The Best Dallas Itinerary: From a Local!
September 7, 2020
Dallas, Texas is a city filled with any type of food you can imagine, endless strip malls and sky high tollway overpasses. I have called this city home for four years and at times I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. On the one hand, my pulse still quickens when I go over huge overpasses and the toll roads never get any cheaper. On the other hand, I can’t get enough of all of the amazing food and I appreciate having an endless amount of things to try and do.
In my opinion, the best thing about Dallas is the food! It was named Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in 2019 and the title is well deserved. While Dallas is mostly known for Tex Mex and BBQ, you can find food from all over the world. I have been blown away by amazing Ethiopian misir wot, Japanese BBQ, Vietnamese banh mi’s, French souffle’s, Laotian noodles and more over the past few years.
This itinerary includes many of my favorite activities to do in Dallas and a lot of my favorite restaurants to choose from (it was impossible to just choose one in some cases!). It’s an action packed four days where you might eat too much, but you’ll get to experience some of the best that Dallas has to offer.
I also want to mention that the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is made up of many smaller cities. I have personally lived in Plano, Addison and Lower Greenville, but I love spending time in Denton, Grapevine, Frisco and more. Keep an eye out for separate itineraries for some of these other cities in the DFW area! This itinerary focuses on Dallas but remember that you also may want to branch out into these other areas during your trip.
If this is too much information for you, check out my list of the top ten things to do in Dallas!
- The first frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas by Mariano Martinez in 1971. Today, you can still visit Mariano's Hacienda to sip a frozen margarita where the magic began. Mariano’s Hacienda is also a part of the Margarita Mile, a list of restaurants that are known as having the best frozen margaritas in Dallas. If you download the Margarita Mile app, you can be rewarded with things like magnets and t-shirts for drinking margaritas!
- The DFW airport is pretty fantastic. I love it because of all of the amazing flight deals and direct flights that you can find when flying out of Dallas! The airport is huge - it covers 27 square miles and is larger than the island of Manhattan. It makes it easy to travel in or out of Dallas.
- The heat is INTENSE in Dallas! The historic Adolphus Hotel was the first hotel in the world to provide air conditioning for their guests if that is any indication. The summers are extremely hot and Dallas also often gets hit with intense storms. The storms can get really bad; the scariest one I’ve experienced included straight line winds in June 2019. During that time, the 70mph wind caused a crane to fall onto an apartment building. Tornadoes and hail are pretty common as well, stay safe while you visit!
- The State Fair of Texas takes place every year in Dallas and is a sight to behold! Attracting 2.25 million visitors every year, It is the biggest state fair in the United States. This fair is especially known for its assortment of fried foods, including fried butter, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fried coke.
- Highland Park Village was America’s first shopping center after its construction in 1913. Dallas has way more outdoor malls than any other city I’ve been to, so this title did not surprise me. Highland Park is nice but travel north and you’ll find even more fancy and new outdoor mixed use shopping centers, like Legacy West and the Frisco Star.
You can find every type of accommodation in Dallas for a variety of budgets. I would personally recommend staying in an Airbnb; there are so many options and I find that you can usually get a better value for the location this way. Bishop Arts is my favorite neighborhood in Dallas and has a lot of Airbnb options. Look for an eclectic Bishop Arts home like this "tiny gallery" or this artist ranchette with an airstream.
If you want to stay a bit more central, check out this beautiful space in the heart of downtown.
If you are looking for a hotel and don’t want to spend a luxurious amount of money, there are outstanding hotel options too. Check out the Canvas Hotel downtown for its rooftop pool or the Warwick Melrose in Uptown for its 1924 heritage and central location. These hotels offer a good value because they are really close to everything without breaking the bank.
This itinerary is packed full of many options. Use it as a resource for exploring different neighborhoods and pick what to eat and do based on your budget and interests. You won’t be able to do every single thing in four days!
I recommend using rideshare to get around for the most part for a few reasons. Everything is pretty close together so while you’ll be moving from place to place a lot, each ride should be fairly cheap. I also am recommending many bars and activities that involve alcohol. Finally, many of the destinations have limited and expensive parking.
Day one focuses on the east side of Dallas - covering parts of Lakewood, Lower Greenville, Knox Henderson and Deep Ellum.
