Spend Spring Break and Weekends in Fort Worth Area by Bonnie and Bill Neely

We took a long weekend and went to some of the terrific places to learn and play in the Fort Worth area. We loved staying at the Hyatt Place Hotel in the Historic Stockyards so we could watch the famous live cattle drive right in front of the hotel twice daily. We also had fun visiting the authentic old wooden-front cowboy saloons, which are now unique shops on the cobblestone streets. The Hyatt is an easy walk to everything there to see and do, so parking was not a consideration. The many restaurants and bars in this area offer delicious food from moderate to expensive, and inside the Hyatt we could get a good breakfast included with our room or order food at any time of day with a variety of choices. We loved having the drink bar and specialty coffee bar right in the hotel lobby in the style of old Western hotels, but very modern and chic.

We could walk right across the driveway to take excellen horseback riding lessons or visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, where we could learn all about the historic ones and current ones. Yes, cowboys still exist and they work hard. We learned just how very hard they work by attending the terrific authentic Stockyards Championship Rodeo, which is every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. at the Cowtown Coliseum . It was really fun. You can also see Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show in the afternoons and watch the tricks cowboys can do with ropes as well as their riding, shooting, and cracking bullwhips. In the evenings we did not want to miss the world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, a fascinating night life place! You’ll be entertained there by bands, concerts by big name singers, video games, billiards, bull riding contests (and you can have your own photo taken on a very real looking bucking bull.) The bar is famous, and on some nights you will get free line dance lessons. The dance floor is always occupied and typical music flourishes there always. You’ll find a wall of famous handprints, so look for your favorite entertainer. Billy Bob’s is a place you MUST visit!
A few minutes out of the Fort Worth city traffic you must visit (on weekdays only) the Money Factory, which is one of only two United States Department of Printing and Engraving, where our bills are made. The free tour of about two hours is really impressive and interesting for any age from preschool and up, but be sure your child will remain quiet and interested instead of detracting from other people’s visit. We played a game to see if our kids could guess where we were going. Clues were such as: it is a two of a kind place (the other is in Washington, DC), it is interesting and historical, they make something everyone uses, people from all over the world want to visit it, it is a good place for criminals to study; everyone will want a free sample but it is unlikely to get one. We were all interested to get to see the brand newly designed $100 dollar bills being printed: millions of dollars worth in front of us. See if your children can guess before you get there. There are fun gifts at the Gift Shop.
Arlington, just a few minutes from Fort Worth, is the first Six Flags, officially Six Flags Over Texas (since there actually were historically six). This family fun entertainment park celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with the opening of the new Monster Roller Coaster. It’s a good idea to look at the website to determine which rides are suited for your preference and age. They are listed according to the daring or thrill involved. We were there in the late summer on one of the hottest recorded days (110 degrees) and we were impressed with the way the park provided for the comfort and safety of the many visitors.
The park is built with lots of shade, and all over the park you could ask anywhere for free ice water. The large misting fans placed near each of the rides helped a lot while we were in lines. If you have the money to really splurge, Flash Pass tickets are available to avoid the lines. Be prepared ahead of time that there are many concessions and midway games that your children will beg to pay extra to do. A good policy would be to give them a set amount before arriving and make sure they understand that when it is spent that is all. I did not like that aspect of Six Flags. Our favorite ride on this hot day was Aquaman Spashdown, as we did get drenched!
And of course, on a hot day you will want to go to the sister park: Hurricane Harbor for the most fun on a variety of water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, and much much more. This is a perfect way to cool off and have so much fun!

