Meet Dawn – The First Grade Teacher, Traveler & Foodie Who Loves to Experience a Bit of DFW Everyday

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding local experiences on the Guidrr iPhone app that showcase their #mydtd journeys. Dawn Fisher is featured today, along with a link to download her free, winning staycation experience – Lolling on Lamar.   

Dawn Fisher is more than a bit of an expert on food, travel and local experiences – passions she drew upon to submit her winning entry for the Live Like a Local contest, a weekend staycation guide titled Lolling on Lamar.

This long-time teacher spends her day nurturing first-graders at an Irving, Texas elementary school that’s part of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

But, in her spare time, this mom of a college-aged daughter & frequent traveler is turning her love for Dallas foodie experiences into a new pursuit. She’s blogging about great experiences around DFW and the world using her love of food as a way to connect with locals and brands that enrich her home city.

“I grew up in and around Dallas most of my life,” says Dawn. “I was born in San Antonio and moved here at the age of 5. My dad was a salesman for Mattel Toys. I went to school in Richardson ISD and graduated from Lake Highlands High School.”

For Dawn, despite many living years in DFW, she confessed “I used to see Downtown Dallas almost as a no-man’s land while I was growing up.” But that changed when she started to venture out and explore the downtown area, taking staycations with her mother and her daughter in the city. “I’m amazed at what gems and hidden treasures are all around us in downtown,” she says. “I’m very passionate about spreading that information to others. Being a teacher, I see sharing information as a gift.”

Dawn’s innate curiosity and desire to find new experiences began with her own father as a role model. “My dad traveled all the time for business. We were a middle class family; my father being the breadwinner, so when we traveled we traveled on family road trips. Some of my best memories for our family of 5 involve driving as far as California, Nevada and the Florida Keys.” Getting nostalgic for a moment, Dawn shares that it was this ability to get up and go that helped her have the courage to plan solo and group trips to far-flung places like Italy, London and Paris as an adult. She jokes “this time we did manage to get on a plane.”

img_5198Dawn Fisher is a local teacher and food blogger with her brand @JustEatitUp

“I’m amazed at what gems and hidden treasures are all around us in downtown,” she says. “I’m very passionate about spreading that information to others. Being a teacher, I see sharing information as a gift.”

After dabbling in blogging and Instagramming, and becoming a creator on the Guidrr app, Dawn has taken her love of good food and travel experiences and turned it into a business, to be called Just Eat it Up, an offshoot of a first blog called Fenomenale. Wherever she goes, Dawn says that she uses food as a lens for her exploration. “Seeing the city is almost a byproduct of experiencing the food. What I have found is that through venturing out to new places to eat, I also am meeting people who are like-minded. They are just as much a part of the Dallas experience as the food and location itself.”

img_4673-2Dawn says that she uses food as a lens for her exploration. “Seeing the city is almost a byproduct of experiencing the food.”

Dawn shares that her life as a new food blogger is all about the research and outreach. “I’m constantly researching and following Dallas Observer, Dallas Eats and other Dallas food bloggers and I’m always looking for new restaurant openings around the city. What I’m finding is there’s little food meccas everywhere from downtown all the way to Far North Dallas. I’m even getting out of my comfort zone and contacting businesses before they open to introduce myself.”

She stumbled into being a local expert for family and friends quite by accident. “I kept getting requests from teachers asking for tips, and I found I loved providing them.” Now, she’s a bona-fide social media expert who posts on Facebook and Instagram about local experiences. “I pretty much post everything I eat,” she says. “I am a voyeur. I like visual stories. So I share my own.”

For Dallas locals aspiring for great experiences in downtown, her advice is simple “Get in your car and drive around these places. Be safe, know where you are going and time of day. But if you can walk it, walk it.” She also recommends booking an overnight or weekend stay in a downtown hotel and using it as a base to walk the area. “There’s things that you see on foot you won’t see any other way. And while you’re at it, stop and talk to people. I always speak to those working in the establishments and ask them for their favorite local tip for food and coffee.”

For Dawn, her times in downtown Dallas are also special as true family bonding experiences. “I am usually either traveling with friends or with my mom and daughter. We’re like the three musketeers. These are special times we’ll remember forever. In our lives, there’s been loss and hurt. These times together fill our hearts.”

