Tracy’s Tips for Fun in the Fort

After living in Fort Worth for over 25 years and hosting many visitors in our home and to our city, I want to share with you my top 10 picks for entertainment in this great metropolis (not Dallas).

  1.  Sunday mornings at the Japanese Gardens are quiet and relaxing.    They open at 9 a.m. so get there early so you can have the garden space to yourself.  Lots of winding paths, bridges, stonework and koi-filled ponds beckon small children (my own included when they were small) and they become spell-bound and well-behaved by the space and activities. Only $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children.  You can enjoy the rest of the Botanic Gardens too but the Japanese style gardens are really special.  Check out their gift shop too.
  2. Stroll and shop for flea market finds at the Historic Camp Bowie Mercantile on the traffic circle in west Fort Worth.  Enjoy the mural that covers the entire outside of the building with historic scenes of Camp Bowie and discover some great buys inside the air-conditioned facility – a must in steamy summers in Texas.  Nice staff and a wide variety of vendors.  C3’s favorite vendor is The Cashmere for European styles at low prices.  After shopping the morning at the Mercantile, take yourself to Rahr Beer in the hospital district on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. and enjoy an afternoon of tasting their locally cultured and award-winning styles of hops and get a souvenir glass to take home.  Relaxed atmosphere and you can learn a bit about how to make your own home-brew.  Nap afterwards required.
  3. Spend the day at Burger’s Lake enjoying the spring-fed pond, playing on the sand beaches, cooking out or picnicking.  Great people watching especially now that tattoos are so prevalent. The pond is surrounded by shady trees and the place is a favorite with the locals. Rent a huge tube and try to get everyone standing on it at the same time.  Fly out on the acrobat swing and drop into the cool water. Eat a snow cone.  Later in the day, the lake gets very quiet and the large groups leave so best time to arrive is after 2 p.m. and stay until closing.  The place takes me back to simpler times in the 1960’s when my family would spend the week-end  swimming at 99 Springs outside of Medicine Lodge, Kansas.  99 Springs wasn’t a fancy place, but I still love places that remind me of it like Burger’s Lake. It was so beautiful, nestled in the hills of western Kansas, spring fed and surrounded by immense cottonwoods. Summers spent at 99 Springs had a positive impact on my childhood and Burger’s Lake will on you.
  4. Walk the Trinity Trail especially the part of the trail that winds through downtown and north toward the Stockyards.  You can rent a bike if you wish so check out the many locations in the downtown area for this new transportation program.  Fun to either walk or ride the trail in the early evening when there is a baseball game scheduled at LaGrave Field.  Now with the opening of Coyote Theatre you can see the drive-in movies as you walk by the big screens.  You might be lucky and catch a home run ball as you stroll by.  Stop in for a break at the new Tarrant County College Trinity River (downtown) campus and enjoy the architecture and the works of art decorating the common areas.
  5. Enjoy a cup of coffee and fresh pastry at Swiss Pastry House on Vickery.  I brought visiting Ukrainians here several mornings during their stay in the Fort and they said it was so “cozy” – an American word I didn’t expect them to know but was very appropriate for how you feel when you stop in for breakfast or lunch.  The coffee prices are reasonable and much better than their competitors (starts with S).  In the same area of the city on historic Camp Bowie Blvd. is a great Japanese and sushi restaurant named Tokyo Café.  Everything on the menu is great but don’t miss the Tok Fries and the On the Beach Roll.
  6. You have to go to the Stockyards and check out our western culture.  You can buy a beer and walk around the area sipping and checking out the western themed merchandise at Leddys, take in a rodeo on Friday or Saturday night, watch a reenactment of a cattle drive, scoot a boot at Billy Bobs and listen to great country music performers, learn a lot about the history of the cattle industry and buy yourself that special souvenir.  You can even get lost in a human maze or pay the cowboy a tip and get your picture taken riding a long horn.   Lots of choices for good eats including the Love Shack or H3 (get the tacos).
  7. Take in an art film at the Magnolia at the Modern in a very cool and sleek modern art museum designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  The films are only available on week-ends so check their website for dates, times and showings.  The Modern is located in the city’s Cultural District, adjacent to the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Louis I. Kahn, and near the Amon Carter Museum, designed by Philip Johnson. The building features five long, pavilions set into a reflecting pond.  You can spend a day in the Cultural District if you enjoy museums.  I like these because they are all relatively small so you don’t feel overwhelmed like I often do when visiting museums.  The Modern has a GREAT gift shop (can you tell I love gift shops?).  Check out some of the shops on Camp Bowie Blvd.  I am partial to The Flea for decorating ideas for my Ashland cottage.
  8. Head to downtown Fort Worth and start walking around Sundance Square – pick up a map at the Fort Worth Visitors Center so that you can learn and see the history that surrounds you in Fort Worth as you walk about.  Did you find the sleepy panther?  Slip into the Sid Richardson Museum for quality western art collections, shop for souvenirs, enjoy live music or comedy, and quench your thirst and hunger at an abundance of bars and restaurants to match your tastes.  Reata is a destination restaurant that is worth checking out.  On Saturdays, Bass Performance Hall tours are scheduled at 10:30 a.m., schedule permitting. Please contact Marisa Maschino at 817-212-4215 or mmaschino@basshall.com for additional information or to schedule a group tour of 10 or more.
  9. The tour of Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Department of Treasury is educational and entertaining.  They make currency here – only here and in the DC area.  Lots of security for obvious reasons and tours are only Tuesday through Fridays.  Google their website for details.  While out that way, check out the tour of Texas Motor Speedway where you get to ride on an official NASCAR racetrack and visit a museum dedicated to the race car industry.   Just down the road is an obligatory shopping stop at Sam Moon for imported knock-offs and great buys in jewelry, purses and necessary accessories for the women in your life or to satisfy the outdoorsperson in your life, stop in at the huge store…Cabelas! 
  10.  7th Street is booming and a must stop while in Fort Worth.  This area has it all but for the natives we love Fred’s for hamburgers, beer and live music.  Lots of places to eat alfresco, cute shops like WRARE, movie theatre with full service restaurant, upscale bowling alley, Sweet Samies for cookie and ice-cream dessert and great pizza at Fireside Pies.  There is a great wine bar in the area too and every day something new is popping up.  Across the street is the Montgomery Plaza area with more traditional shopping as well as the restaurant Gloria’s known for their papusas, plantains and ceviche.  Located in this area is a very good salon called Skyline Spa and Nails to pamper you.  Slow down and bit and enjoy the pure pleasure. Slowing down a bit is what Fort Worth is all about while our sister city, Dallas, is all about bigger and better.  There is a lot to see and do in Dallas and Arlington too but Fort Worth is special for all the right reasons – the size, the people, the history and the culture in the right balance.
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