction, you'll find the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St.; 817-738-9215), with its glass and brushed concrete by architect Tadao Ando. In the opposite direction, it's the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-1933, designed by Philip Johnson. And even if you don't have kids in tow, you still should stop at Fort Worth's newest architectural jewel: the Museum of Science and History (1600 Gendy St.; 817-255-9300), by the Mexico City-based firm of Legorreta and Legorreta.

The Performing Arts: There are any number of theater companies, including Stage West in Fort Worth (821 W. Vickery Blvd. 817-784-9378) and WaterTower Theatre in Addison (15650 Addison Road; 972-450-6220), and performing-arts venues, most notably Bass Hall in Fort Worth (525 Commerce St.; 817-212-4280), putting on stellar work virtually every night. But if you really want to wow the out-of-towners, take them to the Winspear Opera House (2403 Flora St., Dallas; 214-954-9925), designed by yet another architect superstar, Norman Foster, and part of the recently opened AT&T Performing Arts Center. The red-hued outside of the building is a tad corporate-looking for our taste, but the interior of the theater -- with its blond-wood floors, soaring ceilings and giant chandelier -- must be seen to be believed. Upcoming productions include the Texas Ballet Theater's production of The Nutcracker and the national touring version of the musical Young Frankenstein.

The low-cost alternatives: People don't usually think of Dallas as an art-movie capital, but the fact is that between the Angelika Film Center (5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas; 214-826-3300) and The Magnolia (3699 McKinney Ave., Dallas; 214-764-9106), we're seeing just as many foreign and independent films opening here as they do in San Francisco or L.A.. An even cheaper option, though, is to visit one of our favorite galleries in Dallas, Photographs Do Not Bend (1202 Dragon St.; 214-969-1852), or 500X (500 Exposition Ave., 214-828-1111.) Looking is free.

Shopping: Yes, even shopping can be a cultural experience, if you take your friends to the original Neiman-Marcus (1618 Main St., Dallas; 214-741-6911), a four-story building in downtown Dallas that has been operating since 1914. A history lesson and designer suits -- sounds like a perfect combo to us.

Nightlife: The snobs are apt to turn up their noses at a mere comedy club, so book a few tickets to see Four Day Weekend (312 Houston St., Fort Worth; 817-226-4329), a six-man improv-comedy troupe that we think is every bit as good as The Groundlings in L.A. or Second City in Chicago. The lounge stays open after the show, where you can force your friends to buy you a drink for having shown them such a great time.

Hip sounds

It's a popular misconception about the DFW area that the only music enjoyed 'round these parts is of the country (and Western!) variety. Not so -- just look at the exports from the last decade alone: Norah Jones, the Polyphonic Spree, Neon Indian and the Toadies have all moved from North Texas onto the national and international stage. Even though the stars aren't home too often, there are still plenty of places in Fort Worth and Dallas to soak up a bit of that Lone Star sound.

Stay: Although Austin is the one Texas city with artistic cachet and the hotels to match (try as you might, you won't find anything like the Hotel San Jose here), there are still sleek, chic places to hang your hat while you are in town. In Fort Worth, the Ashton Hotel (610 Main St.; 817-332-0110) is favored by those who perform at Bass Hall (Rufus Wainwright was spotted hanging out in the lobby before his Bass Hall gig last year), while the Omni is also a good base of operations. In Dallas, the Belmont Hotel (901 Fort Worth Ave.; 214-393-2300) hosts a weekly music series on its patio, which affords a stunning view of downtown. Hotel ZaZa (2332 Leonard St.; 214-468-8399), although pricey, is also favored by touring acts, and the Palomar (5300 E. Mockingbird Lane; 214-520-7969) is situated just a few miles from one of the city's great venues, the Granada Theater (3524 Greenville Ave.; 214-824-9933).

Dine: A quick bite at Fort Worth institution Fuzzy's Taco Shop (2917 W. Berry St.; 817-924-7943) will provide fuel for a trip to Record Town (more on that below), with a relaxed dinner at either Ellerbe Fine Foods (1501 W. Magnolia Ave.; 817-926-3663) or the low-key yet tasty Magnolia Motor Lounge (3005 Morton St.; 817-332-3344). Both dinner spots are mere steps away from live music -- tRoom Pub">he Chat Room Pub (1263 W. Magnolia Ave.; 817-922-8319), which hosts occasional shows, is near Ellerbe, while Magnolia isn't too far from the Pour House (2725 W. Seventh St.; 817-335-2575) and Sixth">Lola's Saloon Sixth (2736 W. Sixth St.; 817-877-0666), both of which host live music every weekend night. Dallas has lots of muso-friendly dining options -- many local performers swear by the grub at All Good Cafe in Deep Ellum (2934 Main St.; 214-742-5362) -- while Smoke (901 Fort Worth Ave.; 214-393-4141), near the Belmont Hotel, is another popular stop.