La La Land Kind Cafe is a bright and cheery coffee shop located in an adorable white building that looks and feels like home. In addition to the delicious food, coffee and fantastic branding, they have tremendous community outreach. Their main cause is to support foster youth with employment and mentorship.
You have to try the chocolate chip cookie at La La Land Kind Cafe, it’s incredible! I also love all of their unique coffee concoctions, like the lavender bloom or french toast latte. This place is unique and beautiful.
Another incredible place for breakfast is Village Bake. This French-owned bakery serves delicious croissants, pastries, coffee and freshly baked bread.
The Dallas Arboretum is my favorite activity in Dallas! The gardens are located right on the shores of White Rock Lake and include 66 acres of beautiful landscape, waterfalls, and sculptures. You can definitely get lost here, there is no shortage of areas to explore. The gardens are beautiful year round, but springtime brings some of the best views when most flowers are in bloom. I also love the fall festival, where they cover the grounds in pumpkins and create a thematic pumpkin village to explore. There are restaurants and tea rooms where you can buy food or you can bring your own and have a picnic on the lawn. The Arboretum also has a variety of live music events throughout the year. It is a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon.
The first time I visited the arboretum, I was 19 and living in Dallas for an internship. My boyfriend and I decided to check out the gardens after our visit to the lake . Without prior research, we bulked at the price - $17 per person during peak season. Seeing our dilemma, a park volunteer invited us in as her guests for the day. We were so grateful and were absolutely blown away by the gardens, finding that they were completely worth the entry price. That experience has made it an extra special location for us!
If you don’t want to visit the gardens, it is still worth going to White Rock Lake. I like to visit T & P Hill, a park with a lovely view of the lake. It’s free and makes for a peaceful picnic spot. I also recommend renting a bike or a kayak to explore the lake. There’s a trail that goes all the way around the lake and it’s a really fun ride (the trail is 9.6 miles). You can also rent kayaks from White Rock Paddle Co. and spend time paddling on the water.
Knox Henderson and Lowest Greenville are two neighborhoods right next to each other, located about a 15 minute drive from the Dallas Arboretum. If you have the time and the appetite, you can visit both back to back. However, if you are limited on time I recommend picking one or two of the places below to eat at and explore.
You can’t leave Dallas without eating tacos and Velvet Taco is one of my favorite spots! This is not traditional Tex Mex, they put their own spin on things with a fusion of local and worldwide flavors. This location on N Henderson Ave was their first location, but they now have several in Texas and a few outside of it. My personal favorite is the Fried Paneer taco, it’s a unique mix between indian and tex mex flavors and absolutely delicious. I am also obsessed with their tots, which come topped with a fried egg and goat cheese (I have to order them without the bacon). Finish the meal off with their classic red velvet cake and wash everything down with a refreshing margarita.
Right next door is Favor the Kind, a cute shop for finding unique gifts. I have found beautiful earrings, interesting coffee table books and fun home decor here. There are several other nice shops nearby, including an extensive selection of vintage clothing. Spend some time walking around and exploring!
If you fancy a drink already, head right down the road to the Old Monk pub, a Dallas institution. This pub has been around since 1998 and is a perfect spot to have a pint of local beer and to people watch from their outdoor patio.
HG Sply Co is a perfect spot for lunch, it has a lively ambience and delicious food. This restaurant has a charming rooftop that overlooks Greenville Ave and has a yummy brunch and multiple vegetarian options.
While in Lower Greenville, I highly recommend getting a drink at the Truck Yard! The Truck Yard has a large outdoor seating area with an assortment of car related decor and a rotating selection of food trucks. It’s a nice place to chill and try one of their own recipes of margaritas or mules on tap.
The Truck Yard is definitely one of my favorite places in all of Dallas, but its popularity means it's also packed a lot of the time. If you find yourself north of Dallas, they now have a second location in The Colony that has the same outstanding vibes but in a much larger space.
Both Knox Henderson and Lower Greenville are walkable areas where you can walk around and discover the many boutiques, bars and restaurants. You can definitely spend as much or little time as you’d like in these areas.
