What town has the most local color and underrated tourist appeal in North Texas?
January 1, 2009 8:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting family in the Dallas area and want to discover more of the local area. However, many towns seem to be cookie-cutter replicas of one another (complete with the very same Wal Marts). I'm wondering what would be worth up to a 3 hour drive from DFW to visit.
posted by anelsewhere to Travel & Transportation around Texas (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I always liked New Braunfels.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:36 AM on January 1, 2009

It's not in North Texas, but it is 200 miles, 3 hours and a world away from Dallas...AUSTIN!!! I have lived in Dallas and Austin and there is no comparison, IMHO.
posted by murrey at 8:41 AM on January 1, 2009

Possum Kingdom is really weird, but I have only seen it from an airplane, so I don't know what the town is like. You should definitely go to Fort Worth as well. Its a pretty cool city. Go to Kinkaid's (maybe spelled Kincaid's) Grocery for the best burger and onion rings in the world. They also have really amazing museums in Fort Worth.
posted by junipero at 8:45 AM on January 1, 2009

Like much of the country, a lot of the smaller cities have a newer built up Wal-Mart area, but still maintain a downtown, with town square, courthouse, cafes, etc. You just have to get past the metroplex and white-flight suburbs and off/past the Potemkin village effect caused by the interstate.

If you don't want to leave Dallas proper, go to the park cities. Walk the shops at Snider Plaza (across the street from SMU, which is also pretty) and at Highland Park Village. Ditto Preston Center (preston and NW hwy). Good shopping and restaurants at all of those.

Leaving Dallas, the largest, and easiest stop is Fort Worth a/k/a Cowtown (50 minutes due west). Their downtown, particularly Sundance Square, has shopping and restaurants, some chain, some local, all well lit. The arts/museum district (just outside of downtown) has three good museums (musea?); the Kimbell, the Amon Carter, and the Modern. The Modern is reasonably new and worth a visit and the Kimbell usually has at least one good exhibition. Also is the Stockyards area (also just outside downtown) where you should definitely eat at Joe T. Garcia's. You could spend a day there. Bonus: if you take I-30, you can see the new Cowboys stadium being built as you go through Arlington. It is HUGE.

In terms of less built up areas, I have a real fondness for Weatherford, another 20 minutes west of Fort Worth. Beautiful old courthouse on the town square and a couple of shops and cafes. The same could be said for Athens (75 minutes southeast of Dallas) and Cleburne (60 minutes southwest).

Drink some shiner, eat some barbecue and enchiladas (not at the same time), and have a great time.
posted by mr_felix_t_cat at 8:45 AM on January 1, 2009

Dallas has some great parts to it. Depending on what you're looking for, there are all sorts of cool shops and restaurants in East Dallas / Lakewood. What kind of stuff do you want? I can give lots of restaurant/bar/etc recommendations. Feel free to MeMail.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:58 AM on January 1, 2009

I lived in Austin before moving to NYC so I strongly 2nd what murrey noted above.

The Modern and the Kimbell are really nice. If not for the particular shows they have up, the buildings are a plus:


I see mr_felix_t_cat noted both of those above but there you have the urls!

The JFK assassination site. Check out all the graffiti along the white fence just beyond the rail tracks (I think that's the "grassy knoll"). The 6th Floor musuem - http://www.jfk.org/

There are many really great restaurants in both downtown areas, most are grouped around eachother so it's possible to actually WALK around.

Yes, we all know DFW appeals mostly to consumerism but IS DEFINITELY POSSIBLE to have a great time there!
posted by ezekieldas at 9:01 AM on January 1, 2009

Best answer: What's worth the visit depends on what you're into. Shopping? Hiking? I'll just cast a wide net. I'm going to assume that you aren't asking for any sightseeing recs in Dallas proper

Go to Denton (home of the University of North Texas and their renowned music program), and see a show at Dan's Silverleaf, called "a true Texas music icon."

There might be no "local color" ever anywhere like the local color that is Canton Trade Days, the granddaddy of flea markets. It takes place this weekend. Be prepared to have all your pre-existing stereotypes about unsophisticated Texans confirmed.

Go to McKinney, the seat of Collin County, and visit their historic town square. Lots of shops, restaurants, and dive bars.

It's not small-town, "local color" but Fort Worth is a beautiful city and has the best museums in the state, for my money. mr_felix hit some FW highlights but also worth mentioning is the Fort Worth Zoo: award-winning, oldest in Texas and considered one of the top 10 in the county.

Tyler is a charming town, more of the East Texas sensibility than North Texas, and very Southern in demeanor.

I've never been out to Granbury but I have heard great things about it as a day trip.
posted by pineapple at 9:08 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Watch a DVD of The Last Picture Show (1971), then drive over to Archer City (northwest of DFW, just south of Wichita Falls) where it was filmed, and see an authentic old Texas town. If you're into books, there's an outstanding used & rare books store there. Author Larry McMurtry grew up there.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:14 AM on January 1, 2009

Deep Ellum was pretty cool when I was down in Dallas for a meetup in 2004. But my own love of kolaches makes West, Texas (between Dallas and Waco) a must-visit. It's a Czech enclave, with schmaltzy tourist stuff, crystal, and lots of baked goods.
posted by notsnot at 9:33 AM on January 1, 2009

The Glen Rose area; about 90 minutes southwest'ish of Dallas, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is open all year so you can stay in your car while you feed the giraffes and zebras! And dinosaur footprints are at the state park.
posted by beaning at 9:42 AM on January 1, 2009

When I moved to DFW, I asked this quesiton, and got TONS of advice on what to go. You can either sift through my answers, or MeMail me if you want specific advice.

