Category Archives: South

Destination Fort Worth

My most recent trip to the Dallas area included a trip to Fort Worth…just a “stone’s throw away” (less than an hours drive from downtown Dallas). It was a travel adventure to visit this town that is steeped in the heritage of cattle drives and livestock economy. Cowboy hats, cowboy boots and amazing belt buckles are found in every store for purchase and living, breathing cowboys walk the stone streets of this historic town. There is a modern, thriving city of Fort Worth, but this blog is about the “Historic District” of Fort Worth, found just north of the larger metropolitan area. Yes it’s “touristy”, but yes…I really enjoyed my visit there. Great place to go if you really want to get a taste of the true Texas.

Sometimes I think Fort Worth gets lost in the shuffle when folks discuss the Dallas area. DFW: the airport code for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, serves obviously the whole Dallas Fort Worth area. Dallas is the ninth most populous city in the US, but when you add Fort Worth into the count, the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area becomes the fourth largest metropolitan city the the U.S. Probably the locals understand how Fort Worth helps to make up the fabric of the area, yet it seems like visitors seem to just lump it all into one category: Dallas. Both cities together help to provide an amazing area with much diversity to offer. This blog is focused on Fort Worth, but for more information on specifically Dallas you can reference my blog post entitled:Big things happen here…Dallas

The Lone Star State

When cattle were driven up the historic Chisholm Trail to the railheads, the drivers had one last stop for rest and supplies: Fort Worth, Texas before heading into the Red River Valley. So Fort Worth was strategically placed for growth. Between 1866 and 1890, drovers ( a term I learned used designating those that drive a herd) trailed more than four million head of cattle through Fort Worth. The city soon became known as “Cowtown.” It was originally established in 1874, then when the railroad arrived in 1876, Fort Worth became a major shipping point for livestock.

Live Stock Exchange Building; Built 1902 /Photo: FortWorth.com

While visiting this historic area of Fort Worth, there is a sense of visiting the “old west” and yes it is “touristy”, but in addition to the eating, shopping and playing…the usual “tourist activities”, there are three interesting museums on site that provide a wealth of information about the area and the major role the stockyards played in the local economy. The first museum is right on the main street and located in the iconic Live Stock Exchange Building.  The Stockyards Museum is at 131 E. Exchange street and is operated by the North Fort Worth Historical Society. It is a small museum, but jam packed with an abundance of information about the ups and downs of the working stockyards and how the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange became known as the “Wall Street of the West”.  I wish we could have spent more time there, but luckily they have a nice little book store and I was able to purchase a historical profile about the Fort Worth stockyards…for later reading. Don’t books makes the BEST souvenirs?

Another major museum that seems like a wonderful tribute to the military, is the Military Museum of Fort Worth, located at 2507 Rodeo Plaza.  They also have a web site for more information: http://www.militarymuseumfortworth.org

Another museum in the heart of town is the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame at 2515 Rodeo Plaza. It is located right near the Cowtown  Coliseum. As they state, the Museum is there to highlight many achievements: “Inclusion in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame is the highest honor we bestow on individuals who have shown excellence in competition, business and support of rodeo and the western lifestyle in Texas”

The Daily Drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards

Nothing quite intrigues a city gal like me, then being in the presence of the handsome Texas Longhorns. I found out that the Texas Longhorns were originally brought from Spain by Columbus into Santa Domingo in 1493 and later bred with cattle in Mexico. Early settlers brought the bred into Texas and the cattle became a hardy and disease resistant strain.  While visiting the historic district of Fort Worth, you have the opportunity to see a “mini” cattle drive of 17 majestic Longhorns down the cobblestone streets: twice a day, at 11:30 am and 4:00 pm. The herd is a very manageable number of 16 to 20 steers, when we were there the number stood at 17.  Just enough to keep the tourists happy. It was a short “drive” and over quickly, but it was still a thrill for a city gal like me. They are really magnificent creatures.

