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A DFW Staycation: Dallas’ Design District

A stay at the Virgin Hotel offers a funky and retro respite in one of the city’s rapidly developing neighborhoods.
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A DFW Staycation: Dallas’ Design District

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Roughly two years ago, Dallas’ Design District became home to Virgin Hotels’ second property. I’d watched Instagram blow up during its opening in 2019 and followed as it quickly became known for its funky—arguably cheeky—and retro design throughout its rooms, pool areas, restaurant, and coffee shop. So, I was excited for a lighthearted yet luxurious respite only 10 minutes away from my Uptown home.

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The Virgin Hotel Dallas opened in 2019, tucked into Dallas’ quick-growing Design District.

I checked in to one of the hotel’s 268 rooms and was immediately impressed by a stunning view of Dallas downtown. Next, I was greeted with an order of “Turn my Life Around,” a Gianduja and brandied cherries cheesecake cookie covered in edible gold and accompanied by an espresso shot. I unpacked quickly, eager to make my evening reservation at the hotel’s first-floor eatery, Commons Club. Local design studio SWOON is behind the hotel and eatery’s intricate and spirited décor, and in the dining area, a giant swing and an eclipse-shaped bar command the room.

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The Virgin Hotel’s 268 rooms are funky-chic with pops of red throughout.

I’d recommend starting with the Burrata, whose truffle-whipped honey and pears were among my favorite elements of the evening’s cuisine. The Wagyu Short Rib and crudo are also appetizer essentials. In addition, the Fall Salad is the perfect way to ease into the night’s mains; It stars goat cheese, roasted squash, petite greens, and candied pecans.

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Local design firm SWOON is behind the eclipse shaped bar and ornate decor at the Commons Club.

The Roasted Duck and Duck Fat Roasted Marble Potatoes were standouts for mains, but dessert was hands down the evening’s showstopper. I chose the liquid-nitrogen ice cream and was surprised to see the staff rolling out a cart to make the ice cream at my table, complete with a vast selection of toppings. A tequila and mezcal lover, I washed it all down with a Matador—Avion Silver Tequila, Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, orange agave syrup, and Malbec.

The next day, I made my way to the hotel’s pool. Located on the hotel’s fourth-floor rooftop, the pool area and its accompanying bar are well-known in Dallas for serving good drinks and hosting lively weekend parties. Still, a quiet weekday working inside a cabana, soaking up sun and city views doesn’t disappoint. A burger from the nearby Pool Club is an afternoon or early evening must-have.

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Views from the hotel’s pool and neighboring bar provide memorable cityscapes.

Next, I found myself at The Funny Library, the hotel’s ornate coffee shop, to sample coffee from Philadelphia roaster La Colombe during a break. The coffee did not disappoint, and the shop’s many nooks made it challenging to choose a place to set up my workstation. Finally, I decided to sit at the shop’s largest table in front of a collection of humorous coffee table books. I watched as a corporate retreat overtook the register with orders for various takes on my favorite happy juice before heading out to enjoy the surrounding neighborhood.

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The Funny Library’s design incorporates a long table in front of a collection of coffee table books and inlets with intricate wallpaper.

A vibrant work-live-play community west of Downtown comprised of upscale galleries, restaurants, and apartments, the Dallas Design District was developed by visionary Mike Ablon beginning in the mid-2000s with some 30 acres and 39 buildings. Instead of tearing down existing warehouses, his vision for the neighborhood included revitalizing the buildings and capitalizing on the area’s art and design reputation to lend neighborhood a signature cool factor that can easily be seen today.

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Peter Halley’s vibrant works.
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A huge painting by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.
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Some of Renata Morales’ many haunting drawings.
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Shilpa Gupta’s impactful commentary on freedom of speech.

While exploring the area on my staycation, I stopped by the Dallas Contemporary for a visit. Its four current exhibits include a haunting immersive work by Mumbai artist Shilpa Gupta entitled For in Your Tongue, I cannot Fit, featuring hanging microphones over poems in various languages punctured and held up by iron spikes. Each poem is written by an imprisoned, detained, and executed poet. As you walk through the room, ominous voices read excerpts from the poems. Other current exhibits include provocative ceramics and drawings from Mexican artist Renata Morales, large and vibrant syncopated grid paintings from Peter Halley, and extensive painting collections from Russian husband-and-wife team Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.

I finished my staycation with a trip to Delucca Gaucho Pizza and Wine, whose purveyor Evandro Caregnato also owns the popular Texas de Brazil restaurants. The concept combines a Brazilian Steakhouse and pizzeria model, serving several pizzas by the slice via circulating wait staff for a per-person flat rate. The lobster bisque served as an appetizer stood out, and in addition to pacing yourself—oh my gosh, SO much good food—I’d recommend saving room for the Four Cheeses and Truffle and Banana Flambé pizzas. A traditional Brazilian Classic Caipirinha cocktail, featuring a traditional cane spirit, natural juice flavoring, and sugar, is also worth a taste.

Author

Kelsey Vanderschoot

Kelsey Vanderschoot

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Kelsey J. Vanderschoot came to Dallas by way of Napa, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Spain. A former teacher, she joined…

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