Tastes and Sights in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area
Everything is bigger in Texas—from cuisine, art centers, world-class museums and nightclubs, to renowned wineries, mountains and ranches. Whether you are craving barbeque, Tex-Mex, seafood, innovative cuisine, or good ol‘ down-home cooking, follow your nose and taste buds to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
There is nothing more Texan than a hearty steak. As the nation’s leading cattle producers, cowboys have been cooking mouth-watering steaks over an open fire since the mid 1880s. What Texans really love is their steak, chicken-fried—considered to be the „National Dish of Texas.“
Location, Location, Location
Irving, Texas, is an ideal location, right in the center of the Dallas/Fort Worth areas. It’s 20 minutes west of Fort Worth and 15 minutes east of Dallas. It is adjacent to DFW International Airport and is home to the historic downtown Heritage District and the Las Colinas Urban Center.
Located on Mandalay Canal at the Las Colinas Urban Center is the Omni Mandalay Hotel—our home for the next few days. Our guestroom was enormous with impeccable furnishings, and it gave us the feeling of a lakeside resort in the middle of this urban center.
Shortly after 5 p.m., during the first evening, we drove to the W-Hotel in Dallas. On the 33rd floor is the hotel’s „ghost bar,“ Dallas‘ hottest haunt. It’s an indoor-outdoor lounge with a sky deck that has a large glass inset in the floor. The scariest time was when we stood on the glass inset (known as the „ghost deck“) looking straight down on Central Dallas. It was remarkable—but not suggested for anyone afraid of heights. If you look straight ahead you can see a magnificent view of the city.
The Omni Mandalay itself has one of the world’s last romantic symbols—a Gondola Adventure. It also had an on-site gondola dock—exactly like those found in Venice. The following morning we glided on the beautiful waters of Lake Carolyn and the Mandalay Canal while the gondolier sang romantic Italian love songs as we passed underneath twelve different bridges on the Canal. It was a perfect way to start our day. We ended the evening at the Dallas Museum of Art. A live jazz concert on the first floor Atrium was in progress. The music was great. People were sketching in the galleries and special lectures were being given on Levels 2 and 3. The Museum’s galleries had an outstanding collection of art from ancient to contemporary periods.
AVENUE STROLL, TEXAS STYLE: The cattle drive down Exchange Avenue in Ft. Worth is the only one of its kind in the world. (Terri Hirsch)
There’s no place in Texas like the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, located in the National Historic District. History came to life as a team of cowboys made their way down Exchange Avenue driving a herd of longhorn cattle. The Fort Worth herd is the world’s only daily cattle drive and an exciting experience. Exchange Avenue is lined with dozens of unique restaurants, retail shops and authentic Western saloons. The „Spirit of the West,“ a 12-minute historic video, was shown at the Stockyard Museum. The film depicted photos and memorabilia from early stockyard days, including the meatpacking industry in Fort Worth.
The Stockyards Hotel (almost 100 years old) still accommodates guests. Butch Cassidy and The Marlow Brothers resided at this hotel during their outlaw years. Rooms were named after cowboys and outlaws, and some of the rooms had bullet holes in the wooden window enclosures.
The world’s first indoor rodeo was held in 1918 at the Cowtown Coliseum—today championship rodeos take place. Some of the events that evening included bull riding, bull roping, and calf roping for the kids. The cowboys, dressed in jeans and Stetson hats, battled it out to rope a baby calf in the quickest possible time.
Known as one of the world’s largest honky tonks is the famous Billy Bob’s of Fort Worth. Built in 1910, it was once an open-air barn for housing prize cattle during the early Fort Worth Stock Shows. Billy Bob’s had 32 individual bar stations, live pro bull riding, country music’s biggest stars, and a Texas-sized dance floor. The music was great and it went on all evening.
SADDLE UP? Pro bull riding at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth Texas. (Terri Hirsch)
Museum and Winery Highlights
Another day, we visited numerous museums, each of them focused on a different aspect of history. Dallas‘ Fair Park is home to nine museums and the State Fair of Texas.
