Culture / Travel

Dallas’ Hidden Resort Hotel: This Downtown Gem Surprises with its Retreat Getaway Perks

BY // 01.15.17

Its distinctive lights sometimes seem to be calling out to cars on the elevated freeways — and can be seen from miles around. The Omni Dallas Hotel has never had trouble making a first impression. The hotel’s been dubbed “the front door” of downtown Dallas for good reason. This place stands out from the crowd — and serves as something of a beacon.

But if you’re staying at the 1,001-room Omni — whether you’re attending one of the conferences in the sky-bridge-connected Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas, are in town to see a sporting event or concert, or are just enjoying the ultimate unexpected staycation — you’re liable to appreciate how it’s a world of its own, too.

From the farm-to-market local restaurant Texas Spice to a mammoth sports bar that is anything but hotel shrunken to the slew of restaurants on a side street right across from the hotel, Omni Dallas offers something of a full resort-like retreat feel. You really don’t have to ever leave the hotel — if you don’t wish to.

This is more than a little unexpected. When most people think of the Omni Dallas, they probably think of it as a business hotel. And it surely can be a very good business hotel. But that description seems far too limiting for this place.

Omni Dallas is more like a resort in a business hotel’s clothes. And it’s full of hidden charms. It’s as if you booked a dinner with a mid-regional sales manager and ended up dining with George Clooney.

For starters, the hotel just looks different. Distinctive art work lines the walls — eliminating any notions of a cookie cutter feel. You’ll never walk into the Omni Dallas and think you’re in Kansas City or Topeka like with many hotel chains. This place feels like Dallas.

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The art comes from a call to the community that brought a resounding response. More than 320 Dallas artists submitted more than 7,000 pieces of artwork — and the hotel staff selected thousands to display. Many are featured in guest rooms, virtually assuring that no two rooms are exactly alike.

Of course, there is nothing more Dallas than Pegasus. The iconic flying red horses are now displayed in front of Omni Dallas and cared for by the hotel staff. This hasn’t just made the hotel Selfie central for downtown Dallas, it’s also given it a real dash of history.

The original Pegasus was built on top of the Renaissance Revival Magnolia Building (which later became the Magnolia Hotel), by Texlite for the Magnolia Oil Company in 1934. It almost immediately became recognized as a city landmark, but by 1999 the horses were in bad shape and in dire need of repair. They were taken down — and lost.

Omni Dallas developer Matthews Southwest made it his mission to find them, and eventually did — forgotten in a city-owned shed way out in White Rock Lake. They were restored and put back up — in front of the Omni. If this hotel is downtown Dallas’ front door, those red horses are the official greeters.

The iconic Pegasus horses fly proudly in front of Omni Dallas.

Of course, one could be excused for thinking that the glazed carrots at Bob’s Steak & Chop House on the Omni Dallas’ lobby level are even larger than those giant horses. Bob’s is another Dallas institution — and its signature “larger-than-life” carrot often seems bigger than that.

Carrots are not often the highlight of any meal, but this carrot almost tastes more like a dessert. Every self-respecting convention hotel may need a steak house, but having a Bob’s gives the Omni Dallas another huge dash of local flavor and ambience.

A lot of steak houses come with great meat. Bob’s Steak comes with great meat and stories for almost everything that ends up on your table, from the jar of fresh pickles to the fresh bread to those gargantuan carrots.

While the steak house is one kind of retreat, the spa is another — and Omni Dallas delivers here. Mokara Spa & Salon is a retreat within the resort. It really does feel separated from the rest of the hotel in a way, even though it’s only an elevator ride away. It also works with a business trip’s typical schedule, staying open till 7 pm on weekdays and 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Maybe that’s the most underrated part of the Omni Dallas — this is the rare hotel that can make a business trip almost seem like a resort getaway. Or a staycation feel like a real escape.

The restaurant row just outside the hotel isn’t just convenient. It’s cool to have a sushi spot (Black Ship Little Katana), a pizza place (Coal Vines), a Tex-Mex joint (Cafe Herrera) and a German-style beer garden (Biergarten) all a short stroll across the street.

Sometimes it’s great to get away from it all – while staying right there.

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