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FORT WORTH

Fort Worth’s famous Stockyards National Historic District may soon have something new for the visitors who flock there for an authentic taste of Western heritage. Plans are under way for a new themed entertainment venue along West Exchange Avenue.  Meanwhile, the daily longhorn cattle drives will carry on, as will the live rodeos and other entertainment at the Cowtown Coliseum, and the live music at the White Elephant Saloon.

Admission is free at the Sid Richardson Museum, which houses an impressive collection of works by western artists. The museum is located in Sundance Square, a popular downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district. Other major shopping venues include Montgomery Plaza, Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall and Bass Pro Shop’s Outdoor World.

In the Fort Worth Cultural District, construction on a new facility for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is expected to end next year, with the Cattle Raisers Museum moving into the space from its current home in Sundance Square. Other major attractions in the district include the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, the Will Rogers Memorial Center — which hosts live horse and livestock shows — the Amon Carter Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

No trip to Fort Worth would be complete without a visit to the National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame, founded in 2001, which chronicles the contributions made by people of color that are left out of many of today’s history books.  The museum features the work of artists who documented the people and events of the time through journals, photographs and other historical items. These long overlooked materials tell perhaps for the first time the complete story.

The city’s largest meeting venue, the Fort Worth Convention Center, has 253,226 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 58,849 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 28,160-sq.ft. ballroom. The Water Gardens Events Plaza connects the convention center to the Fort Worth Water Gardens, which reopened in March 2007 after a $2.7 million renovation. The Ashton Depot, a 10,000-sq. ft. facility that can hold receptions, banquets and other events for up to 500 people, is just one among the city’s many choices for offsite venues. Fort Worth has more than 11,000 guestrooms citywide, including more than 2,000 rooms downtown.

HOUSTON

Houston’s Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was founded by a group of freed slaves just after the end of the Civil War. A Black heritage tour of the city might also incorporate stops at the Shrine of the Black Madonna™; the Ensemble Theatre, the oldest professional theater in the Southwest; Project Row Houses, 22 restored shotgun homes that have been converted to an art and cultural center; the American Cowboy Museum on the Taylor Stevenson Ranch; and the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, which chronicles the African-American military experience.

The city’s Museum District boasts 17 facilities, including 11 that offer free daily admission and six others that waive the fee on certain days of the week.  Art lovers might like to browse the Museum of Fine Arts, which offers free admission on first Sunday and recently opened its new Arts of Korea Gallery, while the kids might pick the Houston Museum of Natural Science or the Houston Zoo. 

The 64-ft. Water Wall in Uptown Houston, with thousands of gallons of recycled water cascading over both sides and surrounded by more than 180 live oaks, is the city’s most photographed site. If you visit Houston’s famous star-shaped San Jacinto Monument, you’ll also want to have your camera ready for the panoramic view from its observation deck.

Other major attractions include Space Center Houston, George Ranch Historical Park, the Holocaust Museum Houston, Six Flags Astro World and the downtown dining and entertainment district known as The Main Event.  The new $170 million Houston Pavilions is set to open downtown in October 2008 with 360,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space.  

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center contains nearly 1.2 million sq. ft. of meeting, exhibit and registration space.  There are more than 55,000 guestrooms in the Greater Houston area, including nearly 6,000 rooms downtown.

PLANO

More than 60 cultures are on display at the Plano International Festival, held each October in historic Haggard Park. The Parade of Nations is the featured highlight of the event, which also includes live entertainment and a host of other activities.

Plano’s historic downtown area offers antique malls, specialty shops, and art galleries, while the ArtCentre of Plano houses more galleries and a theater. The 289-acre Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary has nature-themed art exhibits and a hands-on science lab. At Fairview Farms Marketplace, kids can visit the petting zoos and go on pony rides, and meeting groups can book receptions in the Fairview Corral Barn.

History buffs might enjoy a tour of the four-acre Heritage Farmstead or the Interurban Railway Museum.

