Contrary to popular stereotypes, people in Dallas don’t ride horses to work. Or have oil wells in their backyards. (Well, most of them don’t.) In fact, for what appears to be a shining example of conservatism, thanks to the abundance of mega-churches, financial institutions and corporate headquarters, Dallas has a thriving, influential LGBT community at its core, helping shape policy and attitudes from the inside out. As a part of a metropolitan area that’s home to 6.7 million people (the ninth largest city in the United States and the sixth largest LGBT population), the high visibility and power of the gay community is quite an accomplishment.
Spread throughout the year, there are several big gay events that appeal to a variety of interests. Every month, Resource Center serves up drag queens and big cash prizes at Gaybingo. In June, Razzle Dazzle Dallas observes Pride with the rest of the world, though the Dallas celebration takes place over a week in September with festivals, the culmination of an American Idol-style singing competition and the big Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, all presented by the Dallas Tavern Guild, a coalition of LGBT bars. In the heart of the gay business district is ilume, an apartment/retail complex that hosts some of the best gay pool parties on summer weekends. In the fall, Black Tie Dinner raises millions of dollars for LGBT non-profit organizations through an extravagant, celebrity-filled evening.
Though “gay” and “religion” don’t often play well together, visitors often marvel at the Cathedral of Hope, the world’s largest gay and lesbian church, with more than 30,000 members nationwide. Dallas is also home to a thriving men’s chorus, the Turtle Creek Chorale, whose concerts are practically religious experiences, thanks to devoted fans.
Arts & Culture
Lovers of the arts will sing the praises of the quantity and quality on offer in Dallas, home to the largest arts district in the nation. Destinations include the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra calls the Meyerson Symphony Center home, while next-door neighbour Winspear Opera House brings in touring Broadway productions. Across the street, the Dallas Theater Center occupies the Wyly Theatre, and Dallas City Performance Hall hosts a variety of local productions and one-night-only performances. Nearby, at the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Kalita Humphreys Theater, LGBT production company Uptown Players produces a full season of gay-centric comedies, dramas and musicals. Two gay Dallas publications are fantastic resources for getting the most up-to-date information about happenings in the city: Gay List Daily and the Dallas Voice. Of course, many people know Dallas from Dallas, both the 1980s TV show and the current reboot, so a visit to Southfork Ranch is always fun for pop-culture enthusiasts.
Though gay people can be found in all corners of the Metroplex, there is still a high concentration of queer residents living near The Strip on Cedar Springs Road, where the highest number of LGBT bars and businesses operate. Other popular residential neighbourhoods for the gay set include Uptown, Downtown high-rises, Highland Park, Oak Cliff, Lakewood and Little Forest Hills.
Dallas is a city that loves to eat out, resulting in one of the highest number of restaurants per capita of any city in the US. Gay chefs can be found running the show at a number of high-end destinations, including Salum, Komali, Stephan Pyles, Samar and Stampede 66. In the gaybourhood itself, you’ll find Thairiffic, Thai Lotus, Zini’s Pizzeria and Italia Express for international flavours; Hunky’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers; gourmet chef-driven cuisine at Dish; and classic Texas comfort food at the original location of the Black-Eyed Pea. There’s even a gay-owned Subway sandwich shop if you’re in need of a foot-long. Newly opened Mattito’s and Steel in the Centrum Building offer up great patios and people-watching. At the foot of a Santiago Calatrava–designed bridge is Trinity Groves, a restaurant incubator with multiple concepts being tested by chefs in a variety of cuisine styles. In the nearby Bishop Arts District, Hattie’s has long been a favourite, as has a second outpost of Hunky’s. As for Texas barbecue, stick to this neighbourhood and get your fingers messy at Lockhart Smokehouse.
The closest properties to gay nightlife are the historic Warwick Melrose Hotel and gay-owned bed-and-breakfast the Daisy Polk Inn. For chic sophistication, ultra-stylish The Joule downtown and its adjoining ESPA spa make for a fab retreat, as does Hotel ZaZa in Uptown and the adjacent ZaZa Bungalows. Almost nearing the hip quotient of those last two are Hotel Palomar and Hotel Lumen, both near the Southern Methodist University campus. Next to the American Airlines Center arena is the W Dallas Victory. True luxury can be found at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. For an in-city resort experience, the Four Seasons Resort Dallas, in nearby Las Colinas, is a perfect place for being pampered. And if you’re headed there for a conference, the new Omni Dallas Downtown doesn’t sacrifice style for such a huge convention-centre hotel.
Procuring goods and services is second only in popularity to dining out for Dallasites (or first, if you’re chatting with a true fashionista). Underwear, swimwear and gay apparel can be found within a couple blocks of each other at Outlines, ES Collection USA and Skivvies, which also operates an underwear/swimwear outlet a few miles away. For gifts, wonderfully curated merchandise can be found at Nest, Nuvo, Fête-ish, Forty Five Ten, Gifted, Home on Bishop, the Workroom and even Tapelenders, one of the last video stores around. After all that shopping, you’ll need to relieve those tense muscles with a massage at gay-owned eco spa Green Lotus.
Bars & Nightlife
The gay social scene is vibrant and not limited exclusively to LGBT bars, lounges and dance clubs. But they’re always a great place to start or end the evening. If you have time to visit only one bar (so sorry), then it has to be Round-Up Saloon, the most Texan of all venues, with two-steppin’ cowboys, boot-shaped beer mugs and plenty of country music. Across the street is TMC, an intimate men’s club with after-hours dancing. Station 4 is a gigantic dance venue, with 24,000 square feet of space, multiple bars and lounges, as well as the amazingly fun Rose Room, home to extravagant drag shows Thursday to Sunday. JR’s Bar & Grill serves up food and music videos in a casual setting, and just around the corner, Sue Ellen’s caters to the lesbian crowd with multiple lounge areas and dancing. Piano bar Alexandre’s attracts a slightly older crowd, while Woody’s features all the elements of a typical sports bar (with a much hunkier gay crowd). There are options outside the main gay bar district, including BJ’s NXS, the best place to catch hot male dancers. Meanwhile, Brick/Joe’s is two bars in one: on one side, dancing, DJs and male dancers; on the other, a laid-back bar.