I also have to recommend Khao Noodle Shop as an option for lunch. It is slightly south of Lower Greenville and Knox Henderson but is definitely worth going to. It is a Laotian restaurant with a small menu of noodle, soup and dumpling dishes. It was named number two in a list of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appetit in 2019! The dishes are small so I recommend you order several to share with a group.
At Khao Noodle Shop, you have to try the sakoo dumplings. This is a vegetarian dish made with tapioca, peanuts and cilantro. The dumplings burst in your mouth and were honestly one of my favorite foods I’ve ever tried!
After a well-deserved rest from a busy day, find your second wind for a night out in Deep Ellum! Deep Ellum is a historic area of town known for its nightlife, music and art scene. The neighborhood used to be home to a cotton gin factory, a ford assembly plant and other warehouses. Today, many of these historic buildings have been converted to loft apartments. The area has gone through a lot of gentrification in the last several years, so I recommend supporting local restaurants as opposed to large chains whenever possible.
For an activity that doesn’t involve food, try your hand at candle making at Paddywax Candle Bar. You can reserve a seat to create your own candle, where you’ll get to choose your own vessel and scent. You can BYOB and this makes for a fun group activity.
If you are in Deep Ellum earlier in the day, definitely check out some of the local shops. There are many, but here are some of my favorites.
- Flea Style - This marketplace has a large variety of vintage clothing and home decor.
- Deep Vellum Books - This indie bookstore also serves coffee and wine!
- Jade & Clover - This boutique serves trendy gifts and can pot your own succulents!
There are so many fantastic restaurants in Deep Ellum, it is very hard to narrow it down! These are my top picks for dinner in Deep Ellum.
For something a little higher end, visit Niwa Japanese BBQ. This restaurant is one of the only restaurants in Dallas that focuses on yakiniku, a traditional Japanese style of cooking where you can cook your own meats or veggies on a grill in the center of the table. This is a really special experience and the food is delicious.
The only difficult part I found about eating at Niwa was balancing cooking veggies and meat on the same grill. We cooked all of the veggies first so they wouldn’t mix with the meat, but then I had to watch the others eat their meat when my veggies were already gone. Keep this in mind if you are a vegetarian going here with meat eaters.
For a more casual dinner, check out one of these restaurants:
- Braindead Brewery - This brewery has a lot of vegetarian options, but my favorite is the ‘Cheezus is King’ - a grilled cheese sandwich with tomatoes glazed in Dr Pepper!
- Pepe & Mito’s - This family owned restaurant has been open since 1994 that has a wide variety of tacos and other delicious tex-mex food.
- St Pete’s Dancing Marlin - This is a local spot to watch sports and relax, it is known for seafood but also has a wide variety of pasta and sandwiches.
- Easy Slider - This twist on a pub began as a food truck and has a huge variety of sliders to choose from. Their vegetarian slider is made up of portobello mushroom with pesto and is delicious!
After a delicious dinner, I highly recommend bar hopping if you still have it in you! There are once again so many bars in Deep Ellum to choose from, but here are some of my favorites.
- Ruins - This dive bar with one of a kind cocktails is laid-back and has a little bit of outdoor seating.
- Dot’s Hop House - This bar and restaurant has a large courtyard with plenty of space to spread out.
- Green Room - This is a great bar for a rooftop view. It has amazing views of downtown and is a good spot to watch sports.
- Off the Record Craft Beer & Vinyl - This unassuming bar opens up to a small backyard and often has live music.
- Deep Ellum Brewery - This is a must-visit if you love breweries! It is a bit further away from the rest of Deep Ellum so be prepared to walk a few blocks. The brewery was the first craft brewery to open in Dallas in 2011 and has a great casual atmosphere and a big outdoor space to hang out. Try their most popular beer, the Dallas Blonde, for a golden ale that makes for easy drinking. You can also tour the brewery at certain times.
You will see Deep Ellum Brewery’s distinctive yellow bottle logo all over Dallas - buy some stickers while you are here as souvenirs!
Day two focuses mostly on downtown Dallas.
Begin your day with breakfast or brunch at the Dallas Farmers Market! The Dallas Farmers Market began as a place where farmers sold produce and animals in the early 19th century and became an officially sanctioned market in 1941. It has an indoor and an outdoor area. Make sure to check out both but note that the outdoor portion is only open on the weekends.
