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What You Need to Know About Dallas Before CEDIA

It’s been nearly 20 years since there has been a CEDIA EXPO in Dallas and a lot has changed the convention was last in town.

Uptown is a trendy area just up McKinney Avenue, accessible by Trolley from downtown.

In the early 1990s, while CEDIA was still in its early stages of development, so many of us bonded over food, drink, and entertainment in Dallas. I know this because I put on the legendary, “World Famous Texas BBQ Parties” at my home. The association has outgrown my yard, but I hope many of you still hold a fond place in your heart for Dallas. We are known for our Texas hospitality, and I look forward to seeing you all here in my hometown.

It’s been nearly 20 years since there has been a CEDIA EXPO in Dallas and a lot has changed the convention was last in town. Back in 1996, there wasn’t a host hotel close to the convention center, and now there is a beautiful 1001-room Omni hotel attached to the convention center via a sky bridge. The Omni is surrounded by LED lights as are so many buildings in the Dallas skyline. Many of the structures downtown are lit up with color-changing LEDs, which give a beautiful glow to the city after dark. The Omni’s lighting system in so sophisticated that it can even show movies on the outside of the building. It will be interesting to see how CEDIA and the Omni Hotel use this remarkable display during our stay in Dallas.

The Downtown district will hardly be recognizable to those attendees that haven’t been to Dallas recently. There are now many parks and green spaces all over the downtown area. There are also a lot more restaurants and bars close by. I’m going to cover some of the entertainment and transportation options in the area. It’s a lot of information. Of course the idea is to see and learn all that you can while attending CEDIA EXPO, but if you find yourself with any down time, I hope that this will help you explore a little bit of Dallas.

One of the most significant things that has occurred on the Dallas transportation scene has been the lifting of the Wright Amendment. Now there are nonstop flights into and out of Dallas Love Field from all over the United States. Before last year, you had to stop in one of the states adjoining Texas before you could arrive in Dallas, but no more. This will make travel to Dallas much easier from most of the country.

A cab ride from Dallas Love Field into the hotels downtown will cost approximately $25-30. Don’t forget services like Uber and Lyft, which can both pick up and drop off at Love Field. I understand that Southwest Airlines has teamed up with Lyft to offer as much as $10.00 off with coupon code for passengers traveling to or from Love Field. The price of an Uber ride from Love Field to downtown will start at around $15.00.

DFW is the larger of the two airports, of course. It has been going through huge renovations over the past five years, with more to come. The new Skylink system will help connect you to anywhere you need to go within the secure portion of the airport quickly. If you take a cab ride from DFW to most of the hotels downtown, expect to pay $50-60. Both Uber and Lyft are authorized to pick up and drop off from DFW. Uber will cost you approximately $25-30 to get to most hotels in the downtown area.

The DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) light rail system opened in June of 1996. It didn’t go very far initially, but has since been expanded to 90 miles of track throughout Dallas, with more to come. There are several hotels within a block or two of the DART system downtown, and there is a station directly underneath the convention center. You can buy a day pass to ride the rail as much as you need for $5.00. The map found in the DART link will allow you to take a quick look at the system but I might suggest you call your hotel and ask how near they are to one of the DART rail stations.

Within 15 minutes from the convention center in Dallas, you will find more food, drink, and entertainment than you can possibly explore during your trip to CEDIA EXPO. The best way to cover that much territory quickly is to give you the names and links of each of the major nightlife areas close to everything downtown. They are all great in their own ways, and each one is a totally different experience. I’ve provided links to further help you to choose what suits your style.

Downtown Dallas
When CEDIA was in Dallas in the 1990s less than 500 people called downtown Dallas “home,” but now more than 8,200 people live in the central part of city. There also are more than 40,000 living in the shadow of downtown. All of the population growth in this area has led to the explosion of nightlife so close to the core of the city. There are a number of celebrity chef restaurants downtown, but El Fenix has been a Dallas staple for Tex-Mex since 1918. If you like Mexican food, this is a great place to try.

