Dallas & Fort Worth:
One Trip, Two Experiences
Dallas' sparkling skyline awaits visitors to this third largest city in Texas, while cowboy fun abounds at Fort Worth's historic stockyard area. The daily Fort Worth Herd (below right) gives visitors the thrill of seeing a real herd of steers driven through the city's streets.*
By Georgina Cruz
Comparing human emotions and traits to U.S. cities, tennis superstar Martina Navratilova once remarked, “In this country, I can be as brash as New York, as hedonistic as Los Angeles, as sensuous as San Francisco, as brainy as Boston, as proper as Philadelphia, as warm as Palm Springs, as friendly as my adopted hometown of Dallas-Fort Worth…”
As the third largest city in Texas and the ninth largest in the U.S., Dallas is home to more than 1.3 million residents; only Houston and San Antonio are larger in Texas.
Despite its size, Dallas is definitely tourist-friendly -- at least from our observations on a recent trip. As we struggled with maps and train schedules, local residents eagerly assisted and ended the conversation with "Enjoy your stay."
And a similar welcoming spirit is found in nearby Fort Worth. A vacation to the Dallas-Fort Worth area delivers a bonus for vacationers -- two destination experiences in the same trip.
On our vacation, we opted for a Dallas stay, and visited Fort Worth on a day trip, but you could easily do the reverse, depending on your interests.
Eclectic Dallas Attractions
Famous for its steaks and the Dallas Cowboys NFL team, Dallas also boasts some lesser-known attributes. It has the largest urban contiguous arts and entertainment district in the nation.
And its skyline (shown at left*) showcases new and old architectural styles, historic sites, legendary ranches and world-class shopping, dining and attractions.
At present, the city is experiencing a renaissance with $12 billion in development, according to figures from Phillip J. Jones, president of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The new projects include several luxurious hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton Dallas and the W Dallas-Victory. Opening in 2009 is the Mandarin Oriental.
Development also includes new entertainment districts including Victory Park. New cultural experiences include the Dallas Center for Performing Arts opening in 2009 with five different venues.
In Search of JR
A fan of the 1980s "Dallas" television series, which is popular (popular in the 1980s and still seen in syndication) the first thing I wanted to see when my husband and I started planning our trip to Dallas was Southfork Ranch (800-989-7800 or www.southforkranch.com), 7800 Hogge Rd., Parker. The mansion at Southfork is shown below.*
This is where the program – a hit in the U.S. and 96 countries—was filmed. How do you get there? If you have arrived in Dallas by air, you probably need to rent a car. The attractions you'll want to see are spread out.
Southfork, for instance, is about 30 minutes by car from Downtown Dallas. There are plans to expand routes and increase frequency of trains and buses. But for now, a rental car is the best way to explore the Dallas-Fort Worth area more efficiently.
Southfork offers a guided tour of the Ewing Mansion that takes in the parlor, dining room, J.R. Ewing’s bedroom and other elegant rooms.
Yes, walking around, I felt that at any moment I'd bump into J.R., Sue Ellen or Miss Ellie.
Southfork visitors are also treated to the Dallas Legends exhibit, with videos of climactic moments in the series, mementoes and objects used in the filming. Among those are the gun that shot J.R. and Lucy Ewing’s wedding dress.
Before or after the tour, visitors are free to stroll in the grounds. You'll see Texas Longhorn cattle and purebred horses.
Also on display is the Lincoln Continental with the tag “Ewing-1” that Jock Ewing drove in the series. Sandwiches and other light fare are available at the aptly named Miss Ellie’s Deli. Two souvenir shops also await.
Dallas' Dramatic Skyline
Back in Dallas, the city’s skyline is in itself very impressive with buildings by world-famous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei and Rem Koolhaas.
Among the many architectural highlights are:
- Fountain Place by I.M. Pei, 1445 Ross Avenue, with dramatic slanted sides of green reflective glass;
- The 1934 Magnolia Hotel, 1401 Commerce Street, topped by the iconic image of Pegasus, the flying horse;
- The Kalita Humphreys Theater by Frank Lloyd Wright at 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.; and
- The Center for Performing Arts, 2106 Boll Street, by Rem Koolhaas.