Her guide Lolling on Lamar, focusing on the up-and-coming area around the Omni Dallas, was another lucky accident. While the trio normally stayed at the Adolphus, they chose Omni on a weekend where their usual spot was booked. “We haven’t been back since, because we can’t beat the views,” she says. “And with D-Link (the downtown shuttle for the DART system), it’s easy to get anywhere and explore almost every district in the downtown area.”


For Dawn, this is just the beginning. “My hope is that Just Eat it Up becomes a go-to for the city,” she says. She’s also been busy with her role as a blogger for Girls on Food, a self-proclaimed foodie girl gang from all over the US. “We write about our hometown food experiences and our travels. It’s been great getting the national exposure.” This also isn’t the first time Dawn has guided others through the Guidrr app. “I find Guidrr is the perfect format and avenue to share for those who just want to net it – at no cost, and with no effort, they can find experiences from people who travel like they do and learn from true locals.” She’s already posted getaways around Texas; more downtown experiences; and a foodie guide to her channel on the app.

Don’t miss Dawn’s free guide to a Dallas staycation and food, available for free on the Guidrr app (iPhone only). Download it here

Thanks Dawn for being a Live Like a Local winner, and we look forward to more #mydtd experiences hitting the Guidrr app

The City as a Classroom- CityLab High School Plans to Take Learning into Dallas’ Downtown and Neighborhoods

The Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) has approved plans to open CityLab HS, a new high school for students interested in architecture, urban planning, environmental science, and community development.  The school will open in August 2017 and will be located near City Hall in Downtown Dallas at 912 S. Ervay St.

CityLab is an open enrollment Transformation School that is part of the Dallas ISD Public School Choice program that aims to create a range of options so that all Dallas ISD students can attend a “best-fit school.” A “best-fit school” is a school where educators can more meaningfully and more deeply engage students by tapping into their specific interests, aspirations, and preferred learning styles.

The goal at CityLab HS is to allow students to use the city itself as a laboratory, and have students engage in hands-on, community-based projects with a host of industry partners and partner institutions.  At CityLab HS, students will develop a multidisciplinary understanding of the processes of the natural world, the built environment, and the social and economic systems of the city.

CityLab HS will provide a unique educational experience where learning extends beyond the classroom walls, allowing students to explore the community and the neighborhoods where they live, learn, work, and play.  Through real world, hands-on projects, students will develop their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills while focusing on character development and citizenship skills.

The new school was identified through the Dallas ISD’s annual Public School Choice proposal process that was open to educators nationwide.  The CityLab proposal was led by architect and veteran Dallas ISD teacher Peter Goldstein and local architect Lorena Toffer.

CityLab HS will be open to all incoming ninth-graders for the 2017-18 school year, and similar to other Dallas ISD Choice Schools, there are no academic entry requirements. Enrollment will be based on socioeconomic status, using a blind, randomized, computerized selection process. The admissions process is weighted based on a student’s socioeconomic status using federal and state guidelines – half of the seats at CityLab HS will be reserved for economically disadvantaged students, and half of the seats will be reserved for students who are not economically disadvantaged. To further encourage a diverse student population, thirty percent of the seats at CityLab HS will be open to students living outside of Dallas ISD boundaries.

The window for applications to CityLab HS and other Dallas ISD Public School Choice programs will be open from Nov. 28 to Jan. 31, 2017. Applications are available online at

For more information about CityLab HS, parents and students are invited to attend the information events listed below.  Or, contact Peter Goldstein at or the Dallas ISD Office of Transformation and Innovation at (972) 925-3306.

You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram at citylabhs.


CityLab HS Information Events

CityLab Information Night, Monday, Dec. 12


Pegasus Building, 912 S. Ervay St, Dallas, TX  75201


CityLab Information Night, Wed. Dec. 21


Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, 2800 N Hampton Rd, Dallas, TX 75212


CityLab Information Night, Wed. Jan. 25


DISD Administration Building, 3700 Ross. Ave., Room 105, Dallas, TX 75204


Discover Dallas ISD, Sat. Dec. 3  (DISD School Choice and Magnet School Fair)


DA Hulcy STEAM Middle School (across the street from Ellis Davis Fieldhouse) 9339 S Polk St, Dallas, TX 75232


CityLab Summit!

