Fort Worth: Cattle Barons and Cultural Delights by Terry Zinn

Sometimes the obvious is overlooked. I did this for decades when traveling south of Oklahoma’s Red River, in search of R and R to include, fine dining, accommodations and entertainment. Fort Worth, Texas, has it all without the crush of traffic experienced elsewhere in the DFW metro-plex.
I stayed where the action is, in downtown at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel. ( Never having driven the streets of downtown Fort Worth before, I found the grid system of one way streets accessible, despite street construction, and the valet parking at the Omni Fort Worth a pleasure. The Omni is within walking distance to Sundance Square (that arbitrary location of downtown shops, including western wear at Leddy’s Ranch at Sundance) and across from the convention center. The Omni rooms are noted for their luxury and comfort and the Omni Fort Worth hotel is no exception.
Featuring native stone and rich hardwoods Omni’s glass façade is host to Bob’s Steak & Chop House, the Wine Thief and the Whiskey and Rye Bar, which has top ratings from many surveys. If you hit the timing just right there is excellent breakfast service in the Cast Iron with their ala cart menu or from their extensive buffet. You can be seated to view the see through fireplace. The Kimbell Art Museum’s Museum Store is accessible from the lobby as is the helpful staff for directions and local information.
The Bass Performance Hall, completed in downtown Forth Worth in 1998 is the impetus for any visit. ( During season, they host a variety of concerts, as well as touring theatrical shows and performers. The Bass Performance Hall is an attraction unto itself, with its 48 foot tall limestone exterior trumpeting angels and the 80 foot diameter great dome over the 2,056 seat multipurpose Hall. Guided tours can be arranged on Saturdays, but experiencing an evening’s performance in this modern and opulent temple to the arts, should not be overlooked.
For the art lover, gallery and museums abound. Downtown there is the cozy Sid Richardson Museum with one of the finest focuses of Western art, collected by legendary Texas oilman and philanthropist, Sid W. Richardson. (1891 – 1959) In the cultural district there is the venerable Amon Carter Museum of American Art featuring major 19th and 20th century American Artists and the newly expanding Kimbell Art Museum, with traveling exhibitions and boutique offerings of the masters. The architecturally impressive Modern Art Museum focuses on art from 1945 to the present, and seemingly beyond.
For a step back into early Fort Worth lifestyle a visit to a couple of Cattle Baron mansions, will bring back the luxury hominess of another era. The Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House (1899) is in the Queen Anne style. With its sandstone carved porch and copper-spire slate roof, this unique mansion is a friendly and welcoming home. It has been so well preserved because it was occupied for one family for a lengthy period. The inlaid wooden floors, coffered ceiling and Victorian lighting, along with a most personable docent make this a touring favorite.
For a stately mansion in the Georgian Revival style, Thistle Hill, (1903) will escort you back to a time of grand entertaining as you pass beneath the massive limestone columns. The grand wooden staircase is a stunning welcome upon entering. Having had several owners, the mansion and grounds have been improved many times. With the encroachment of modern construction and traffic it takes more nostalgic imagination than the residentially placed Ball house. Both houses offer tours Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sundays. (817) 332-5875.
When you want to taste as well as see the Cattle Barons life style, a dining experience at downtown Fort Worth’s Grace is the restaurant to choose. ( Locally owned and operated, Grace has a well deserved reputation for fine dining with service to match its congenial yet upscale modern atmosphere. The bar is a popular happy hour venue complete with amiable mixologists. I enjoyed a Texas Cosmopolitan Martini made with a special grape distillation (Navarro Pinot Noir Juice), which gave the cocktail a hint of wine, accompanied by the kick of refined Savvy Vodka from Austin, Texas ($12). And with Grace’s creative cocktail selections, I also slowly enjoyed the Elite Martini of Stoli Elit, Dolin Dry Vermouth, with Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives ($19).
How could dinner top the liquid appetizers, but it did with a baby spinach and warm bacon salad, followed by a perfectly cooked filet with béarnaise and a sampling of sweet potato ravioli. With a dining experience like that, followed by a superb Broadway show at the Bass Performance Hall, how can one not feel like one is living the life of a Texas cattle baron?
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