Another of the city’s most striking structures, the dome-crowned Reunion Tower houses a revolving restaurant with spectacular views of Dallas. It's closed for renovations at present, but will re-open with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant in 2009.
Rambling 'round Downtown Dallas
A good point to start a downtown Dallas walk is the Old Red County Courthouse, on 100 South Houston Street, in the city’s historic West End.
In Richardson Romanesque style, it boasts a clock tower and dates from 1892. It houses a visitor’s center and the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History with four theaters, interactive kiosks, artifacts and photographs chronicling the area’s history.
A memorial to Dallas’ dawn may be enjoyed at Pioneer Plaza (650 South Griffin). The plaza pays homage to the trails that brought settlers to the area in the 1800s.
This eco-friendly site is a pleasant spot with its native plants, trees, a stream and a waterfall. But it's the massive bronze centerpiece that's a "must" for visitors. Re-creating a Longhorn cattle drive, the dramatic centerpiece boasts 41 sculptures of cattle driven forward by three cowboys on horses.
History & Tour Options
History buffs will likely want to head for the Sixth Floor Museum in the old Texas Book Depository (411-214-747-6660 or www.jfk.org), 411
Elm St., just steps from the Old Red County Courthouse. It's now called the Dallas County Administration Building.
From here it's alleged that in 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald shot U.S. President John F. Kennedy. The museum has a self-guided audio tour, a collection of exhibits, photographs and videos documenting the Kennedy years and the president’s assassination.
The window from which Oswald allegedly shot (shown at left*) is always kept open, looking onto Dealey Plaza, witness of the tragic event. White Xs on the pavement mark the spots where the first shot and the last shot hit the president’s motorcade, as it passed by the infamous “grassy knoll.”
A simple Memorial to President Kennedy stands at the rear of the Old Red County Courthouse.
Discover Dallas Tours (www.discoverdallastours.com) features scheduled tours led by experienced docents through the JFK sites, the Arts District and other points of interest, and the company also puts together customized itineraries.
Another way to see the sights is by gliding through them via a program from Dallas Segway Tours (972-821-9054 or www.dallassegwaytours.com).
Art, Flowers, Food and Shopping!
Whether you tour the nearly 70 acres of the Arts District – a 19 block area bounded by Field Street, Ross Avenue, Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Central Expressway — with a guide or independently, don't miss the district's anchor venue, the Dallas Museum of Art (214-922-1200 or www.dallasmuseumofart.org). (Tourists peruse artwork in one of the museum's galleries - shown above.*)
Located at 1717 North Harwood St. it showcases 230,000 art objects representing 5,000 years of human history. Among the district’s 13 cultural institutions are the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center.
For a breath of fresh air, head for the Dallas Arboretum (214-515-6500 or www.dallasarboretum.org). Its 66 acres are flush with foliage year-round and are graced by fountains and sculptures.
Fresh flowers and local produce are on sale at the Dallas Farmers’ Market (1010 South Pearl St.; www.dallasfarmersmarket.org). The market is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cooking classes with local chefs are featured every Saturday.
Other pastimes include shopping in boutiques and stores that rival those of New York’s Fifth Avenue and Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive and include Neiman Marcus, which marked a century of business in Dallas in 2007. Called “The Store” by locals, its flagship location sits on the corner of Main and Ervay in downtown Dallas.
Dallas has malls galore; one is the Galleria Dallas ( 972-702-7100 or www.galleriadallas.com), 13350 Dallas Parkway. (At right, shoppers take a break from a whirlwind day.*)
Galleria is home to 200-plus stores, designer boutiques, restaurants and, yes, even an ice-skating rink.
Another hot draw for shoppers is the Northpark Center (see photo at left*), a premier shopping center since its construction in the 1960s (214-361-6345 or www.northparkcenter.com), 1030 Northpark Center.
For a uniquely Texas souvenir – maybe a Stetson hat, jewelry or boots? -- check out Wild Bill’s Western Store (214-954-1050 or www.wildbillswestern.com), 311 North Market St. Among the store's many celebrity clients are Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris.
Sports and Critters
Sports enthusiasts might head for Texas Stadium (www.dallascowboys.com) in Irving, TX, to catch a game of the Dallas Cowboys, often called “America’s team."