Shop: It's safe to assume your visiting music lover isn't dying to visit Guitar Center, but would rather peruse the racks at your neighborhood record store. Fort Worth's packing a pair of great shops: Record Town (3025 S. University Drive; 817-926-1331) where T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton would obsess over rare albums, and the newer Doc's Records & Vintage (2111 Montgomery St.; 817-732-5455), which specializes in the more Spin-approved LPs and CDs. In Dallas, a must-visit is Good Records (1808 Greenville Ave.; 214-752-4663), an inviting, hip hangout for local musicians and a trove of cutting-edge goodies.

Nightlife: If it's live local music you're after, there's no shortage of venues large and small in nearly every corner of the Metroplex. The truly local acts tend to gravitate to the clubs, like Lola's Saloon Sixth or the Moon (2911 W. Berry St.; 817-926-9600) in Fort Worth, or LaGrange (2704 W. Elm; 214-741-2008) and the Double Wide (3510 Commerce St.; 214-887-6510) in Dallas. The larger, national touring acts hit up spaces like Dallas' Granada Theater and House of Blues (2200 N. Lamar St.; 214-978-2583), and Bass Hall (525 Commerce St.; 817-212-4280) and, very infrequently, the Ridglea Theater (6025 Camp Bowie Blvd.; 817-738-9500) in Fort Worth. Other go-to spots include the Kessler Theater (1230 W. Davis St.; 214-484-1217) in Oak Cliff and the Scat Jazz Lounge in downtown Fort Worth (111 W. Fourth St., No. 11; 817-870-9100).

Fun for the foodie

If you have an out-of-town food lover visiting for the first time, we have bad news: You're going to gain weight hanging out with them this weekend. The good news is that you'll be able to rediscover the marvelous range of food that Texas offers, from dirt-cheap barbecue to celebrity chef-created haute cuisine.

Stay: If money is no object, we'd suggest booking the visitors into a room at Dallas' Ritz-Carlton (2121 McKinney Ave.; 214-922-0200; $379-$3,000 per night). The place is gorgeous and staying there will give you a leg up on securing a reservation at Fearing's (see below). Plus, Top Chef: Just Desserts finalist Morgan Wilson (see page 22) serves as executive pastry chef, so you'll be able to sample some of his wares via room service. On the west side of the Trinity, our vote goes to the Omni Fort Worth (300 Houston St.; 817-535-6664), where the in-hotel eating options including the excellent Bob's Steak and Chop House.

Breakfast: When in Texas, you must start the day as all Texans do, and embrace the pleasures of the Mexican breakfast. Plenty of places can mix you up a tasty plate of migas, including Esperanza's (2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817-626-5770). But for our buck, you'd be hard-pressed to top the chorizo, egg and cheese burrito at Fuzzy's Taco Shop (2917 W. Berry St., Fort Worth; 817-924-7943, one of our favorite local haunts that's rapidly becoming a statewide chain. For an extra kick, ask for a side of habanero sauce (and remember to drink plenty of water).

Lunch: The Texas barbecue experience is an essential one for any newcomer, and while there are many claimants to the throne, our feeling is the 52-year-old legendary Angelo's Barbecue (2533 White Settlement Road., Fort Worth; 817-332-0357) has long been the ruler in this category. Located just west of downtown, in a rambling, wood-paneled space that makes you feel as if you have stepped back 50 years in time, Angelo's serves up all the classics -- brisket, sausage, pulled pork -- with exquisite simplicity. The other place you might consider: The original location of Dallas legend Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse (2202 Inwood Road, Dallas; 214-357-7120). Grab a spot inside the screened-in porch/dining area, with its beat-up wooden seats and no-frills atmosphere, and you'll start to wonder what century you're in.

Dinner: The Metroplex offers no shortage of rock-star chefs who have been lauded by the likes of Top Chef and the Food Network, including Stephan Pyles ( Samar and Stephan Pyles), Grady Spears ( Grady's) and Casey Thompson ( Brownstone). But one star rises above all the others, and that's Southwestern cuisine legend Dean Fearing, formerly of The Mansion at Turtle Creek, now at Fearing's, inside the Ritz-Carlton (121 McKinney Ave., Dallas; 214-922-4848). Try Dean's tortilla soup, followed by chicken-fried lobster. Or maybe the halibut with crab succotash. Oh, hell, try anything -- it's all masterfully made and exquisitely presented. Just be warned: Such delights don't come cheap and, with drinks, a night at Fearing's is apt to set you back $100 per person or more.

Shopping: Surely your visitors will want to bring a taste of Texas home with them. In which case, plan a detour to Chocolate Secrets, (3926 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214-252-9801), a sinfully luxurious shop in Dallas, which sells wine, candy and a dazzling array of sweet confections. There's even a small sitting area, where you sip a glass of wine and recharge after a long afternoon on the town.

