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Get a Kick Out of the Culture and History of Texas


Whether it was seeing a Texas Longhorn up close for the first time — their massive horns can measure almost to eight feet in length— walking the same streets as Bonnie and Clyde, nearly a century later, or dining at some of the most interesting and high-quality restaurants I’ve ever been to, Texas and all that it offers impressed me in a big way.

The second largest state in the U.S., in terms of both area and population, Texas brings legends to life in its history and dreams, its spirit and attitude, and its generosity and philanthropy.

A recent trip to the cities of Fort Worth, Arlington, and Waco — my first visit to the Lone Star State — gave a fascinating glimpse into Texas’s western heritage, and southern charm and hospitality. I luxuriated in seeing greenery and blooming flowers during winter. And the balmy weather — alternating crisp and cool with  plenty of sunshine, and only one day of light rain — made for a perfect trip.

Lasso History in Fort Worth

Where the West Begins. Also known as Cowtown, Panther City, the Unexpected City, and the City of Cowboys and Culture, Fort Worth, in North Texas, blends the heritage of the rugged Old West with the culture and sophistication of a modern metropolis. I felt right at home wearing my Durango cowboy boots — which I had originally purchased to wear at the Calgary Stampede in my hometown — every day on my nearly week-long trip to Texas, everywhere I went.

Indigenous peoples have lived in the Fort Worth region for more than 10,000 years. The modern municipality of Fort Worth was established in 1849. After the hardships of the Civil War, the great cattle drives of the 1860s and 1870s gave rise to boom times and prosperity.

Walking downtown Fort Worth’s Heritage Trails allows visitors to learn more about the people who contributed to the history. Among them is Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted by the Comanches as a child in 1936 and grew up to marry a Comanche chief. Parker was later taken by Texas Rangers and forcibly returned to her birth family. Her son, Cuanoa Parker, was the last of the Comanche chiefs.

The historical figures who strode through Fort Worth also include Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch, who spent time in Fort Worth, including in the area known as Hell’s Half Acre. In 1900, they sat for a formal photograph at a professional photographer’s studio. That photo, on prominent display, was spotted by a Fort Worth detective and used in “Wanted” posters in a manhunt for the gang members. Strolling through downtown Fort Worth today, visitors can stop at Sundance Square, named for the Sundance Kid.

Explore Stockyards National Historic District: If you want to do some Texas-themed shopping, sashay up to the bar at saloons, and visit Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk. Watch the Fort Worth Herd cattle drive of Texas Longhorns and cowhands as they bring the past to life. On a walk through the district, my tour guide pointed out the Stockyards Hotel, where Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker (the infamous bank robbers) stayed, in 1933. (Today, visitors to Fort Worth can book themselves into the Bonnie and Clyde suite, the same room where the pair once stayed).

You can see bull riding, barrel racing, roping and more at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, held nearly every Friday and Saturday night in the Cowtown Coliseum. Balancing out the high-adrenaline performances are the calf and mutton scrambles for children, who race to capture a ribbon from around the animal’s neck. 

cowgirl museum fort worth

The National Cowgirl Museum features outfits worn by prominent Western icons throughout the years. At top, shop for authentic western wear while in Fort Worth. (Jacqueline Louie photos for VacayNetwork.com)

Fort Worth is home to several fine museums, including John Wayne: An American Experience, providing a detailed tour of the life of Hollywood icon with film props, costumes, photos, letters, and all kinds of memorabilia. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, honors the courageous trailblazing women of the American West. The Kimbell Art Museum is a premier art institution in the U.S. and is also known as one of the nation’s architectural wonders of the 20th century.  The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, located in a stunning building complete with reflecting pond and grounds, is the oldest museum in Texas that first opened its doors in 1892. The Sid Richardson Museum presents art depicting the Old West.

Where to Dine: A highlight of any trip to Fort Worth, is the dining. Here are just a few examples:

  • Lonesome Dove Western Bistro: Specializing in sophisticated urban Western cuisine, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro conjures up the ambience of the Old West. An iconic restaurant in the Stockyards district, Lonesome Dove’s menu offers choices such as rabbit-rattlesnake sausage with crème fraïche and elk foie gras sliders with blueberry jam. The salads are delicious, and the sides are amazing. The mains include dishes such as hand-cut steaks and chili-rubbed lamb chops. If there’s still room for dessert, the options are just as incredible.
  • Osteria 61: You can expect superlative dining at Osteria 61, an upscale Italian restaurant that sources seasonal ingredients from local farms.
  • Panther City BBQ: A great stop for Texas barbecue, Panther City has made Texas Monthly’s Top BBQ list and holds the Guinness World Record for longest barbecue marathon ever (nearly 41 hours). Meats are cooked on-site in their smoker over post oak for deeply delicious flavor; the sides are just as good.
  • Joe T. Garcia’s: Offering Tex-Mex cuisine, Joe T.’s is known for its margaritas and hacienda-style patio.