Thur. Jan 12


Keynote Speaker- Lorena Toffer, AIA

Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak St, Dallas, TX 75204


Sat. Jan. 14


CityLab Summit! family activities and panel discussion

Pegasus Building, 912 S. Ervay St, Dallas, TX  75201

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Presents Wander Movies as Part of Downtown Wanderland

Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) is excited to announce Wander Movies, a series of three classic holiday films that will be shown at Pegasus Plaza (1500 Main Street) in the heart of Downtown.  This film series is part of Downtown Wanderland, DDI’s season-long holiday programming.

Wander Movies kick off on Friday, December 2, with a showing of Elf starring Will Ferrell.  Moviegoers are welcome to bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs, and of course, their favorite furry friends.  Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Iron Cactus.  All three films will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, December 2 – Elf

Friday, December 9 – Christmas Vacation*

Friday, December 16 – Polar Express

*This film is rated PG-13 and contains some adult language.



About Downtown Wanderland

This holiday season, Downtown Dallas, Inc. once again presents Downtown Wanderland, season-long festive programming that encourages you to wander around Downtown and explore all there is to see and do.  This year, Downtown Wanderland will feature Unbranded (a curated pop-up shop located at 1517 Main Street), Park-It Pop-Ups, children’s activities, photos with Santa, movie screenings, and more!

For more information on Downtown Wanderland and a full list of events, please visit

Downtown Dallas, Inc. Announces Downtown Wanderland: Season-long Programming Featuring Unbranded, Park-It Pop-Ups, and New Holiday Décor

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. Downtown.

November 29, 2016 – Downtown Dallas, Inc. (DDI) is pleased to announce holiday plans for Downtown Dallas – Downtown Wanderland.  The holidays begin Downtown with Downtown Wanderland, season-long programming featuring Unbranded, Park-It Pop-Ups, children’s activities, photos with Santa, movie screenings, and more!  DDI encourages you to wander around Downtown and explore all there is to see and do.

DDI is again partnering with Matt Alexander and Bryan DeLuca to bring back Unbranded, a curated pop-up shop, to 1517 Main Street.  The space will include rotating artists, fashion designers, and other unique merchandise.  Brands will be curated by Matt and Bryan and will rotate every week.  Unbranded will run December 1st through 17th and the hours will be Thursdays from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m., Fridays from noon – 7:00 p.m., and Saturdays from 2:00 – 7:00 p.m.

In addition to the retail at Unbranded, Park-It Pop-Ups, the adorable mini retail vending trailers, will be at Pegasus Plaza throughout the season featuring art and merchandise for sale from Downtown businesses and merchants.  Little D Markets is also coming back by popular demand and will host a Little Downtown Holiday Night Market at Pegasus Plaza on December 15 from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m., and a Little Downtown Holiday Market on December 17 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Main Street Garden.  Of course, Downtown Wanderland will also feature season-long festive décor, including Neiman Marcus Holiday Windows, holiday-themed B&Gs from the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, new and improved decorative elements at Main Street Garden, and the Neiman Marcus Legacy Holiday Collection: the Neiman Marcus Car Tree (Pegasus Plaza) and the Butterfly Garden (Belo Garden).

For more information on all the events part of Downtown Wanderland and a list of participating vendors, artists, restaurants, and bars, visit #downtownwanderland #mydtd


About Downtown Dallas, Inc.
Downtown Dallas, Inc. is the primary advocate, champion, and steward for Downtown, effecting change by developing  strategies, setting targets, and mobilizing resources that:

  • Stimulate a vibrant and sustainable Downtown environment
  • Improve infrastructure
  • Enhance economic competitiveness
  • Create a culturally inclusive urban center
  • Position the area as a global destination

Our program areas include: public safety; capital improvements; maintenance; economic development; public policy; planning/transportation; and marketing.  For more information, visit



Meet Live Like a Local Contest Entrant Courtney Garza and Her Boyfriend Zak – Thankful For the Vegan Lifestyle in DFW

Courtney Garza is a bona-fide DFW local, who was born in Irving, and grew up in Grapevine. The first time this UNT communications graduate officially moved to Dallas was this past summer, and there’s been no looking back.