Attractions: OK, so it's not exactly Napa Valley, but Grapevine has a number of surprisingly accomplished wineries that turn out a range of locally produced wines. The best way to experience what the city has to offer -- and not have to worry about drinking and driving? Sign up for a tour with Grapevine Wine Tours (817-259-9463). You'll make stops at the tasting rooms of three local places, and learn about the history of winemaking in the region.

Nightlife & cocktails: Hard-core foodies are usually just as serious about their cocktails. You'll find excellent options at two Dallas hot spots, The Porch (2912 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas; 214-828-2916) and Dish (4123 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas; 214-522-3474). But the most impressive drinks menu might just be at The Usual (1408 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth; 817-810-0114) , where owner/mixologist Brad Hensarling serves up an array of old-school, Jazz Era delights. The gorgeously decorated lounge is the ideal place to unwind and get in touch with your inner F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The jock kingdom

If your visitors are sports nuts, DFW is the ultimate asylum. It's home to America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, and their staggering $1.2 billion stadium. We just hosted our first World Series and, in February, Super Bowl XLV takes center stage. We also happen to be the center of the bowling universe (more on that later). Throw in the NHL's Dallas Stars and the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, who welcome a certain monarch to town this weekend, and your visitors will think they've died and gone to Jock Heaven.

Stay: The Gaylord Texan (1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine; 817-778-1000) a huge resort overlooking Lake Grapevine, is the official hotel of the Cowboys (it's also where they crash the night before home games). Only a few minutes from D/FW Airport, more importantly, the Gaylord Texan provides round-trip shuttles to the stadium -- just in case you decide to go see the Cowboys-Saints on Thanksgiving Day (party passes still available for $29).

Play: The Gaylord is also right next to Cowboys Golf Club (1600 Fairway Drive, Grapevine; 817-481-7277), probably the nicest public course in DFW. It'll cost ya (almost $200 for a play-all-day package), but if your visitors are serious golfers, you won't want to miss it. You might even bump into Emmitt Smith; let the NFL's all-time leading rusher play through. For more moderately priced but still great golf, try WaterChase Golf Club in Fort Worth (8951 Creek Run Road; 817-861-4653) or Texas Star in Euless (1400 Texas Star Parkway; 817-685-7888).

Nosh and drink: The only thing that DFW has more of than big-time sports, is big-time sports bars. We rounded up our 32 favorite earlier this year on DFW.com, but plenty more have come along since. If you want luxury, try the Texan Station Sports Bar & Grill at the Gaylord. It's got a 30-foot tall, 52-foot-wide crystal-clear screen and overstuffed leather recliners. But if wings and pretty things are more your speed, check out Grapevine's "Breastaurant Row," which includes Bone Daddy's (1720 William D. Tate Ave., Grapevine; 817-251-0835), Hooters, Tilted Kilt and BBQ and Sports Grill. If you want a more ">Big Racks BBQ and Sports Grill. If you want a more old-school sports bar vibe, try Bobby V's (4301 S. Bowen Road, Arlington; 817-467-9922), named for the former Rangers manager. It has a boxing ring in the center of the restaurant, and the wings are a knockout.

Shop: Rally House Texas (4000 Five Points Blvd, Suite 141, Arlington Highlands; 817-468-3883) is one-stop shopping for souvenirs from all the Texas teams, college and pro. Get your discounted Texas Rangers ALCS T-shirts here. Or a TCU jersey or Longhorns jersey or a Mavs jersey. You get the idea. The Cowboys and Rangers have shops in downtown Fort Worth, right on Main Street.

Dine: If you want to dig into one of the best steaks in DFW, Pappas Steakhouse (10477 Lombardy Lane, Dallas; 214-366-2000) will deliver. Just ask Cowboys rookie Dez Bryant, who famously picked up the $54,896 tab for his teammates there. (Ah, rookies.) Hockey fans will want to try Hully & Mo's ( 2800 Routh St, Dallas; 214-954-0203), the upscale sports bar owned by Dallas Stars legends Brett Hull and Mike Modano. Lots of memorabilia and great food you can eat with or without your front teeth. In Fort Worth, try Dutch's (3009 S. University Drive, Fort Worth; 817-927-5522), named for legendary TCU football coach Dutch Meyer. It also happens to serve one of the best bacon bleu cheese burgers we've ever tasted.

Nightlife: Dance, drink and bowl at Splitsville, the upscale bowling lounge (401 Curtis Mathes Way, Arlington; 817-465-2695). This place has bottle service, great VIP booths and the world's only permanent outdoor bowling lane. Right across the parking lot in the Arlington Highlands shopping center is the adult game stop Dave & Busters. If you want to hang where the athletes do, try the PM Nightlife Lounge at the tony Joule Hotel (1530 Main St., Dallas; 214-261-4501).

