Texas: Stomp into the Grapevine

Bob Beck’s colourful, whimsical and wacky art sits noticeably apart from his neighbour: the Grapevine Glockenspiel Clock Tower. Bob, a friendly north Texan, creates treasured art from another man’s trash, and has a wicked sense of humour.

I’m on a layover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Grapevine, located less than 10 minutes away, seems the perfect way to fill in some time as I await my long-haul flight home.

I start under the almost 39-metre (127 Feet) Glockenspiel Clock Tower that is home to the visitor information centre and a small gallery where, with a map in hand, I head to discover historic downtown Grapevine. Even the main street is historic, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

My first stop, after a frantic check of the time, is diagonally across the road. It is coming up to noon and everyone knows what happens in Texas at noon: there’s a shootout.

It’s between larger than life characters who are meant to portray would-be-train robbers Nat Barren and Willy Majors who exit the saloon and sort out who’s boss of the town. If you miss the noon shoot-out it’s repeated on the stroke of 3pm, 6pm and 9pm daily unless there are strong winds.

Once pistols are back in their holsters I’m off to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. There are no trains running today, however I fill time watching glass blowing, admiring a blacksmith who shrewdly forges a cowboy hat from a nickel, and stand on the historic platform where I dream of seeing “Puffy”, the 1896 fully restored locomotive said to be the oldest engine operating in the South, come chugging into the station.

Puffy or his vintage mate Vinny, pull the train between Grapevine and the Fort Worth Stockyards on weekends and on Fridays in summer. There are special event trains as well – Jazz Wine Trains and the Christmas Wine Trains, both of which sound like something I would like to do.

I’ve only crossed the road and somehow an hour is gone, so with a bounce in my step I head further into downtown Grapevine. Lined by an inter-mingled array of buildings from architectural influences dating from the 1800s to today, wineries, vintage clothing shops, a farmers’ market, sculptures and more than 60 speciality shops have me wishing I had more check-in luggage weight for the trip home.

I bypass the funeral home with its neat and manicured lawns and head to Main Street Bistro and Bakery as my stomach is calling to be attended to and fast. It is Sunday and the place is packed. The eclectic furnishings and memorabilia adorning everything from the walls to the ceiling have my eyes darting feverishly around when I am pulled into a conversation. Next to me, a young girl asks me if I read. I answer yes, and look at the book in her hands. It’s a copy of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, an Australian classic and an all-time childhood favourite of mine.

Our conversation ensues after she enquires about my strange accent. When I say I am from Australia and know of the gumnut babies, her eyes light up and she quickly draws mum and dad into our chat about the lives of the privileged gumnut children that live protected in that far-off land down under.

We laugh and joke and she reveals her name is Lucy before imploring me to keep on talking. I oblige, and tell her more about Australia. As much as I try and ask her about her hometown and what I should see, she is good
at manipulating the conversation. Though I do draw out from her that the top things families should do in Grapevine is visit Legoland, as she says is “it’s heaps cool”, the Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium and do the Christmas train ride as “Santa has a special present for all of us”.

I tell her I have heard of Puffy and she is impressed, asking me if I’d like to go with her family on the Christmas train. Mum and dad echo the invite and also tell me about the main event in these parts – GrapeFest – the largest wine festival in the southwest of the USA. It’s on in September and is four days of all kinds of fun and games related to wine, including the always popular Grape Stomp. I wanted to know more, but my lunch arrives and I head back to my table.

Chef Fabian, a specialist pastry chef trained in France, creates gastronomical creations and even after just one bite it’s obvious the reason this non-descript almost ‘plain Jane’ eatery is nothing short of spectacular on the inside. If time is tight and you don’t have time to chat with locals like Lucy’s family, there’s a takeaway counter.

Another time check and I have less than an hour to make my way to the airport. Leaving the bakery, I spy the Lancaster Theatre and waste another five minutes on the perfect Instagram shot. It’s then onto Grapevine Mills, which boasts more than 180 stores amongst gardens, fountains, ponds and more. I spot Legoland and the Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium and I smile as I think of little Lucy. The shopping here is phenomenal – but it will have to wait until next time as I have no room in my suitcase.

Now that I know about this little gem of a place, next time I fly into Dallas Fort Worth I will add in a few extra hours to better explore Grapevine, take a bigger suitcase and make sure I am going to be there on a weekend, so I can take a ride on the Vintage Railroad, with either Puffy or Vinny chugging along up front.

Photography by Danielle Lancaster and Grapevine Tourism.

TRAVEL FACTS

Getting there
Fly to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and organise either a tour, driver or drive yourself the short distance to Grapevine.

What to do in your time
If you have a four-hour stop-over you can see at least two attractions; for a day, it’s easy to enjoy five attractions while on an overnight stay you could fit in six to eight.
Things to do on a half-day layover include Main Street, Grapevine Mills, wine tasting and dining. If you have a full day you could do a train excursion (depending on the day), visit a vineyard, check out Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium or head out to Lake Grapevine.

Further information
• Grapevine: grapevinetexasusa.com

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