You know it’s a good connecting airport when 60% of passengers don’t even leave the airport.
But there was so much more to offer in Dallas, Texas, than the walls of the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
Dallas is the 9th-largest city in the US and the third-largest in Texas with a population of 1,288,457, while Fort Worth is the 13th-largest city in the US and 6th-fastest growing large city in the nation with a 2017 population of 874,168.
Dallas is within a four-hour flight from almost all North American destinations and serves more than 260 destinations, including New Zealand after American Airlines launched its Auckland to Dallas non-stop flight this month.
But a tour guide who knew the city like the back of her hand said very little people stayed for a holiday.
So here is what you can do while you stop for a couple of days instead of connecting to another state straight away.
Fort Worth Stockyards
A 30-minute drive from Dallas or an hour train ride on The Trinity Railway Express – the city of Fort Worth is often referred to as ‘Where the West Begins’.
Originally settled in 1849 as an army outpost at the Trinity River, Fort Worth was one of eight forts assigned to protect settlers from Indian attacks on the advancing frontier.
It is the home of the 40-hectare Fort Worth Stockyards, which celebrates the town’s long tradition a part of the cattle industry.
Here you’ll be immersed into the feeling of the wild west, with cobblestone roads and western buildings.
Stockyards Heritage Development Co.’s US$175 million renovation of historic Mule Alley in the Fort Worth Stockyards was completed in late 2020, and included new shops, eateries, creative workplaces and live-entertainment venues.
While you’re there you can experience all the 41 bars and restaurants and 50 shops, which includes high end, custom-made cowboy boots and hats.
Head to Billy Bob’s Texas the iconic, 130,000-square-foot (12,000sqm) country music honky-tonk with an indoor rodeo arena, mechanical bulls and dozens of bars, for a drink and a game of pool.
Then at 11.30am and 4.30pm every day, the Stockyards still hosts the world’s only daily cattle drive, where long horn cattle walk the streets of the town.
Art galleries and museums
Fort Worth and Dallas are home to a number of museums that cater to young and old.
In Fort Worth, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the National Cowgirl Museum are all in walking distance of each other.
Most are also free admission, apart from the odd exhibition.
The Fort Worth Water Gardens is a small park with water features that is free to access.
The Kimbell Art Museum is home to the only Michelangelo in the Americas, his first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony.
The Dallas Arts District is the largest urban arts district in the United States.
Museums include Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which is in the building of where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated from in 1963.
A white ‘X’ on the Elm St pavement below marks the spot where President Kennedy was shot.
Travellers can pick up a Dallas City Pass for US$49 (NZ$82) which gives ‘free’ entry to a range of top attractions and is valid for 9 days.
Watch a sports game
There is nothing quite like throwing yourself into the American culture like going to a sports game.
With a high-energy crowd, lots of music, incredible half-time performances, and even fast food brands for purchase during the game, even a cheap seat at a sporting game is worth the hype.
Dallas is home to the NBA Dallas Mavericks, NFL Dallas Cowboys and NHL Dallas Stars.
Lamar Hunt, the founder of the American Football League and son of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, was a noted Dallas resident when he coined the term ‘Super Bowl’, which makes the sporting history even richer in Dallas.
Food tours and Margarita Mile
Food is the heart of the state, with barbecued meats being the most sought-after cuisine. And so are the margaritas.
The frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas by restaurateur Mariano Martinez. The original machine now resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Almost every restaurant offers a specialty margarita, which led to the Margarita Mile becoming a thing, which is a self-guided tour of the best and brightest margaritas in Dallas, where margarita lovers download a ‘passport’ and sip through drinks at local restaurants while ticking them off.
To experience food like a local, and find hidden gems including hand-made tacos, smoky barbecued meats and French desserts, jumping on a food tour is often the best way to eat like the locals while walking off the delicious food.
Food Tours of America host public and private group tours, and take you through the hidden gems of the unique restaurant industry. The locations include Dowtown Dallas, Uptown and West Village and Deep Ellum.
Not only is the tour tasty, but the guides are rich with knowledge about the history of the restaurants and the area you are in.
But just remember, everything really is bigger in Texas – even the food portions, so little nibbles at each restaurant is the best way to not feel full before reaching the end of the tour.
Admire the Dallas skyline from above
A great place to reflect on all the sites you’ve seen is from above at the top of Reunion Tower.
It is a 171-metre-tall observation tower in the heart of Dallas and features an open-floor observation deck 50 floors up that gives a 360-degree panorama view of the Dallas skyline.
You can take 837 steps to the top or jump in the elevator for a 68-second ride to the top.
On a clear day you can see all the way to Fort Worth, which is 51 kilometres away.
The tower, which some locals call ‘The Ball’, displays special light shows with 250 LED lights at night in honour of citywide events, local sports teams’ wins and, of course, holidays.
It also features a bar and restaurant, but it has been closed since the pandemic.
It is walking distance from where JFK was assassinated, so visiting the tower can be a great activity for before or after your tour of Dealey Plaza.
Getting there: American Airlines has direct flights leaving daily from Auckland Airport to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. See: aa.com
Staying there: Stay a night in Fort Worth at one of the newest hotels in town, The Sinclair, where rates start at NZ$594 or stay the whole time in Dallas at the recently refurbished The Statler, where rates start at NZ$650.
The writer travelled as a guest of American Airlines, Visit Fort Worth and Visit Dallas.