A tale of two cities: Dallas Fort Worth

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In airline parlance it's simply DFW, with the airport lying roughly equidistant between the two cities. But the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth could not be more dissimilar.

Both destinations are on Australian travellers' radar because Qantas flies there directly, using it as a hub for onward flights to New York, Chicago and the like.

Dallas is a bustling modern city where downtown is largely devoted to business, not shopping. Fort Worth is a much more laid-back Texas town, where much of the social action is out in the old Stockyards district. Choose your poison – or try both.

Fort Worth
It's worth splitting your time between the two cities, starting in Fort Worth. After the long non-stop flight, we joined a walking tour run by Authentic Fort Worth Tours and our guide Brendan gave us a great oversight of the city. Historically, it was once the last point of civilization before the Wild West. Fort Worth is home and birthplace of a surprising number of modern companies – from American Airlines to Tandy and Bell Helicopters.

Long flight, jet lag, good walk. Next, you’d expect would be dinner and bed. In fact dinner was barbecue beef and Lone Star beers at Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que down in the Stockyards area. It was strongly suggested that we should pop into Billy Bob’s ,“the world’s largest honky-tonk”, opposite.

BB’s (where Willie Nelson has played countless times – and Dwight Yoakam had performed the night before) is so large it has a live bull-riding ring in the bar. The house band was so good we stayed for a while watching local couples (think hats, boots, belt buckles and tassels) complete flawless country-dance steps on the dance floor.

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The Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art had its beautiful glass design envisioned by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando

Stereotypes fulfilled, we breakfasted at Brewed, an organic restaurant in the suburbs. Contrary to what I had thought, Fort Worth has a younger population than Austin and has a similar energy level that’s great to experience.

The day before we’d seen opera and Spanish dancing come together in the town’s wonderfully named Sundance Square. That’s fitting as it was a boastful photo taken in Fort Worth that led authorities to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The Kimbell Art Museum is a revelation. The buildings themselves are wonderful. Indeed I thought the original 1972 building designed by Louis Kahn was so inspired that it made the new Renzo Piano building appear relatively ordinary.

Texas has a lot of money and it shows in the museum’s permanent collection. Here you can wander among works by Caravaggio, El Greco, Gauguin, Monet, Michelangelo, Picasso, Rembrandt and Rubens with no crowds and no barriers. There are also American, Asian and Precolumbian collections.

Across the road, the Modern Art Museum is worth visiting if only for the poke salad at the Café Modern, overlooking the lake reflecting the building’s stunning design by Tadao Ando. The art on display moves far beyond its extensive collection of Andy Warhols.

But this isn’t called Cowtown for nothing. The Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum features a series of Annie Oakley holographs to talk you through the exhibits. Now that girl had really large hands.

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The longhorn drive down the main street of the Stockyards is a classic Fort Worth tradition 

Then before leaving town we returned to the Stockyards district for the twice-daily drive of longhorn cattle down the main street. Afterwards, it was tempting to buy a Stetson and matching giant belt buckle – and there were certainly enough shops waiting to provide them.

In Fort Worth we stayed at the Hilton where JFK spent his last night before giving his last speech in the park opposite before travelling to Dallas.

Dallas
If you did a word association on “Dallas” you’d find “JFK assassination” high on the list. And the 6th Floor Museum is a poignant reminder – especially the recreated nest where Lee Harvey Oswald lay waiting with his rifle. Looking out the windows at the white cross on the road marking where the fatal shot hit remains heartbreaking

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The gardens at the Dallas Arboretum are a lovely destination for a sunny day on your trip!

But there’s so much more to Dallas than this. As you’d expect in the hometown of Neiman Marcus the shopping is excellent – especially if you visit the Premium Outlets of Allen to the north. In town, the luxury Northpark Center provides an art collection surrounded by luxury labels.

Midway between Dallas and Fort Worth is AT&T Stadium, the state-of-the-art home of the Dallas Cowboys.

In fact, Dallas shows what money can buy. Dallas Arboretum has expansive beautiful gardens, but it’s worth checking out its new Children’s Garden funded by a grant of tens of millions of dollars.

Dallas is also the home of Texas Instruments. Technological pilgrims must visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Again it shows what a big budget can produce – especially the dinosaur floor where real bones are merged with 3D printed ones to great effect.

One-time Presidential aspirant Ross Perot made his money on IT so the technology floor is special, too. Here you can see modern integrated circuits alongside the very first one – and a very early (1954) transistor.

I asked how the museum dealt with Texan creationists. I was told: “Every exhibit here is an acknowledgement of evolution. They write letters saying that our dinosaurs can’t be more than 5000 years old. And we write back.”

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The dinosaur floor at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is sure to bring out the paleontologist in you! 

For a great overview of the ultra-modern skyline of Dallas visit the GeO-Deck at Reunion Tower. It’s particularly spectacular at sunset.

Then we went looking for Frank Lloyd Wright. His Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek is immediately recognisable but you’ll have to buy tickets to a show to see inside. The Preston Hollow Home at 9400 Rockbrook Drive can only be seen from the road but you get a fairly good look and it’s spectacular.

For many Qantas passengers, DFW is merely a stepping stone to somewhere else. Besides being a very welcoming entry point the whole expanse of Texas lies outside. It’s well worth staying a few days to experience the diverse attractions of both Dallas and Fort Worth.

Have you been to Dallas or Fort Worth?

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