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 (find a list at http://www.northparkcenter.com/Visit-NorthPark). 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 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 Francesca's and World Market. Same goes for Southlake's Southlake Town Square. Grapevine has Grapevine Mills mall and, for a more unique touch, Main Street in historic downtown 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 Flirt and Lane Knight ; and Camp Bowie's burgeoning area for the trendy Maven and A. Hooper & Co. Of course, you can't miss the Fort Worth Stockyards (read more about it in The Cowboy way itinerary).
Nosh: In Dallas' NorthPark Center, 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 find great burgers at Rodeo Goat (2836 Bledsoe St. or at its older, even funkier neighbor Fred's Texas Cafe (915 Currie St.; 817-332-0083) -- each has won a DFW.com Battle of the Burgers, and Fred's has been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Or go slightly more upscale at Fireside Pies, or Terra Mediterranean Grill for generously portioned, delicious contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine, or more upscale at AF+b or (2869 Crockett St, Fort Worth, 87-916-5300) or seafood restaurant Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine. Fort Worth's new Sundance Square Plaza is home to the eclectic Bird Cafe and the buzzy Del Frisco's Grille. 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.