Uptown Dallas

Dallas Uptown Station

Uptown and West Village
Uptown is a trendy area just up McKinney Avenue a little north of downtown. One of the ways to get there is to take the Trolley from downtown. The trolley system runs from near the Fairmount Hotel downtown all the way to West Village. It might not be the fastest way to get there, but it certainly is one of the coolest ways. It’s free to jump on and off of the trolley if you ride to the end, there is a very unique turnaround spot that is an experience of its own. The vibe here is young urban. There are great steak houses, seafood, burger restaurants. This area is close to downtown that you won’t have any problem finding abundant food choices and some friendly nightlife as well.

Dallas West Village

West Village
West Village is a planned community that has residential, retail, restaurants, and bars all in a nice neat package. It’s a good place to have dinner, do a little shopping, and walk to several yogurt and gelato shops. There is a cool urban feel to the area with plenty of foot traffic for people watching. There are Mexican food options here, too. Mi Cocina is in the heart of the West Village and has a great bar. It’s noisy there, but the food, drinks, and interesting people are worth a visit. You will find this area to be a little newer than some of the other areas on my list, but you will definitely feel comfortable here.

Margret Hunt Hill Bridge in Trinity Groves

Trinity Groves
Across the beautiful Margret Hunt Hill Bridge (Dallas’s first of three Calatrava bridges) you will find a really cool dining experience. Trinity Groves is very new, and there are a lot of great places to eat. The prices run from inexpensive to a bit more pricey. There is a little something for everyone in Trinity Groves. The view of Downtown Dallas is spectacular coming back across the bridge to your hotel.

St. Pete’s in Deep Ellum 

Deep Ellum
Deep Ellum is an eclectic area just on the east side of downtown, featuring a lot of music venues, restaurants, and bars . Small shops and galleries are all around. The vibe is a little more bohemian than the north side of downtown. There are a few well-known BBQ places like Pecan Lodge and Baker’s Ribs here too. On the weekends nightlife really picks up in Deep Ellum. The music seems to bring people here and there is plenty of it on the weekends. There are a number of clubs here and if it’s jazz or blues you’re looking for, this is the part of town that you want to visit. Rock is also alive in Deep Ellum. Live music, in general, thrives in this neighborhood.

Dallas Art District
Just on the North side of Downtown, the Dallas Arts District is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation, spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks. There are museums and performance halls for just about anyone’s taste. Klyde Warren Park is also located in the Dallas Art District. It spans 5.2 acres that was built over the top of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The park is a beautiful space among the towering buildings. There are food trucks on the side of the park and a great restaurant called Savor right in the middle of the park with glass walls all the way around. There are regular performances on the stage near Savor in the park. This place is full of activity day and night.

Dallas’ West End neighborhood

West End

When I think about the West End, which is right downtown, I mostly think of countless food choices. There are casual dining restaurants here but also sophisticated steak houses like the Palm and even down home cooking with Cajun Shrimp and Grits at Ellen’s Southern Kitchen. But eating is not all there is to do in the West end. There is also music at the House of Blues and even world-class museums like the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy happened in this neighborhood. The John F. Kennedy Memorial is a block away from the West End as well as the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. You can pay your respects at the site of this tragedy and soak up the history of this neighborhood. There is no shortage of great food from Italian restaurants to excellent steak houses within a few blocks of each other.

Bishop Arts District

Bishop Arts District

Uber is probably your best bet if you want to stray a little farther from downtown. The Bishop Arts District, located only about 15 minutes from the convention center, is inhabited by a large community of artists. There are galleries and small shops right along with the restaurants here. Zen is a cool sushi restaurant, there is pizza, and a number of other local restaurants within easy walking distance once you arrive. If you venture into this area, don’t miss the Dallas Grilled Cheese restaurant and the pie shops. If you don’t come to Bishop for anything other than the pies, it’s worth the trip. Just ask anyone where the best pie in the Bishop Art District is, and they will point you in the direction of Emporium Pies.

Here are more restaurants to consider before you travel.