All Aboard! Roll down to Fort Worth on the Heartland Flyer - MetroFamily Magazine
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All Aboard! Roll down to Fort Worth on the Heartland Flyer

By Amtrak Heartland Flyer

by Lindsay Cuomo. Photos by Ian Cuomo and provided.

Reading Time: 6 minutes 

Summer travel season is upon us and it’s the perfect time to plan a weekend getaway filled with nostalgia, cowboys and culture aboard the Heartland Flyer – destination Cowtown.

Day 1

Heartland Flyer & Fort Worth Stockyards

Fort Worth on the Heartland FlyerStepping outside the typical weekend trip, my family opted to travel aboard the Heartland Flyer, which departs daily on a round trip between OKC and Fort Worth, Texas. The roughly four-hour train ride provided a relaxing start and finish to our three days of fun since we were able to swap the cramped quarters of our family car (and the usual bickering that comes with it) and driving responsibilities for some much-needed quality time.

The journey not only provided respite from typical travel stressors but also set a tranquil tone for the adventures that awaited us.

Arriving at the OKC station 30 minutes ahead of our departure, the boarding process was quick and easy. We waited inside the historic depot for our train to arrive. Tracking via the app, we were able to see the train pull into the platform. Once the conductor called for us to board, we scanned our tickets, picked our seats and stowed our luggage, all set for our adventure in a matter of minutes. We opted for seats on the upper level so we could enjoy the views. The narrow stairs can be a challenge to maneuver with bulky luggage, so keep that in mind when packing.

Spacious, reclining seats offer plenty of leg room and have adjustable footrests, a nice upgrade from my SUV or standard air travel! My kids enjoyed the freedom to move about the train car for a different view or to stretch their legs while securing snacks from the café car, which boasts breakfast sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, coffee, burgers, candy and more.

The train arrived in Fort Worth just after noon, which left us plenty of time to explore the nearby sites. Fort Worth Central Station is located within the Sundance Square neighborhood, which offers a complimentary trolley, Molly the Trolley, that runs daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Plus, a number of hotels near the station are accessible via the trolley. The Sundance Square area is pedestrian-friendly with walkable options for dining, shopping and sightseeing.

After checking in to our hotel, we took a metro bus to the iconic Fort Worth Stockyards, a national historic district showcasing the area’s importance to the cattle industry and the Chisholm Trail. Fort Worth got its nickname, Cowtown, from the millions of cattle and cowboys that stopped in for rest and to restock supplies before crossing the Red River into Indian Territory.

The brick buildings and walkways and wooden corrals connect visitors to a bygone area. Twice daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., crowds line the sidewalks to watch as cowhands drive a herd of Longhorn cattle down the heart of the district.

by Jade Brandt (John Wayne Enterprises)

Other must-see attractions include: John Wayne – An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to the life and legacy of the American actor and Western film icon, The Duke; Stockyards Championship Rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum on Friday and Saturday nights; and the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, a 5,400-square-foot, open air labyrinth of wooden pathways, near the Stockyards Station Mall, in addition to lots of Western ware shops and restaurants. Country music fans can enjoy live music at the cattle barn turned world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. While families are welcome, the venue is geared more toward adults.

After a long and fun-filled day, we returned to our hotel for some much-needed rest.

 


Day 2

Explore the modern West

Following an energizing breakfast at Corner Bakery Café, we set out to see the sights in Sundance Square, which include art galleries and museums, Circle Theatre and Sundance Square Plaza with the Chisholm Trail mural and Instagram worthy “disco cowboy hat” as dubbed by TikTok users, a half-ton sculpture covered in thousands of small mirrors.

Just a few blocks southeast is another must-see. Fort Worth Water Gardens is an architectural marvel designed by Phillip Johnson, who also designed the much-acclaimed Amon Carter Museum of American Art, another must-see Fort Worth attraction. The secluded oasis offers a surprising escape from the expected city sights. Three water features act as centerpieces of the urban park – the Quiet Pool, a sunken reflecting pool; the Aerated Pool filled with 40 spraying fountains; and the active pool, a concrete canyon with rushing water. We walked down to view the active pool and climbed atop a towering concrete mesa called the Mountain.

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Next up, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History features a dinosaur exhibition with a DinoLab and DinoDig; a mini-children’s museum with plenty of spaces for active and imaginative play; Innovations Studios that encourage doodling, design and inventing; a planetarium and more. Our family spent about three hours exploring this hands-on museum.

Nearby, in the Cultural District, are several more museums within walking distance – the Modern Art Museum, Kimbell Art Museum, Amon Carter Museum of American Art and National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame.

We wrapped up our day at Cidercade, an arcade that blends retro and modern. Admission is $12 and that covers all your game play – no tokens or quarters needed. They have video games, Skee-ball, pinball machines, pool tables, shuffleboard and much more. The venue also serves artisan pizzas and salads. All ages are welcome until 8 p.m.


Day 3

Go wild at the Fort Worth Zoo

Since our return departure was not until the early evening, we had plenty of time on our last day for more exploring. Make plans to stow your luggage after checking out of your hotel; some hotels will hold your bags, or for a small fee, you can store your bags at the train station.

Our last day was all about the Fort Worth Zoo! Ranked as a top zoo by USA Travel Guide and FamilyFun magazine, the Fort Worth Zoo is home to more than 500 species and 7,000 animals. Shady, winding pathways lead you around the zoo’s diverse habitats.

The zoo’s newest habitat, Predators of Asia & Africa, lets visitors get up close to some of the most skilled hunters in the animal kingdom. We climbed aboard a stationary safari bus to spy on a napping lion pride with a young cub, resting in the afternoon sun.

Inside Elephant Springs, you can walk along a floating “village” as you explore the multiple yards and water holes within the animal enclosure. Water sprayers allow guests to interact with the elephants by spraying streams of water, just like you have a trunk of your own.

The African Savanna showcases giraffes, hippos, ostriches and meerkats. Exotic and endangered reptiles and amphibians abound in the Museum of Living Art. Plus, check out native wildlife in Texas Wild!

After a full day of exploring, we relaxed over dinner at The Woodshed Smokehouse, which features an ever-rotating selection of beef, chicken, pork, wild game, fish and vegetables, all cooked over a variety of woods and fire sources. The restaurant sits on the banks of Trinity River so the courtyard provides beautiful views alongside their delicious menu.

With full bellies, tired feet and sweet memories, we boarded our train to return home.


Editor’s note: Kids ages 2 to 12 ride aboard the Heartland Flyer for 50 percent off when accompanied by an adult (restrictions apply). Learn more at amtrak.com/save-on-heartland-flyer-travel.

Consider joining the Heartland Flyer Kids Club!
A $10 membership includes a Heartland Flyer T-shirt and a certificate good for a complimentary round trip. Learn more at amtrak.com/heartlandflyer.

 

Accommodation options

Hotels within close proximity of Fort Worth Central Station and the trolley loop:

 

AC Hotel Fort Worth – Downtown

Room rates start at $144 a night

Perks – Ideal location with easy access to entertainment, restaurants and mass transit, clean & comfortable rooms, fun urban atmosphere, attentive staff, restaurant on-site.

 

Omni Fort Worth Hotel

Room rates start at $160 a night

Perks – Located next to Fort Worth Convention Center, rooftop outdoor pool, beautiful views of the downtown skyline, restaurant on-site.

 

Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel

Room rates start at $143 a night

Perks – Across the street from the Fort Worth Water Gardens, indoor pool, restaurant on-site.

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