Another area of the Metroplex just a few miles from Six Flags offers a unique half day of fun. Ripley’s Grand Prairie has many different things to offer. First, spend some time in the Odditorium to learn about the world’s most unbelievable things of all kinds, with photos, specimens, models and explanations. You could spend hours learning about all these unusual creations and occurrences. Kids are interested in running from one to the other, but adults will want to read the panels which explain what you are actually seeing, so allow time. At least one of your group will want to try to make it through the LaserMaze without tripping the alarm. It is REALLY difficult, and running will ruin your chances. You can watch the screen while your friend tries to make it through. In Luis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax you will meet all your favorite men and women of history, from Presidents to movie stars, to the story of Jesus’s birth, crucifixion and resurrection, each rendered in amazing lifesized likenesses. Although some of the wigs are a bit dated or mussed, the artistic reality will make you exclaim in amazement, and you can photograph yourself with many of them. We recommend getting a snack in the snack bar and then try to make your way through the really fun Ripley’s Enchanted Mirror Maze. We spent nearly an hour giggling and trying to find our way out, foiled at every turn. Any age will love this maze…it’s aMAZing!! This beautiful Palace, quite impressive from the highway, is really worth the visit and fun. You’ll be talking about it for a long time.
Some of our favorite places to eat in the Fort Worth area are Reata’s, famous for its atmosphere and delicious Southwest cuisine and the view overlooking Sundance Square. For anytime some of the best typical Texas food and drinks try Riscky’s at Sundance Square or in The Stockyards. You’ll find many choices and every bite is TEXALICIOUS!!! In the Stockyard area go to Lonesome Dove Restaurant for eloquent dining or The Love Shack for really good Texas eatin’ and live Western music in a cowhand atmosphere. H3 Ranch Restaurant is for fabulous, hearty food almost anytime of day or night. The open pit hickory grill creates a very relaxed atmosphere in which to receive the best service and fine dining experience without having to dress up, and their asortment of Margaritas is amazing.
A wonderful way to start or end your time in the Metroplex is at the Fort Worth Zoo, one of the five top zoos in the nation, open daily at 10 a.m. The admission fees are nominal, and you can spend the entire day visiting beautiful and caring areas that simulate the natural habitat of the various animals so that they do not feel they live in captivity. At the Meerkat Mounds you will feel like you are in the dry and rocky landscapes of Africa, and children can actually peer into the colony inside the mound. Your whole family (except maybe some teenage girls) will love going into the interactive Parrot Paradise, where exotic birds in bright colors from Australia, New Guinea and the South Pacific fly free and will land on your arm to be stroked. You can feed them too! The black-foot penguin exhibit is a large space of simulated rocks with a diving pool for the little 15 inch tall mammals dressed in their tuxedos who were native to the warm climate of south Africa and Namibia coast, so they are not out of place in North Texas climate. You can view them above and below the water level via the glass windows. Visit the Raptor Canyon where large birds of prey such as condors, vultures, and eagles fly above you and also beside you in this uniquely designed habitat. At the World of Primates you’ll see all four of the Great Ape species, which include orangutans, bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas. You’ll also see the antics of mandrill baboons, colobus monkeys, and gibbons. The huge 8 acres of Texas Wild, in the midst of the zoo, are a terrific recreation of the six distinct areas of Texas landscape with the animals which inhabit each area: over 300 animals. The largest private collection of the beautiful wildlife oil paintings of the wellknown German artist, Wilhelm Kuhnert is a collection not to be missed. It will encourage little ones to return home to draw and paint the animals they saw at the Zoo.
And the newest exhibit which is utterly fascinating (but scary to some) is MOLA: the Museum of Living Art. This indoor-outdoor facility is a herpotology study with over 100 amphibian and reptile species. The Herpetarium is the only one in the world and has impressively diverse and rare animals that are living as if in nature as you watch and listen to their sounds. If you are not squeamish about these species this is a fascinating place and a safe way to get up close and personally aquainted with beings you might have feared. You can enjoy as well as learn about those of which you should be wary! This Herpetarium is a marvelous accomplishment of which Fort Worth is rightfully proud!
Iggy is a 40 foot replica of a Giant Iguana, which is on loan from the Bass family for the public to enjoy at MOLA (Museum of Living Art)