Don’t miss out on visiting this Texas “town”

I’ve lived in Texas for about 20 years now (five of those years were in the Metroplex), but never have I considered Forth Worth as a destination ‘worth’ visiting. Part of it is because I live over here in Dallas and Fort Worth is 40 miles away (more than an hour’s drive away) and part of it is because I’ve just never heard anyone rave about it that much.

Let’s be honest, Fort Worth has always been overshadowed by its bigger sibling Dallas rather unfairly. D comes before F in the alphabet so it will always goes first. The Cowboys, one of the most recognized sports teams, is ironically from Dallas, the less western town of the pair. When you land, it’s usually at an airport in Dallas or an airport which starts with Dallas.  And of course, most infamously and importantly, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

Anyway as I wrote earlier, I paid a brief visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards recently with a good friend of mine from Dallas to try out the Hotel Drover. While I had visited Fort Worth before, I didn’t have the chance to explore much of it.

As I said before, the Hotel Drover is a new Marriott hotel, adjacent to the Historic Forth Worth Stockyards and Old Town.

We arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon because I was tied up with work for the majority of the day. So there wasn’t much daylight left especially on this stormy day. Of course this made the cursory light that shined through all that much better.

The Fort Worth Stockyards date back to 1876 and were basically an area where livestock could be sold, traded, or slaughtered. The Stockyards were built alongside the railroads to easily transport cattle and at the peak of the cattle industry, in the early 1900s, over a million cattle were sold here. Today, it’s really more of an entertainment venue with some historical charm.

I started walking out by the historic stockyards hotel, which dates back to the early 1900s. I wish that the city would decide to make this area car free so that everyone can walk around and enjoy the architecture. I mainly say that because the cars interrupted my images multiple times.

It’s a small area to walk around, but nonetheless send you back in time to Old Western movies. I literally had a lady ask if I was scouting the location out for my next film because I was photographing buildings in town. While flattered, I had to confess that I was merely a tourist from Dallas checking it out.

The restaurants and shops in the area all had their unique way of embracing the retro vibe of town.

You really can’t get any more Old West than this, even the flyers on the bulletin boards really kept with the theme.

You have to love the doors of some of these places with their worn out look and interesting color palette.

The Fort Worth Stockyards are actually connected to Grapevine via the Grapevine Vintage Railway. I have personally never been on the train ride, but I’ve heard that it’s a great experience for kids especially with the Christmas Polar Express event.

We were greeted to a fantastic sunset just as we made our way back to the town centre after dinner at Shake Shack (it was pretty much the only option offering vegetarian options).

The Stockyards feature a few charming window displays, vintage sign boards, and doors, which are best seen at night. I particularly loved the display at “Maverick” and the various lighted sign boards.

Now the Fort Worth Stockyards weren’t exactly the “happening” place at the time of my visit (on a Tuesday). In fact most places I walked by were empty for the most part including the famed “Cattleman’s Steakhouse.”

Nevertheless the lights provided just the right amount of illumination to make many compositions interesting.

My favorite of the lot was this signboard with the traffic light in the foreground. Something about the yellow traffic light worked well here.

The lack of crowds made it an ideal way to go around and photograph some of the old western style buildings at night without most artifacts. I say most because the yellow traffic lights are an unfortunate addition to the middle of some very busy streets. It did end up being great for light streaks.

And of course you can’t really go wrong with black and white photography in this area, especially with the sheen on the streets from the light rain which began falling.

The rain started to really pick up so we pretty much called it a quits for the evening and headed back to the hotel. I was ultimately impressed and couldn’t say enough good things about my experience walking through this area.

The following day, we checked out of the hotel at around 9 am and headed over to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. The museum is located in the Fort Worth Arts District adjacent to downtown and is named after Fort Worth businessman of the very same name. It has been on my bucket list of places to visit for a while now, but I never managed to get myself to make the 40 mile trek over to check out the collection. The museum is in a great wooded area which seems very uncharacteristic of DFW in general with its urban sprawl and concrete everywhere.

The building itself was designed by Louis Kahn and is itself considered an architectural masterpiece. My camera battery was out so I had to use my phone camera on this visit unfortunately.

We arrived just as the museum opened on a weekday so the crowds were nonexistent and everyone wore a mask properly. I took this opportunity to scout out some interesting compositions featuring the light and shadows inside the museum. If you don’t enjoy art, but still enjoy well designed spaces, you should visit the Kimbell. The permanent and temporary collections are located on opposite sides of the building in between which there is the gift shop and this stairwell:

Inside the museum, there is this awesome natural light which pervades most of the exhibits. It really gives the museum this spacious and airy modern look without being just your quintessential steel and glass building.

The museum is widely recognized for its excellent collection of European art which includes works by Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cezanne, and more. On top of the permanent exhibit, the museum also has temporary exhibits of a high caliber regularly. Monet’s “Weeping Willow” was on display during our particular visit alongside a portrait gallery by various European artists. The painting is normally at the Columbus Museum of Art.

 

Perhaps the most famous art piece of them all is Michelangelo’s first painting “The Torment of Saint Anthony.” It’s actually the only piece by the artist (within a permanent collection) in the Americas. It’s located in an quiet and unassuming corner of the permanent exhibit. My sister and I would’ve completely missed it if not for our friend who pulled us over to this corner.

 

After wandering the exhibit for an hour or two, we made our way back to the car via the outer courtyard. While it was a rainy day, the pause in the weather allowed us to take in the sights from the outside before leaving. The museum even provides umbrellas to walk between its buildings and around the grounds. I thought this was certainly a nice touch.

By the time we walked around the perfectly landscaped grounds, it was time for us to leave. Unfortunately, I had some work to get to and so we didn’t quite get the shot to check out the Modern Art Museum or other areas. I also wanted to be sure to avoid the traffic later on in the day (mainly the afternoon rush hour time).

Bottom Line

I like Fort Worth in many ways better than Dallas. It has some unique western character and culture not seen in most other towns of its size and the history to back it. While the skyline and downtown are very underwhelming, the rest of it was dressed to impress. IMHO this town is truly a gem hidden in plain sight. Just so you know, I wouldn’t say that there is an entire week worth of activities to do in Fort Worth, but if you are looking for a nice staycation in Texas, look no further. Fort Worth deserves to be at or near the top of your list especially with the new Hotel Drover close by. 

Have you been to Fort Worth? What are your thoughts? Did I just let the cat out of the bag?

13 Comments

  1. Evan Johnson

    If you know the right people you can spend a week exploring and finding things you never knew existed in Fort Worth, TX.

    I know of plenty of places that you can’t just Google.

    I was born and raised in Fort Worth and still live here.

  2. DaninMCI

    Car-Free, Texas, LOL. Anyway, it is a nice area to visit. I’m always humored by people from Fort Worth when you land at DFW the pilot will usually say “Welcome to Dallas” and the Fort Worth folks always complain under their breath about it since technically you are in Fort Worth. It’s a real anger trigger for some. I sometimes hear the same sort of thing in Kansas City when the Pilot says “Welcome to Kansas”. Fun time. Good post by the way.

  3. Greg Manning

    U sure missed the boat by not going to the Modern. They understand how to run an art museum.
    Camp Bowie, botanical gardens , TCU area, the ZOO…. I lived in Dallas for 40 years. I now live on the western side of the metroplex and would never go back. U left out the most important part of FW , the people!!!!

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