Tickets, though, may be hard to get. Your best bet is to know a friend or relative holding season tickets who is willing to share. Texans are definitely die-hard football fans! Locals like to tell visitors that when the stadium dome opens, "God can watch his favorite team play.”
A massive new Dallas Cowboys stadium is now under construction in Arlington, TX. With 2.3 million square feet of space, it will seat 80,000 and up to 100,000 for special events, including the 2011 Super Bowl. For details about the new stadium visit http://stadium.dallascowboys.com
Baseball lovers may prefer to catch a game of the Texas Rangers at their ballpark in Arlington (817-273-5100), 1000 Ballpark Way.
Families traveling to Dallas have plenty of entertainment options for children. The Dallas World Aquarium (214-720-1801 or www.dwazoo.com), 1801 North Griffin,offers saltwater exhibits from various corners of the world. It also features a South American rainforest walk, an eight-level Mundo Maya exhibit, an open-air South Africa area and more.
The Dallas Zoo (621 East Clarendon; 214-670-5656 or www.dallaszoo.com) has more than 2,000 animals in 95 acres – and a fanciful giant-giraffe-sculpted entryway.
By late 2011, the zoo will have the first phase of a new $40 million African Savanna area complete. Phase 1 will include a four-acre elephant habitat, an area 15 times larger than the zoo's current elephant exhibit.
Ultimately, this African Savanna will be home to giraffes, lions, warthogs, and other African animals.
The kids will never forgive you if you don’t take them to Six Flags Over Texas (817-640-8900 or www.sixflags.com) in Arlington, TX, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. Park goers will enjoy thrilling coasters and such cuddly characters as Bugs Bunny for hugging and photographing.
Also in Arlington is Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (817-265-3356 or www.sixflags.com), a family waterpark. (See photo at left.*)
Just opened is Mega Wedgie, a waterslide that's four stories high and 83 feet wide. It sends guests flying down one side of its wings to the other, at speeds of up to 23 miles per hour.
Fort Worth Bound
If you're visiting Dallas, you should head to the neighboring city of Fort Worth for a totally different experience. Must-see attractions focus on the Old West, ranches and cowboys.
A "must see" for kids and adults alike is The Texas Herd, the city’s official herd, which is driven through the stockyards twice daily by cowboys and cowgirls in authentic garb (see photo below*). It's a taste of the Old West.
Stockyards Station (817-625-9715 or www.stockyardsstation.com) is where you can ride a "live" specially trained bull. We opted to forego the experience after one look at Big Jake, the 1,400-pound bull available to ride during our visit. Alternatively, you might ride the station's mechanical bull.
Hungry? Then head for the many Fort Worth restaurants serving steaks and Tex-Mex specialties.
A refreshing pause from the Cowboy pursuits is the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (817-871-7686 or www.fwbg.org). Its 109 acres are filled with 2,500 types of plants and flowers.
Family attractions include the Fort Worth Zoo (817-759-7555 or www.fortworthzoo.com) with a wonderful collection of animals (such as the lions at left*) including a Museum of Living Art exhibit with amphibians and reptiles.
For science buffs, the Fort Worth Museum of Science (817-255-9300 or www.fwmuseum.org) normally delivers science exhibits and interactive kiosks. But some of its exhibits are displayed temporarily in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame while a new science museum facility is under construction. The new facility will open in 2009. Call for the latest facility and exhibit information.
Editor's Note: SouthernTravelNews.com ran a lengthy Forth Worth story in 2007; pricing and certain other details may have changed since the run date, but it's a great city overview. Check out Round 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!
If You Go
Dallas has more than 70,000 hotel rooms with all major chains represented. Fort Worth too offers a wide choice of accommodations. Our base for our stay was the Westin Park Central, 12720 Merit Drive ( 800-WESTIN-1 or www.starwoodhotels.com); it's just a few minutes from the Galleria Dallas mall and about 15 minutes from Texas Stadium. Rates start at $189 per night.
For a delightful lunch, try Seventeen Seventeen on the second floor of the Dallas Museum of Art (214-515-5179),1717 North Harwood St. Menus change in accordance to museum exhibitions. You may order wine by the glass.
*Photos are owned, copyrighted and used courtesy of the two CVBs or other tourism entities listed above, and the top Dallas photo is used courtesy of Jack Hollingsworth. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos.