FORT WORTH-DALLAS, TX: AUG 29, 2015 (SAT). Good Ol’ West

WEATHER: SUNNY

Every 2 or 3 months, I have a desire to travel somewhere. Usually, my desire is to visit a new place or my friends across the State. Traveling every 2 or 3 months means 4-6 times a year. Low cost is always appreciated but I’m not exactly a backpacker type anymore that I used to be when I was a student. Plus I would like to see nice hotels and restaurants as much as attractions for my job when I travel. I got that tendency on mid-August again even though I just traveled to Florida in the previous month. I wanted to go to somewhere using a weekend, but I wouldn’t be able to extend my weekend because of the following busy weekday schedule. I explored on my e-mail and found a pretty interesting airfare deal to the place I hadn’t visited. That was Dallas/Fort Worth. I hadn’t been in the entire state of Texas other than Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for transit. I imagined that a weekend would be a good enough to do sightseeing in the Big D area because of not many well-known attractions. I eventually realized it wasn’t true while I was traveling.
I had no doubt to include Fort Worth with my plan. I remembered that a friend told me he had more fun in Fort Worth than Dallas when he visited. From my experience, friends’ opinions are one of the best travel resources. I also got the same opinion from my client in Dallas area. I wanted to experience a western and country world in Fort Worth. Planning my itinerary was tough that time. I had the difficult choice of an accommodation in either Fort Worth or Dallas. I didn’t know how long I would need in the famous Fort Worth Stockyards. I also wanted to experience a country music show at Billy Bob’s Texas located in the Stockyard at night, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy in Dallas at all if I did that. Surprisingly, the hotel rates in Fort Worth weren’t really cheap on that weekend. After changing back and forth, I finally decided to stay in Dallas because I could find a good hotel deal with a new method.
Making my itinerary was tough that time. I had the difficult choice of an accommodation in either Fort Worth or Dallas. I didn’t know how long I would need in the famous Fort Worth Stockyards. I also wanted to experience a country music show at Billy Bob’s Texas located in the Stockyard at night, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy in Dallas at all if I did that. Surprisingly, the hotel rates in Fort Worth weren’t really cheap on that weekend. After changing back and forth, I finally decided to stay in Dallas because I could find a good hotel deal with a new method.

THE PLACES I VISITED

SPIRIT AIRLINES TO DALLAS
The pretty interesting airfare deal I received by e-mail was from Spirit Airlines. Yes, the low-cost and no-frill carrier so called only two-star airlines in the U.S. or the worst service airline.

I personally don’t hate the Spirit Airlines. I actually like the airlines, and I’ve never had a bad experience. The major reasons I like Spirit are…Their onboard customer service isn’t bad at all. My opinion is the quality of flight crews is actually higher than American or Southwest, although below Delta or JetBlue. Flight attendants have polite manner and work efficiently for customers. I experienced several superior and memorable services before. My favorite part is a crew at the door always greets with each passenger upon boarding. The initial greeting is very important for any kind of services to a give customers a positive impression. There are many major airlines don’t greet to the passengers upon boarding at all, but what is the meaning of standing at the door for the flight attendants if they don’t greet? I also saw an improvement that the crews also greeted the passengers upon deboarding on both ways to/from Texas that time.

  • Their onboard customer service isn’t bad at all. My opinion is the quality of flight crews is actually higher than American or Southwest, although below Delta or JetBlue. Flight attendants have polite manner and work efficiently for customers. I experienced several superior and memorable services before. My favorite part is a crew at the door always greets with each passenger upon boarding. The initial greeting is very important for any kind of services to a give customers a positive impression. There are many major airlines don’t greet to the passengers upon boarding at all, but what is the meaning of standing at the door for the flight attendants if they don’t greet? I saw an improvement that the crews also greeted the passengers upon deboarding on both ways to/from Texas that time.
  • Their Airbus airplanes are relatively new and clean. No amenity, no entertainment, and seat are small. But hey, safety is always the top priority and new planes make passengers feel confident about the safety.
  • Flights are usually on time or ahead of schedule. They hardly delay and care about on time performance.
  • Being an Asian, having Nissin (this is important) Cup Noodle on onboard purchase menu is a big plus for me :). I haven’t seen cup noodle on other airlines menu.

I think America hasn’t got used to anything close to the budget airline styles, such as surcharge policy (ancillary revenue), ultra-tight seat pitch and no reclining seat yet. But think about the price we pay. With less money, we can travel more times. I sometimes fly with them for the weekend getaway.

The e-mail deal was $50 discount coupon for a round-trip travel. They sometimes offer interesting promotions such as the $50 off, 99% or 70% off, or $69 round-trip. Every time Spirit sends me the deep discount deal, they ignite my temptation of traveling. That time they sent me the sweet deal perfectly matched with my temptation of traveling. So I started searching around the Spirit’s website. When I searched Dallas from New York City, bingo! The fare was very, very cheap. It was just $67 round-trip, including tax!!  Only $38 before tax! Texas wasn’t close from New York, I would take more than 3 hours and a half. How could they make their profit by $19 one-way, much cheaper than Megabus to Washington D.C. or Boston? I bought the ticket immediately.

My flight left LaGurdia Airport on time at 12:50 p.m. It was my first time to see that a Spirit flight was half empty, usually their flight were full. The sky was clear all the way and the flight was very smooth.
My plane arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport exactly the way I wanted, 50 minutes early. They normally arrive at a destination much earlier than scheduled time. Because my original arrival time was 3:39 p.m., relatively late afternoon, earlier was better to do more things on the day. We had to wait for about 15 minutes at runway because their gates still had other airplanes.
The outside temperature was very hot! 102 F (38.9 C)!!

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Approaching to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Not many houses even this is suburban Dallas.


FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS & COUNTRYSIDE
I went to the Fort Worth Stockyards by SuperShuttle. Because the flight arrived early, I would be able to make another option to take a TRE train to Fort Worth then shuttle bus to the Stockyard, located about 20 minutes north of the downtown area by driving. But I decided to go straight because I hoped I could arrive earlier so I would be able to see Cowtown Coliseum’s Wild West Show at 4:30 p.m.

Soon after leaving the airport, empty dry fields dominated most of the land and surrounded some residential and corporate areas. It was a totally different type of suburban with East Coast, where houses were much more concentrated. I was surprised to see the view because both Dallas and Fort Worth were big cities (the population of Fort Forth is more than 810,000) and had one of the biggest urban areas in the country. I felt wild, wild west with looking at the outside.

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Dry land in Fort Worth. This is still Dallas/Fort Worth urban area…

With looking outside, I couldn’t help but hear these songs in my head, especially the first song. Ryan Bingham. Not only he grew up in Texas (born in New Mexico), his voice and songs were so dry like the land in front of my eyes. And his heavy Americana music totally matched with the view even though outside had full of sunshine.

“FEAR AND SATURDAY NIGHT” BY RYAN BINGHAM

The shuttle van had 3 other passengers, a couple and a female, all mid-aged lived in Fort Worth area. They were all talking like family members. One of them cheerfully started talking to me and we enjoyed a brief conversation.
After getting off at I-820, not far from the Stockyard, I knew the van was shifted to the north because tall buildings in downtown were getting further. Oh ok, we were going to their resident first. I wish the driver would drop me off first, but I chose a shared van service. I couldn’t complain. But the van kept heading to much more countryside. I started to see lakes and cows along the local roads. Where were we going?
The place finally arrived after 20 minutes of I-820 exit was a ranch in a village called Eagle Mountain. I refrained from taking a photo of the ranch because of a private residence, but the ranch was what I imagined about Texas. The gate had a big cowboy symbol with “TEXAS”,  a big estate with a dog and a horse (!) were welcoming…it was literary “a country called home”, just like the title of Ryan Bingham’s upcoming movie. A good experience to see it.
Only the couple got off at the ranch. I thought another female was their family member because they kept talking about local all the way inside of the van.
“Don’t you get off?” I asked.
“No. I just met them,” she said. Oh wow. Was that Texas quality enjoying conversation with anybody like they knew before? I thought. She was a Canadian in Fort Worth and came back from her hometown, Winnipeg.