While she and her boyfriend Zak both went to UNT, they didn’t actually meet at university. In fact, it was their common love for the vegan lifestyle that helped their paths first collide. They met over a social post, and have been together since.

Zak, a teacher at a last-chance school Dallas Can Academy, in Oak Cliff, spends his days helping at-risk kids learn how to read. His journey to Dallas was by way of Corsicana, Texas, where he was born and raised on a farm. He studied linguistics at UNT and post-graduation decided to move into the teaching space. But on the side, like Courtney – who was then interning at D Magazine, he was fascinated by the potential of the growing communities of vegans around the country.

IMG_7995 (1).JPGCourtney (@DallasCGar) and Zak (@plantbasedzak) are Dallas based vegan lifestyle ambassadors who own the Harvest Hands Texas brand.

Today, Zak and Courtney’s foray into being vegan lifestyle ambassadors has grown from an informal pursuit (such as taking friends to initiation meals at Spiral Diner), to a formal effort to promote their small business, Harvest Hands Texas, and their personal brands as travelers, teachers and friends to those who are considering the benefits of conscious eating.

“We always individually and together excited to show new people how to eat vegan, to take non-vegans down this new journey,” the couple says. Choosing to make the broader downtown Dallas area home was a natural choice for them. Says Zak, “I grew up visiting Dallas but living here is incredible. I work six blocks from where I live. Everything I need to live a fulfilled life is here in Dallas.”

Courtney’s Guidrr guide to the city focuses on healthy breakfast and brunch options, and she’s updated it for Thanksgiving (see Step 8). “I’m thankful for all lives, period,” she says. “I’m happy there’s options to enjoy Thanksgiving in Dallas vegan-style.”

Adds Zak, “Oftentimes, people few our lifestyle as very difficult and restrictive or think it will hold them back from what they love to do. We have tons of fun everywhere we go. We eat delicious food and we enjoy travel. We share because we care.”

When she’s not working as a media development manager at D Magazine, Courtney also promotes coffee in her city and around the country as she travels for vegan events. Her @CoffeewithCourtney brand is all about showcasing baristas and coffee options at mom and pop businesses around the country. . (Ps: Her go-to drink is an almond milk cappuccino). “Coffee shops are the original coworking spaces,” says Courtney. “I meet some of the coolest people at coffee shops.”

For a moment, the couple get serious about why they chose to promote Dallas wherever they go (here, they are pictured while traveling to Santa Barbara, California. Zak wears his Dallas sweatshirt when he travels). “We focus on Dallas for the same reason we created Harvest Hands. We want to help our city lose it’s negative perception. Like other cities, it can be a hub of innovation and newness. I think that Dallas should be in that conversation along with cities like New York, Chicago, Las Vegas. “ Zak – “We love the layout of the city. Love the people. And, it’s the best city in Texas.”

fullsizerenderDon’t miss Courtney’s free guide to vegan breakfast and brunching around DFW, available for free on the Guidrr app (iPhone only) with a Thanksgiving update. Download it here

While you’re in the Guidrr app, check out @PlantBasedZak’s guides to vegan neighborhoods and travel.


Thanks for being a Live Like a Local entrant, Courtney and we look forward to more #mydtd experiences hitting the app

Presentations from DDI’s Membership Forum


On Friday, November 18th, we held our annual Membership Forum and released results from a comprehensive Downtown perception survey that we conducted in partnership with TracyLocke.  We also heard from Brad Segal, President of Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.), on findings from P.U.M.A.’s Top Ten Global Trends Affecting Downtowns & How to Respond at Home.  In case you were unable to attend, we are sending you links to both the survey results and Mr. Segal’s presentation.  Additionally, please sign up for our newsletters by clicking here to stay in-the-know on all things Downtown Dallas.

And the Survey Says…

Top Ten Global Trends Affecting Downtowns & How to Respond at Home

Meet Christine & Alison – Millennial Girlfriends Behind A Luxe Downtown Getaway Experience

This blog is part of a special series featuring winners of Downtown Dallas Inc’s Live Like a Local contest, which asked for locals to submit mobile friendly, self-guiding local experiences on the Guidrr iPhone app that showcase their #mydtd journeys. Christine Saba and Alison Rae, the team behind @theluxebaes, are featured today, along with a link to download their free, winning staycation experience: The Ultimate Girlfriend’s Getaway Day.

