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A couple dances in a Texas ballroom
updated 5/8/2006 12:23:05 PM ET 2006-05-08T16:23:05

Dallas has a lively nightlife scene, with enough in the way of performing arts and theater to entertain highbrows and more than enough bars and clubs to satisfy the young and the restless. In fact, in recent years the live music scene claims to have outpaced that of Austin (which continues to call itself the "Live Music Capital of the World" but lost some of its laid-back cool in the dot.com makeover of the city). If you've come to North Texas to wrangle a mechanical bull, you may have to drop in on Fort Worth, but there are a couple of sturdy honky-tonks in Big D where you can strap on your boots and your best Stetson and do some two-steppin' and Western swing dancing.

For listings, check out the "Weekend Guide" section of the Dallas Morning Newsand the Dallas Observer. You can also check the website of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.dcvb.com/) for events.

Ticket Central
For tickets to sporting events and performances, try Central Tickets(tel. 800/462-7979 or 817/335-9000), Star Tickets (tel. 888/597-STAR), or Front Gate Tickets(tel. 888/512-7469). For many events, there's little need to secure tickets in advance of your trip, but that's not the case with big sporting and musical performances.

THE PERFORMING ARTS

The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. at North Pearl (tel. 214/670-3600), is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, a very respectable outfit led by maestro Andrew Litton. The I. M. Pei-designed auditorium is equipped with excellent acoustics and a spectacular pipe organ. Tickets to events are as little as $8, and free concerts are occasionally held. (Free tours are available on selected days at 1pm; call in advance for schedule.) The Dallas Opera performs at Campbell Center #1, 8350 N. Central Expwy. (tel. 214/443-1043). The Dallas Theater Center, Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. (tel. 214/526-8210), is a little gem, the only professional working theater built by the famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the best place for theater in the Dallas area. Local and touring productions, some fairly adventurous by Dallas standards (like Angels in America), are on the card here. The ornate, nicely restored Majestic Theater, 1925 Elm St. (tel. 214/880-0137), built in 1920, is the last of the vaudeville theaters in Dallas. It plays host to dance, comedy, and theater, including the Dallas Summer Musicals' Majestic Series. Less traditional theater is performed by the acclaimed Kitchen Dog Theater Company, 3120 McKinney Ave. (tel. 214/953-1055). Of interest to families may be the shows put on by the Dallas Children's Theater, 2215 Cedar Springs (tel. 214/978-0110; www.dct.org).

LIVE MUSIC

Deep Ellum, the rowdy district east of downtown, is entering its second decade as the epicenter of live music and late-night dance clubs. It used to play almost exclusively to the alternative scene, but it has expanded its offerings to include discos, blues bars, and honky-tonks. The top live music venue is the Gypsy Tea Room, 2548 Elm St. (tel. 214/74-GYPSY), Dallas's current standard-bearer for live performance. The setting for national touring acts of alternative and roots-based rock and country (Wilco, Steve Earle), it contains a 600-capacity vintage ballroom and a smaller, more intimate space. Other favorites are long-timers Trees, 2709 Elm St. (tel. 214/748-5009), with a stellar record for hosting the latest and greatest alternative bands, and Club Dada, 2720 Elm St. (tel. 214/744-DADA), an eclectic, small, and often crowded club that was one of the originals in Deep Ellum. You'll find lesser-known rock as well as folk acts and poetry slams here.

Competing for some of the same acts as the Gypsy Tea Room is the more spacious Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St. (tel. 214/747-4422), a classic Texas dance hall that's equal parts pickup bar, live music venue, and honky-tonk, hosting rock, country, and occasional rockabilly acts (and swing dance classes on Wed). For live all-ages (really all-ages -- if you're under 10, you get in free!) rock and pop gigs, including emo (short for emotional) punk-rock and Christian acts (sometimes a whole slew of bands in a single night), check out The Door, 3202 Elm St. (tel. 214/742-DOOR). It has a large concert space as well as a lounge and theater. For live blues (and this is the district that cradled blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson), check out Deep Ellum Blues, 2612 Commerce St. (tel. 214/760-9338), which features live jams every Sunday night. The Bone, 2724 Elm St. (tel. 214/744-2663), is ostensibly a blues club, but much more than that is a crowded, sweaty drinking spot for young and rowdies.

