Sundance Square Plaza

Sundance Square in Fort Worth is well worth a visit – even if you live in Dallas.

North Texas Ramblings - Sundance Square Plaza With so many people living in suburbs, city downtown areas often fall into decline. Dallas and Fort Worth are two cities bucking this trend by providing places for people to gather. Dallas has Klyde Warren Park, and Fort Worth has Sundance Square.

Anchored by the Bass Performance Hall, Sundance Square sports comedy clubs, jazz nightspots, and theater groups, not to mention the annual Lone Star Film Festival held every November. Shopping, dining, urban living, and hotels – Sundance Square has it all.

Sundance Square Plaza

Completed in November 2013, Sundance Square Plaza adds an almost European dimension to the Sundance Square scene. Outdoor seating surrounds a jetted fountain on the west side of the plaza. More than 200 jets shoot water into the air on a random schedule. Kids love it. They gleefully wait in anticipation for the water entertainment. Yes, kids can play in the zero-depth fountain (normally from 2 to 6 p.m.). There are some rules: no animals, street clothes only, and no pool toys.

On the east side of the plaza, you’ll find a cloud of four gigantic umbrellas sheltering outdoor tables from the sun. The 80-foot umbrellas, while immensely practical, have the elegance of an beautifully designed sculpture. At night, LED lighting illuminates the canvas ceiling.

Free Entertainment

With a new plaza, Sundance Square is the perfect spot for outdoor entertainment. A free, Sunday jazz series runs every other Sunday, through the end of June. Music starts at 3 p.m. Then on Wednesday evenings this summer, come by the square at 8:30 p.m. for a family movie shown in the plaza.

The Flying Saucer

What could be better than burgers and beer? How about burgers, beer, and bands? The Flying Saucer (111 East Third Street) has an outdoor stage that draws a crowd from within the restaurant’s outdoor patio and from people strolling Third Street. A beer emporium, the Flying Saucer has over 200 different beers on tap.

The Bird Café

The Bird Café (115 East, Fourth and Commerce) is a new restaurant opened following renovations to Sundance Square Plaza. The Bird Café has extensive patio seating facing the plaza, and indoor seating in the historic Land Title Block building. Decorated with bird prints from artists Scott and Stuart Gentling, the restaurant’s interior adds to the dining experience. The Gentling brothers toured Texas painting native birds in a style similar to that of naturalist John James Audubon. Bird Café sources many of its ingredients locally. The café offers some unique items such as quail and rabbit, along with more pedestrian choices.

Sid Richardson Museum

The Sid Richardson Museum (309 Main Street) is a unique little museum tucked in among Main Street storefronts. Richardson was a Texas oilman who made his fortune in the 1930s. The museum displays his collection of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell artwork. Western art is not normally my favorite, but I thoroughly enjoyed this small gem of a museum. A detailed guide gives you the story behind each painting. The museum is free.

When you go.

Sundance Square spans 35 city blocks. It supports a host of businesses, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and even a radio station (The Ranch, 95.9 FM). The architecture is an eclectic mix of modern, in some cases, high-rise buildings; and early twentieth century architecture. Parking is available in three large garages: Garage 1 (Commerce and First Street), Garage 2 (Calhoun and Third Street), and Garage 3 (Taylor and Third Street). Parking is expensive on weekdays, but free on weekends and after 5 p.m. There are so many unique shops and wonderful restaurants that I can’t list them all here. I hope you enjoy wandering the streets and exploring the shops as much as I did. Be sure to take time to relax in the plaza.

 

Dallas Farmers Market

You can still buy fresh produce at the Dallas Farmers Market as it undergoes its North Texas Ramblings Dallas Farmers Markettransformation. And while you’re shopping, stop in at Ruibal’s for your spring plants and flowers. Finish your outing with lunch at Pecan Lodge.

Times Are Changing

Operated since 1941 by the City of Dallas, the farmers market recently sold to DF Market Holdings. According to the Dallas Morning News, the private company will invest over $64 million to renovate the area for mixed use to include retail, apartments, restaurants, and a fresh produce market. Redevelopment is already underway, with Dallas Farmers Market Shed 1 demolished, refurbished, and now open for business.

Market Shed 1

With a new roof and floor, Market Shed 1 houses a much smaller farmers market. You’ll still find half a dozen produce vendors. The produce prices for fresh fruits and vegetables rival what I pay at the grocery store. Unfortunately, not all the items are local.

In addition to produce, we found local honey, fresh eggs, a pickle vendor specializing in Texas BBQ pickles, artisan cheese from Waco, and the standard jams and jellies. There was even a vendor with massive bones and other treats for your four-legged, dog-friends.

A small number of crafers have stalls in the shed. Yumscents sells soaps, scents, and handcrafted shaving kits (Yumscents lavender eye pillows are a steal at $7.95). Finally, a few food vendors sell breakfast burritos, tamales, and roasted corn.

Expect to see additional vendors as spring moves into summer, and more local farmers set up shop.

