It’s no secret that Texas is one of my favorite places to visit. Having family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area makes it easy to visit often plus, I always enjoy spending time with them. They’re a fun crowd to hang around with and we're always discovering new places together. My home base while visiting is almost always Irving. A cousin of mine lives in the city and it’s the perfect location to get around the DFW area. The airport is 15 minutes away, there are lots of different ways to get to both Dallas and Fort Worth, and there are plenty of things to do. It might seem counterproductive to stay outside of a big city but if you have a few days and want to equally explore both Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving is a great option and it might even save you a few bucks!
1 - Irving is much larger than it seems. The city of Irving is about 67 miles or so and much of it is being developed or going through a re-concept. For example, the Las Colinas community used to be a hub for corporate offices and businesses but now has upscale, luxury living along restaurants, shops, and more! Irving has dozens of accommodation options to choose from that range from luxury hotels to quaint, cozy bed and breakfasts. There are museums, restaurants, outdoor activities like horseback riding, hiking, and even gondola rides, historical landmarks, concert venues, and more. This isn’t a small southern town where you can walk the length in a day and cover everything. You can spend a long weekend discovering everything Irving has to offer and still have things to come back to next time.
2 - Have a plan for transportation. While there are three train stops that take your right into Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving itself is a bit spread out. Finding a ride share is easy and convenient but if you prefer to be more in control of getting yourself from point A to point B, it might be best to rent a car. Many hotels offer shuttle services to popular spots like the airport or downtown Dallas but they run on limited schedules which can put a wrench in your itinerary. If you can handle Google maps or any GPS, you can navigate yourself around Irving and beyond. If you plan to use public transportation as much as possible, the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) runs from Dallas to Fort Worth and has three stops in Irving. The train itself is very nice, way better than what we have in Chicago, that’s for sure (I still love you Chitown). There are also a few stops for the DART Orange line which is the train service for Dallas. The DART to Dallas is the ‘El to Chicago or the MTA to New York or the Metro to Paris. Make sense? Bottom line, there are plenty of options for getting around. My recommendation is to map out your plan of action ahead of time so you avoid getting stranded anywhere.
3 - There is a multi-cultural food scene. You will find a lot more to eat than steakhouses and Tex Mex - although there’s plenty of that. Just this last trip alone, I had the pleasure of enjoying classic Argentinian empanadas from Empa Mundo which, to my surprise, is a local favorite. I would have taken a dozen of these home with me if I could! You’ll also find Indian, Chinese, Italian, and Thai food along many of the Mexican restaurants and BBQ joints. Now, let me get real for a second. I don’t go to Texas for Italian food. We have plenty of that here in Chicago and I’m a bit of a tough critic. However, I’m comfortable sharing a few different recommendations that will fill your belly. Empa Mundo is a casual bite in a welcoming hole-in-the-wall joint with super tasty empanadas. La Margarita has one of the largest menus I’ve ever seen at any Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant. The Ranch is the best experience for a classic Texas steakhouse experience and be ready to need help rolling out the door. And finally, Big State Fountain Grill is the throwback diner experience you never knew you needed. Sadly, I was far too stuffed on my last visit to expand my food experience any farther. I'm ready to roll for another one soon though!
4 - It’s a perfect location to visit both Dallas and Fort Worth. Irving is located within minutes of the DFW airport, 20-30 minutes outside of Dallas, and 30 minutes from Fort Worth. There is a commuter train that runs from Dallas to Fort Worth and runs straight through Irving with three stops. On a good traffic day, and depending on where exactly you are in Irving, you can get to both Dallas and Fort Worth within 20-25 minutes. Besides these two amazing cities, Irving is also next to Grapevine and about 45 minutes away from both Plano and McKinney. Even though Irving is closer in distance to Dallas (they literally border each other) traffic can oftentimes make it quicker and easier to get to Fort Worth.
5 - There are a lot of unique, fun things to do you wouldn’t expect. Who would have thought that you could take a Gondola ride in Texas? More specifically...Irving! I sure didn’t and I’m a returning customer. There are several experiences to be had on the Mandalay Canal from paddle boarding to gondola rides. The gondola rides also offer dinner and light bite options as well. Big State Fountain & Grill in downtown Irving is a classic 1950’s diner experience that serves up some of the best milkshakes and soda floats you’ll ever have. Take a hike or bike ride to work off all those calories along Campion Trails, a 22-mile greenbelt with photogenic nature and urban views. And if you happen to visit during football season, head out of Irving for one day to catch a Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington if you can score a pair of tickets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a die-hard Chicago Bears fan but there is nothing like the experience of a Cowboys game. You could just go for the food alone!