A Tale of Two Cities

Fort Worth is often called “The Gateway to the West,” while Dallas is known as the “End of the East.” In the half-hour it takes to travel between the cities, visitors will be transported between two very different—and very interesting—worlds.

Fort Worth has one foot in its colorful past, and one in its culturally vibrant present. Dallas points its boots toward a future propelled by entrepreneurialism and commerce. The two cities have a good-natured rivalry (which was, at one time, not so good-natured). The fun is in the differences, and knowing that, some planners schedule events in both cities.

Dallas

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordDallas Skyline
“Contrary to what you might hear, Dallas does not look down on Fort Worth. It’s the country cousin we really enjoy visiting. It’s just that over in Cowtown, the cow chips are nothing compared to the chips on shoulders. The slogan of a Fort Worth barbecue joint is ‘Life’s too short to live in Dallas.’ Life isn’t longer in Fort Worth; it only feels that way, when everyone is home by 9. We just hope the bright lights of Dallas don’t keep ’em awake at night.”
–Steve Blow, Dallas Morning News columnist
Dallas pulsates with energy, with its impressive skyline anchored by Reunion Tower, reach-for-the-sky business ethic and $20 billion in new development and transportation projects. This city has the largest contiguous urban arts district in the country; world-class shopping, dining (4,000 restaurants) and entertainment; and 75,000 hotel rooms. You can now use rapid-transit directly from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to downtown.
Bishop Arts District, once called the “best-kept secret” in town, is a secret no longer. This former warehouse area is now home to some of Dallas’ most popular farm-to-table restaurants and funkiest boutiques. You won’t see many chain stores; the area’s bustling with independent retailers and restaurateurs whose goal is to shop, eat and live local.

Dallas

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordWinspear Opera House, Dallas
Dallas also has a vibrant arts scene. Dallas Arts District comprises 20 square blocks of museums, concert halls, performing-arts facilities and restaurants. Among them are buildings designed by some of the world’s most famous architects. Winspear Opera House, designed by Norman Foster, has a 2,200-seat auditorium and event spaces ranging up to 10,350 sq. ft. Nasher Sculpture Center, designed by Renzo Piano, has one of the world’s foremost collections of 20th-century sculpture, along with event spaces for up to 1,000. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by I.M. Pei, has a 2,062-seat auditorium, spacious lobbies and meeting rooms holding up to 200.
There are dramatic new developments coming. The 32-story office tower, 1600 Pacific, is being transformed into a 171-room hotel with meeting spaces. There are plans to convert Tower Petroleum Building into a 150-room hotel with meeting space.
The luxurious Joule Hotel has completed a renovation that added eight shops, a world-class spa, a restaurant and 31 new guest rooms (now totaling 161), and included a tripling of meeting space (now 14,000 sq. ft.), as well as adding a garden terrace with 3,360 sq. ft. Renaissance Dallas finished its renovations in October; this 514-room hotel has expanded its meeting space from 19,000 to 50,000 sq. ft.
Dallas is where entrepreneurism meets opportunity, as evidenced by 18 Fortune 500 companies that call it home. Historians have pointed out that Dallas is in an unlikely location for a city that grew up on commerce. It’s one of the few major cities in America that wasn’t built near major trade arteries, such as an ocean (or gulf), a major river or a historical railroad.
Dallas was built on business—and for business. 

Fort Worth

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordFort Worth Stockyards
“Dallas and Fort Worth are 30 miles apart driving, but states away in spirit. Fort Worth’s slogan is ‘Where the West Begins,’ and natives add that Dallas is ‘Where the East thins out.’ While Dallas looks to New York as its model for fashion and banking, Fort Worth looks West with a daily longhorn cattle drive, stockyards and cowboys, and wealthy oil and cattle families who’ve funded major art museums. The two cities feuded bitterly for a century before the federal government forced them to build and share DFW Airport. In Fort Worth, we say, ‘We don’t come first in DFW, but we’ve still got two-thirds.”
–Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist
Fort Worth bills itself as “The City of Cowboys and Culture.” If ever a moniker fit, this is it. 
The city embraces its Western roots with a vibrancy that offers attendees a great chance to live out some incredible fantasies. It’s an authentic city with friendly people, and the only “air” it puts on is that of a proud heritage. 
In places such as Stockyards National Historic District, the West isn’t “old,” but instead a lifestyle that comes alive in front of you. Here you’ll find Texas-themed shopping and cuisine, rodeos, saloons, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Fort Worth Herd twice-daily cattle drive and Billy Bob’s Texas—the largest honky-tonk on Earth—all in an authentic re-creation of what this town looked like in the old days. You’ll see legendary structures such as the Livestock Exchange Building, and the Stockyards Station shops and restaurants in old sheep and hog barns. 