Here are some of my favorite Farmer’s Market Vendors:
- 8 Cloves - A permanent restaurant inside of the market, this delicious indian restaurant also serves breakfast food!
- Scardello Artisan Cheese - You can try a variety of cheeses and pair them back to wine.
- Bonton Farms - This business sets up a booth in the outdoor area. Bonton Farms is an amazing farm south of Dallas that has a commitment to bettering their community by providing jobs and healthy produce. If you have more time, you can also visit their market or restaurant at their actual farm, but be sure to at least look for them at the Farmer’s Market!
There are many amazing businesses at the Farmer’s Market, you could spend hours here shopping and trying a variety of foods and drinks. When you’re full, I recommend walking across the street from the Market and wandering through Ruibal's Plants. This Ruibal's location has been at the Farmer's Market since 1984 and sprawls nearly two blocks! It has a massive selection of plants and an option to pot your own.
After spending the morning at the Farmer’s Market, I recommend visiting one of the impressive museums downtown. If you love art, visit the Dallas Museum of Art. Most of the galleries are free to visit and there are always exciting rotating exhibits as well.
Be sure to visit Klyde Warren Park too! It is right in front of the museum and is built on top of a highway tunnel. It’s a great example of rethinking an urban area to create a community space that encompasses all different types of activities. The park has food trucks during the day, a dog park, ping pong, a playground, a book exchange and a restaurant.
If you prefer history to art, visit the 6th Floor Museum. This powerful museum tells the story of John F. Kennedy’s assassination during his visit to Dallas in 1963. You are given an audio guide that allows you to make your way through at your own pace. Be sure to reserve tickets in advance because the lines can get very long. Outside of the museum is Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated. The area has been designated a National Historic Landmark and there are X’s on the road where JFK was shot.
Another park that I like to visit is Pioneer Plaza. This unique park commemerates Dallas' beginnings with large cattle and cowboy sculptures cast in bronze. It’s a quick and enjoyable stop, especially for kids, and a great place to take some photos.
Once again, there are so many restaurants downtown to choose from! Here are a couple that I like the most. For a casual dinner option, travel slightly south of downtown Dallas and visit Sandwich Hag. Not only do they have delicious Vietnamese banh mi, but 30-40% of the restaurant’s part-time employees are of different abilities, including down syndrome. They have a nice outdoor seating area if the weather is nice.
If you are in the mood for Mexican food, get some delicious tacos, elote and margaritas at Las Almas Rotas. Las Almas Rotas is known for their Mexican spirits and was named the best Dallas bar in 2018 by Eater. Since I have only had their take out, I can vouch for their elote, its incredible! Definitely the best elote I’ve ever had.
Another option for dinner is the Meddlesome Moth, which is located in the Design District. The Meddlesome Moth is a gastropub with an extensive list of beers; there are more than 100 varieties to choose from. You won’t find any watered-down American options here. The atmosphere of this pub is really cool and unique too. There are three gigantic stained-glass windows from Dallas’ first Hard Rock Cafe and the bar’s backsplash is made up of 1000’s of dollars worth of quarters. They also list beer pairings to go with your food. It’s the perfect location to enjoy a cold beer and a meal.
For something a lot more higher end, consider visiting The French Room, a high-end French dining experience with a stunning and elegant interior.
Another way to have a truly memorable evening is to go to the top of Reunion Tower. The top of this iconic tower has the best views of Dallas and is a beautiful place to watch the sunset.
After dinner, I recommend checking out one of the iconic bars in or near downtown Dallas. The Statler hotel has a rooftop bar called Waterproof that offers stunning views of downtown, delicious cocktails and even a pool.
Another rooftop bar with incredible views of downtown is The Gallery on top of the Canvas Hotel (formerly known as Soda Bar). This bar is similar to Waterproof, it also has a pool and delicious cocktails, but its southern location has a slightly better view of the skyline and has a bit of a more relaxed vibe.
For a more casual bar, check out Four Corners Brewery or Lee Harvey's. Four Corners Brewery has a wide selection of beers and a relaxed atmosphere. Lee Harvey’s is a low key dive bar and a Dallas institution. It features a huge outdoor patio space that often has live music. Both bars are good places to have a good time in Dallas.
