On the outskirts of Irving, a small suburb of Dallas, lie “the hills”. These “hills” aren’t rolling and wide or lush and green but instead the picture painted by “the hills” is a cityscape of apartments, businesses, and stores. We can see runners jogging down the road, their feet thumping across the pavement in a rhythmic beat. We can see a couple, one in an elongated pink dress and another in a suit, taking steps, holding hands, as they make their way down into a row of restaurants.
I’ve never been to a suburb that has a visitor sign as ornate as Las Colinas. It is a working metallic timepiece overlaid on concentric beds of flowers. Underneath, the words “Las Colinas” are hedged out amongst a matted red bloom. At night, this dial is illuminated, giving a warm glow. The sign actually belongs to Hampton Inn, but the hotel is hidden behind a thicket of trees, so it makes the perfect entry point into this upscale, area.
We stroll down towards the the Mandalay Canal, a winding complex along a manmade waterway located below the suburb’s busy streets. The complex follows a row of stonefront restaurants. We see the sun breaking out behind the horizon line and its rays dance off the cobbled pavement. At sunrise, the Mandalay Canal is almost abandoned, but in the afternoon, after a workday’s rush, many locals come to eat here and amble along this scaled down version of San Antonio’s River Walk. The restaurants at the canal are more sparse than those at the River Walk, but the Canal doesn’t fail to set the tone of Venice.
As we explore, we discover hidden pockets of the Mandalay Canal – sequestered waterfalls, ivy ridden walls, and concrete bridges that serve as the perfect vantage point for the tree lined colonnade. When we continue walking, we see a lake, Lake Carolyn, that stretches into other exclusive neighborhoods. Waterfowl bob in the flowing water and we can hear the steady ruff of dogs on their morning walks. As we turn another corner, we can see a small building near a wooden dock station.
This is the Gondola Adventures office. The gondolier services were closed earlier this year from flooding in the Dallas area, but this unique service has recently opened again. The Mandalay Canal is meant to feel like a slice of Venetian life, an escape from the Southern stamp of Texas. What better way than with a personal gondolier gently cruising the canal’s twists and turns?
The canal winds around much of Las Colinas and deserves at least a morning to explore. As the sky brightens, we head back and take a drive to see one more sight. A series of statues – steely grey, sinewy mustangs galloping with grace across a small crystal, clear pool. Tiny springs of water fall at their hooves, drawing attention to the intensity of the work. The statue, located in a business complex, is a mix of free-spirit and beauty and captures the enchanting nature of Las Colinas.
Ever been to Las Colinas or down to Irving? Comment down below and share what you liked or pitch any recommendations!