Ruibal’s Plants of Texas

Michael Ruibal began selling plants out of a truck at the Dallas Farmers Market in 1984. Now he operates four nurseries in the Dallas area. His market location is kitty corner to Shed 1. Ruibal’s boasts a vast variety of plants. Colorful annuals, perennials, garden pots, shrubs, and even trees are available at the fully stocked nursery that covers two city blocks. A visit to Ruibal’s is a must for anyone getting ready to plant their spring garden.

Pecan Lodge

Alas, Pecan Lodge no longer fills the market air with the sweet smell from its smokehouse. Pecan Lodge, named by D Magazine in 2010 as Dallas’ best new restaurant, and THE place for BBQ, has moved. While Pecan Lodge now has its own restaurant location in Deep Elum, it’s still within a mile of the Dallas Farmers Market. Shop the market in the morning and take a walk over to Pecan Lodge for lunch.

When you go

The Dallas Farmers Market (1010 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is free and plentiful. Ruibal’s Plants of Texas (601 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And Pecan Lodge (2702 Main Street, Dallas) is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and from 3 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

McKinney Third Monday Trade Days

Are you looking for an out of the ordinary shopping experience? Third Monday Trade Days (TMTD) in McKinney offers everything from alpacas to yard art. Catering to the treasure North Texas Ramblings - McKinney Third Monday Trade Dayshunter in all of us, the market overflows with collectibles interspersed among flea market castoffs. Located on US 380, just two miles west of US 75, this three-day, once a month event hosts an eclectic group of vendors. Third Monday crafters’ stalls sell handmade jewelry, clothes, hats, etched glass, and even tooth fairy pills. Interior designers frequent the market for its wide selection of home accents and architectural hardware.  Looking for garden art? There are planters, wrought iron sculptures, and wide selection of concrete critters.

Antiques, collectible glass, and china stalls sandwich between vendors selling t-shirts and ball caps. A covered building called the Mall holds a mix of shops from photographic art to vintage clothing to a coin dealer. There is even an ATM at the Mall, just in case you need more money.

Throughout the market, food trucks sell food normally reserved for the State Fair. Foot long corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and honey roasted corn are just a few items sold. Stalls also sell other delectable treats for shoppers to take home like pecans, fresh roasted coffee, local honey, and elderberry jelly.

While shopping, don’t miss the opportunity to chat with vendors. Many have been part of Trade Days for years and all have fascinating stories about their products. In fact, Third Monday Trade Days is part of Collin County history. In pioneer Texas, the circuit court judge made his rounds to each county just once a month. In Collin County the judge presided over court on the third Monday. People from around the area would come to town to see the court proceedings – think of it as the Judge Judy of the frontier. They would bring their goods to trade and sell, thus the birth of our modern Trade Days. Third Monday Trade Days is located in what used to be Buckner, another piece of local history. The frontier town, Buckner, was the Collin County seat from 1846 – 1848. All that remains of Buckner is the Buckner Cemetery located on the market’s west end.

When you go.

Trade Days are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday preceding the third Monday of each month. Admission is free, though there is a $5 charge for parking (parking is free on Friday). Located at 4550 West University Drive in McKinney, the next TMTD weekend begins April 17. For more 2015 dates, visit the TMTD website or call 972-562-5466.

Road Trip — Tulsa, Oklahoma

How about a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma? Spring break is always a good time for a road trip. North Texas Ramblings - The Center of the Universe in Tulsa OklahomaYou can travel to the Center of the Universe, spend the afternoon at an oil tycoon’s home, and visit one of the world’s tallest freestanding statues. Those are just some of the adventures waiting for you in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The second largest city in Oklahoma, Tulsa comfortably combines the sublime with the absurd. Beautiful art deco buildings grace the downtown area. However, there appears to be no city zoning logic with hotels, strip malls and residential neighborhoods clustered together throughout the city. This eclectic building mix gives the city personality and character.

Tycoon’s Mansion – The Philbrook Museum

Waite Phillips, oilman and business entrepreneur, donated his 72-room mansion to the City of Tulsa in 1938 for an art museum. The mansion, designed in Italian Renaissance style, is as much fun to explore as the art collection it houses. You’ll find an excellent exhibit of European art.

Perhaps most intriguing is the museum’s Native American collection. Park any preconceptions you have of Native American art at Philbrook’s front door and enjoy the exhibit’s vast diversity of expression and style. For three decades (1946 – 1979), Philbrook hosted an annual, juried show of Native American artists. Philbrook’s collection was, in part, built from these events. The Philbrook (2727 S. Rockford) is closed on Mondays and major holidays.

Hungry? Just south of the Philbrook Museum on Peoria Avenue you’ll find a several dining options. Charleston’s (3726 S. Peoria) serves an awesome chicken fried steak in a casually upscale dining room. Weber Root Beer Stand (3817 S. Peoria) is the place for root beer (in a chilled glass) and a burger.

Quirky Salute to Tulsa’s Oil Heyday – The Golden Driller

No visit to Tulsa is complete without a visit to the 76-foot tall Golden Driller statue located on the edge of the Tulsa Fairgrounds (4145 E. 21st). Purported to be one of the tallest, freestanding statues in the world, the Golden Driller is made of steel and concrete. He stands as a tribute to the days when Tulsa was known as the “Oil Capital of the World.”