Christine Saba and Alison Rae have been besties for nine years and it’s been quite a journey including multiple cities, college campuses, employers, and joint entrepreneurial pursuits.  Their story began when they become friends as undergrads in Virginia, (they both grew up in Northern Virginia suburbs, just 20 minutes apart, but only met as college students).  Later, they both found work in Baltimore and spent time there but would visit Dallas frequently to spend time with Christine’s parents.

Their path to become millennial entrepreneurs and Dallas locals began when Christine decided to relocate full time to the city to work with a startup, moving into her parents’ home in Oak Cliff. It didn’t take long for Alison to follow suit, leaving a full time corporate career in hospitality.

They were inspired by female entrepreneur role models to launch their own vacation-rental business focused on luxury trips to Costa Rica.  “While our business, LuxeBae, is focused on international luxury vacation planning and hosting, we always designed it to be home-based in Dallas. Over time, we decided to also focus on planning and hosting local Dallas events for people like us,” says Alison.

Together, the duo curated an event called the Girlfriends Getaway Day – pouring their energy and experience into planning a perfect way for young women, seeking authentic friendships and great local experiences, to spend time together.


Christine and Alison are the duo behind @theluxebaes, a brand focused on experiences for millennial women. Photo: Beckley & Co

It was natural for them to enter & share the experience in the DDI Live Like a Local contest, and broadcast their skill for planning and curating amazing experience to a broader audience.

“It takes a lot of work to plan and research an authentic experience. Our aspiration with our brand and with the Getaway Day, was to take the stress out of planning a group girlfriends’ experience and instead just go do it and enjoy it.”

Like many other millennials, the duo say they have turned away from sources like Yelp and instead use authentic sources to find local experiences worth having. “We love to use D Magazine to find authentic ideas, and we also enjoying finding curated local experiences on Guidrr,” they say. “Yelp or Googling just isn’t the right way to have a great Dallas experience. We want people to go out and do all the amazing things the city has to offer. Since we can’t have events year-round, we wanted to make our experiences already curated and shared on social media, more broadly accessible.”  

Now that Christine’s parents have moved to Houston, she and Alison rent their Oak Cliff home, and also sublet a guesthouse portion to short-term visitors. By day, Christine focuses on her role at startup NoiseAware, a local home-rental noise monitoring system. Meanwhile, Alison has found a new role helping to expand the U.S. startup business of Workplace Arcade, run by an international entrepreneur who had spend time in Dallas at their short-term Oak Cliff space. “We love living in Oak Cliff. When you walk out on the street, the city skyline is right in front of you. It’s a cute neighborhood that is safe and quaint and it takes us just 5 minutes to get to work downtown.”


Say Christine & Alison of @theluxebaes:

“Don’t get too caught up in planning and researching, just find authentic sources to help.

The fun is in actually taking on the experience – doing it and then thinking about it and re-living it later.

Stop swiping right, just go do it!”


When they aren’t busy being entrepreneurs or key employees to their teams, they both love to eat good food and travel. “I think my personal Dallas experience is so food-focused. There is so much great food here; the quality of the actual meals is amazing and so is the wonderful atmosphere created by local restaurateurs,” says Alison. Jokes Christine: “The only side issue with my move to Dallas is keeping the pounds off from all those great meals!”

Their advice to other young millennials like them? “Don’t get too caught up in planning and researching, just find authentic sources to help. The fun is in actually taking on the experience – doing it and then thinking about it and re-living it later. Stop swiping right, just go do it!”

Both also reflected that while they only moved to Dallas full-time in 2015, they already feel they are true Dallasites. “We love this city and the #mydtd community. There’s nothing to not like about it. It’s got all the ingredients we were looking for to launch our business, @LuxeBae, and to live a life filled with awesome food and great experiences through our personal brand as longtime friends and business partners, @theluxebaes.”

Download Alison and Christine’s guide here (inside the Guidrr iPhone app) to explore their #mydtd

Thanks for being #mydtd ambassadors Christine and Alison and we can’t wait to see more of your curated downtown Dallas experiences hit the Guidrr app!