Another hot area for bars and clubs is Lower Greenville Avenue. Greenville Bar & Grill, 2821 Lower Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/823-6691), has been cool since I used to sneak in there as a high school senior. The crowd, mostly folks intent on defying the big 4-0, come for rock, country, and blues nightly. The Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. (tel. 214/824-9933), is a converted old movie theater that now books popular acts like Bob Dylan and Sigur Rós.

Once a dark and ambience-heavy jazz cafe, Sambuca has now gone thoroughly uptown with its new location at 2120 McKinney Ave. (tel. 214/744-0820). A spacious, upscale supper club, it draws a trendy crowd for cocktails, dinner, and live jazz (much of it jazz fusion you can dance to) 7 nights a week. It has another North Dallas branch, also a Mediterranean restaurant, at 15207 Addison Rd. at Belt Line, in Addison (tel. 972/385-8455). Balcony Club, 1825 Abrams at La Vista (tel. 214/826-8104), upstairs from the Landmark (movie) Theater, is a cool, dark spot with intimate booths, perfect for some relaxing beats and a drink. It has live jazz nightly. Poor David's Pub (tel. 214/821-9891), a venerable old club whose stage has been graced by many great Texas singer-songwriters, recently moved into new, decidedly not poor digs at 1313 S. Lamar, near Gilley's . It aims to retain some of the old ambience, as well as provide a platform for live jazz and blues, albeit with slightly greater capacity.

Dallas Alley, Munger Avenue at Marker Street (tel. 214/720-0170), is a touristy mix of bars and restaurants primarily aimed at businessmen entertaining clients and visitors staying in West End hotels. From karaoke to country and oldies clubs, it's one-stop shopping for most groups looking for a night out on the town with a view of the skyline. Don't count on heaps of local flavor and authenticity, but the drinking and carousing seem contagious for most.The newest and best spot for big-ticket touring rock and pop acts is Nokia Live Center, 1001 NextStage Dr., Grand Prairie (tel. 972/854-5050).

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HONKY TONK HEAVEN

Top Rail Ballroom, 2110 W. Northwest Hwy. (tel. 972/556-9099), with wagon-wheel chandeliers and a neon covered wagon, is a classic Texas C&W dance hall, a place where you'll find more authentic cowboys than transplanted wannabes. Open daily, it's the best boot-scootin' this side of Fort Worth. Gilley's Dallas, a Big D branch of Houston's famous honky-tonk (which shot to fame with John Travolta on a bucking bronco in Urban Cowboy), finally opened at 1601 S. Lamar (tel. 214/888-GILLEYS or 214/428-2919). It is absolutely Texan in size, with more than 90,000 square feet to accommodate all those boots, hats, and hair. Cowboys Red River Dancehall, 10310 Technology (tel. 214/352-1796), has live country music nightly, mechanical bull riding, a huge dance floor, and dance lessons. Worth the drive if you're a boot-scooter or country music fan is the must-see Billy Bob's Texas in Fort Worth.

For a more intimate, down-and-dirty take on the honky-tonk scene, check out Adair's Saloon, 2624 Commerce St. in Deep Ellum (tel. 214/939-9900), which the regulars call "Aayy-dares." It gets its share of clean-scrubbed SMU students, but mostly you'll find down-to-earth patrons and infectious country and redneck rock bands that go down well with the cheap beer, shuffleboard, and tables and walls blanketed in graffiti. The perfectly greasy burgers with a whole jalapeño on top are surprisingly tasty; some say they're the best in Dallas. The only rule here is in plain English on the sign behind the bar: NO DANCIN' ON TABLES WITH SPURS.

For more on what to see and do in Dallas, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/dallas.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Don't mess with Texas

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