Trip to Dallas-Fort Worth: Our 15-year-old granddaughter thinks it’s “cool” Texas

If you’re an engaged, grungy resident of the Pacific Northwest, it’s easy—almost automatic—to dismiss Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot, and culturally oppressive place best avoided, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.

Recently, we decided to take the eldest daughter, who is 15, to Dallas. Summer heat aside, a Portlander can effortlessly adapt to Austin‘s vibes. So let’s take Texas with all its excesses. Dallas, here we come.

Our 15 year old granddaughter and her 12 year old sister spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so we could get to know each other better individually. During visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to develop an affection for Texas.

Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each providing a glittery, starchy contrast to Austin’s more sleazy manners, T-shirts and shorts.

Three hours down I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a collection of gray skyscrapers in a wispy haze, accessible only by a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps, and exits. I drove with false confidence. Calm down, I told myself, everything will end in 10 minutes under the glass roof of the hotel entrance. And he did.

The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)

We spent three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), an upscale hotel in Uptown frequented by women in white blazers, businessmen in suits and tall, thin professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes rushing in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who snuck into a Toyota.

Every morning as I headed to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a guy identified by a hunter as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants. He likes Starbucks here.

We parked our more modest set of wheels for the tour. We were driven for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, the Reverend pointed to the homes of Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys as well as the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibition (through September 18) attracted an older audience; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a mighty whirlwind of groups of children ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.

An oil painting by Geogia O’Keeffe titled “Ranchos Church, New Mexico” in the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)

The best museum for us was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a crazy 50 minute drive via a 75mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during peak hours. The Carter has an exquisite collection of paintings and sculptures by Remington as well as an excellent array of paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Choose a museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free entry, and small enough to manage in two hours.

The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a hint of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres mark the town as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and cattle drive twice daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.). We bought boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. Their progress was so languid that if it was a real market, the beef would have been very tough and tough before it reached the steakhouse plate.

Transporting cattle to Fort Worth stockyards. (Rich Oppel)

But we were able to identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog running after a cat today,” said the host, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that the two were walking.”

With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:

  • Nobu, at the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu cost us $480 including tip for four people (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
  • Jia was an ordinary suburban mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable bill of $110 for four.
  • Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but bigger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.

Sushi at the upscale Nobu restaurant. (Hotel Crescent)

It was a splurge for a visit from a grandchild. We will now return to our regular Hampton Inns road trips, where the room rate is closer to Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And at corner cafes in small towns.

Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yeah. I think it’s a lot cooler than me. The fashion, the food. So it’s not just Austin that’s cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big state, complex, diverse and wonderful.

About James Almanza

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