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Art&Seek Jr: Ride The Rails

by Therese Powell 6 Aug 2013 4:18 PM

Looking to shake things up? How about a spur-of-the-moment day trip?


Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

I woke up with a wild hair on Saturday. I decided that instead of scheduling the day down to the last nanosecond like I do most weekends, Rose and I would throw caution to the wind and take an impromptu trip to Fort Worth for sightseeing. This is big for me, because besides being just a teensy bit of a control freak, I also come from a long line of “planners” who never embark on any event, be it large or small, without a complete itinerary. This trait comes mostly from my father. He was a veteran of three wars and used to say, “Stick to the plan! Men died in Korea because they didn’t follow the plan!” Along with our inability to tan, my people do not “fly by the seat of their pants” comfortably, so you could say I come by it honestly.

Rose and Flat Stanley head to Fort Worth (Photo Therese Powell)

Rose and Flat Stanley head to Fort Worth (Photo: Therese Powell)

Rose was all on board for a road trip and was even more enthusiastic when I suggested we go by rail. We could’ve caught the bus at the end of our street or ridden DART rail downtown to catch the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) to Fort Worth. But as fun as that sounded, I worried about the soaring temperatures on our return trip and opted to drive downtown instead. When we arrived at Union Station at 10 a.m., there was good news and bad news. The good news: On Saturdays through Aug. 17, DART is offering a special reduced fare for families. We were able to get to Fort Worth and back for just $10. Score! The bad news: We missed the train by 10 minutes, and the TRE only runs every two hours to Fort Worth on Saturdays. Rats. You could say lack of planning bit us in the butt in this instance. But instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, like true spontaneous adventurers we decided to embrace our newly gained two hours and immediately set out exploring. If you’ve got time to kill, downtown Dallas is exactly where you want to be. There are literally dozens of things to see and do within walking distance of Union Station.

We headed west on Young Street and decided our first stop would be the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture. Besides being a beautiful old building, this place is packed to the gills with artifacts, exhibits and stories of the Dallas county area. We climbed the impressive grand staircase to the second floor, where we found the Children’s Educational Center. There we took fun history quizzes on touch-screen computers featuring longhorns and Big Tex, tried on period clothes and learned that the micro-chip and Erykah Badu both hail from our fair city. Also upstairs are four galleries where we got a close up look at Clyde Barrow’s gun, Tom Landry’s hat and the handcuffs worn by Lee Harvey Oswald. We didn’t have time, but the museum also offers a tour during which you can explore areas of Old Red not open to the general public like the 1892 restored courtroom.

After leaving Old Red – feeling much smarter than when we came in – we walked over to Dealey Plaza, where we talked about the darkest day in our city’s history. We didn’t have time to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, but we counted the windows up to the sixth floor on the Dallas County Administration Building and looked up Elm Street from the grassy knoll. Then it was time to walk back to the station and head west.

Hello Fort Worth! (Photo Therese Powell)

Hello, Fort Worth! (Photo: Therese Powell)

We climbed aboard and headed to the upper level for a better view. Our ride to Fort Worth was about an hour (with eight stops) until we reached our final destination – the T&P Terminal in downtown Fort Worth. As a side note, the T&P is an extraordinary example of art deco architecture and is worth checking out even if it means an extra stop. The ceiling reminded us of the leather work done on an elaborate saddle.

By this time it was high noon and blazing hot, so we headed across the street to cool off at the Fort Worth Water Gardens. The first water feature we encountered was the active pool. We descended down the terraced steps to the swirling pool below. Rose found it thrilling and was fascinated by the flowing water all around us. On the other side of the park was the less thrilling meditation pool. The pool is surrounded by walls that spill water down their sides. If you put your hand on the wall, the water will flow around it. The trees on either side of the pool were calling us with their shade, but with only two hours until our return trip we had to keep moving.

There was another moment of “planners remorse” when we couldn’t find the Molly the Trolley pick up point rumored to be near the Water Gardens. But serendipity stepped in again when we discovered both the Hell’s Half Acre historical marker and the bike sharing station on our long walk around the water gardens. Explaining the exact significance of Hell’s Half Acre required a longer conversation, so we just called it recreation then and now!

We picked up Molly the Trolley at the entrance to the Omni Hotel on Houston Street and enjoyed a free (air conditioned) sight-seeing tour of downtown Fort Worth. As we bounced along in our seats in the way, way back, I pointed out the Convention Center, Sundance Square and Bass Hall. My stint as tour guide ended abruptly when Rose spotted a Cupcakery across the street from Bass Hall, so off we jumped for a treat. After our break it was time to head to the station. Our two hours in Fort Worth ended much too quickly, but on our walk back to the train we made time for a stop at the historic Hilton Fort Worth, where President Kennedy gave his last speech. Nearby, at the southeast corner of Main and 8th Streets in General Worth Square, is the JFK Tribute.  It’s a memorial sitting approximately where President Kennedy delivered an outdoor address to thousands of well wishers in on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.

On the train ride back to Big D, Rose and I both felt very satisfied with the day. We learned a lot, we had fun and it was all spur of the moment. Sometimes you’re most productive when you don’t do any planning at all.

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer. She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 8-year-old daughter, Rose. Tell us about your ideas for quirky kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or e-mail Therese at [email protected].