Spend your third day in Dallas exploring Bishop Arts District and the west side of Dallas! Bishop Arts District is my favorite neighborhood in Dallas, so if you only have a short amount of time, make Bishop Arts a priority.
With over 60 independent boutiques, restaurants, bars and galleries, Bishop Arts District calls itself Dallas’ most independent neighborhood. Essentially, you’ll find less chain shops and restaurants here than anywhere else, which I love!
Start your morning off with a delicious Bishop Arts brunch. I recommend Oddfellows for classic American brunch food, avocado toast and mimosas. If you don’t want a sit down meal, check out The Salty Donut to indulge in a horchata flavored or star-shaped donut.
The best part of Bishop Arts is all of the unique boutiques to shop in. You can’t really go wrong, but I love We are 1976, Inc, Bishop Street Market, DFW M’Antiques and All Good Things. You’ll find a wide selection of gifts, apparel, stationary, candles, jewelry and home items. I also love The Wild Detectives, a book shop that doubles as a coffee shop and bar.
After you’ve worked up another appetite from shopping, you can’t leave without trying a slice of pie at Emporium Pies. This local pie shop is located in an adorable old home, and has absolutely delicious pies. I love the The Smooth Operator (chocolate) and the Lord of the Pies (apple pie) the most.
Admittedly, Dallas isn’t the best place for hiking. But if you’re like me and like to find a way to get in at least a little bit of nature while traveling, Cedar Ridge Preserve or Cedar Hill State Park are peaceful spots.
Cedar Ridge Preserve is free (they ask for a donation) and has several short trails to choose from. The Cedar Brake Trail offers some nice views of the nearby Joe Pool Lake and the park is also a nice place to see bluebonnets during the springtime.
Cedar Hill State Park is right next door and offers access to the lake, hiking trails and a historic farm. You are free to wander through the farm and see old farm equipment. This is the closest state park to Dallas and costs $7 a person.
The Trinity Overlook Park is also a great place to go on a walk. It offers amazing views of the Dallas Skyline and is more centrally located downtown.
If nature isn’t your thing or the weather isn’t favorable, try your hand at some fun indoor mini-golf! Another Round is a fun experience that includes a huge wall of light-up cones, colorful golf carts and plenty of unique holes. It is a great place to get a little competitive while drinking a local beer.
You can also grab a drink on the spacious patio outside at Another Round. This place is really fun and full of great photo ops!
Have a delicious vegan dinner at Vegan Food House or Spiral Diner! Vegan Food House opened in 2019 and serves plant-based creole food from an adorable turquoise house. I got the nashville hot cauliflower tacos and they were incredible! Spiral Diner focuses on vegan comfort food, serving delicious plant-based mac and cheese, chocolate chip cookies, nachos and more. It started in Fort Worth in 2002 and has expanded to three locations in the Dallas area. Both restaurants serve great plant-based food that taste the same or better than the dairy or meat products they imitate (in my opinion, at least!)
End your third day with a movie or live performance at the Texas Theater. This historic theater is known for being the site where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after murdering president John F. Kennedy. The Dallas landmark is beautiful just to see and opens as a relaxed bar/lounge on evenings when there isn’t a show going on. The Bishop Arts District is also an excellent place to go bar hopping, check out the fancy cocktail bar Botanist or the casual Whitehall Exchange to make the most of your evening.
Day Four focuses on parts of North Dallas and Uptown.
For your final day in Dallas, head north and have some delicious French Souffles for brunch. Rise No. 1 is one of my favorite restaurants in town. This restaurant has so much character, from the quaint French decor to the ‘Thought of the Day’ note provided when you leave (written in either English or French!). I recommend getting the marshmallow soup - its a delicious tomato soup with ‘marshmallows’ of goat cheese for the appetizer. Then pick a savory souffle and a sweet dessert souffle for the complete experience.
Rise No. 1 is one of my favorite special occasion restaurants! The interior feels like a French Bistro but at the same time feels fairytale-like with trees and colorful ceramic dishes. The restaurant has amazing attention to detail. It’s a popular place so go early or call ahead to reserve a table.
