Texas surprised me. While I expected BBQ ribs, cowboy hats, and mechanical bulls (and found world-class choices by the fistfuls), the magic of “The Lone Star” state for me was discovering it’s softer, Bohemian side.
Sprawling art museums, artisanal cocktails, and restaurants that cater to vegetarian and paleo lifestyle choices were as much a part of my journey as was cowboy culture and the southern hospitality Texas is famous for. Rest assured, those venturing to Texas for the classic experience will undoubtedly find it. However, if you’re wanting to travel with a vegetarian partner or a sibling who prefers to curl up with a book instead of head to a sports stadium and have been discounting Texas as a good destination, reconsider. On the contrary, it actually might be the perfect spot to ensure neither of you will have to compromise. Think restaurants that serve award-winning BBQ and guilty-pleasure loaded mac and cheeses alongside quinoa-based summer salads. Both Fort Worth and Dallas contained quiet neighbourhoods with quaint bookshop cafes that exist less than a 40-minute drive from billion-dollar entertainment centres like Texas Live! that cater to the ultimate fan’s every imaginable wish. Below, my in-depth guide on where to go to experience some of Dallas and Fort Worth’s unique bohemian/country charm so you can get a little taste of it all, without compromise.
A short 30 minute drive from Dallas, Fort Worth is a family-friendly choice for those seeking everything wonderful Texas has to offer on a lighter budget. The Omni Fort Worth Hotel is an elegant, modern choice for families or couples looking to be downtown or close to West 7th (the party strip) without the noise pollution of being too close to the action.
Stumbling onto this enchanting neighbourhood will undoubtedly be a highlight of your Fort Worth trip. Magnolia Avenue, known to locals as “Restaurant Row” is full of homespun favourites that spotlight produce and fresh ingredients from nearby farms. For breakfast, hit up Brewed for strong espresso and Tex-Mex favourites like the chilaquiles skillet with a side of Serrano grits. If you find yourself here in the afternoon, do not miss Heim Barbecue for some of the best BBQ in the state, and make sure to save room for Melt Ice Creams: a hop, skip and jump down the street. Melt is a craft ice cream shop that specializes in handmade frozen treats that change with the seasons. For the book worms and tea lovers, stop by Leaves Book and Tea shop: an eclectic little oasis that lets you browse through their thoughtful book selection while you enjoy one of over 40 tea varieties, hot, cold, or sparkling. The sparkling blueberry maple tea on tap was the most refreshing cherry on top of a perfect summer afternoon wandering through Near Southside’s quiet sanctuary.
Those seeking history, or the perfect pair of cowboy boots must make the trip out to The Stockyards. The daily cattle drive that occurs here is a relic from Fort Worth’s historic days in the late 19th century. I must admit, it was a little underwhelming, but the area is still worth a visit as you’ll be hard-pressed to find better cowboy gear in Fort Worth than here. Stop by M.L.Leddy’s for a wide variety of stunning silver jewellery, crisp white cowboy hats, and rows upon rows of their famed Vaquero cowboy boots.
A trendy new development to Fort Worth, this strip lights up Friday night and doesn’t die down until Monday. Stop in at Rodeo Goat, an old school ice-house serving up every burger topping combination imaginable. Don’t be surprised when you make friends with the table to your right and then somehow end up at the neon-lit bar down the street losing at too many rounds of corn hole.
An undisputed centre of culture, you feel the quiet weight of the historical events that have happened here settled amongst the buzzy energy of Dallas as it is today. The 9th largest city in the states has so much to discover. For a dose of history, visit the Sixth Floor Museum for an intimate look into JFK’s last moments on earth, and for an account of his impact on American history and Kennedy’s legacy in the aftermath. If you’re feeling adventurous, set out to tackle the Margarita Mile: download the app and visit a collection of restaurants known for the best margaritas in the city. My highlight: the Liquid Nitrogen Margarita at Beto and Sons in Trinity Groves.
Bishop Arts District
A funky boutique quarter, this neighbourhood is full of quirky shops and restaurants full of character. Lunch at Hattie’s, a brightly lit American bistro with a refined menu featuring Southern favourites like pecan-crusted catfish and the low-country shrimp on a grilled grit cake. Make sure to pop into The Wild Detectives, a cozy space that mixes books and booze. After a rainy morning strolling in and out of shops, the Mezcal Chai Latte was the warm antidote I needed. Bring your current book and block off a few hours here to soak in the warm bask of people browsing through pages and hook arms with fellow book club readers as they sit at large wooden tables discussing their latest read.
This sexy, dynamic neighbourhood is where to come for a nightcap, an evening of people watching, or some live music. Though blues made this area famous, you can now find everything from jazz to alternative at hotspots like Double Wide. Stop into Hide to begin your night with a speciality cocktail.
Whether you come for the culture, sports, or the party, Texas will give you a dose of what you’re after, and then some.