Meet #MyDTDContest Winner Karen Lao – A Dallas Girl Who Codes & Instagrams Our City

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc.’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for ambassadorial locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding experiences on the Guidrr iPhone app showcasing their #mydtd journeys. Karen Lao is featured today, along with a link to download her free, winning experience: Dallas Photo Guide.

Karen Lao is a full-time girl who codes, who’s also in a part-time love affair with the power and reach of social media. She’s built a large and engaged local following under her Instagram handle @karen.lao and on her personal blog of the same name.

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Karen Lao is a coder by day, but also a popular Instagrammer & blogger

Despite her success (she has close to 100,000 followers on her popular Instagram account), she doesn’t see her social brand becoming a full time gig. “I am passionate about coding. I love to solve problems with technology and am constantly thinking about ways to build better solutions.” Karen’s a huge fan of her employer, DFW marketing technology services firm Epsilon. She’s spent much of her career at Epsilon, after completing an undergrad degree at UT Austin and an MBA at UT Dallas’ Jindal School.  

While it’s all about work all week – come the weekend, this Garland, Texas native of Chinese ethnic origin (“I do wish I spoke the language better”) is often out exploring in order to find interesting corners to photograph and experiences to enjoy. “I found I was sending long emails to friends with lists of places to go, things to eat, spots to photograph,” she shares. “Almost every weekend I was out and about discovering the city.”

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Via her handle @karen.lao she posts her city and travel discoveries

“There are so many angles and so many fun places to Instagram in Dallas” – Karen

Karen is known by followers and friends to have an authentic, visually appealing way of posting that has also helped her build support from national fashion and style brands like Fossil, J Crew, Gap, Google, Mazda and more.

Those who follow her seem to love that she’s always ready to respond and engage online, and that she always finds a unique perspective to display in her posts. Her posts often center of tech, coffee, fitness, travel and she says it’s all about “seeking beauty in the little things.”

When she heard about the Downtown Dallas, Inc. Live Like a Local contest, Karen was one of the first to get online at the free Guidrr creation site, and submit a Dallas guide. “I wanted to share the cool and unique spots where I personally love to go to take photos for Instagram, so my followers and other locals can discover them on mobile and discover in my shoes,” she says. “There are so many angles and so many fun places to Instagram in Dallas.” The DDI team loved her perspective & the unique idea of exploring Dallas via a photo guide, choosing her as one of the contest winners.  

Dallas-Photo-Guide-Karen-Lao.jpgDon’t miss downloading Karen’s winning free experience at her channel on the Guidrr app, a perfect way to explore downtown, either solo or with a group of friends. You can download it directly by using this link (ps: so we can text you a link to directly download the free app & and directly open this beautiful experience).

Don’t forget to hashtag #mydtd and tag
@Karen.Lao @Guidrr and @Downtown_Dallas #livelikealocal so we can see you made it there!

Thanks for being a #mydtdcontest winner and #downtowndallas ambassador, Karen. We’re looking forward to more of your downtown journeys hitting the Guidrr app! Always keep exploring. 

All the reasons Downtown Dallas is one of the best neighborhoods to dine

Article by CultureMap Dallas


It’s an often-touted fact that Dallas has the most restaurants per capita of any city in the nation, meaning there’s no shortage of places here to eat. One such pocket of dining bliss is Downtown Dallas, which is densely packed with a variety of cuisines at all price points.

Like CBD Provisions, an adventurous brasserie in The Joule hotel that was named to Texas Monthly‘s list of best new restaurants shortly after it opened in 2013. It’s famous for its Berkshire pig head carnitas, though insiders know to also stop by the bar and ask for a McKnight: a Grey Goose, champagne, and lemon concoction named for one of the restaurant’s regulars.

Another fun stop at The Joule is its roaming cocktail cart, which you can catch in the lobby every Thursday through Saturday starting at 5 pm. The bartender will whip up a crafty libation personalized to your tastes.

If the idea of food on the go is appealing, head to Browder Street Plaza. Yes, Downtown Dallas has its own food truck park, where local favorites such as Ruthie’s Rolling Cafe, The Butcher’s Son, Crazy Fish, and Mr. Snowie gather at lunchtime during the work week. What’s a better way to cool down than with a tiger’s blood or horchata snow cone on a hot Texas day?

Or if your office is already an iceberg and you need warming up, take a break for hand-pressed espresso and hear the joke of the day from John, owner of the impossibly charming Serj Books.

A good reason to stay in the Downtown area on Wednesdays is for Cafe Izmir‘s “neighborhood night.” Wines are half price and tapas — think beef piroshky rolls, saffron chicken kabobs, and veggie dolmas — are only $4 at this family-run paean to Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and Persian cuisine.

Craving some down-home cooking? Find it at Ellen’s Southern Kitchen, where breakfast is dished out all day, and the fried green tomato salad is a must.

