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Discover the Big D


The Hidden Treasures that are visited, photographed and described by Mike Raanhuis in iFly KLM Magazine are true pearls. He travelled to Dallas – the city where the word ‘Big’ is the norm. Follow iFly Magazine to Dallas, the birthplace of 'big', and join us on a road trip full of surprising and remarkable contrasts.

Road trip!
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Hidden Treasures Dubai 2 Profile

Mike Raanhuis (1975) is an independent Dutch journalist and photographer for ad agencies and (digital) magazines. Using evocative images to back up his words and vice versa, Mike captures the purity of people and nature in unique reports. See also www.miketekstenbeeld.nl.

Hidden Treasures Dallas 02 Intro

Day 01

“The car isn’t that big but I think it is one of the better SUVs,” says the uber-friendly Avis lady at Dallas Fort Worth airport as she hands over the keys to my rental car. The Ford’s grill reaches up to my navel (I’m not exaggerating!) so I am unsure what isn’t big about it. What does this say about the rest of my time spent in Dallas and nearby Fort Worth? Time will tell... 

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Adolphus Hotel

The five-lane highway leads me in a straight line to the heart of Dallas, the second largest city in Texas. Distinct country music blares through the speakers: welcome to America! After only 45 minutes I am standing on the doorstep of the downtown Adolphus Hotel, established in 1912 and my home for the next two nights. It seems the perfect accommodation, ideally situated to explore the city and all its hidden treasures. 

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Fort Worth

The first thing on my programme today is Fort Worth (1849), a city that borders on Dallas and which I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Fort Worth is sometimes described as the ‘cultural gateway to the American West’. Here I meet several real cowboys who work at Fort Worth Stockyards – a historic cattle market that was established in 1866 and played a major role in the transit of livestock.

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Later I meet Marty Travis, who gives me a tour through his own Billy Bob's Texas, the largest honky tonk (country music venue) in the world. Its 12,000 m2 accommodates 6,000 people, 30 (yes, 30!) bars, and entertainment such as live bull riding. Marty’s stage is usually reserved for well-known country singers, as well as famous musicians such as The Supremes, Ringo Starr, James Brown, BB King, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash. Travis proudly proclaims that a record number of 16,000 bottles of beer were once drunk in a single night...

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Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse

Back in Dallas I again notice how unbelievably high all the skyscrapers in the business district are. As the sun sets on my first day in Dallas, the one glass tower reflects the light even more beautifully than the other. My tummy is rumbling and several passers-by advise me to head for the renowned BBQ restaurant Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse, which has an honorary mention in The Barbecue Bible. This is the high point of all things American. 

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The pièce de resistance on the menu is the Big Tator, a 500 gram baked potato with butter, sour cream and cheese. When I ask which drink goes best with it, the waitress answers – in a slightly offended tone of voice - ‘a Dr. Pepper, of course’.  I should have known that this drink has its roots in Texas.

Hidden Treasures Dallas 02 Intro

Day 02

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Sixt Floor Museum – JFK

Due to the time difference I hardly sleep a wink. The good news is that I am ready to head out into the city early. My first destination is Elmstreet/Dealey Plaza, an emotionally charged place in Dallas. This is (probably) where Lee Harvey Oswald took his fatal shot at President John F. Kennedy, and the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository has served as the Sixth Floor Museum since 1989. 

Taking photos inside is an absolute no-no, but the world-famous building and the white cross on the road – the original crime scene – still bear witness to the terrible events of November 22 1963, now almost half a century ago. Although somewhat touristy, it’s all very impressive and this historically important location is a must-see site when you visit Dallas. (beeldmap JFK Museum)

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Dallas Arts District

The weather during my visit to Dallas is predominantly dry, but this part of the city is also ideal in rainy conditions. Start with a visit to the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This poetically named church dates back to 1872, and its aging beauty is in stark contrast to all the glass, aluminium and steel built it around in the intervening years.

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I encounter a fascinating Dutch connection, linked to two world-renowned Dutchmen. Conductor Jaap van Zweden has been the musical director at Dallas Symphony Orchestra for three years, while architect Rem Koolhaas designed the Performing Arts Centre. This stately and square building has facades decorated with what seem like huge organ pipes. Also well worth a visit are the Museum of Art, The Dallas Opera and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. 

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    Hidden Treasures Dallas 09 White Lake Rock Stroke
    D Guest Smith / Alamy Stock Photo

    White Rock Lake

    From an entirely different genre but equally noteworthy is White Lake Rock, which a local recommended me to see. This man-made city lake is an idyllic spot where many residents spend their free moments escaping from the hectic life of downtown Dallas. 

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    Take your time and include a tour through the neighbouring Lakewood area. The area features a wide variety of classy villas with manicured bright-green lawns resembling pool table cloths. This is entirely in line with the perfectly maintained botanical garden of the Dallas Aboretum. 

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      If you have time (and energy) left over, check out the nearby NorthPark Center (10 minutes by car). This huge mall (including live piano music!) is sensational, and attracts shoppers from both Dallas and beyond. 

      Dallas Cowboys

      I want to end my last day here by capturing an image of Dallas at sunset. Three Americans recommend I go to the Belmont Hotel, a little south of the city. As I still have some time before the city is embraced by a purple glow, I take a 30-minute drive to the stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, a professional American Football team and the pride of Texas. The stadium, completed in 2009, accommodates up to 110,000 spectators, making it the largest covered dome stadium in the world.

      Interesting detail: The stadium also features the largest and heaviest (600 tons!) HD screen ever made. 

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