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Best of DFW

DFW delivers a one-of-a-kind cultural experience

Posted 1:26pm on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014

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. Well, we're not all about cowboys here -- the real kind and the football playing variety.

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 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. In 2013, the Kimbell added the Piano Pavilion, architect Renzo Piano's "answer" to Kahn's building and home to more art as well as performances and movie screenings. Across the street from the Kimbell 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 another 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 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.

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.

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