I finally arrived in the Fort Worth Stockyard 30 minutes after leaving the ranch. It was already around 5:00 p.m. and late for the Wild West Show, but I was excited to put my feet on at the destination. The view was totally the Western world I wanted to see. All houses and buildings were old western style, many men and women were wearing cowboy hats…amazing!
I walked around the Stockyard. The temperature still hit around 100 F (37.7 C). The area wasn’t big. Only about 3 blocks wide (0.3 miles/4.8 m). There were many old, historic architectures along East Exchange Avenue. There are some museums but unfortunately, most of them are closed at 5:00 p.m. even on a summer weekend. I thought it was too early to close because many people would visit at evening on hot summer days. There were also stables, many restaurants, gift shops…pretty much like a sightseeing spot. Oh, yes, there were many horses and cows on the street like expected!

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Fort Worth Stockyards. 3 photos above were taken at Exchange Avenue.
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The Cowtown Coliseum built in 1908. Rodeo is held there on weekends.
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The Stockyard across Main Street.
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Restaurants in the Stockyard. Still very hot, a waitress was taking a break on the top pic.

Everything was expensive tourist price in the Stockyards. A bottle of water was $5, a photo opportunity with cows were also $5, kids horse ride was $20 for 10 minutes, horseback riding was $40 for 30 minutes…you can imagine cowboy hats and souvenirs were also expensive.

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Horse and cow ride. $5 price for the photo op with cow ride is visible in the top photo.

I took early dinner at Riscky’s Barbecue, one of the major and most visible restaurants in the Stockyard. Risky’s had some stores throughout Fort Worth, including steak houses and a burger joint. I ordered their “famous” sliced beef briskets. The taste was a little plain and average for me. The staffs were friendly. Fort Worth’s own craft beer, Rahr, was very good! Texas Red was my favorite. So refreshing and smooth, it totally matched with the hot and dry weather. Blonde, light lager beer, was also good. Next time I visit Fort Worth, I would definitely love to visit their brewery tour.

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Inside of Riscky’s Barbecue
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Sliced Beef Brisket
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Tasty Rahr Texas Red beer

RISCKY’S BARBECUE (THE STOCKYARD): 
http://www.risckys.com/locations-bbq-stockyards.php

ADDRESS: 140 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76164
MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/LdXWuWmHS7m
TEL: 817-626-7777

RAHR & SON’S BREWING: http://rahrbrewing.com

(DIRECTIONS TO FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS)
1. FROM AIRPORT

  • SHARED-RIDE VAN: Dallas/Fort Worth Airport is served by 3 shared shuttle companies, SuperShuttle, City Shuttle, and Go Yellow Checker Shuttle.
    The advantage of shared-ride is no requirement of changing transportation. The disadvantage is it doesn’t mean non-stop to the attraction. Because the van is shared, stopovers are possible. Fort Worth has a very large area, you might take a long time to the Stockyard.
    Reserved or non-reserved, you have to call your shuttle company from courtesy phone booth located on baggage claim area. They will tell you where to catch the shuttle van. I was directed to go to the shuttle pick up located at the outside of the top floor. There is no sales representative at the airport. The advanced reservation is cheaper than non-reserved.
    I suggest you tell the shuttle companies Stockyards Hotel as your destination. Because hotels are cheaper than non-hotel destinations, the rate will be more expensive if you just say the Stockyard. Stockyards Hotel, the first class hotel in the Stockyard, is located in the center of the attraction.
    SUPERSHUTTLE: http://www.supershuttle.com/Locations/DallasDFW
    CITY SHUTTLE: http://www.cityshuttle.net
    GO YELLOW CHECKER SHUTTLE: http://www.goyellowcheckershuttle.com
  • TRINITY RAILWAY EXPRESS (TRE)+THE-T CITY BUS: Take “Remote South” bound buses from designed stops in the terminal, usually located outside of the first floor. Change to “CentrePort/DFW” bound shuttle bus at Remote South. Take TRE train to Fort Worth. There are two train stations in downtown Fort Worth; Intermodal Transit Center and T&P Station, the last stop. Get off at the Intermodal Transit Center, where all The-T Fort Worth city buses originate. Then see #2 below.
    NOTE: There is no TRE service on Sunday.
    TRE: http://www.trinityrailwayexpress.org
    THE-T: http://the-t.com

2. FROM DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH/INTERMODAL TRANSIT CENTER
Every Saturday, Stockyard Trolley bus (bus #15, from Bay D) goes straight to the Stockyard from Intermodal Transit Center every 30 munites. Also, #1 bus (1a-1d, from Bay B) runs approximately every 15-20 minutes on daytime to Ellis Ave and Exchange St, a block away from the Stockyard.