Fort Worth

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordThe Mordern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Not everything about Fort Worth, however, is old. Sundance Square is considered a national model of urban revitalization. The district boasts 35 square blocks of interesting shops, 30-plus restaurants, three theater playhouses and art galleries. Sundance Square Plaza, opened in November 2013, includes water features, 32-foot-tall Teflon umbrellas and the historic Chisholm Trail Mural. Near Southside, a trendy district, added 22 new restaurants and bars in 2014 alone. And the Stockyards National Historic District is planning a $175 million renovation project.
Where does the “culture” part of “City of Cowboys and Culture” fit in? Everywhere! In fact, the city has a Cultural District, with six world-class museums displaying everything from Early Western to abstract art. 
Among them are world-famous institutions such as the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, featuring artists including Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, and the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Louis Kahn, and specializing in European Masters and Impressionist Art. 
Some museums also have meeting space. The Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, for example, has 100,000 sq. ft. for events and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has 11,000 sq. ft. 
Steve Winston has traveled extensively and writes for national and international magazines.

Meetings Spotlight

Who: National Association of College Stores; 2,187 attendees, 4,547 exhibitors
What: 91st annual CAMEX (Campus Market Expo) 
When: March 6–11, 2014
Where: Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Dallas 
Why: “We originally picked Dallas because it met our requirements in several important areas: the central location and the great air accessibility; a center big enough for all our attendees and 
exhibitors; and a very attractive hotel package. Once we got there, we liked it even more. The downtown is very impressive…easy to get around. The CVB was great to work with. And there are plenty of good offsite options; our people raved about the opening reception at Union Station. We’d definitely consider going back!” 
–Jodie Wilmot, director of meetings

Meetings Spotlight

Who: Texas Society of Association Executives; 550 attendees
What: New Ideas Annual Conference 
When: September 14–16, 2014
Where: The Worthington Renaissance, Fort Worth Hotel
Why: “This was our fourth meeting in Fort Worth in the past 12 years and the city’s been great for us. It has wonderful hotel properties, it’s a very walkable city, everything’s very accessible and it’s safe. The people are very friendly and the restaurants are excellent—there’s so much to do! We had high tea at a historic hotel, took a bike ride in the Cultural District and even learned line-dancing at Billy Bob’s. Fort Worth is a large city that feels like a friendly, small one. And it’s one city that understands the importance of meetings.” 
–Beth Brooks, CAE, president and CEO 

Keep Irving and Plano on Your Radar

 

Adjacent to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Irving prides itself on delivering big-city amenities and small-town friendliness. The city boasts 14 full-service hotels with more than 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. There is another 200,000 sq. ft. at offsites.
The highly anticipated Texas Musicians Museum is relocating from Dallas to Irving this year, and bringing with it items such as the largest Eric Clapton guitar in existence, along with space for events. Irving Music Factory is scheduled for completion in early 2016. This $165 million facility will have an indoor/outdoor amphitheater featuring an 8,000-seat concert hall, a plaza for events and 250,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant and entertainment space. 
Plano is just minutes from DFW and Love Field. And it’s also on the DART line.
Two new hotel properties, a Cambria Hotel & Suites (129 guest rooms; 2,532 sq. ft. of meeting space) and a Springhill Suites by Marriott (152 rooms and 5,420 sq. ft. of meeting space), are scheduled to open this year. With the completion of these properties, Plano will have 5,000 hotel rooms to go with its 700 restaurants. First-time event planners are eligible for the Group Assistance Program, offering financial assistance based on the number of room nights booked.

