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There's far more to Texas than cowboys and cattle.

 

There’s a place in the deep South of the United States of America where ribs and rodeos mingle with museums and margaritas. A place where you’ll find stockyards and stirrups next to cultural art districts.

I’d like to welcome y’all to Texas, a place you need to add to your (probably already expanding) travel bucket list. Stat.

I recently travelled there with Qantas airways, on the inaugural A380 flight direct from Sydney to Dallas. While Qantas have already been flying direct routes on their 747s they haven’t done it in this kind of luxury before.

Looking out the window as we arrived in to Texas, I was in awe. The landscape is really flat. But as your eyes scope the pancaked terrain you see it, BAM some high-rise buildings sticking out like an awkward architectural growth has formed in the middle of the desert. That’s Dallas.

As we hopped off the plane, the first thing that hit me was the sting of the dry air. Beautiful desert-like heat.

And then being greeted by Qantas ambassador, John Travolta. Star Struck. No words. Hello Danny Zucko.

John Travolta.

From a huge airport to a rockstar bus, I was taken into the city, where they say, ‘big things happen’.

Before I went to Texas, I imagined it to be like a scene out of an old John Wayne Western. And while there was a glimpse of that during part of the trip, Dallas Fortworth offered so much more diversity than just cowboys and cattle.

It’s the fastest growing region in the country right now. From its beginnings with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kids, the red light district and brothels to it’s cultural arts district, modern bars and fancy restaurants today – Fort Worth is a changing face. It only really started to redevelop in the 1970s, so everything’s pretty  brand spanking new.

Here’s nine reasons why y’all need to go.

1. The food.

When you think of Texan cuisine, if you think juicy steaks, ribs dripping in hot sauce and deep-fried everything then you’re pretty much spot on. Add bacon to it and you’re there.

Seriously on my first morning I ordered a bowl of granola and was asked if I wanted a side of bacon with that. All salads had bacon, some drinks had bacon – one breakfast menu offered bacon pancakes covered in bacon – salivating yet?

Other delicacies included steak fried chicken (we had to wrap our head around this one) think steak fried in chicken batter. It’s gourmet deep-fried goodness. You could get burgers in every size, flavour and variety at any restaurant. Alongside the burgers were always a big steak option, ribs and chicken wings.

You don’t have to worry about being underfed, because as is everything with Dallas Fortworth the serving sizes are big.

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All the goodness.

2. Margaritas.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Frozen Margaritas were invented in Dallas. I’ll break it down for you quickly. The first  7/11 corner store was founded in Dallas in the 1920’s and the first ever store opened in 1927. The first ever slurpee was invented by this 7/11 in the 1960’s. In the 70’s a bartender had a slurpee and modified it to make the first ever frozen Margarita – on Greenville St in Dallas.

Therefore Margarita’s are not hard to find. You can get them in bowls, with salt, with sugar and in a variety of colours. It’s Margaritaville in the Wild West.

Margarita-ville.

3. Honkytonks.

After a few Margaritas you’ll probably want to check out the world’s biggest Honkytonk. (Yes it is as awesome as it sounds).

A Honkytonk is a classic South Western bar – boots and all. It’s something you’d imagine straight out of Dirty Harry. Inside a big shed, it’s a place decked out with wooden floor boards, pool tables, stools and tables made from wooden barrels. The place is huge – you can be sitting at the bar, at a barrel table with your friends, on the dance floor, playing pool, getting hot dogs, or you can go to the one shop inside if you’re in the mood.

We learned how to line dance, although our amateur dance moves were swiftly ousted by some serious boot scootin’ from the locals – they can dance.

While there’s no official dress-code, I felt like an outcast without Cowboy boots on. Most people were wearing Stetson hats too.

The world’s largest Honky Tonk.

4. Stockyards and the State Fair.

Sure, it’s not all about cowboys and cattle, but you wouldn’t be in Texas without experiencing them. There’s less of a traditional cowboy feel to Dallas, but once you get to Fortworth they’re all about the ‘Yeeha y’all.’

The stockyards are what Texans call the “Wall St of the West”, because that’s exactly what they are. They’re just like the stock markets in New York only you’re trading cattle, not money. And you can check out where the action takes place (now-a-days it’s all digital), but still intriguing to see. From there you can watch a rodeo (strong stomachs required). The bull riding is intense but riveting, the rest of the show which involves cattle hauling  is not for the faint hearted. Read baby calves being lasoed and tied up while stressing out.

The rodeo.

And for a full day of authentic Texan experiences, go straight from the Stockyards to The State Fair of Texas – it’s the biggest fair in the country and it’s everything you imagine a country western experience to be. You can try corn-dogs, ride the Ferris wheel, meet carnival folk, see car shows, cowboys, cowgirls and walk with hay under foot. The fair takes place annually and his been running every year since 1886 (except for some time during the World Wars).

