Dallas in Two Days!

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Associate Director, Events & Outreach

In mid-October, I traveled to Dallas, Texas to check out our hotel for the 108th Annual Conference & Expo, learn more about the city and its surroundings, and visit the sites of our educational excursions.  I had a wonderful time, and I’m so excited to share what I learned with you!

In August, I took a quick detour from a professional development event to tour the hotel—so this fall’s trip was shorter than usual, arriving Sunday afternoon and leaving Tuesday afternoon. When flying into Dallas, you have two options for airports close to the hotel—I decided to fly into Dallas-Love Field (DAL). Love Field is just 15 minutes from the hotel, and the larger local airport, Dallas-Ft. Worth, is less than a half hour away. I rented a car as I had so many places to visit, but you’ll be able to save money by using our deal with SuperShuttle!  If you’re planning on spending some time exploring the area on your own—and we recommend that you take a few extra days to do so—we also have a great deal with Hertz Rent-a-Car.  Of course, taxis are also readily available at both airports.

I landed in Dallas around 2pm on Sunday, picked up my rental car, and headed right on out to visit a few of our excursion locations!  The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is one of Dallas’s most lauded museums.

While I didn’t have too much time, I was able to img_9221walk through many of its exhibits, including a beautiful exhibit on minerals and their dinosaur room!  Not only does the museum have many educational exhibits, the building itself is a learning opportunity!  The building was designed with sustainability as its focus. It incorporates recycled materials, holds rainwater collection roof cisterns, recaptures air conditioning condensation to meet plumbing demands in the summer, utilizes natural light whenever possible and takes
solar-cropadvantage of solar panels when not. As you walk through the museum, you can observe many of these aspects—both by looking out the windows and reading plaques on the walls!  If you decide to go on this excursion, you’ll enjoy a guided tour focusing on the sustainable architecture and design, and will of course have some time to explore the museum on your own. (and, as always, visit the gift shop—I  picked up multiple gifts!)


After my visit to Perot, I headed over to check out the Dallas Farmers’ Market! The Market is split up into two areas—the Market space, where there are many small vendors including restaurants and shops—and the Shed, where local farms set up. It was near the end of the day and the Shed was clearing out, but I did have time to check out the fantastic-looking vendors in the Market. When you visit as part of the Nutrition, Food Service and Hospitality educational excursion, you’ll speak with one of the chefs, along with the Director of Market Operations!


The Market was the last stop on the schedule for p1010092Sunday, so it was finally time to head over to the hotel and check in. The hotel is just beautiful—you walk into a large, airy lobby, and the reservation desks are easy to find! I headed on up to my room to put everything away and rest for a few minutes before my night out with the Dallas Local Advisory Committee chairs, Frances Hare and Sheri Dragoo!


Frances and Sheri picked me up and we headed over to Savor Gastropub, located next to Klyde Warren Park, a green space in the middle of downtown Dallas that’s always buzzing with activities and events! The menu changes to reflect the seasons, but if it’s still on the menu when you visit, I recommend the shrimp and grits with andouille sausage!

After dinner they took me on a quick driving tour, and we headed over to see Trinity Groves, where there are lots of shops and restaurants—with a great view of downtown! More on Trinity Groves later.

Sheri and Frances dropped me off at the hotel and I headed up to get some rest—Monday was going to be a long day!

I got up Monday morning bright and early, ready to head to my first stop of the day! Before I left, I grabbed a latte and bagel at Coffee’s Post, in the lobby of the hotel. They have lots of quick options for breakfast and lunch, and will have extra cashiers available during Annual Conference! I headed over to Bonton Farms, the site of one of our Wednesday educational excursions, “Bonton Farms: An Oasis in the Food Desert,” to meet with Daron Babcock, the executive director. Bonton Farms is located in a neighborhood of Dallas that has fallen on hard times—the area is a food desert, disease rates are high, and so is poverty.

At the farm, they grow many types of vegetables and fruit, and raise chickens, pigs, goats, and bees!  They not only provide fresh vegetables and fruit to the community, they also provides jobs for community members on their last chances. By selling to high-end restaurants around the city at a markup, they’re able to sell to locals at a loss. Daron gave me a quick tour of the farm, explaining the history, and I walked through the pens and met the very friendly goats, chickens, and pigs (the bees and I did not meet!) Learning about all the good work they’re doing was a great way to start the day, and I highly recommend the Wednesday excursion!

After hanging with the chickens, I hopped back in the car to visit somewhere completely different—AT & T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys! I was met by Mike Lineman, my group tours representative, and we took off on a quick tour of the stadium!

With stops in the stands, the luxury box, the locker rooms, and the bowels of the stadium—and of course a photo opportunity on the field—I got a chance to see just a bit of what you’ll have the chance to tour when you join us for the Nutrition, Food Service and Hospitality excursion! Unfortunately my timeline did not overlap with the chef’s, so I was not able to meet with him, as you’ll be able to!


The Rose Garden

Next on the list was the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden! It was a beautiful day—in the high 70s—so perfect for a stroll through the gorgeous gardens!  I met up with Lorna Munson in group sales, and she gave me a quick tour of the Arboretum. The gardens are lovely—and they were all decorated for Halloween, with a grove of sculptures made of pumpkins and gourds! The Arboretum is very design-focused—it’s very clear how much thought went into the design, and our excursion there will focus on design and the architecture within the Arboretum. After Lorna gave me a tour, showing off where excursion attendees will enjoy their picnic lunch, and showing me some of the most interesting gardens, I took some time to walk around on my own and stopped in at the snack bar for their signature chicken salad sandwich!

