Adjacent to DFW International Airport, Irving offers many attractions in one convenient location; boasts many local restaurants and boutique shops, as well as four golf courses; and serves as the home of 10,000-plus companies, 50 Fortune 500 companies and the world headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies. Combining the flair of a big city with the ambiance of a small town, Irving will grab your attention.
Here are 10 areas you must visit (in no particular order).
In the heart of Irving’s Las Colinas Urban Center, just down the block from the Mustangs, is the European-style Mandalay Canal Walk at Lake Carolyn. A major draw for outdoor enthusiasts, the attraction features tree-lined, cobblestone walkways and gondolas, as well as recently added water activities, including stand-up paddle boards and pedal boat rides. Experience a one- to two-hour cruise via the state’s only real, Venetian-style gondola operator, Gondola Adventures® Inc., and venture through one of the area’s most exclusive and beautiful urban areas while floating through the canal canyons between high-rise office buildings.
Irving boasts a diverse selection of more than 75 hotels and nearly 12,000 sleeping rooms, ranging from budget to luxury resort. Popular hotels include the Omni Mandalay Hotel, located on the banks of Lake Carolyn, and the newly-remodeled Westin Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Hotel, which sits minutes from Six Flags Over Texas and AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Visitors can also opt for uniquely, modern accommodations at NYLO Irving/Las Colinas, Aloft Las Colinas or Element.
To see the quaint side of Irving, plan on visiting charming Historic Downtown Irving and Heritage District, the first are a designed by city founders J.O. Schulze and Otis Brown in 1903. Today, the area boasts antique shopping and dining, as well as the 1887 Caster Cabin, a depot symbolizing the 1903 Rock Island Depot and Irving’s first water tower, windmill, and library. Save time for a milkshake at Big State Fountain Grill (formerly Big State Drug), an Irving icon since 1948. Featuring its own countertop cafÃ© and one of only two old-fashioned soda fountains still found in the area Big State reopened last summer with a fresh look and a new name, Big State Fountain Grill. The ’50s-themed, family restaurant is dedicated to showcasing and honoring Irving’s history.
A Rare Glimpse of History
Honoring the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the City of Irving opened the Ruth Paine House Museum in 2012. Ruth Paine housed Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged JFK assassin, and his family the night prior to the assassination at her modest 1,250-square-foot Irving home. The structure has been restored to its 1963-look and transformed into an interactive museum that tells of the historical happenings there through projected vignettes where actors play the roles of Ruth and Michael Paine and Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald.
A Taste of Texas
Whether you prefer home-style cooking, international cuisine or local flavors, Irving has it all when it comes to dining. Locally-owned favorites include iFratelli (Italian), Via Real (Mexican) and Po Melvin’s (down-home cooking). For New York-style pizza, visit Cavalli Pizza, a neighborhood favorite. The Ranch at Las Colinas specializes in Texas farm-to-table fare, while Cool River Cafe features steak and seafood offerings in a southwestern atmosphere. You’ll find the absolute finest in dining at Table and Tavern Las Colinas (“formerly” Sfuzzi Las Colinas), including specialty cocktails, local cuisine and a hospitable atmosphere, whether at brunch or after the sun sets. If you’re in the mood for more than just your typical smoked brisket and ribs, plan to eat at FM Smokehouse. Owner Brian Rudolph has worked with Chef Marcus Cutler to create a smoked meat sanctuary with made-from-scratch menu items. FM Smokehouse also boasts an extensive and well-curated selection of craft beers, including 30 from Texas breweries.
Right on Par
With five 18-hole courses within the city limits and dozens more within a 20-minute drive, Irving is the perfect location for golfers. A highlight is the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, a premier event on the PGA Tour, which is held annually at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, where visitors find two championship 18-hole courses, the Tournament Players Course and Cottonwood Valley. In 2013, Irving was honored to be host city of LPGA’s inaugural North Texas Shootout, marking the tour’s first appearance in the area after more than 20 years. If tennis is more your sport, check out the courts at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, which serves as home to the Texas Wild of Mylan World Team Tennis (since 2013) and host venue for multiple professional tennis events year.
A New Tune
Irving Music Factory, a $165-million, 500,000-square-foot entertainment district development, is slated to open in early 2016, bringing a brand new song to the area. As the city’s first Entertainment District the complex is primed to be a one-stop dining and entertainment experience. It will feature a multi-functional indoor/outdoor amphitheater and concert venue with an 8,000-seat concert hall; a large outdoor plaza for festivals and events; and 375,000 square-feet of retail, restaurant, and event space. Other possible features include a bowling alley, a movie theater, a 50,000 square-foot plaza with a stage, farmer’s markets and food festivals.
A Chance to Learn
Irving offers a variety of chances to appreciate art and culture and learn more about history. The Irving Arts Center features two fully-equipped theaters, four galleries, a sculpture garden and more. From gospel concerts and workshops for children to musical performances and exclusive art exhibitions, this center offers an unmatched encounter with the arts. Another favorite is the National Scouting Museum, where you’ll find a vast collection of paintings on display by artist Norman Rockwell, starring and honoring boy scouts of all ages.
World Famous Mustangs
Visit the Largest Equestrian Sculpture in the world. As the largest equestrian sculpture in the world, the Mustangs of Las Colinas Sculpture and Exhibit is a must-see for both visitors and residents and reigns as a top tourist spot in North Texas since the 1980s. Created by African wildlife artist Robert Glen, nine larger-than-life bronze mustangs are depicted galloping across a granite stream in the heart of Irving’s Las Colinas Urban Center. The sculpture, installed in 1984, will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in September 2015. The exhibit includes additional works by Glen, as well as a video documentary detailing the seven years it took to create the Mustangs.
Transportation built the city of Irving. In 1902, J.O. Shulze, the leader of a team of railroad surveyors, and his fellow crew member Otis Brown arrived in the area in search of a way to link Dallas and Fort Worth. Deciding this area was the perfect site, they bought 80 acres and the city flourished thanks residents buying plots of land. Recently, Irving welcomed the DART Orange Line, a new route on the area’s major light rail service, conveniently connecting the city’s Las Colinas area to downtown Dallas. On Aug. 18, 2014, the final segment of the Orange Line was officially completed, and now links to DFW International Airport. Irving is one of the first stops on that line as it departs DFW, with the convention center station being stop number three.