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The most famous bloke at the fair is Big Tex. He’s tall, and has been a symbol of the fair since his introduction in 1952. You can buy merchandise and memorabilia of all things Big Tex. Here he is in his flailing glory.

Big Tex.

5. Sports and shopping.

Yes, sports and shopping can go hand-in-hand. The ‘Big’ theme leaks in to both these areas and you need to lap them up.

Local NFL team – the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium is in between Dallas and Fortworth. The stadium is the largest in the world (no surprise). There are 80,000 seats in the stadium plus space for 20,000 standing fans in party plazas at either end of the field. There’s 100, 000 square feet of convention floor space underneath the stadium, with the fourth largest high definition video screen in the world.  You can do a walking tour through the stadium, and as someone with not a lot of interest in the game, I was in awe at the grandeur and shear size of the place.

The NFL stadium.

After the football, if you want a completely new world experience coming from Australia, you can head to a Dallas Stars game and see men pummelling each other while playing hockey on ice.

When you’ve had enough of the rough and tumble there are plenty of shopping options – including a huge outlet mall outside of Fortworth. The Grand Prairie Premium Outlets can be tackled (see what I did there) in a few hours – but bring your wallets full, because it’s guaranteed that you’ll be leaving with them empty and taking a lot of bargains home.

6. Arts District.

This is one I didn’t think I would ever put on a list for Texan highlights. But both the Dallas and Fortworth Art scenes are rather impressive, and two places you should make time for. Both cities host newly built museums where you can learn a lot about America’s political history, contemporary art, modern art and classical art. There’s also a world class opera house in Fortworth where you can take in bellowing vocals if that’s what you’re into.

I’d suggest putting a day aside in both locations to stroll through and absorb the museums, theatres, parks and sculptures.

Sculptures in Dallas.

7. The people.

We like to think Australia rivals the world as one of the nicest countries in the world. But make even the briefest stopover in Dallas Fortworth and you’ll discover what true country-western hospitality is.

The one word I would use to describe the locals is ‘Proud’. They’re modest people who have a genuine love for their country, city and state. Their accents are thick, they’re humble and you feel instantly welcomed and part of the furniture. They just want to show off what they’ve got.

Locals of Fortworth.

8. History of JFK

If there’s one thing you can’t miss when you visit both cities, it’s the memorials and museum dedicated to John F Kennedy’s assassination.

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We’ve all heard the story – about the American President who was assassinated when shot in the head from a window while in a vehicle parade in Texas – but to actually go inside the building where the assassination took place, and to see the exact spot where the president was shot, to watch the films and see the pictures that captured such an historic moment is mesmerising. You need a solid three hours (at least) to spend in the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza – which has been set up in the building that Harvey Oswald allegedly shot JFK. You can look down through the window and imagine it all unfolding.

The 6th floor museum where JFK was allegedly assassinated from.

If you don’t have time to make it to the museum (it’s a shame) but you can go to the memorials in both Dallas and Fortworth that host areas and structures dedicated to JFK and his assassination.

The historic event is something that Texans are not proud of – but both cities have remembered and honoured their late president with the utmost respect.

9. Accommodation.

You’ve got to find somewhere to put a roof over your head.

In the big city of Dallas you can find a home away from home (literally). I stayed at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek – an old mansion that has a very residential feel. There is an underground bar with no windows where you lose a sense of time. It used to be the manors kitchen, before it was turned in to a commercial space. There’s a wine cellar below where you can have private functions surrounded by ageing, ancient wines. If you want to drop some big dollars there are 800 wines on the list and the most expensive is the oldest Medora from 1862 which will cost you $1,275 for a bottle.

The suites in the mansion are elegantly basic – with showers in the bathtub, plush beds, marshmallow pillows and all the fancy trimmings. The place was built in 1981 and holds a sophisticated vintage demeanour.

If you’re looking for something bigger and more ‘hotel’ themed, I stayed at the Omni in Fortworth. It’s a big hotel, with a rooftop pool and bar, a relaxing spa, some shops and a sports bar all inside. It’s in a prime location, close to the Stockyards, the city and the arts district. Molly the Trolley (a tram) stops out the front of the hotel and can take you around town for free.

The crew on the rooftop of the Omni Hotel in Fortworth.

Everything really is bigger in Texas, and the people are proud – which they have every right to be. Both Dallas and Fortworth offer something unique and very different to the rest of the States. You get to experience cowboys, cocktails, arts, culture, museums, history, shopping, sports and truly genuine hospitality.

Sarah travelled courtesy of Qantas Airways. 

If you’ve been what’s your favourite part about Texas? If you haven’t – why do you want to go?

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