In all honesty, I've lived in DC, Boston, and Dallas. DC is still probably my favorite (heresy, I know), but every city has it's cool, quirky heart. You just gotta dig sometimes. It's not going to be like Austin or NYC, where you just step outside your door and it's there. It requires a little work, but it's all there.
posted by SNWidget at 10:00 AM on January 1, 2009

Some of the suggestions above aren't in North Texas, and that 3-hour drive is one way. :-) If you want to get out of the Metroplex, how about a country drive to view some historic county courthouses? Definitely not cookie cutter, and many are on lovely town squares.
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:59 AM on January 1, 2009

Robert, that courthouse link is cool - thanks. One of my favorites is in Sulphur Springs - the courthouse there is just awesome.
posted by bradth27 at 12:29 PM on January 1, 2009

1. Fort Worth. (as mentioned previously) Believe it or not. If you know where to go.

The Spiral Diner.
The daily municipal cattle drive ("drive," but still cool to see).
Vintage Flying Museum (they have a functioning B-17, and, if you're lucky, a WWII B-17 crewman).
Botanical gardens; art museums; a modest science museum.
Nature Center / hiking trails in the NW corner of town.
Minor league baseball and basketball. Race track.
And, find the courthouse downtown. On foot. Get really close to it and walk around it. You'll see ....
There are other things, too, depending on interest.

2. Archer City for used book tourism.

3. Glen Rose area (as mentioned previously)
posted by coffeefilter at 12:33 PM on January 1, 2009

Denton is about 30 miles north of Dallas right up I-35. pineapple is right on with the suggestion of Dan's. We also have a beautiful downtown with a beautiful old courthouse too. There are lots of great little shops on the square but don't miss Denton County Independent Hamburger. The best burgers ever. Only open from 11-2 though.

If you like jazz and can see any of the lab bands at UNT, go for it!

The grassy knoll area in Dallas is usually full of tourists so I'd avoid that unless you really really want to see where JFK was shot.
posted by shmurley at 12:57 PM on January 1, 2009

I moved 15 years ago from the east coast, and I find it charming here. You didn't mention ages, interests, or where you have already covered over the years, but I'll tell you my favorites to entertain out of town guests. For first time visitors, I like the 6th Floor Museum and Pappasitos Mexican restaurant. Right now the King Tut exhibit is at the DMA. D/FW is great for shopping, my female guests love Sam Moon for an accessory shopping experience. You could spend some time antique shopping in McKinney and then have Tappas, try one of the wine bars, or better yet treat yourself to Rick's or Goodhue's. For an outdoor escape, bike or take a walk around White Rock Lake, then have breakfast at Barbec's. Near there is the Arboretum (good for photo ops) and Half Price Books. The Gaylord has a beautiful ice sculpture exhibit right now and the hotel is just gorgeous. You should try to see the stockyards in Ft. Worth once, as mentioned above. If you come back in the summer the Mesquite rodeo is also fun, especially for small children. There are sporting events of all kinds, and theater, check the Guidelive to see what is coming. I enjoy the local historic home tours that go on all year: early December in McKinney, Mother's Day on Swiss Avenue, Lakewood in November.
posted by kgn2507 at 1:11 PM on January 1, 2009

Dallas has a lot to offer - you don't need to drive to Central Texas to see interesting stuff. If you do drive out of the metroplex I'll 3rd Denton. And Foreston near Waxahachie has an amazing vintage clothing store if you're into that sort of thing. Most of those small towns around seem bland but once you get past the walmarts that are on the exterior you can find some real jewels inside. Great architecture (the courthouse's Robert links to are pretty interesting - and a good way to find that small town charm), classic real diner food, junk shops with real steals in them.
posted by dog food sugar at 2:55 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the suggestion of West, Texas. We went out of our way to stop there several times when we were at a conference at Baylor. The kolaches there are far better than the ones anywhere else I've had them! (both savory AND sweet). If you happen to be a Dr Pepper fanatic, go on a little further to the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco.
posted by wintersweet at 5:09 PM on January 1, 2009

You could drive about 3 hours on Saturday to have the best barbecue in Texas.
posted by lukemeister at 9:48 PM on January 1, 2009

I grew up just outside Dallas and come home a couple times a year.
My suggestions:
Head to White Rock Lake and walk around in the nice weather, people watch, etc.
Two great restaurants I always try to go to when I'm in town:
Campisi's Pizza--"Egyptian Italian," lots of Dallas history
Angry Dog (in Deep Ellum)--great burgers and dogs

If you're into it, the 6th Floor Museum in downtown Dallas.
Ft. Worth has cool stuff too.

If you're trying to get off the beaten path:
Head east to the Piney Woods of Texas, which I think might be my favorite part of Texas. Your destination could be Marshall, which is about a two hour drive. At one point I took a boat tour of Caddo Lake, which is around Marshall. Lots to see: birds, gators, turtles, beavers and kind of cool with bald cypress trees. January may not be the best time of year to do that though.
posted by kochenta at 10:37 PM on January 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for all the terrific responses to a first time questioner.

I forgot to add: 1) I grew up in the wider area as well so many of the responses were good reminders of places I had forgotten, though I don't know DFW as well as I should, 2) my interests are broad and when I travel I cast a wide net and like to be surprised.

I had thought Larry McMurtry's bookstore in Archer City had closed (?). And Canton would be something of a 'trip' as well...
posted by anelsewhere at 8:23 AM on January 2, 2009

« Older How to disappear completely...?   |   Buried treasure Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.