The Golden Driller truly is impressive and well worth a photo. His right arm rests on an actual oil derrick. In 2011, the statue received a facelift courtesy Tulsa based Bill Haynes Co. who applied a special, protective coating to preserve the statue.

The Wild Side — Tulsa Zoo

I confess. I love a great zoo. The Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum (6421 E. 36th) may not be the largest city zoo, but it does have an impressive variety of animals and exhibits. Be sure to take advantage of numerous zoo demonstrations and talks. Our family enjoyed the antics of the California sea lions: Briney (female, age 26) and Dorsey (male, age 19). The geriatric pair of sea mammals works for their living, putting on demonstrations for visitors twice daily.

The Children’s Zoo has the standard corral with sheep and goats for the kids to pet. But here’s the twist, the Children’s Zoo also has a collection of antique animals like the Highland cow and Jacob’s sheep. That’s right, Tulsa Zoo has domestic animals facing extinction as they are being replaced by new farm breeds.

Tulsa Zoo continues to renovate with new exhibits designed so that visitors experience both animal and their habitat. The Tropical Rain Forest transports you to a humid South American and the newly renovated Wildlife Trek recreates forest, desert and aquatic habitats.

The Tulsa Zoo is open 9 am to 5 pm year round (closed Christmas day).

Uncanny — The Center of the Universe

Part of Tulsa’s charm is its unique ambience. And nothing is more eerily unusual than standing in the Center of the Universe. According to the Tulsa Library website, “The ‘center’ is a worn concrete circle, 30 inches in diameter, in the middle of a 13 row circle of bricks. . . located at the apex of a rebuilt span of pedestrian bridge, originally built in the 1930s.”

Stand in the center of the circle and talk. You, but no one else around you, will hear the echo of your voice. It does almost feel like you’re speaking into a hole in the universe. Weird right?

The Center of the Universe is located on the Boston Avenue pedestrian overpass between First and Archer Streets. And, yes, the Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) building opposite the overpass does look a lot like the former World Trade Center. The World Trade Center (built 1973) and the BOK Tower (built in 1975) were designed by the same architect.

While downtown, enjoy the mix of architecture. Tulsa is famous for its Art Deco buildings constructed during the height of the oil boom. Of national note is Boston Avenue Methodist Church built in the 1920s (1301 S. Boston).

Walking Plano Parks

After our winter weather, do you have cabin fever? Time to get outdoors. Here are three Plano Parks with paved walking paths. So get on those sneakers and go exploring.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve 

Designated as a National Wildlife Federation habitat, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve features North Texas Ramblings -- Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano Texas200 acres of forest and Blackland Prairie. With over 2.3 miles of paved trail, Arbor Hills is ideal for strollers. The trail winds through forest, up a hill to a scenic overlook, and continues through prairie. At the trailhead, signs advise park users to watch for wildlife. The park supports a wide range of animals, from common grey squirrel to armadillo. The animals are shy and you are more likely to hear the scuttling critters in the ground cover, than actually see them. A well-designed park, the paved trail guides walkers and skillfully shields them from the development along the park’s perimeter. Covered picnic tables are available at the overlook and near the parking lot.

Located in west Plano, Arbor Hills is a popular spot on weekends for families and mountain bikers with the parking lot often filling beyond capacity.  To avoid the crowds, visit Arbor Hills on a weekday. Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is at 6701 W Parker.

Oak Point Park 

Another Plano Park nature preserve, Oak Point Park has an extensive concrete path system. The 3.5 miles of paved walkway winds through prairie, grasslands, and circles a pond. The pond provides prime duck and turtle viewing. The level pathway makes it an easy walk, though the green space is less scenic than at Arbor Hills.

The largest Plano Park with over 800 acres, Oak Point Park also has a series of natural surface paths that follow Rowlett Creek. An underutilized green space, Oak Point Park is quiet, even on the weekends. Located at 5901 Lois Rios Boulevard. The park has a covered picnic area.

Chisholm Trail

If you want a longer walk – say eight miles – check out the Chisholm Trail.  This green strip follows Spring Creek from Legacy south to Harrington Park. You can start the trail at Schimelpfenig Library (5024 Custer Road). Situated at the halfway point, the library provides adequate parking and easy trail access. From the library, head southeast. There is a paved pathway along both banks of Spring Creek with bridges periodically crossing the stream to connect the trails. The long linear parkway is bounded on one side by quiet residential streets and on the other by the creek. If you walk at dusk, the big rodents you see are not rats – they are shy nutria living in burrows along the stream’s banks. Intermittently along the pathway are small neighborhood parks with playground equipment. Chisholm Trail is a popular bike pathway and congested on weekends.

All three paved trails are open to bikers. To ensure a safe walk, remember to stay to the right of the trail and allow bikes room to pass. You can also bring your dog, if on a leash. Operated by the City of Plano, Arbor Hills, Oak Point, and Chisholm Trail are open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.