Attractions: For a few bucks less than a Party Pass, skip the Cowboys game (they are 3-7!) and go on the popular VIP guided stadium tour ($27.50), which takes you inside the locker rooms and the fanciest suites. You can even stand on the star. The Ballpark, home of the American League champion Texas Rangers, is right next door and also offers tours for much less ($10). So does Texas Motor Speedway ($8). But for a one-of-a-kind experience, check out the International Bowling Hall of Fame (621 Six Flags Drive, Arlington; 817-385-8215).

Go for it: The hottest ticket in DFW short of Super Bowl XLV will be this weekend's Dallas Mavericks game against the Miami Heat and its three-headed monster (Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh) at the American Airlines Center (2500 Victory Ave., Dallas; 214-221-8326). Score seats to this game, and you're sports-obsessed visitors will bow down at your feet.

The shopaholic

When my mother and three of my best out-of-town friends come to visit me, I'm pretty sure they'd be happiest if I simply gave them a shopping map to the Metroplex, the keys to my car, and set them off on an unbridled spending spree. Between DFW's tried-and-true shopping meccas and its burgeoning new boutiques, I might not see them for days.

Stay: If you're going to spend a while NorthPark Center in Dallas (and you should, but we'll get to that), your best bet is to stay in one of several hotels that offer guests special NorthPark shopping packages. They range from the Fairmont and the Hilton Dallas Park Cities to the Courtyard by Marriott and La Quinta Inn; check out the complete list at www.northparkcenter.com/hotels.html. In Fort Worth, there are a few fancy options downtown, chiefly The Worthington (200 Main St.; 817-870-1000), which is within walking distance of the best shops. If Southlake and neighboring Grapevine are in your sights, there's a Hilton (1400 Plaza Place; 817-442-9900) right inside Southlake Town Square.

Shop: You'll want to go to Dallas for the wowza glitter factor; Grapevine, Southlake and Arlington for a more wide-open suburban feel, and Fort Worth for a more intimate experience. Dallas highlights include the Knox-Henderson area (Z Gallerie, Pottery Barn and the unique little Iota, just a few steps from the Apple Store) and NorthPark Center (more of a combined shopping and cultural experience, with everything from Neiman Marcus, Barneys and FAO Schwarz to a duck and turtle pond and world-class sculptures). Arlington's big draw is the Arlington Highlands complex, which has a dizzying array of restaurants and shops, such as Teesie's Attic, WineStyles and Francesca's. Same goes for Southlake's Southlake Town Square. Grapevine has Grapevine Mills mall and, for a more unique touch, Main Street in downtown historic Grapevine, peppered with cute little shops and eateries.

In Fort Worth, Sundance Square has limited but essential shopping and browsing, notably at Retro Cowboy and the quirk-tastic Earth Bones (think funky jewelry, Boxing Nuns and smartly funny T-shirts). If you're a fashionista, check out the West 7th district for Bess & Evie's and Flirt; and Camp Bowie's burgeoning area for Lane Knight and Gypsy & Co. Of course, you can't miss the Fort Worth Stockyards (read more about it in The Cowboy way itinerary).

Nosh: In Dallas's NorthPark area, try La Duni Latin Kitchen (8687 N. Central Expressway, Dallas; 214-987-2260), in the Knox-Henderson area, stop by Chuy's (4544 McKinney Ave., Dallas; 214-559-2489), not only for a yummy margarita and Tex-Mex snack (if you get the chips and salsa, ask for a side of jalapeno ranch), but to take in the hunka-hunka-Elvis fountain. In Fort Worth, you can go low-rent at Fred's Texas Cafe (915 Currie St.; 817-332-0083) -- not only featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, but also voted the Best Damn Burger in DFW (so says DFW.com). Or go slightly more upscale at Fireside Pies, or Terra Mediterranean Grill for generously portioned, delicious contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine. In Southlake, we recommend the mod Taco Diner (killer creamy avocado dip), Five Guys Burgers & Fries (242 State St.; 817-416-9726), or if you need to nurse your sweet tooth, Milwaukee Joe's Gourmet Ice Cream. In Arlington, try Gloria's (3901 Arlington Highlands; 817-701-2981) (addictive black bean dip). In downtown Grapevine, Tolbert's is a delish choice for Southwestern food, and Willhoite's (432 S. Main St.; 817-481-7511) is a unique experience once described to us, aptly, as a "family-friendly biker bar/restaurant."

Nightlife: If you haven't shopped 'til you dropped, it's time for a nightcap! In Fort Worth, try the funky new Magnolia Motor Lounge (3005 Morton St., Fort Worth; 817-332-3344). Dallas: Kona Grill (8687 N. Central Expressway; 214-369-7600), right next to Nordstrom in NorthPark.

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