Summer Adventures in the Lone Star State
They say everything’s bigger in Texas. That means adventure, too. From backcountry hikes in remote mountain ranges, to live music in legendary honky tonks, Texas has an enormous variety of things to do – so much so, you might forget they’re all in one state! You’d be forgiven, though. This place is gigantic. Texas is the second largest state in the U.S. with seven distinct regions, each with its own personality, cultural identity, and ways of life.
Get familiar with two of Texas’ most exciting, and contrasting, cities – Dallas and El Paso – and dust off your boots for some good ol’ fashioned fun this summer, Lone Star State-style.
Deep in West Texas’ Big Bend region, El Paso is located at the edge of the U.S.-Mexico border. This proximity to Mexico plays a major role in El Paso’s identity, as does its history. For over 400 years, Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Western cultures have all shaped El Paso into the unique cultural melting pot it is today.
El Paso is also within reach of some of the most incredible landscapes in America’s Southwest like the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands National Park, and the Guadalupe Mountains. Not to mention, El Paso boasts an average of 302 days of sunshine each year, making it a year-round destination for outdoor lovers.
But don’t be fooled by its rugged exterior. Beyond its natural wonders, the city of El Paso is just as modern as its big-city Texas neighbors. To experience everything El Paso has to offer, plan to stay at The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, a dazzling Art Deco hotel rich with history, local art, and authentic El Paso vibes.
The grounds of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park date back to the late 1800s, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it. This luxury boutique hotel is sleek, sexy, and wholly vivacious. In addition to its impressive collection of local photography, sculptures, and hand-woven textiles, this hotel boasts some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine in all of El Paso.
At Ámbar Restaurante, the Plaza’s on-site restaurant, Michelin-starred chef Andres Padilla cooks up an exciting fusion of traditional Mexican fare and Texas flavors. Think classic dishes like slow-cooked pork carnitas and molé poblano duck, and adventurous plates like mezcal-cured foie gras and crispy pig feet. Oh, and don’t forget the agave! Ámbar Restaurante houses over 800 tequila and agave spirits – the biggest collection in all of North America!
The Plaza’s artful experiences mirror El Paso’s artful community and warm, welcoming people. After fueling up at Ámbar, head out to explore the city and mingle with locals who bring it to life. Join a walking tour of El Segundo Barrio’s murals to learn about El Paso’s Chicano culture, or visit the El Paso Museum of Art to view a range of European, Latin American, and American artworks, as well as contemporary works by local artists from Texas and the U.S.-Mexico border region.
The city’s downtown arts district, Las Plazas, is another great spot for local hangs with buzzy restaurants and late-night bars. The historic Plaza Theatre is also located here. Built in 1930, the Plaza Theatre is one of the last remaining “atmospheric theaters” in America. Its stage and seating areas were purposefully designed to look like an outdoor Spanish courtyard with rustic-looking walls covered in vines, and a ceiling painted like the night sky. This summer, plan your El Paso vacation around the 15th annual Plaza Classic Film Festival (July 28-August 7, 2022), when the Plaza Theatre will welcome movie lovers for 10 days of classic films and star-studded events, including Q&As with Academy Award winners Rita Moreno and F. Murray Abraham.
Thanks to El Paso’s location, epic outdoor activities are also just a short drive away. Hueco Tanks State Park is a world-famous destination for bouldering and rock climbing. As you hike and climb through Hueco Tanks’ maze of boulders, you may even encounter ancient pictographs from the area’s oldest inhabitants. For even more thrills, take off for an exhilarating UTV ride through Red Sands, a historic landscape known for its ancient fossils and reddish-brown dunes.
Where El Paso has mountains and vast desert landscapes, Dallas has a glittering metropolis. The ninth most populated city in America, Dallas is where Texan history meets modern-day luxury. This place is bursting with culture and creativity, from the historic live music scene in Deep Ellum, to the independent shops and businesses of the Bishop Arts District. But no matter how often this city reinvents itself, Dallas stays true to its Southern roots, right down to the cowboy hats and friendly “howdy” greetings.
Start your journey in the Dallas Arts District, one of the biggest arts districts in the country encompassing 20 blocks of interconnected museums, performance venues, and public art spaces. The Dallas Museum of Art has a massive collection of over 25,000 artworks from nearly every culture and time period you can think of. And, best of all, admission is free! The Crow Museum of Asian Art also has a fascinating collection of Asian art, including contemporary works by Texas-based Asian American artists. Nearby, the Nasher Sculpture Center is equally awe-inspiring with more than 300 modern and contemporary sculptures on view, including works from famous artists like Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso. Nasher also has a dedicated team of “Visitor Experience Facilitators” – artists and educators who are eager to chat and dissect the museum’s collection, architecture, and history. If performing arts are more your speed, you’re in the right place. The Arts District welcomes a range of performances by the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Black Dance Theater, and many other cultural organizations.