Or build your perfect pizza at Tutta’s. It’s not advertised on the menu, but you can take any topping listed and secretly combine them into your dream pie. Did we mention the restaurant specializes in smoked meats? If you happen by on the third Thursday of each month, it’s stand-up comedy night hosted by Jimmy Nelson. Four to six local comedians perform short sets starting at 8:30 pm, so get there early to take advantage of happy hour from 3-7. And bring Fido if you want to enjoy the dog-friendly patio — he’ll even get his own bowl of water.

The best-kept secret for happy hour is Dallas Fish Market, where on Wednesdays and Fridays between 5 and 7 pm glasses of wine are only $5 and you get a free sushi roll with each drink.

Another happy hour of note is at Frankie’s, which is also agreed upon by many as the best sports bar in Dallas. There are $4 Moscow Mules, 20 Texas craft beers on tap, and a mixed drink menu devised by cocktail king Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, all in addition to 44 HD TVs that have all the top sports packages.

If you’re still on a cocktail kick, The Woolworth is a worthy option. Perched above Tony Tasset’s famous Eye sculpture, this drinks den was a former — you guessed it — location of a Woolworth five-and-dime. Visit Mike at the bar and ask for the secret, off-menu drink called The Local, which mixes blackberries, blueberries, ginger, and gin.

And it wouldn’t be a list of Downtown Dallas’ best dining without a mention of the Dallas Farmers Market. Bigger and better than ever, it houses more than a dozen artisanal food vendors and restaurants including Mudhen, Rex’s Seafood, Stocks and Bondy, and Taqueria La Ventana. Of particular note is Scardello, a cut-to-order shop that stocks more than 100 handcrafted cheeses. It also hosts the Extra Credit series, which pairs two wines, six cheeses, and two accompaniments for a meal that’s tasty and informative.

Trey Bowles Appointed to National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

On Monday, Trey Bowles, CEO and co-founder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and Cofounder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, was appointed to serve on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

“It is an honor to represent Dallas as an incoming appointee of the NACIE. I look forward to working with my other appointees to suggest effective strategies to support tools, resources, policy and legislation, advocacy and priority around supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the U.S.,” Bowles told Dallas Innovates.

Bowles is one of 30 private sector, nonprofit, and academic leaders who were selected from a pool of more than 200 accomplished applicants.

“Our charge is to make America second to none by way of innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation, and competitiveness. I plan to be an advocate and voice for early stage entrepreneurs and startups so we can provide ubiquitous opportunity to people all across our country to follow their dreams and build their own successful businesses,” Bowles said.

The council members will offer recommendations for policies and programs designed to make U.S. communities, businesses, and the workforce more globally competitive, according to a news release.

“The members of NACIE provide important counsel to the Department of Commerce on the types of federal policies that will support entrepreneurship, innovation, and job-driven workforce training, all of which are critical to American competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker. “As ‘America’s Innovation Agency,’ we value the expertise of our private sector partners and appreciate the opportunity to incorporate their views into our policymaking process.”

Established in 2010, NACIE operates as an independent entity managed through the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is housed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The Ultimate Dallas Weekend (and Giveaway)!

One of the things we love most about Downtown Dallas is that there is always something exciting to do.

The weekend of September 23-25 is no exception, with three exciting events taking place Downtown. We don’t want you to miss out on the fun, so we’re doing a giveaway for two tickets to all three events for a fun-filled weekend that will be one for the books!

On Friday, September 23, the Tower Club will be hosting its highly-anticipated Charity FB_Cover_Event.pngClassic. Channel your inner Don Draper and dress in your most dapper attire for the event that will feature fabulous eats from the Tower Club’s culinary team, craft cocktails, and live music by Ricki Derek and the Vegas 6 that will keep you groovin’ all evening. The event benefits Make-A-Wish North Texas, Augie’s Quest, and ClubCorp’s Employee Partner Care Foundation.

The next day, Saturday, September 24, join fellow Dallasites Downtown for Smoked Dallas. This event will bring the best barbecue from all over the Lonestar State to the heart of Downtown Dallas!

Starting at 2:30 p.m. at Main Street Garden, enjoy samples of brisket, ribs, pork, sausage, and more from over 15 barbecue joints across Texas. There will also be live music and games to enjoy while endulging in the delicious barbecue! The party will roll into the evening with a concert headlined by Fort Worth’s own The Toadies!

End the weekend on Sunday, September 25, at the Chefs for Farmers Main Event at Arlington
Hall at Lee Park. From 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast featuring local beers, fancy cocktails, and exclusive tastes from the biggest chefs in Texas and beyond.


We hope you can attend these awesome events and get the chance to explore Dallas!

To enter, click here and make sure you’re following us on Instagram @downtown_dallas, as well as @towerclubdallas, @smokeddallas, and @chefsforfarmers.