Where to Stay: SpringHill Suites Fort Worth Historic Stockyards features contemporary Western aesthetic, and offers a comfortable, relaxing stay with all the amenities, and friendly, efficient service. The hotel is within a few blocks of the Stockyards district and Mule Alley. The property’s new Spanish-inspired rooftop eatery and bar, Ático, features tapas and views of the Stockyards.

hotel drover texas

Luxurious Hotel Drover is among the historic hotels that gives an authentic feel to Texas. (Jacqueline Louie photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Hotel Drover: In the heart of the Stockyards is the award-winning Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriott. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time — but with all the modern comforts. Hotel Drover’s 97 West Kitchen & Bar offers contemporary Texas fare, ranch classics, and Southern comfort food.

Unexpected Allure of Waco

Valley Mills Vineyards Waco

Valley Mills Vineyards, northwest of Waco, is a family-run business with tours, breathtaking hilltop views, and fine wine tastings. (Jacqueline Louie photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Located an hour-and-a-half south of Fort Worth, Waco, with a population of 140,000, offers a variety of attractions and a small-town feel.

“Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to be wowed! There so many surprising things about our city and I love that we’re relatively easy to get around,” says Susan Morton, tourism manager for the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Magnolia Market at The Silos was created by HGTV stars and Magnolia media brand owners Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s Fixer Upper” show fame and the Magnolia Network. The Silos includes Magnolia Market, Magnolia Home, the Shops at the Silos, Magnolia Press (coffee), and Silos Baking Co.

The Dr. Pepper Museum, located a block away from Magnolia Market at The Silos, pays tribute to the popular soft drink that was invented in Waco in 1885 — the oldest major brand soft drink in the nationA highlight for me, and deeply moving, was the museum’s “Sit Down to Take a Stand” exhibit, explaining the sit-in movement of the Civil Rights era, which took place at lunch counters as well as soda fountains across the southern U.S. and helped desegregate Texas and the rest of the south. I took in the exhibit with tears streaming down my face, as a video showed footage of sit-ins by Black Americans seeking equal rights with their fellow citizens. I was profoundly touched by their courage, dignity, perseverance, and peacefulness, often in the face of a barrage of verbal and physical abuse. They took a stand for what was right, and eventually won.

The Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and Museum is another must-see when in Waco, with extensive collections showcasing the legendary history of the Texas Rangers, which spans the 19th to 21st centuries. Among the stories highlighted: how former Texas Rangers patiently, painstakingly tracked, and eventually killed, bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde. There is also a Texas Ranger connection to the investigation and partial solving of the murders of Osage Native Americans in Oklahoma from the 1910s to the 1930s, brought to the silver screen in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-nominted “Killers of the Flower Moon”, released in 2023.

Where to Stay: Hotel 1928 was brought to life by Magnolia founders Chip and Joanna Gaines. Newly opened, Hotel 1928 is an intimate luxury boutique property that whisks visitors back to the Roaring 1920s with elegance, glamor, and style. The sumptuous rooms offer the ultimate in pampering, with high ceilings, spacious bathroom, and a discreet evening turndown service. Dining options include The Brasserie and Bertie’s on the Rooftop, featuring seasonal dishes and an elevated menu. Extend your Magnolia experience at Magnolia Table, a 10-minute drive from Hotel 1928, and serving breakfast and lunch.

Arlington Aces Sports and Family Travel

texas rangers ferguson jenkins

Long before they won the World Series in 2023, the Texas Rangers had a pedigree of greatness that included Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins of Canada. (Jacqueline Louie photo for VacayNetwork.com)

Located 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of Fort Worth and a 20-minute drive from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Arlington is an easy long weekend trip for fans who want to attend a football or baseball game at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Field, home of the World Series champion Texas Rangers. Even if you’re not a sports fan, the behind-the-scenes tours at both stadiums are impressive and fun.

“Arlington is a very family-friendly city,” says Casey Mallory, director of communications at the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s a variety of things to do here. Sporting events are the main attraction, but there are also theme parks — Six Flags Hurricane Harbour and Six Flags Over Texas.”

Where to Stay: Live! by Lowes is close enough to AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Field that you can easily walk to the game. In the center of the Texas Live! Entertainment District, the hotel is situated right in the middle of the action and offers a stylish, comfortable and relaxing stay.

Where to Dine: As with Fort Worth and Waco, Arlington’s food scene offers excellent dining options. Highlights include:

  • Cut & Bourbon: The Live! by Lowes hotel’s signature restaurant has ambience, food, drink, and service that are a cut above. At the classic steakhouse, I savored an unforgettable meal — artisanal bread, watermelon-and-corn salad, crispy Brussels sprouts, steaks and double-cut lamb chop followed by desserts — crème brûlée with berries and a sumptuous stacked carrot cake.
  • Prince Lebanese Grill: Richly flavorful food is what awaits at this locals’ favorite. Shared platters let you try salads and other dishes heaped with cuts of beef, lamb, and chicken, plus sides that include hummus and babaganoush, feta cheese, and melt-in-your-mouth vermicelli rice.
  • 4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge: The menu conjures up a tropical isle, and you will want to try one of its delicious handcrafted tiki cocktails. Right next door is Cartel Taco Bar.


Getting there: There are direct flights to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from major cities across Canada and the U.S.

Tourism Info: Visit TravelTexas.com to plan your trip.