A short drive to Parker, Texas, will take you to the Southfork Ranch, where you can tour the place made famous on the television series “Dallas.” An onsite exhibit features video clips from the show and memorabilia like the gun that shot J.R Ewing and Jock’s 1978 Lincoln Continental.

For meetings, the 86,400-sq. ft. Plano Centre can accommodate up to 3,000 people with 21,600 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space, 18 meeting rooms and a full-service business center.

SAN ANTONIO

San Antonio’s biggest visitor attraction is getting bigger. A $216 million, 13-mile expansion under way will connect the River Walk to the four Spanish colonial missions to the south and the museums, Pearl Brewery and other attractions heading north. The Museum Reach is set to finish by early 2009, while the Mission Reach is targeted for completion by 2012.

The new Museo Alamedo, a Smithsonian affiliate, has opened in historic Market Square, while the McNay Art Museum — the state’s oldest museum of modern art — will reopen in June 2008 with a $50.8 million addition The Sunset Station trolley makes stops at the McNay, the San Antonio Museum of Art and several local art galleries. 

The Alamo, where the original chapel and Long Barracks at the site of the city’s first Spanish mission still stand, is of course a must-see attraction. For a sweeping view of modern San Antonio, head for the 750-ft. Tower of the Americas — which boasts the second tallest observation deck in the nation.

Shoppers can check out the boutiques flanking the River Walk, along with more choices at the Alamo Quarry Market, Artisan’s Alley and the Shops at La Cantera.

UTAH

The Brigham Young Monument in Salt Lake City includes the names of three African-Americans who traveled in Young’s 1847 pioneer camp.  Other Black heritage sites in and around Utah’s capital and largest city include Calvary Baptist Church, Trinity A.M.E. Church and the Fort Douglas Military Museum, which has exhibits on the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 24th infantries as well as several of their gravesites.

The Salt Lake City area is surrounded by 10 mountain resorts. In Park City, located 35 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport, you can take ski and snowboard lessons, pamper yourself at a spa and be entertained at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts or the Egyptian Theatre.   In Snowbird, just 30 minutes from the airport, adventure travelers can head for mountain biking and hiking trails in the summer, or brush up on their winter sports skills at the Snowbird Mountain School.

WASHINGTON

Visitors to Capitol Lake Park in Olympia will discover a great panoramic view of the state capitol, the lake and surrounding bluffs. The best views in Seattle, Washington’s largest city, are found at the top of the famous Space Needle, where you can take in Mount Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympic mountains.

Snohomish County, situated north of Seattle between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, is home to a 1,400-acre estuary wetlands area that’s a haven for birdwatchers.

One of the world’s largest collections of Native American artifacts is housed in Spokane’s Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Among the most interesting sights in Tacoma is the Chuhuly Bridge of Glass, which connects the Museum of Glass to the Washington State History Museum. Glass art aficionados might also be interested touring the largest U.S. stained glass studio plant, located in Woodinville, 45 minutes east of Seattle.

A vibrant multicultural heritage. Stunning natural beauty. A variety of top-rate meeting venues and accommodations. You’ll find all of this and more out West. For more exploration to discover your perfect Western destination, contact the state tourism offices listed here.

GETTING IN TOUCH

  • Arizona Office of Tourism — (866) 275-5816
  • California Travel & Tourism Commission — (800) 862-2543
  • Colorado Tourism Office — (800) COLORADO
  • Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau — (800) GoHawaii (1-800-964-2924)
  • Nevada Commission on Tourism — (800) NEVADA-8
  • New Mexico Department of Tourism — (800) 733-6396, ext. 0643
  • Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department — (800) 652-6552
  • Oregon Tourism Commission — (800) 547-7842
  • Texas Tourism Division — (800) 8888-TEX
  • Utah Travel Council — (800) 200-1160
  • Washington State Tourism — (800) 544-1800
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