We’ve all heard that everything is bigger and better in Texas: big hair, big steaks, big ranches, big guns, and big cities:

Big Hair Illustrations by Kevin Hand

However, if you only visit the big Texas cities you’ll miss out on discovering some real Lone Star heart and soul.

Grapevine, Frisco, and Irving are three smaller, distinctly different, road-trip worthy getaways that are all just about a 30-minute drive from Dallas.


Why Grapevine?

Downtown Grapevine-Drugstore supposedly robbed by Bonnie & Clyde
Downtown Grapevine-Drugstore supposedly robbed by Bonnie & Clyde – Photo by JRN

Folksy, friendly Grapevine, home to the Texas Wine industry, has a rich heritage starting back from 1843 when General Sam Houston negotiated a Peace Treaty with 10 Native American nations. The town’s charming Main Street, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is chock full of wine-tasting rooms, art galleries, indie-boutiques and some delicious eateries. Keep an eye out for the City Drugstore, which supposedly was held-up by Bonnie & Clyde!

Fun at Grapefest
Fun at Grapefest

Stark Insider - Wanderlust, Travel Tips, California AdventureInside Tip:

Grapevine boasts the premier Urban Wine Trail in Texas, as well as GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest, held every September, where you can say cheers over 160 Texas varietals.


Jazz & Wine train JRN
Jazz & Wine train- JRN

Hop aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, featuring authentic early 1920s Victorian-style coaches for a fun-filled theme ride, such as The Great Train Robbery, Jazz & Wine, or Grapevine’s North Pole Express, with guest appearances by Santa and his elves.

Grab an “Art & Sole” map to explore downtown’s Public Art Trail, filled with a variety of fine art working studios, galleries, museums and public art sculptures.

The Palace Arts Center
The Palace Arts Center

For some ol’ timey fun, see what’s playing at the beautifully restored art deco-style Palace Arts Center. Classic films are shown on the weekends, such as Roman Holiday or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, while popular live shows include the Texas Tenors during Grapevine’s Christmas Capital of Texas, and the Grapevine Opry Reunion.


Since there is no shortage of tempting restaurants lining Main Street, it’s perfect for a walkable progressive dinner.

Mi Dia's Bacon guac
Mi Dia’s Bacon guac-JRN

For the finest regional Tex-Mex head to Mi Dia From Scratch and order the guacamole (with bacon) prepared tableside to go with one of their excellent Margaritas made with lemon agave syrup, triple sec, and your choice of 108 different tequilas.

Cross over the courtyard to The Winewood for their famous smoked Gouda Mac n’ Cheese, and Tenderloin Bruschetta paired with a glass of wine from their extensive list.

I'll Meat U anywhere-JRN
I’ll Meat U anywhere-JRN

Save room for some top-notch ’cue at Meat U Anywhere, where the meat is cooked slow and low (heat) over hickory and oak. Meat is sold by the pound so you can buy little tastes of everything. Their brisket is killer as is the Jalapeño Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese and the creamy Natcha Momma’s slaw.

Dr. Sue's Chocolates-JRN
Dr. Sue’s Chocolates-JRN

Inside tip: Although I’m not a big chocolate lover (shocking, I know) I’m now a huge fan of Dr. Sue’s Chocolate. I literally devoured the artisanal dark chocolates (there are generous bowls of samples scattered around this adorable store) loaded with good-for-you pecans, berries, figs, and Ancho chili. I wish my doctor was more like Dr. Sue, a practicing physician who’s mission is to fight obesity-related disease through all-natural dark chocolate made to taste better and help you live healthier. Her shop closes early so either eat dessert first or stock up on sweeties for later.


The Gaylord Grapevine
The Gaylord Grapevine

The Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center is already huge, with 4.5 acres of Disneyland-ish indoor gardens and waterways, however, when the new addition is completed in 2018, it will become one of the largest non-gaming convention hotels in the country. For an operation of this size, the service is top-notch, everything works in the spacious rooms, and the food is surprisingly good.

Love the Lazy River
Love the Lazy River-JRN

Stark Insider - Wanderlust, Travel Tips, California AdventureInside Tip:

On a Texas hot afternoon, you’ll want to take advantage of a relaxing tube ride down the lazy river at Gaylord’s Paradise Springs waterpark, open for hotel guests only.

For lively nightlife, board the complimentary shuttle that takes you from the hotel lobby to the free-standing Glass Cactus Nightclub. Enjoy your creative cocktails on the deck, overlooking Grapevine Lake, or show off your moves on a 2,000-square-foot dance floor bathed in a million dollars of lights. There’s no cover charge for hotel guests.

Coming soon: Part 2 featuring Frisco. Stay tuned to Stark Insider!

Janice Nieder
Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. Previously a specialty food consultant in NYC, Janice is currently a San Francisco-based culinary tourism writer who has wined & dined her way through 80 countries. To keep things in balance, Janice also enjoys writing about her Girlfriend Getaways which include spa visits, soft-core adventure, cultural events, shopping, boutique hotels, and chef interviews.