Curious for a more free-spirited, locals vibe? Head to the Bishop Arts District, where you’ll find over 60 independently-owned boutiques, restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries, and more. Bishop Arts District feels like a hidden gem in a small town, but the secret is out. Locals and travelers alike come to this bohemian-style neighborhood to shop, eat, drink, and chill out. The area is very walkable, so take a stroll and pop into whatever catches your eye – the comic book store, Latin ice cream shop, specialty denim store, or perhaps the artisan cigar factory. (Pro tip: For even more shopping, take a quick drive to Dallas’ Design District to peruse antique shops and upscale showrooms selling everything from hand-crafted jewelry to vintage furniture!)
Come nightfall, make your way to Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. This lively, historic area is home to a thriving live music scene and countless watering holes – traditional honky tonks, speakeasy-style bars, and everything in between. Deep Ellum’s love for live music runs deep. In the 1920s, the area played host to early blues and jazz artists. In the decades that followed, Deep Ellum welcomed prominent artists like Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, Bessie Smith, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Today, you’ll find all kinds of musicians in Deep Ellum – up-and-coming country stars, local DJs, rock bands, even karaoke connoisseurs. Of course, there’s tons to explore during the daytime, too. Take time to wander through Deep Ellum’s vibrant street art, local shops, and excellent restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants…when you visit Dallas, you know you’re going to be eatin’ good. The city’s gastronomy scene is incredibly diverse and creative, a reflection of its ambitious multicultural community. For fall-off-the-bone Texas barbeque, many locals will point you in the direction of Pecan’s Lodge, a Texas family-owned BBQ joint that serves award-winning heaps of tender, juicy, smoked meats. Get here early, because the lines are LONG and the kitchen stops serving when the food runs out. Craving some of Texas’ insanely delicious Mexican food instead? Take a seat at the chef’s table of Purepecha and prepare your tastebuds for an exhilarating, eight-course tasting menu inspired by the chef’s home state of Michoacán, Mexico.
With so much to see and do in Dallas, a central location is key. Stay in the heart of the action at The Joule, a Forbes Four-Star hotel and Leading Hotels of the World member located in the Central Business District (CBD) of Downtown Dallas. The Joule is a quick walk or drive from the city’s buzziest areas and attractions (aforementioned neighborhoods included), but once you step inside, you may never want to leave. This luxury boutique hotel has everything, and we mean it – gorgeous guestrooms and suites with a glamorous, residential-style feel; an award-winning spa; delicious restaurants and bars with great ambiance; retail stores with curated brands…the list goes on!
Design and attention to detail are key ingredients to The Joule experience. Even the building itself is an architectural marvel, a neo-Gothic landmark that once housed the Dallas National Bank. Inside, there’s always something interesting to look at. Funky chandeliers, illuminated bookshelves, patterned pillows, glittering geodes. Even the staircases are eye-catching! Perhaps most striking is The Joule’s blue chip art collection featuring works by prominent contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Tony Cragg, Roger Hiorns, and Tony Tassett, the artist behind The Joule’s famous eyeball sculpture on Main Street.
The Joule also boasts five (!) food and drink spots on-site. Grab a coffee and pastry at Weekend Coffee, a bright and airy cafe, or mingle with fellow travelers at the hotel’s Lobby Bar. At CBD Provisions, The Joule’s Texas-inspired brasserie, guests and locals can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Order the CBD’s Berkshire pig head carnitas (you’ll thank us later), and pair them with a round of cocktails. (CBD’s cocktail menu is headed by one of Texas’ most acclaimed bartenders!) More luscious libations await at Midnight Rambler, a subterranean cocktail lounge with a focus on creative mixology and curated music events like weekly jazz vinyl sets, live music performances, and DJ sets. And, as if that weren’t enough, an all-day Italian restaurant, Sassetta, just opened at The Joule this spring.
After a day of exploration, unwind at The Joule’s award-winning spa and wellness facilities. Choose from restorative body rituals and skincare treatments, or book a timeframe and mix-and-match your treatments however you please. The 24-hour fitness center has everything you need to work up a sweat. And when it’s time to cool off, head outside to The Joule’s iconic pool, which juts out from the side of the building and hovers over the street below, much to voyeurs’ delight. (Skinny dippers, beware.) Swim up to the edge for unbelievable views, hang poolside with a frozen margarita, and savor each moment of your epic Texas adventure.