Major Meeting Venues

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordFairmont Dallas

Dallas

Cloud Nine at Reunion Tower
Spectacular 360-degree view, more than 500 feet above downtown Dallas; flexible event space; locally sourced cuisine from Wolfgang Puck. 
Fairmont Dallas
In the heart of Arts District; 545 guest rooms and 73,000 sq. ft.; Forbes Four Star dining in Pyramid Restaurant & Bar; 24-hour fitness center.
George W. Bush Presidential Center
George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum and George W. Bush Institute each hold 400; auditorium holds about 175; cafe can accommodate 150. 
Highland Dallas Hotel
Boutique hotel with 198 guest rooms; 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; outdoor infinity pool.
Hilton Anatole
On 45 acres overlooking downtown Dallas; 1,606 guest rooms and 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; world-class spa; fitness center. 
Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion
Located next to Reunion Tower; 1,120 guest rooms; 160,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; free transportation to business district. 
Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
The first convention center in the world to offer Wi-Fi; more than 1 million sq. ft. of meeting/exhibit space; 9,816-seat arena; 1,750-seat theater. 
Omni Dallas Hotel
Boasting 1,001 guest rooms and 110,000 sq. ft.; connected via skybridge to convention center. 
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Opened in 2012; 180,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 170 feet tall (equivalent to a 14-story building).
Sheraton Dallas
1,840 guest rooms and 230,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; four new food choices; outdoor pool. 

Fort Worth

Billy Bob’s Texas
“The World’s Largest Honky-Tonk” was originally built as a cattle barn in the early 1900s; now boasts 127,000 sq. ft. and holds 6,000 for events. 
Coyote Drive-In
Fort Worth’s first and only remaining drive-in movie theater is available for private events; 
accommodates 3,000.
Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel & Golf Club at Champions Circle 
Sophisticated resort 22 miles from downtown; 276 guest rooms; 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 18-hole championship golf course.
Embassy Suites Fort Worth–Downtown
All 156 guest rooms are suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of function space; seventh-floor atrium.
Fort Worth Convention Center 
253,226 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 58,849 sq. ft. of meeting space; 28,160-square-foot ballroom; 13,500 seat arena; public events plaza. 
Hilton Fort Worth 
President John F. Kennedy spent his last night here; 294 guest rooms; 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; adjacent to convention center. 
Omni Fort Worth Hotel 
Convention center headquarters hotel; 614 guest rooms; 68,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. 
Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa 
Recent $48 million transformation; 429 guest rooms; 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. 
Sundance Square Plaza
Old West atmosphere; 55,000 sq. ft.; permanent stage; water features; four 32-foot tall Teflon umbrellas; shopping, eating and browsing. 
The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel 
504 guest rooms; 57,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; AAA Four Diamond downtown property in 
Sundance Square, with Western elegance.

Major Meeting Venues

Irving

Irving Arts Center
Attendees can meet in backstage, performance and theatrical-rehearsal areas; room for 775 for receptions and 360 for banquets.
Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas
Striking building with a spectacular angular-glass design that lets in natural light; 275,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; LEED Silver-certified.
Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel
Just completed a $7 million transformation of 300 guest rooms, lobby and atrium areas, and 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; business center.
The Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport
Completed a $1.6 million redesign of 38,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space; 506 guest rooms.

Plano

Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park
Opened in August 2014, with 299 guest rooms and a 30,000-square-foot conference center.
Marriott Dallas/Plano at Legacy Town Center
Full-service property; 404 guest rooms; 32,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Plano Centre
This beautifully landscaped facility provides 122,500 sq. ft. of function space; can accommodate up to 5,000.
Southfork Ranch
Star setting of iconic ’80s TV show Dallas; 63,000 sq. ft. can accommodate up to 10,000; named “Facility of the Year” by local MPI chapter.

Resources

Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau visitdallas.com
Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau forthworth.com
Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau grapevinetexas.gov
Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau irvingtexas.com 
Plano Convention & Visitors Bureau visitplano.com