The Arboretum was my last planned excursion stop for the day. I headed back to the hotel to meet with our AV company and the company handling the expo, and spent some time walking around the hotel to refamiliarize myself with the space after my August visit.  Most meeting rooms are located along one hallway—they all have windows, and are easy to access! Our registration space will be just off the main lobby, easy to reach and nice and open for our welcome reception, “Boots, Buck$, & BBQ,” included in all full and Monday-Only registrations! Head just downstairs from the registration area and you’ll find not only the expo space, but also the entrance to the Reunion Tower, where you can enjoy an amazing meal at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, Five Sixty (reservations recommended)!  You can also take a trip through the tunnels and end in Union Station!

The hotel showcases the history of Dallas and Texas as a whole in its decorations—the Pegasus Room, where we’ll be holding several meetings, welcomes guests with the city’s iconic neon Pegasus (learn more about how the Pegasus became iconic in Dallas here!). In the Cotton Bowl room, you’ll find tons of Dallas memorabilia on the walls—be sure to arrive early to meetings held there so you can check it out!


When planning my Monday schedule, I made sure to leave plenty of time in the afternoon to explore the area around the hotel.  The great weather continued into the afternoon, so I headed out through the tunnels that connect the hotel to Union Station img_9300(accessible by Amtrak, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Light Rail, and DART buses)—about 2 minutes’ travel—and went down Houston St, directly outside the station, toward Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum, which is about a 15-minute stroll away. If you’re interested in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, you know the significance of that location! Houston Street not only has several small historical parks along with Dealey Plaza and the Museum, it also hosts several other img_9321museums—the Old Red Museum of Dallas County and the Dallas Holocaust Museum. Just a few blocks away are several larger parks—John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza and Founder’s Plaza.  It was such a nice day that I took a long walk down Houston and spent some time sitting in Founder’s Plaza, people watching and knitting! The Plaza is directly across the street from El Centro College, where one of our Sunday excursions will be held.  The trip down Houston Street will also be part of our Sunday morning architectural tour, A Walking Tour of the West End Architecture District!
As I still had a bit more time, I decided to hop in a cab and head over to Trinity Groves —maybe there was something there I could add to my excursion list!  I took a quick walk around, seeing all the great restaurants that are in one place, and zeroed in on Kate Weiser Chocolate. Unique and fancy chocolates are my weakness—and this was just the place for me!  This tiny boutique offers all sorts of hand-crafted truffles, chocolates, candy bars, toffee, and some amazing seasonal special confectionaries. I picked up a small box of chocolates for the office and a delicious “Blonde Bombshell” chocolate bar, with sesame seed brittle and caramelly Dulcey Chocolate! While I was there, I spoke briefly with a staff member—later, I followed up, and we have a fantastic guided tasting planned with Kate herself! If you select that excursion, you’ll also have the chance to stick around a bit longer and eat dinner at one of the local restaurants.

While it was getting close to dinner time, the light was still strong so I headed across the street to the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge, a gorgeous pedestrian-only bridge across the Trinity River. The bridge holds play areas for kids, events, bike racks, and more—it’s a really fantastic addition to the city!  The view of the Dallas skyline is just beautiful, and you can see the Reunion Tower clearly! You can walk from Trinity Groves all the way to the hotel across the bridge—it’s about a 2-mile walk, so make sure you have plenty of time before it gets dark! We’ll have directions and a map of the best route at the registration desk–make sure to stop by!

After thimg_9399at long walk and the VERY long day, I decided to order room service—they have an extensive and fairly reasonably-priced room service menu (try the chicken tortilla soup!) rather than checking out either of the hotel restaurants I hadn’t yet visited, Parrino’s Oven and Monduel’s. I’m hoping when we’re back in June that I’ll have a free night to head down and check them out!


img_9400I can, however, highly recommend the Centennial Café! When I visited in August, I tried the Southwest Salad for lunch and the Vegetable Hash for breakfast, both of which are delicious. And on Tuesday, Centennial Café was my first stop before checking out and heading to my last stop of the trip. This time, along with my cup of coffee I tried the Brisket Skillet—in every city I visit, I try to select one of the regional specialties, and this was it! It was absolutely fantastic, and very filling.

After breakfast, I went upstairs to pick up my bags, checked out, and then left my bags at the front desk, as you’ll be able to do if you plan to leave Wednesday evening after the Capstone Luncheon (included in all full and Wednesday-only registrations)! I then walked over to El Centro College, where I met with Institute Director Steve DeShazo, who gave me a tour and lots of information about their fantastic Food & Hospitality Department, which you’ll have a chance to tour on Sunday! We’ll also be holding an excursion at El Centro’s Fashion Department on Wednesday—unfortunately I didn’t get to visit, but I know it will be a really fantastic and educational tour!



El Centro was my last stop on what was a really wonderful and productive visit to Dallas! I hopped in the car and headed back to Love Field, where I relaxed until my flight. I can’t wait to get back to Dallas in June, and I hope you’ll join us there!  Click here to learn even more about this year’s conference, and remember to register by April 14th to save!


2 Comments on “Dallas in Two Days!”

  1. Jeanne Schwass-Long says:

    I enjoyed all the details you have shared regarding Dallas. I registered on line and have my check written, when I remembered other years there were meals to sign up for re: Teacher of Year Luncheon, Extension Luncheon, etc. Are there meals that we need to pay for separately or is it all included? I don’t want to write two checks if I don’t have to. THANKS, Jeanne

    • aafcs says:

      Hi Jeanne!
      There are meals to select–when you registered, were you not given the option to add on meals and excursions? There may have been a glitch in the system. I can add tickets to your record if you like. I’ll send you an email.

      Thanks and I’m sorry about that!

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