There's a lot to do in Dallas. It's fair to say that you're not a true Dallasite if you haven't been to the State Fair of Texas at least once. You don't know what it means to be "iced in" until you've experienced your first icepocalypse in North Texas.
Here's our list of notable milestones and rites of passages for residents of Dallas-Fort Worth. How many have you crossed off of your personal list?
First State Fair of Texas
The State Fair of Texas exemplifies the state’s mantra that “everything’s bigger in Texas.” It's a must-do, and I recently made my first trip to the annual event. At this oversized amusement park, the main character is Big Tex. And while it might seem embarrassing to take a selfie with a 55-foot-tall mechanical cowboy, you should do it. And you’ve got to get a Fletcher’s Corny Dog. A word of caution: Get the name right. It's a corny dog.
First bowl of queso
There’s nothing wrong with Mom’s melted Velveeta and Rotel. For me, it was my first glimpse into some of the homiest food in the world, and at 5 years old, I was sure there couldn’t be anything more delicious than cheap tortilla chips dunked into Mom’s queso.
Then I grew up and ate queso at Taco Cabana at 1:45 a.m. after a concert. Then The Disaster (that’s queso, ground beef, guac and pico) at Taco Joint for hangover brunch. Then the green chile queso at Torchy’s Tacos at dinner.
First time or 35th time, you can find happiness at the bottom of a bowl of queso.
First Polyphonic Spree concert
Music writer Thor Christensen described the joyful ensemble the Polyphonic Spree, which has been around since 2000, as a choral symphony decked out in robes that "looks like a cult and sounds like Pink Floyd crossed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir." There's a delightful quirkiness to the proceedings, with around 20 members playing instruments and harmonizing and being bathed in colorful lights. Whether you first saw it as one of the kids at the Spree's epic, long-running holiday show or as a jaded adult who couldn't quite believe your eyes, it's one to remember.
First bite of brisket
If you’ve had a chopped beef sandwich, you still have work to do. Your first bite of real brisket should be fatty, velvety and eaten with your hands -- and no sauce or bread, if you subscribe to Central Texas barbecue rules. Land at the right Texas barbecue joint and your first bite of brisket will be an unforgettable haze of fat, smoke and happiness. We’ve found great bites at Pecan Lodge, One90 Smoked Meats and CattleAck Barbeque. Part of the fun is discovering your favorite on your own.
First time driving through the Dallas Mixmaster
“Is this it? Are we in the Mixmaster?” My young Fort Worth cousin was thrilled to be riding through the concrete maze of over- and underpasses for the first time. He said he’d heard about it on the news when it was the site of a cattle or chicken truck turnover, he couldn’t remember which, and now... here he was. Did he think it was some sort of amusement park ride? My first attempt to maneuver the Mixmaster was a nightmare. At 17, a newly licensed driver taking a spin around the city, I found myself sandwiched between 18-wheelers while trying to speed read road signs and remember if I was east- or westbound. I made it through safely but every time through is like the first time: I am in one lane when I need to be in the one way over there.
First Texas summer
If you’re not from Dallas, the moment you arrive, there are locals coming at you from all sides with quintessential recommendations. Eat tacos! Go to a Dallas Cowboys football game! Prepare for summer! Prepare for summer? Oh come on, that last one has to be a joke. But believe me, you won’t be laughing come May when the temperature rises and the humidity thickens to the point you’re practically showering in your own sweat immediately after stepping outside.
You may scrape by in June, dividing your time between friend’s pools and the sub-zero air conditioning in your apartment. Once you get the bill in July, though, it’s time to either crank it back up to 75 degrees or risk going broke. By August, you’re changing underwear up to three times a day and wondering why you ever moved to this godforsaken state. Don’t worry, you’ll regain your sanity by the time it cools down in November. Survive and you’ll always be considered an honorary Texan. Now it’s time to start preparing for next summer.
Quinceañera photos at the Dallas Arboretum
There's no prettier place in Dallas for a photo op than the arboretum's 66 acres on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake. Girls celebrating their 15th birthdays wear their quinceañera dresses and flock to the arboretum to document the occasion. It's probably the only time that visitors' outfits upstage the flora and fauna.
Now, we know what you're thinking: "I'm not a 15 year-old girl. How will I cross this milestone off of my list?" It's 2017, y'all. Anything is possible if you just believe in yourself. (And really, you should go to the arboretum anyway.)
You survived your first Texas summer, so the winter should be a breeze, right? Think again. No need to worry about snow, we rarely get that. Temps stay just warm enough that it often rains during winter months ... and then freezes to add a nice thick layer of ice to all the roads. And when that happens? Hide your kids, hide your wives and grab a bottle of Fireball whiskey -- you won’t be leaving your house anytime soon. Icepocalypse can be a fun event when you get to play hooky from work or school and play Cards Against Humanity with friends who live walking distance. But if there are actually things going on -- say, for example, the Super Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington -- it can be a real bummer. Either way, it’s the definition of memorable (if you don’t drink too much whiskey).
First time running or cheering at the Dallas Marathon
They say “you never forget your first” and, ahem, we can confirm that’s true when it comes to running 26.2 miles. There’s the lightning shock of leg cramps, the too-full-or-too-empty twisty guts, the sweat, blood and tears ... and that’s if it goes well.
Luckily, Dallas is a wonderful place for first-timers and seasoned distanced runners to strut their stuff up Turtle Creek before hammering down through the cheers and signs of locals tailgating on bar patios along Greenville Avenue. After that, it’s just a quick jaunt along White Rock Lake and -- if the howling wind hasn’t knocked you into the water -- just grab a swig from the beer aide station and begin your climb up the long and lonely Santa Fe Trail. You won’t be able to feel your feet by the time you make it to Deep Ellum and began hobbling back into Downtown -- lucky you, that’s for the best! All jokes aside, the Dallas Marathon is one of the very best ways to see Dallas’ eclectic neighborhoods in a whole new light ... that is, of course, if the weather cooperates.
First time circumnavigating street closures
Dallas can be hard enough to navigate on a normal day -- sure, the streets could have been built on a grid, but that would be no fun. Toss in a special event, and you might be sitting on a side street “parking lot” most of your afternoon. Take the St. Patrick’s Day parade for example, or the Dallas Marathon; we hope you didn’t have brunch plans on the other side of town today... Oh, and don’t think for a minute you can simply find a parking spot and hop out to join in the fun. No, you’re committed to this four-block voyage now, sucker. Hunker down and hope for the best.
First carriage ride through Highland Park at Christmastime
Your quintessential Dallas Christmas tale would go something like this: Once upon a time, your family put down its smartphones and spent an entire evening enjoying one another’s company. Loaded into a horse-drawn carriage, the family members sipped hot cocoa and hummed Christmas carols, oohing and aahing over big homes and their immaculate lights displays. Taking a carriage ride through Highland Park is one of the most wholesome activities in Dallas at Christmastime. It’s also expensive, so bring your rich uncle.