If I have piqued your curiosity,  and for more information about all the sights and sounds at the Fort Worth Historic District; check out their website at: http://www.fortworthstockyards.org

Put your Traveling shoes on. Julie E. Smith

“Big things happen here”…..Dallas

Dallas city skyline: Dallas, Texas

“Big things happen here”. So this is the official slogan of the city of Dallas, not surprising coming out of the Lone Star State that boasts about the grand scale size of things. Texas is the second largest state in the US, but the largest in the “lower 48”. Alaska weighs in at 663,267 square miles, Texas at 268,580 and California is in 3rd place with 163, 695 square miles. Yes…Texas is very BIG. Big with a diversity of interesting things to offer. Visitors to Dallas can get a taste of Texan living with a great eclectic mix of sites and sounds. A blend of big city life and frontier living all rolled into one place that is quintessential life in the Lone Star state: Dallas. Dallas seems so vibrant and youthful. It was incorporated as a city in 1856, but much of the infrastructure is very contemporary. Like many larger cities in the south, Dallas has a large cross-section of people and many “transplanting Northerners” have made a home there. The diversity of accents are as prevalent as the different occupations. Dallas is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies including Exxon Mobil, AT&T and Texas Instruments.

Old Red Museum, 1892

When in Dallas, a great place to start your visit is the Visit Dallas Visitor’s Center located in the Old Red Museum, 100 S. Houston Street. You can’t miss it…it’s the big beautiful red sandstone building with cool looking gargoyles. It is adjacent to the JFK Memorial and Dealey Plaza.  Originally built as a courthouse in 1892, it houses an interesting museum and also the visitors center.  The center is staffed by folks that can help you plan your trip and know everything from great hotels, shopping and where to find the best BBQ around. The “Dallas City Pass” tickets are also available for purchase here for discounts on many major attractions.  When we were in Dallas, I did purchase them and saved quite a bit. (you can buy them on-line prior to your trip at: http://VisitDallas.com/CityPASS A word of warning, you have to use them up within 9 days, can’t carry over for your “next” trip.

 

View of some “spaghetti bowl” expressways from the Reunion Tower

Dallas is ranked as the 3rd largest city in Texas. Houston being the largest, than San Antonio. Like many big cities, negotiating traffic is a challenge. Roadways in the city are well-marked, but there seemed to be a preponderance of “access roads” running parallel to the major expressways which frequently begs the question: How do I get over there? I can see where I need to go but how do I get there? Hence the U-turn spot in Dallas in quite common. Granted, helpful….but I think the roads could have been laid out better to begin with. Once you get a feel for it, you’re fine but navigating some of the “spaghetti bowls” can be tricky. We had a rental car so we felt compelled to drive everywhere, but it is my understanding Dallas does have a good public transportation system: DART: Dallas Area Rapid Transit. Then you wouldn’t have to deal with the highways. Yet, it is interesting to note that Dallas is the largest  metropolitan area in the US that does not on a navigable body of water, hence the development of all those roadways. Four major interstates converge in the city. Providing transportation is also enhanced by the railroad system: you gotta move all that cattle somehow.

Pioneer Plaza~Dallas

This leads me to the next feature about the state that is  highlighted in the city of Dallas.  Texas happens to hold the record as the top producer of beef cattle in the U. S., with 2.42 million head of cattle. That’s alot of beef! The proud history and heritage of cattle drives is documented as a public art exhibit in downtown Dallas at the Pioneer Plaza (1428 Young Street). An entire herd of longhorn steers and cowboys on horseback are depicted in beautiful bronze statues. Situated in the heart of downtown in the convention district, it is odd to see an entire herd of life-size cattle making their way through a stream with buildings rising up on all sides. They seem so real, that it seems they should be grazing across fields of grass, instead of surrounded by towering high rises. Yet, that is what makes the exhibit so stunning and a wonderful tribute to the trail riders. Also, adjacent to the plaza is the pioneer Park Cemetery which includes the Confederate War Memorial.

“So….what are you having for dinner?”

Along with being the leading beef cattle producer, comes the wonderful reality that Dallas is one of  the best places for steak! Well, of course. Steak and BBQ, that is. There are so many fantastic places to choose, but choose we did. I found a place that had great food, but when in Texas I have to admit….I looked for the ambiance as well. Nothing says Texas like cowboy boots, whips and a giant steer mounted on the wall staring at you while you dine on steak. Really fun place and it happens to be a chain with a few locations. It was called Salt Grass Steakhouse and I would go back, it was delicious! I know we will probably be making future trips to Dallas.  I missed the Dallas Arboretum this past trip….looks so pretty and of course we need another trip to Salt Grass–Cheers! Put your traveling shoes on. JES