TIP: Consider about one day pass if you plan to ride public transportation more than twice in Dallas-Fort Worth area. One day pass is the price of a round-trip on either The-T, TRE, or DART, the public transport agency in Dallas. Also, there are several one-day pass options including both companies and TRE train in the region because TRE is the joint operation of The-T and DART. I bought Regional (2 zones) one day pass for $10, and I could ride all The-T, TRE, and DART. One zone one-day, either Fort Worth or Dallas, is $5. TRE fare zones are divided at CentrePort/DFW Statin.
I suggest you to download GoPass on your smartphone and purchase pass or ticket. It’s easy to use and can easily find the fare and pass options of the regional transits. After activation, you just have to show the pass or ticket to the drivers or conductors.

iPhone:
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=dk.unwire.projects.dart&hl=en

ELEGANT FORT WORTH’S OLD DOWNTOWN

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Fort Worth Downtown. Photo copyright: Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau

I moved to the downtown by The T city bus after dinner.When the bus was passing through the downtown area, I noticed many bright stores occupied historical buildings between the skylines and many people were walking on the street. That was what I didn’t expect. I thought there wouldn’t be much to see in the downtown like the majority of the southern city. Sometimes, even if the visitors bureau claimed as “historic” or “famous”, the tourist spots weren’t really historic or famous. But it was obvious Fort Worth downtown was historic and cool. I still had an hour and a half until the train departure time to Dallas, so I decided to walk around the city after checking the location of Intermodal Transit Center for the next train.

Houston Street below W. 2nd Street (below The Worthington Renaissance Hotel) had many low-rise historic style buildings with modern restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. Main Street had taller classic buildings mixed with a few modern buildings. I later learned that Fort Worth was actually older and developed earlier than Dallas in mid-19th century. That was understandable, Fort Worth had more old buildings than Dallas. The atmosphere was classic and elegant.
I hit with Sundance Square after walking down Main Street. The square was good. It was like a modern-Spanish style plaza. The clean and pleasant square had many seats people could rest and fountains kids could play. There were many people enjoyed in the square but not too crowded. Many shops and restaurants surrounded the square. The restaurants in downtown seemed better and had more varieties than the Stockyard. I should dine in downtown and spend more time. I like the cities where downtown is very active like Fort Worth.
The evening southern breeze was comfortable in the square, I rested and enjoyed the view with other locals for a while.

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Sundance Square


NIGHT TRAIN TO DALLAS
I took Trinity Railway Express (TRE) to Dallas at that night. I thought the train would be empty on Saturday night but there were moderate numbers of passengers on the 2 double-decker trains.

I could hear two young men’s conversation from the seats just behind me. They looked like high school or early college students. They talked about their favorite music. Both were heavy metal fans; one guy liked European heavy metal especially Scorpions, and another loved Slayer. I thought they were friends because of a good chemistry. Then they introduced each other, shaken hands with saying “nice talking with you”, and the Scorpion guy got off at a station. They just met at the train! It was a surprise. Then I recalled my earlier experience at the SuperShuttle, that we talked like we knew each other. Probably that was a Texas style, I thought. And I enjoyed the conversation with several people in Dallas, too. It was a new good discovery. I imagined that Texans were rough and rustic, and not really friendly to new people, and probably my imaginations were same with others from East Coast. But the reality was people were very friendly to me during my stay. And the Texans were cheerful. Those experiences made my trip to Texas more memorable than expected.
There were many passengers exchanging fun conversation inside of the train. That was the good train atmosphere. I plugged headphone to my iPhone and felt southern comfort on the night train. The album I was listening in the train was this. Country.
(P.S. This guy had a show in Dallas on the day. I wish I could see, but I saw his concert in NYC later day).

“WILD ONES” BY KIP MOORE. The sound of “Running For You” matched with the night train atmosphere.