This might not be for everyone, but I think it’s fun to drive through a couple of notable neighborhoods when I visit a city. Between Rise and downtown Dallas, you can find some of the largest mansions in Dallas. While you can’t see much past the fences and hedges, I like to drive through Preston Hollow, a neighborhood filled with mansions belonging to celebrities like Mark Cuban and former U.S. President George W. Bush. If you go, be sure to drive down Straight Lane, where you can drive by this bizarre manor.
I find this mansion. complete with a waterpark, gymnasion, bowling alley and animatronic halloween characters, to be hilarious and over-the-top. The former owner of this mansion, Richard Malouf, was ordered to pay 12 million dollars to Texas for Medicaid fraud in 2020.
Explore an interactive art display in Uptown where you can touch the art at the Sweet Tooth Hotel. This gallery has rotating exhibits that are super colorful and a lot of fun to explore. I visited during their second display, called “1955.” It was themed with retrofuturism and full of neon lights, rainbow rocket ships and 50’s style pop art. The exhibits change and expand frequently, so check their website for up to date details. Tickets tend to sell out, so book in advance!
For a free and non-ticketed photo opportunity, visit the Design District Playground. This outdoor display of murals also includes “punny” interactive elements. You’ll find bales of hay in front of a wall reading “Hay Girl, Hay” and pink ponies in front of a mural reading “Ride It Like You Stole It.”
Take a quick break before your last night out at a serene park in Uptown. Visit Dragon Park for a small and hidden-away green space full of dragon statues or Lakeside Park for water views and a photo op with gigantic stone teddy bears.
If you fancy a drink instead, I highly recommend either the Cidercade or the Celestial Brewery. The Cidercade is such a fun and unique spot - A former warehouse is now an arcade and bar with over 25 different types of cider on tap. You pay a flat fee for as many arcade games as you’d like and the bar has a chill vibe and has something fun for everyone.
Celestial Brewery is also a nice casual spot to grab a beer. This taproom has a good atmosphere and really cool branding. The taps are always rotating but they have a lot of sour beers, which are my favorite!
Spend your last evening going out to dinner in the Uptown area! If you are traveling from downtown to uptown, I recommend catching a ride on the M-line Trolley! The trolley is free (they just ask for a donation) and slow, but it’s a super unique and cute way to get around!
Once again, there are so many good restaurants in Uptown and the surrounding area. Here are my favorites!
- Crushcraft Thai Eats - This cool thai spot that serves healthy and delicious food with vegan options. I love the Skinny Bitch Salad, it is super colorful and packed with flavor!
- Toluca Organic - This restaurant serves fresh tex mex in the form of salads, burritos, tacos and more. I got a taco salad with spicy vegan barbacoa - it was delicious, fresh and light!
- 18th and Vine - So I haven’t recommended any barbeque restaurants so far because I’m a vegetarian and they usually don’t have the best options for me! But 18th and Vine is an exception. They serve Kansas City Style BBQ, so it’s not your traditional Texas BBQ experience, but it’s still worth visiting! For vegetarians, they have a delightful cauliflower steak entree. That along with some of their sides, like the BBQ veggies, make 18th and Vine a delicious spot for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. They also have a wide variety of cocktails to try!
- Jalisco Norte - Eat at Jalisco to go on a beautiful culinary journey. The head chef, Jose Meza, is originally from Mexico and has worked at some of the world’s top restaurants in Spain and Denmark. The food here represents traditional Mexican tradition and tastes incredible. At the beginning of each meal, you are served Jalisco’s signature mole negro, a sauce made from over 50 ingredients. There aren’t many vegetarian options, but the Cauliflower and Hazelnut Pipian is fantastic and the service here really makes for a memorable experience.
And finally, here are a couple bar options Uptown to finish off your last night.
Grab a frozen margarita at The Rustic, a great bar with outdoor seating that often has live music. It is on the ‘Margarita Mile,’ a series of 20 restaurants and bars in Dallas that have some of the best margaritas around.
Another amazing outdoor space to have a drink in is the Katy Trail Ice House. This bar is right next to the Katy Trail, a walking, running and biking trail that stretches across Dallas following the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
Finally, a more divey-feeling bar that I like is The Ginger Man. This pub has a library-style lounge, a beer garden and is an enjoyable place to play darts or just drink a beer over great conversation. The ambience here is much more lowkey than a lot of the other bars in the area, making it a great place to wind down for the night.
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