By Isabel Conway –
Dallas and Fort Worth are joined at the hip sharing an international and domestic airport and the first direct flights from Ireland operated by American Airlines have now opened up these two exciting diverse destinations. A further 240 destinations across North America and beyond also open up thanks to access to the new North American hub.
Big ‘D’ Dallas is modern, oil moneyed and smart. Fort Worth nicknamed ‘Cowtown’ less than an hour away is the historic country cousin where Stetson wearing ranchers swagger around and tourists hunt the ghosts of the old Wild West.
Think Texas and cowboys, oil, the Bush dynasty and Dallas, the first big TV soap that ran for 13 addictive years, comes to mind.
Fantasies of going in search of my inner cow girl, galloping across a blazing sunset into a horizon peppered with jagged hostile canyons and towering cacti, took me to the Lone Star State.
Dusting down the ultimate Texas souvenir my turquoise embroidered cowgirl OTT boots, still far from broken in (hobbling around the streets of Kinsale, Co Cork is no substitute for line dancing at Billy Bobs the world’s biggest Honky Tonk ) here I am on a return visit to FW, dropping into Dallas on the way. Both cities enjoy a healthy rivalry. Think Dublin and Cork, each with its own special atmosphere and vibe.
On first acquaintance, Dallas is big and breathtakingly high rise its ‘blocks’ stretching out forever over a landscape of seriously pricy shops, exclusive galleries and stylish restaurants patrolled by bespoke Hummers and similar gas guzzlers.
Fort Worth showcases a more gentle beat of retro shop fronts, an impressive museum district reflecting taste and old (oil and cattle) money, nostalgic 1800s saloons around the lively Stockyards of spit and sawdust streets where longhorn steers are driven through twice daily by lasso wielding cowboys.
It may not be quite the obvious super bowl played out within $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys stadium. Yet, rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth has never quite been settled….the big question being which is better Dallas or Fort Worth? I enjoyed both on various fronts and here’s why.
The top sights
Dallas: Forever associated with one of the most shocking moments in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is remembered in open air memorials and fascinating museums. Start with the superb sixth floor museum at Dealey Plaza (jfk.org) telling the story of that fateful visit to Dallas on November 22 ,1963, from the exact spot in the Texas school book depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot the President. On the nearby Grassy Knoll below conspiracy theorists enjoy raising more questions than answers.
Get your bearings with the Dallas city pass card (terrific value) on top of Reunion Tower to appreciate the city’s hugeness (reuniontour.com) Wandering through the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in the suburbs next morning (dallasarboretum.org) I had birds eye views of oil tycoons mansions across a shimmering (manmade) lake and I couldn’t resist getting up close and personal to watch Monsieur Monet in life sized bronze (one of numerous privately donated sculptures) at work.
Fort Worth: Here was the last outpost before the hazardous journey into Indian country and vast unpopulated plains in days gone by. Gunfighters, bounty hunters, adventurers, cattle rustlers and lawmen once strutted through Fort Worth’s notorious Hells Half Acre dirt roads of clapboard shacks, saloons and bordellos. Etta’s Place (www.ettas-place.com) guesthouse is named in memory of the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid.
A fascinating journey into the past is taken via all the copper plate plaques located everywhere. I stopped off at the Sid Richardson Museum on Main Street (free admission) to enjoy a fantastic private collection of American western art (sidrichardsonmuseum.org) by Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell among others.
Dallas: They say everything’s bigger in Texas, egos, attitudes and drama so welcome to the ‘The Real Housewives of Dallas’, a reality show that left original Desperate Housewives, sequels and the like in the shade when it came to extravagance, bitchiness and vulgarity.
Fort Worth: Fancy chasing ghosts who prowl creaky landings, shadowy cabins and desolate mansions on daytime or nightly ghost tours? At Cowtown Winery (www.cowtownwinery.com) we escaped the searing heat outside for a spot of wine tasting. The sommelier Brian swore that cold sober he saw wine bottles jump off the shelves and their corks inexplicably pop out. At Miss Molly’s (www.missmollyshotel.com) a former brothel in the heart of the Stockyards district we caught the rush of cold air at the foot of Miss Josie’s bed.
Food and nightlife:
Dallas. Celebrated chefs are opening fine dining establishments here all the time, specializing in the newest foodie trends and ethnic fare. But hell you’ve come all the way to Texas – home of the steer – so chances are you want some meat. Bob’s Steak and Chop House attached to my conveniently located downtown Omni Hotel (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/dallas) was the real deal serving up slabs of tenderloin and porterhouse the size of dinner plates. Late night action is best (and safest) in Deep Ellum a hotbed for early jazz and blues musicians since the 1920’s today crammed with arts and entertainment venues.
Fort Worth. Take your pick from, historic saloons and old fashioned steakhouses to trendsetting cocktail bars and contemporary burger joints. My culinary stand out moment was a calorific bombshell I cannot wait to repeat. No wonder they stood in line for seats at Horseshoe Hill Cowboy Café (www.horseshoehillcafe.com) renowned for a speciality that despite its name had nothing to do with poultry. My delicious $18 lunch of chicken fried steak (a flattened out piece of breaded beef) was served the ‘Cowboy way’ with peppered cream gravy on a mountain of mashed potato topped off with deep fried asparagus spears. For nightlife you can go super casual or upmarket around Sundance Square plaza. But when in Fort Worth the craic is mightiest down at Billy Bobs at the heart of the unique Stockyards. Big name country musicians and rock stars roll up and those cowboy boots are perfect for the line dancing and stomping support for those wild indoor rodeo riders.
For further information see www.visitdallas.com and www.forthworth.com. Also www.traveltexas.com. At www.visitusa.ie find useful information on travelling from Ireland to the USA. Direct connections between now and end of September American Airlines to Dallas Fort Worth from Dublin with state of the art American Airlines 787-Dreamliner including a flagship Business Cabin. See www.americanairlines.ie