It's time to transform Texas-style, as we go to -
BOTCON IN BIG 'D'!
The Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower is one of the coolest places in Dallas to go for a convention. Close to history, attractions and great food, with one of the most elegant hotels in the country as your backdrop, it's an experience to remember. Having attended anime conventions at the Hyatt Regency - Reunion for five years, and visited repeatedly over the last twenty, I've gotten quite a feel for the area! So here's some tips to help you navigate and enjoy yourself like a native.
How's the weather down there?
By late April, Texas is fast approaching summer conditions. Given the early spring we're already having in much of the South, you can reasonably expect daytime temperatures to reach the upper 80's to low-90's Farenheight (upper 20's to mid-30's Celsius). Nights are cooler, around the mid-to-upper 60's (F). Not bad for heading outdoors, but two factors are worth considering. One is the humidity; as part of the South, Dallas has rather high humidity in spring and summer - 80% is not at all uncommon - which can make high temperatures feel even hotter. Pack as you would for a summer trip, and just be glad it isn't late July or August, when the thermometer stays past the century mark!
The other factor to consider is spring storms. These roll through Dallas almost once a week, and can often turn severe. Don't fret, though; natives treat these as the routine nuisance they are. Just keep a sweater handy in case the rain brings cooler air, and wait for the rain to pass before venturing out to explore. Stay away from low-lying areas, especially if flood signs are posted. Downtown Dallas has several areas you wouldn't want to traverse in a flash flood. Just order dinner in and wait to check out the West End the next day. Which brings us to -
Centennial Cafe as seen from above, inside the Hyatt
What's for dinner?
A variety of budget options are available from the Hyatt. The restaurant on the main floor, Centennial Cafe', can be a bit pricy for dinner if you're on a tight budget - it's roughly comparable to the Olive Garden - but their breakfast buffet is worth visiting. It costs about $10 to $15 a person, but has tasty options with plenty of proteins for a hard day's conventioning. (As a dealer, I've found it's a great way to fill up if you anticipate working through lunch!) Good luck catching Parrino's Oven open - I've yet to catch it open for business during all my anime days.
Also accessible through the hotel is the restaurant level in Reunion Tower, which is a tourist attraction in its own right. I went when it was still the Antares Restaurant, which for lunch was a touch pricy but still an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. Dinner was coat-and-tie required, with prices to match, and probably still is considering it's now a Wolfgang Puck signature restaurant.
Reunion Tower, as seen outside the hotel
This is unfortunate for tourists on a budget, because you really haven't experienced all of downtown Dallas until you've gone up to Reunion Tower. I highly recommend finding a way to go just once. If you aren't in the mood for a lavish lunch, one way to see the unique 360-degree revolving view in Reunion Tower is to go to the bar level, have a soda or a virgin drink and settle in for the view. The whole bar, like the restaurant one floor below, makes one revolution per hour. According to the Hyatt's website, the observation level is closed for renovations - check with hotel staff to see if this changes - but you can also find out hours for the lounge by checking the Hyatt's website.
Ordering In or Going Out...?
For meals that are more economical, you still have plenty of options. You can have pizza or Chinese food (from multiple locations) delivered to the hotel - you can go downstairs, but some delivery folks will bring it right to your hotel door - and the hotel front desk has menus for each available. Ask for extra garlic sauce if you order pizza, it's quite good. You may even get chocolate fortune cookies with your pizza!
If you decide to venture out, head to the historic West End. On foot from the Hyatt, you go downhill, turn right and go under the train overpass, then uphill and to the left one block, and you're at Dealey Plaza. History and conspiracy buffs will recognize this name, because it's the very plaza where JFK was assassinated. Not much has changed about the area - the Picket Fence is still there, with graffitti where "Badge Man" was said to have stood - and you'll find dudes hawking souvenir newspapers at all hours of the day or night. Just find a polite way to ditch them, unless you feel like a $5 souvenir newspaper, and when you get to the Sixth Floor Museum turn right and head over about two more blocks to get to the West End proper.
The Sixth Floor Museum
(It's worth it to check out the area for its own sake during daylight. There's an 'X' on the street where JFK's motorcade was when he was shot, and you can watch zany tourists run out to it and take pictures during traffic intervals. No lie! The Book Depository is now the Sixth Floor Museum, with tickets running about $20 a head. Skip the audio tour, and be sure to check out the glassed-off "Shooter's Nest". There's also a Conspiracy Museum on Market Street in Dallas, covering various Kennedy conspiracies and said to be opening a September 11th exhibit.)
At the West End, you have options ranging from Subway to TGI Friday's and plenty in between. There's a fine steakhouse, Atomic Sushi and a Mexican restaurant. Atomic is typically priced for sushi, though the Mexican place is reasonably priced. If you hit the West End on a Saturday night, you may run into a Hare Krishna parade and have random kids run up to you offering trail mix samples. As with the tourist-traps, just find a polite way to ditch the local oddballs.
If You've Got Wheels...
Two other places are worth going if you have a way to drive. If you like a good steak, then you have to try Saltgrass Steak House. There are two locations in North Dallas, both accessible via the 635 Loop (just take 35E North from the hotel). The coconut shrimp with marmalade is an absolutely heavenly appetizer, and these folks know how to prepare a side of 'moo'! Check a recent review on Yelp.
The other place is Two Guys from Italy, a family-owned spot on Webb Chapel Road past the Imax theatre (from the hotel, take 35E North to 635 East, then right on Webb Chapel). I've been visiting there for over ten years, and the quality has never wavered. Sometimes you can hear them screaming in Italian in the kitchen! You get a whole lot of food for not a whole lot of money. The salmon linguine is simply decadent. Be prepared for leftovers!
The fountain as seen from the hotel entrance - Centennial Cafe is at the top
For those driving to the convention, you'll need to account for parking costs. Valet parking can get a bit steep - for a five-night stay, it can get as high as $90. If you have a disabled-parking tag, let the front desk know and you may get the fee waived altogether. If not, you have another option. Downhill from the hotel is a parking lot with daily rates of $7 (cash only). Friends and I call it the "Radish Lot" because of the name stamped on the tags you get. The only drawback is that the lot is not covered, and spaces under trees at the edges fill up quickly (especially in summer weather!). But for the price, it's a good bargain.
For short-term parking, you can also try the parking lot at the adjacent Reunion Arena. But because it has events going on every weekend, you may not always get a free spot, and it's a bit of a hike back to the hotel. Save that as a last resort.
Got more questions? If there's an aspect of con-going in 'Big D' that you'd live to know more about, ask me! If I can possibly find out about, I'll post the info here. See you in April!
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