Tell friends and neighbors that you're going to Disney World, Paris or Hawaii for vacation and people will smile and nod approvingly.
Tell them you're going to Dallas, and you'll see their eyebrows shoot up.
The fact is that most people are perfectly willing to join one of the 1,900 daily flights in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth's state-of-the-art airport for a convention or a business meeting in the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation, but not many of them would contemplate spending a long weekend discovering the city's pleasures.
That's their loss, because as Dallas residents know, their city and its surrounding Metroplex offer an abundance of delights for visitors of every persuasion.
Love to shop? Pull on a pair of comfortable shoes and prepare for some serious mall-walking. Dallas has the best shopping in the Southwest with numerous malls, including Highland Park Village, the first planned shopping center in the country that opened back in 1931.
Added to the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 2000, Highland Park has stayed au courant with complimentary valet parking and shops by Jimmy Choo, Chanel and even a 14,000- square foot Ralph Lauren store. Gerald Tomlin, star of the popular PBS show "Antiques Roadshow," has his own antiques shop at Highland Park.
Of course, this is just one of the many shopping centers in Dallas. Other top destinations for locals and visitors alike include Northpark Center (more than 200 stores and restaurants, including Salvatore Ferragamo and a Barneys New York flagship store) and the Galleria (200-plus stores including Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Sony Style — all arranged around an ice-skating rink to help you remain cool on steamy Dallas summer days).
Plus in downtown Dallas, you'll find the historic 1914 Neiman-Marcus store (one of whose founders, Herbert Marcus Sr. was Jewish) that replaced the original location that was lost in a 1913 fire. Stop and have lunch at the historic Zodiac Restaurant on the sixth floor.
Love history? Of course, there's another "sixth floor" that makes Dallas famous — the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have assassinated President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Today, the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza preserves the memory of that terrible day.
Another kind of history is on display in the neighboring city of Fort Worth. A 40-minute drive from Dallas, Fort Worth is a thriving urban center in its own right that prides itself on its mix of cowboys and culture. The cowboy component is on display in Fort Worth's Stockyards Historic District, where (small) cattle drives are held twice daily, and a real rodeo kicks up plenty of dust on Friday and Saturday nights.
Come nightfall, hang around the district to get down on the dance floor of Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky-tonk.
Love the Jewish scene? Dallas has one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the nation. The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation Web site (www.djcf. org) has contact information on its community-resources page for 20 congregations.
And for some worthwhile visits, check out the Dallas Jewish Historical Society (www.djhs. org), founded in 1971, with its oral histories, as well as the Dallas Holocaust Museum (www. dallasholocaustmuseum.org).
Love sports? The Dallas Mavericks are one of the best teams in the NBA. And, of course, the Dallas-Fort Worth area also hosts both the legendary Dallas Cowboys (and their equally famous cheerleaders) and baseball's Texas Rangers.
Experience a NASCAR race at Fort Worth's Texas Motor Speedway with 200,000 screaming fans or pack a picnic for a civilized day at the Las Colinas Polo Club.
We haven't even touched on the hundreds of golf courses in the region, with weather that sometimes lets you play in short sleeves when Philadelphia has blizzards.
Love arts? Whether you love the visual or performing arts, you'll find the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex contains an embarrassment of riches. Between them, Dallas and Fort Worth host at least six world-class arts museums.
Dallas has its own thriving arts district anchored by several museums and a wealth of excellent performing arts venues.
Catch a concert at the I.M. Pei-designed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center one night, then visit the graceful Turtle Creek neighborhood the next night to see a play in the Dallas Theater Center's Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only remaining freestanding theater designed by legend Frank Lloyd Wright.
When the curtain comes down on your visit, you just might feel like giving Dallas a standing ovation. And you might laugh at the same folks who gave you a look!
Info to Go
American Airlines (www.aa.com) and US Airways (www.us airways.com) regularly have nonstop flights from Philadelphia to Dallas-Fort Worth airport for under $300 roundtrip. Where to stay: Snag a room in the heart of the city at the hip new "W" Dallas Victory Hotel (www.whotels.com; 214-397-4100). Or treat yourself to a truly luxurious retreat just 20 minutes from downtown at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas (www. fourseasons.com/dallas; 972-717-0700). You'll feel a world away from the city while splashing in the resort's indoor and outdoor pools, or taking advantage of the tennis and golf facilities.