Cool Off in Fort Worth

Set aside a few summer days to soak up the cowboy and cultural sides of Cowtown.
Tanner C. Latham

Fort Worth perfectly balances Western heritage with high-class culture. A weekend here offers so many diverse options, you'll swear you're splitting time between several cities. From eclectic art galleries and gift shops to an old-fashioned swimming hole, we'll give you several cool ways to enjoy the warm July days.
 

Friday--Shopping On Seventh
Make your first stop a late lunch at Joe T. Garcia's Mexican Dishes, just outside of the Stockyards National Historic District. Order the chicken fajitas ($8.50, cash or checks only), and soak up the lively, Old Mexico, cantina-esque atmosphere for which this local institution is known. Scan the many framed, autographed photos of celebrities who've eaten here, such as Tiger Woods, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Bette Midler.
 

One of Fort Worth's most alluring areas is its Cultural District, centered on several world-class museums. First, though, peruse the art galleries and fine gift shops sprinkled among the district's outlying lanes. Several line West Seventh Street, including The Edmund Craig Gallery, which features representational and abstract pieces by local and national artists. Duck into Strings to find contemporary-style gifts and home furnishings. Before leaving the area, wander through University Park Village on South University, and check out Uncommon Angles. Featuring works from more than 200 artists, the store specializes in glassware and jewelry.
 

For unique accommodations, try the Stockyards Hotel down in the historic district. Its Old West ambience has attracted guests (including the infamous Bonnie and Clyde) since 1907. Check-in is after 3 p.m., and rates start at $169; (817) 625-6427 or www.stockyardshotel.com. You'll also find a string of chain hotels, such as the Fairfield Inn (rates range $84.95 to $92.95; (817) 335-2000), along South University, which situates you close to the Cultural District.
 

We'll take you downtown tonight for a casually upscale dinner at Zolon. Warm colors such as pumpkin balance flashes of stainless steel and contemporary light fixtures. We like this place not only for its feel, but also for its affordability. Each menu selection is available in a large portion called a Z and a smaller portion called a Demi-Z. Start with the Wood-Grilled Polenta Tower ($12 Z, $7 Demi-Z), and try the "Papaya" Marinated Flank Steak ($26, $14) as an entrée.
 

 

Saturday--Pack Your Swimsuits
Rise for breakfast at the Paris Coffee Shop, an old-fashioned diner that's been in owner Mike Smith's family since 1926. You may have to stand in line for a table, but if you're really nice, one of the friendly locals might share the morning paper with you. Go with the basic Two Egg Breakfast Combo ($5.25), and keep your ears open for gossip.
 

If you're in town between July 6 and 25, head to the Will Rogers Memorial Center for the National Cutting Horse Association's Summer Cutting Spectacular (call (817) 244-6188 or www.nchacutting.com). Free and open to the public, the event hosts several daily rounds beginning at 8 a.m. (schedules change daily, so call ahead or check the Web site). Watch male and female riders guide their horses through hitches and lunges to separate, or cut, a single cow from a herd. Talk about cool--they keep the coliseum a wintry 65 degrees, so you may even need to pack a light jacket.
 

Now that you have dirt in your boots, walk across the parking lot to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. From Annie Oakley to Georgia O' Keeffe, the museum tells the stories of extraordinary Western women united by their trailblazing spirits.
 

Head to lunch at Lucile's, not too far away on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Friendly servers lay out spreads of great American cooking on green-and-white checkered tablecloths. Go with the fried green tomatoes ($4.95) and chicken-fried steak ($8.95).
 

If you left enough room, pull into Curly's Frozen Custard just down the street from Lucile's for a little something sweet (cones or cups, $1.50 to $4). Sit right outside at a picnic table.
 

Hope you brought your swimsuit. We would tell you to wait for your food to settle, but we're sure your mama covered that base a long time ago. Become a kid again at Burger's Lake ($10 ages 7 and older). The water in this old-fashioned, spring-fed swimming hole on the outskirts of the city stays a cool 83 to 84 degrees. With sandy beaches, several picnic tables, and six diving boards, you'll easily laze away the rest of the afternoon.
 

Go back downtown for dinner at The Chisholm Club on Main Street. Local celebrity chef Grady Spears is a consultant for the stylish cowboy cuisine restaurant and keeps an eye on the menu. We really enjoyed the house specialty--beef rib eye with onion strings ($35). The waitstaff will smile and tell you it's cowboy grub, but we daresay few cowboys eat this well on the open range.
 

 

Sunday--The Cultural Side of Cowtown
Sleep late, and begin your day with brunch at Café Modern (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), one of the most unique dining experiences in town. Just inside the Modern Art Museum, the elliptical dining room faces the museum's reflecting pond. Try the Seared Crab Cake ($7) or the Modern Omelet filled with Brie, garlic asparagus, and red pepper sauce ($11).
 

You may want to slip back over to the Stockyards for Cowboy Church at Stockyards Station. George Westby leads the lively nondenominational service that starts at noon and is come-as-you-are casual. "We celebrate the spirit of the cowboy with old hymns and a short sermon," explains George in his fancy minister's garb--jeans and a cowboy hat.
 

Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the awesome museums that are clustered in the Cultural District. The Amon Carter Museum (free admission to the permanent collection) boasts an extensive collection of Western art, including several works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Find the Masters such as Cézanne, Matisse, and Monet at the Kimbell Art Museum (free admission to the permanent collection); and discover post-World War II pieces from Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth ($6 adults, $4 students, free ages 12 and under).
 

You hardly noticed how hot it was, did you?
 

This article is from the July 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.