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Try Fort Worth for art, ’cue and cowpokes

By Mark VanekBy Mark Vanek

Whether you are in town on business or a family vacation, you will appreciate Fort Worth’s pedestrian-friendly and small-town vibe. Merely mention DFW and often the focus will quickly be swallowed up by Dallas, the “Big D.” But for the true Texas experience, drop the “D” and head straight to the “FW.”

Getting there: By air, there are many ways to quickly, inexpensively and safely arrive in Texas.

Book your rental car – the cost of shuttles, taxis and private town car service journeying into Fort Worth can be astronomical.

Online, you will find car rental rates as low as $7.95, but not including the absurdly high airport fees they charge at DFW International. Take into account a $20 daily valet service if you have a downtown hotel.

No place like home: For a down-home stay, look no farther than the historic Ashton ( www.theashtonhotel.com), a first-class downtown hotel that makes you feel as if you are staying with a special family member. The lavish rooms are spacious and equipped with all the essential luxuries.

See the art: Fort Worth offers a lively mix of culture and cowboys. Each area has a distinctive atmosphere and nowhere is this more apparent than the Cultural District.

A short drive from downtown, it offers a sampling of sophistication, great art and superb restaurants.

Standout attractions include the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth ( www.themodern.org), the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History ( www.fwmuseum.org) and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame ( www.cowgirl.net).

Set time aside to satisfy your appetite at the exquisite Café Modern ( www.themodern.org/cafe) inside the art museum. It features fine farm-to-table foods.

Take a relaxed saunter through the beautiful Fort Worth Botanic & Japanese Gardens ( www.fwbg.org) to complete your afternoon.

Cowboys and more: No trip would be complete without touring the Fort Worth Stockyards area ( www.fortworthstockyards.org), where men, women and little buckaroos roam the brick-paved streets.

Nowhere else has the American West been preserved so dutifully. There’s even a longhorn cattle drive twice daily.

Every Friday and Saturday night, rodeo cowboys stir up the dust in the local coliseum. All year, the rodeo is a proven crowd favorite and features some of the best competitors in the world.

Good eats: The Stockyards serves up some of the finest oven-roasted beef brisket – slathered in barbecue sauce – at Riscky’s BBQ ( www.risckys.com). Riscky’s, one of Fort Worth’s most well-known barbecue restaurants, prepares all of the true Texas favorites, barbecued flawlessly.

Scat Jazz: Fort Worth after dark should not be judged solely on the merits of Billy Bob’s Texas (“The World’s Largest Honky Tonk”).

Downtown Fort Worth boasts a vibrant and eclectic nightlife, whether you enjoy live comedy, country/western or cool jazz.

Scat Jazz ( www.scatjazzlounge.com) harkens to speakeasy days.

Just getting into the nightclub is an adventure: You walk into a dimly lit (but safe) alley where you will be confronted by a large neon Scat Jazz sign hovering above an isolated elevator door.

Press the elevator button and climb inside (it only goes down). Pay a nominal cover and two large doors swing open to one of the hippest and most exciting jazz clubs on the planet.

Vanek lives at Lake Norman and has unlimited standby flight privileges. http://flying-standby.blogspot.com.
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