Dallas skyline and The Traveling Man sculpture
Cultural attractions and cowboy heritage in Dallas and Fort WorthIn downtown Dallas, grassroots initiatives have transformed blighted neighborhoods into growing hot spots and concrete jungles into community spaces. The Deep Ellum neighborhood’s hipster ambience comes alive in edgy cocktail bars, more than 30 live music venues, artisan shops and plenty of funky murals painted by local artists. Fresh air, sunshine and food trucks beckon in nearby Klyde Warren Park, an urban gathering place spread across more than 5 grassy acres designed to revitalize the area over Woodall Rodgers Freeway. So the story goes in neighboring Fort Worth, an intersection of cosmopolitan sophistication and cowboy cool. Within a compact footprint, restored architecture and world-class attractions coincide with historic landmarks and a new look to urban development. For example, a resurgence in the Southside neighborhood has brought forth rows of independent shops and local businesses on walkable, bike-friendly streets.
Festival at Deep Ellum, DallasOn the other side of town, the Stockyards and Cultural District are a step back in time, when horses were the primary mode of transportation. These days, Dallas and Fort Worth are honoring their roots while embracing the new, and meeting groups can come along for the ride.
Dallas Sights & SoundsLast year, Dallas was named a three-star city by the prestigious Michelin Green Guide. Five urban attractions were noted for being “worth the trip”—the highest possible rating—while several more were mentioned for being “worth a detour.” These sites include Klyde Warren Park, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, and AT&T Performing Arts Center. It’s a clear indication that Dallas is finally earning international recognition for its world-class arts and culture. “The Michelin Green Guide is a prestigious book, and we’re honored they saw in Dallas what we see every day—it’s a diverse city with world-class attractions and a rich cultural fabric,” says Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Visit Dallas. “Michelin has high standards, and we know how much consideration went into this rating.”
Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, DallasA tour of Dallas begins at one of the tallest points, atop the GeO-Deck at Reunion Tower. The 470-foot-tall spherical structure provides 360-degree views of Dallas proper, including the striking Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge with its white doublecurved arches across the Trinity River. Groups can buy out the observation deck, including Five Sixty, an award-winning Asian-fusion, fine-dining restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows. The tower is connected to Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, a LEED Silver certified facility with 1 million sq. ft. of flexible exhibit space. Next door, Sixth Floor Museum takes visitors back to the fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated below the building in Dealey Plaza. What was once the Texas School Book Depository has become a space dedicated to the life and legacy of America’s 35th president. Guided audio tours of exhibits and artifacts spread across the sixth and seventh floors are available to the public. The museum also serves as a historic setting for events, with 1,800 sq. ft. of space at the visitor’s center and 5,000 sq. ft. of space on the seventh floor.
Dallas Museum of ArtDallas Museum of Art is the core of city’s art district, the largest in the nation, covering 19 blocks of museums, performance halls, theaters and community spaces. The museum was established in 1903, long before the surrounding district, and holds more than 23,000 works spanning 5,000 years. Most of the halls, featuring European, Asian, American and Modern masterpieces, are available to view with no admission cost, except for rotating exhibits such as Divine Felines: Cats of Egypt, on display until Jan. 8. The museum also is an exquisite event venue with 67,100 sq. ft. of space, split between the auditorium, atrium, sculpture garden and outdoor plaza.
Unique Event SpaceOver the next few years, Dallas will add close to 2,500 hotel rooms in the metro area. With $1.72 billion in construction and conversion projects in the pipeline, the city’s meetings profile is expected to rise dramatically. The Design District will join Deep Ellum’s renaissance with a brand-new Virgin Hotel projected to open in 2018. The trendy enclave is filled with upscale eateries, craft breweries and a large concentration of contemporary art galleries. Groups already enjoy artistic decor at the 1,606-room Hilton Anatole, a Dallas icon spanning 45 acres. It boasts a comprehensive art collection of more than 1,000 pieces alongside more than 600,000 sq. ft. of conference space.
Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters at The Star, FriscoIn nearby Frisco, one of the fastest growing suburbs in the country, the talk of the town is the new Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters at The Star. The gleaming practice facility for the NFL team is a 91-acre campus that has championship event spaces, restaurants and shops; Omni Frisco Hotel is scheduled to open this summer. When not in use by the Dallas Cowboys, Ford Center is a state-of-the-art 510,000-square-foot stadium that will host amateur youth football games and events overlooking the practice field. Tours of the facility will begin in January, providing a one-of-a-kind fan experience to the public.
Historic Fort Worth
Acre Distilling Co., Fort WorthFort Worth is where several only-in-Texas experiences can be had. The old army outpost, which sits on the Trinity River, was part of a network of 10 forts designated to safeguard the American Frontier following the end of the Mexican-American War in 1849. An important stop on the Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth became the center of the ranching industry. Cattle trade and stockyards took hold of the city, earning it the nickname Cowtown. With the cowboys came boom times, but it also led to the city’s fair share of problems. After merchants stocked up on provisions, they headed to local saloons, dance halls and brothels in Fort Worth’s red light district. It became known as Hell’s Half-Acre thanks to the motley crew of brawlers, hunters, crooks, robbers and outlaws that took up residence near the old Union Station train depot.
Acre Distilling Co., Fort WorthAcre Distilling Co. keeps these bawdy tales alive in a restored 1920s building that was once the site of drunken brawls and general debauchery. Owner Tony Formby hangs a photograph of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the Wild Bunch in the entrance, a replica of one of the earliest mugshots that eventually led to their capture. Patrons can sip on spirits distilled onsite, including single-barrel bourbon whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, dry gin and vodka made with various infusions. A cafe by day and bar by night, the venue can be bought out for private events of up to 50 people; a maximum of 30 people can tour the distillery. Fort Worth Convention Center is located less than one block away from the distillery, with entrances facing downtown and Sundance Square, a 35-block district of boutiques, restaurants, theaters, galleries and historic landmarks. The convention center embraces its Lone Star spirit with state emblems and cowboy themes reflected in artwork, carpeting and even the ceiling. There is more than 250,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, including a 28,160-square-foot ballroom, 55,000-square-foot plaza and a dome-shaped arena with seating for up to 12,918. According to Charles Mayer, director of sales and marketing for the convention center, the building will eventually undergo a renovation and expansion by 2024. An enlarged footprint would replace the arena with additional exhibit space and another 50,000-square-foot ballroom, with the ability to host two large concurrent groups on either end of the convention center. The Omni Fort Worth headquarters hotel offers 68,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting space and 614 guest rooms. Next year, a 254-room Hampton Inn & Suites and a 114-room Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott will join the number of nearby hotels.
Unique Event SpaceGroups can cap off the evening with a visit to the Stockyards, where riding and roping are a regular occurrence. Twice a day, drovers lead a herd of cattle down Exchange Avenue, between the Fort Worth Exchange Building and then back to the holding pens. The National Historic District was the heart of the livestock industry when the Fort Worth Union Stockyards started business in the late 1800s. Cows, sheep and pigs were bought, sold and slaughtered there until the 1950s.
Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort WorthThe area retains its Western heritage in venues such as Billy Bob’s Texas, a working rodeo and live music venue where famous country musicians including Blake Shelton, Waylon Jennings, Janie Fricke and Willie Nelson have performed. The 100,000-square-foot honky-tonk and bull-riding arena is a quintessential experience of Texas under one roof, and can host up to 6,000 people for special events. Next year, groups will be able to stay close by at the 121-room Courtyard Fort Worth hotel. “Accessibility, world-class attractions and flexible meeting spaces make Fort Worth a natural fit for events of all kinds,” says John Cychol, vice president of meeting sales for Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. “From strolling Fort Worth’s vibrant and walkable downtown to exploring world-class museums and watching the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive in the historic Stockyards, the authenticity of the city makes visitors feel at home and keeps them coming back.”