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Get Cowboy Contemporary in Texas

Long associated with cowboy heritage, modern Texas embraces its legacy but goes beyond that image with its sophisticated culture and cuisine.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, where one-quarter of all Texans live, boasts iconic architecture and museums as well as top-tier sports. Towns near the metroplex have much to offer groups, too. Charming Grapevine, bookended by Dallas and Fort Worth, was settled under the Lone Star flag in 1844, a year before Texas joined the states. Waco, 90 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, is enjoying notoriety tied to the popularity of HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper” and its stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines, who are building a decorating empire there. In Tyler, an hour and a half east of Dallas, groups can explore the gardens and historic homes of “America’s Rose Capital.”


Big D is known for many things: iconic sports teams — the Cowboys have five Super Bowl championships — prominent architecture and culture, and the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation.

The Dallas Arts District contains 19 city blocks of ingenious design: museums and performing arts venues created by architecture masters such as I.M. Pei and Rem Koolhaas. All can be seen on a 90-minute, docent-led tour by the Dallas Center for Architecture.

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden will open A Tasteful Place in the fall of 2017. This $8 million farm-to-table vegetable, herb and fruit garden will showcase views of the Dallas skyline; its patios overlook White Rock Lake. The 3,600-square-foot Garden Pavilion will include a dining room and a teaching kitchen to host local chefs preparing garden-to-table cuisine against 270-degree views of the garden. Groups will be able to go into the garden with the chefs to learn how to pick, clean and prepare the produce.

The burgeoning calendar at the AT&T Performing Arts Center covers all the bases, from Broadway to comedy, opera and dance. This architectural gem encompasses 10 acres within the Dallas Arts District. The center includes the Winspear Opera House, home to the Dallas Opera and Texas Ballet Theater; the Wyly Theatre, home to the Dallas Theater Center, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico; and Annette Strauss Square, an outdoor performance space.

For a classy night out, dinner at the stylish Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck affords a 360-degree view of Dallas at the GeO-Deck. Both are in the Reunion Tower, nicknamed “The Ball.” The sphere-topped tower is Dallas’ most iconic structure and was featured in the opening credits of the hit 1970s TV show “Dallas.”

Fort Worth

The heart and soul of Fort Worth can be found at the city’s historic Stockyards. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail, which was used to drive cattle from Fort Worth to railheads in Kansas. The new Stockyards Adventure Pass covers all the Chisholm Trail sites around the city.

The Stockyard’s honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s, boasts a 127,000-square-foot dancehall, outfitted with more than 30 bars. Groups can see live indoor professional bull riding every Friday and Saturday night and participate in the rodeo culture themselves with two-step lessons, concerts and photo ops on a faux bucking bull.

Cow Camp takes place Saturdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day, but special weekday arrangements can be made for groups. The audience watches on risers while cowboys sit on their horses in the pens and walk through the ins and outs of herding cattle and branding and discuss their Western outfits. Everything remains authentic to the late-1800s period. A re-enacted cattle drive takes place twice daily.

“Eight or nine cowboys on horseback herd up the cattle for a walk down Exchange Avenue,” said Sarah Covington, public relations manager for the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The horn span of the longhorn is up to six feet, so it’s quite a spectacle.”

Shortly after exploring the stockyards, groups can proceed to the nearby Fort Worth Cultural District. Five world-class museums include the National Cowgirl Museum, the nation’s only institution dedicated to women in the American West, which displays memorabilia from Annie Oakley and others.

The Fort Worth Ale Trail showcases craft brews and adds a local flair to any stay. The free Ale Trail Passport invites participants to obtain stamps from each brewery; visiting five or all 10 breweries earns participants a gift.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.