(DIRECTION TO DALLAS FROM FORT WORTH BY TRE TRAIN)
As written earlier, the best place to ride TRE train in downtown Fort Worth is Intermodal Transit Center rather than T&P station because the station is in the center of downtown and connected by all city buses.
In Dallas, Victor Station is convenient for the connection with Orange and Green Lines of DART light rail to downtown, although Union Station, the last stop, make connections Red and Blue Lines. Because there are several hotels around Union Station, I suggest you check the closest DART stop. DART mainly runs on the streets in downtown.
Regarding the convenient one day pass, see “FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS/COUNTRYSIDE”.
IMPORTANT: There is no TRE service on Sunday.

TO DALLAS/THE ADOLPHUS HOTEL-HOTWIRE TIPS

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Dallas from my hotel room.

I got off TRE train at Victory Station in downtown Dallas and changed to DART light rail to go to my hotel, The Adolphus. My hotel was conveniently located 3 blocks away from Akard station, and there were many 7-Eleven (its headquarters is located in Dallas) and drugstores nearby.

I stayed at The Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas, a first class hotel and one of the oldest existing hotels (and probably one of the oldest buildings) in Dallas built in 1912.
The reason I stayed at the hotel was the rate was only $64 for one night before tax and fee at Hotwire. It was my first time to use Hotwire. One of Hotwire’s biggest disadvantage is that the hotel name and its address are not available until completing non-refundable payment, but the hotel location is one of my top priorities to choose a hotel. The area doesn’t have to be downtown, but I always have a preferred area conveniently located to pursue my purposes at each destination. Also, better amenities and hotel class within the same price range is always nice. That’s why I use Experia most of the time.
But neighborhood definition got narrower and more specific than before at Hotwire recently. Plus, I found out an interesting method to guess a hotel name. So here is the tip to use Hotwire from a first time user but also a travel professional.

TIP FOR HOTWIRE: Compare hotel amenities and comments with Expedia after focusing same neighborhood. Hotwire is a part of Expedia family. Listed amenities are pretty much same between Expedia and Hotwire. Compare comments carefully and finds common keywords.
In my case, my attention went to The Adolphus at Expedia after comparison. The hotel didn’t have free internet on the complementary amenity list by Expedia. Hotwire either. Breakfast was available for additional fee. Pets friendly. Also, both sites had comments that internet was an additional charge, an old hotel, bed was comfortable, the cheap rate was too good to be true. Most of other downtown hotels on both sites had free wifi and weren’t not pet-friendly. Then I predicted The Adolphus would be the answer at Hotwire. If so, the rate and location were just perfect for me. I decided to bet on my luck and reserve. I was right, the hotel was The Adolphus. Because Expedia rate was $279 refundable, it was more than $200 discount.

Hotwire clearly stated that the hotel was under renovation on both hotel information and confirmation. The hotel was indeed under deep renovation, and I thought the hotel needed a serious renovation. The hotel was really old and even beyond the term of  “classic”. The word of “classic” would mean well if it was maintained and polished. The Adolphus probably didn’t have renovation for a long time, especially public areas and elevators. The elevator walls were extremely vintage in not a good way. I would be able to give only 3.5 stars while many reviews gave 4.5 stars. Maybe that was why the price was deeply discounted.
The Adolphus, on the other hand, still had a strong pride as a first class hotel. The front desk clerk was average when I checked in, but the service by other staffs was more than superior including check-out. Warm and gentle greetings at the door and lobby made me feel welcomed. The most memorable moment was when I was waiting for Uber at the outside of hotel entrance and I declined the request for change by a homeless man at night, a staff rushed to me from inside and asked me I was ok. It was the first time a hotel staff concerned about me like that way. I got used to homeless by living in New Yorks City and that homeless man wasn’t harmful at all, but I was thankful for the staff’s consideration.
I was also impressed by the story of a taxi driver, who grew up in Dallas and drove me back to the hotel. He told me that the hotel was really an upscale hotel and an icon of the Dallas hotel scene before. He believed that the hotel would bring back the elegance after their renovation was completed. I thought probably the hotel was loved by the local, too.

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My room at The Adolphus
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A large bathroom

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    1. Thank you so much, my friend. Fort Worth had many more things to offer than my expectation. Most importantly, people were really warm and kind. I’m sure you’ll enjoy when you visit.

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