The Women’s Museum, the only Smithsonian Museum there, is dedicated to the accomplishments of American Women. The exhibits related stories of the women’s movement, as well as outstanding women in the arts, sports, comedy, and sciences. It brought to life the voices, talents, achievements, and stories of women of the past, present, and future. We peeked through portholes to view women artists and their work. We watched comedy queens in television like Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller. „Finding our Voices, Finding our History“ gave us an insight into the experiences of Connie Chung and Former Texas Governor Ann Richards.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, The John F. Kennedy Memorial is a permanent educational exhibition on his life, death, and legacy. Located on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, it chronicles the crisis hours, the investigations, and the legacy. The exhibits feature photographs, a 30-minute audio tour, and 45 minutes of documentary videos. From the sixth floor window, you can see a marker on Houston and Elm Streets where President Kennedy was assassinated during the motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963. This was an emotional and heartfelt memory.
Our final museum stop was the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Dallas. An 8-minute film entitled „Reel Cowgirls“ narrated by Katharine Ross, showcased the roles of cowgirls from stunt doubles, to women in distress, to gun-toting damsels. This film honored women of the American West who displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trail-blazing efforts.
The Cowgirl Museum preserves the history and impact of western women living roughly from the mid-1800s to the present. It chronicles clothing, videos, artwork, and interactive exhibits. Some of the honorees: sharpshooter Annie Oakley, author Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
That day we also drove to Grapevine, Texas, centrally located in the Fort Worth area. Grapevine gave us a great introduction to Texas wines and wine tasting. Our first wine tasting was at the Delaney Winery and Vineyards. Our guide gave us an educational experience on grape growing, harvesting, wine making and bottling processes. Some of the wines tasted were sparkling wines and red wines.
Our second stop was the Cross Timbers Winery, located in a historical farmstead. In the main house, our wine tasting consisted of blush, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. We discovered some of Texas’s best wines at La Buena Vida Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards and wineries in Texas. After an educational class on wine and wine-related topics, we had a taste of their oldest champagne sparkling wine. The lesson in the art of pairing wine with food was followed by red merlot, a blush white chardonnay, and finally port and specialty wines. Grapevine was a wonderful place to learn about and enjoy Texas wines.
Texas is not Texas without a trip to a ranch. Nestled in the beautiful North Texas hill country 90 minutes northwest of Fort Worth is the Wildcatter Ranch (Graham, Texas). Exhausted from touring the Dallas/Fort Worth area, we headed to our cabin, named after the infamous Marlowe Brothers, the family upon whom the John Wayne movie „The Sons of Katie Elder“ was based. Our roomy cabin was decorated with western art and suede upholstery. It also had a remote control fireplace and a rocking chair on the back porch. More tempting was the ranch’s outdoor pool and spa overlooking magnificent views.
The following morning, we were amazed to see a campfire cookout with an historical chuck wagon, and numerous Dutch ovens. The Dutch ovens can be used for frying, browning, steaming, stewing, and baking. That day they were baking blueberry muffins and biscuits. Watching the cook lift the lid of a quarter inch thick cast iron oven while cooking over hot coals, we realized he had to be quite skilled not to get burned.
Other morning activities included fishing or skeet shooting, canoeing or archery, or horseback riding. We had the opportunity to learn skeet shooting with sporting clays. We received lessons on safety, loading the gun, and aiming at the target. Skeet shooting can be noisy—protection gear, glasses, and ear plugs were distributed to us. This is definitely a skill that you have to practice.
Afterwards, we toured the City of Graham, where the Graham Brothers drilled the first gas well in the state of Texas in 1871. Touring led us to the Old Post Office Museum, the Graham Tea House, and The Young County Jail, built in 1878. This County Jail, now an antique shop, was the site of the breakout of the five Marlowe Brothers (1888) which caused a major shootout and manhunt within the Graham area. Here the story of the West continues, providing a blend of the old and the new.
(The Epoch Times)