Everything’s bigger in Texas, or the saying goes! Escaping the January rain of Vancouver, my friend Mike and I headed to Dallas to see the Leafs play and explore this southern city. Leafs Nation does travel! Need proof? On our flight alone, we met three other Leaf fans while boarding.
After a late night arrival at Dallas, we slept in, then headed to Shake Shack for a late brunch. After hearing a few people rave about their burgers, we’d put this place on our must-do list. With limited time in Texas, I decided to try their Dallas-exclusive Link Burger, a cheeseburger topped with the famous Pecan Lodge jalapeño cheese sausage link, pickles and ShackSauce. It was a lot of meat (especially for someone who doesn’t eat a ton) but yummy. Next time, I’ll go with their regular burger, for this time “when in Texas.” After soaking up the sun on their treed outdoor patio, we strolled around the area for a bit, secretly hoping we would run into a team player. No such luck. So we headed back to our hotel, the Sheraton Dallas.
As Canucks down south in January, you take advantage of the warmer temperatures, so we hit the hotel’s rooftop pool. While the locals wimped out due to what they considered a big chill, we bobbed about in balmy-to-us water. The surrounding office building reminded us how nice it was not to be at work!
Before we knew it, we were pulling on our Leafs jerseys to head to the American Airlines Center. In front of the arena, there was a fan area with street hockey, music, mascots, and people enjoying the warm January evening. We would have liked more time to explore, but we rushed into the rink and down to the Leafs bench to catch warm-up. The doors open 90 minutes before puck drop, but we weren’t sure how busy it would be, so we erred on the side of caution and headed in early. As it turned out, we could have come later and still scored a good spot, but your mileage may vary.
Before puck drop, the Dallas Stars come out of a smoking neon green star, through which the players come onto the ice. One unique part of Stars games is fans yell the word ‘stars’ when its sung during the anthem. Between the music, cheerleaders (unique to myself for a hockey game) and promos, the Stars provide a fun atmosphere to enjoy the game.
If you’re a beer fan looking for a break from the regular national brands, head just outside of sections 109, 111 or 116 for a selection of local Texas brews. We didn’t sample the food but besides the classics, you could find BBQ.
Even on the resale market, tickets to the Stars game are inexpensive compared to Toronto or Vancouver. We ended up 6 rows behind the net for less than $100 USD (January 2018).
When visiting enemy—or at least rival—territory in your not-from-here uniforms, you can’t always be sure how the hometown fans will react. But everyone we met outside and during intermission was welcoming, even those who were clearly big Dallas boosters. It was as if being part of the bigger hockey fan family transcends local tribal conflicts. The Leafs won 4-1, and we had so much fun celebrating that we were among the last to leave the arena post game.
A bonus interaction at the end of the game was meeting Randy, the usher in our area at American Airlines Center. This man deserves a raise; he went above and beyond to make us feel welcome, giving us lots of hot tips for the rest of our Dallas trip. We ended up meeting him at the Mavericks game the next day.
In search of post-game liquid refreshment, we hit the Old No. 7 Club right in the arena. (Other watering holes in the area include Happiest Hour and Shooters.) We wound up joining a bachelor party that was in full swing and hung with the groom-to-be and his buddies for the rest of the night.
What to do besides hockey in Dallas? Our teaser taster of Dallas made it clear you’d need a lot longer to do justice to its attractions. But some of our samplings included:
A basketball game (Mavericks): The night after our hockey, we headed to a Mavericks game. I don’t follow baseball, but we scored upper deck tickets for $15 plus were able to move down. Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, check it out. We had a fun night watching, and for the price, it can’t be beat!
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza: Through stories, films, photos and artefacts, the museum examines JFK’s life, death and legacy, including the conspiracy theories surrounding his assassination. I’m not American, but I do share a last name with JFK. Even if you have no such connection, you’ll find the museum well worth a visit. Pay for the audio tour as it significantly adds to the experience. Afterwards, you can walk around Dealey Plaza. An X on the road marks the spot where the bullets struck their victim.
Just walking around and taking in the city: Always one of my favourite things to do in a new place. Don’t let zipping from Point A to Point B prevent you from stopping to just soak up the local ambience at a coffee shop.
For a Leafs road trip, Dallas was perfect, welcoming and easy going. My only regrets? Not having more time to spend there, and not trying Texas BBQ! There’s always next time.