‘Cowtown’ is known for its distinct small-town vibe despite its rank among the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Perhaps it is the background of beautiful spaces that quietly accompany all the entertainment and experiences Fort Worth has to offer. Whether you’ve come to hear the symphony at the Bass Hall or eat barbecue in the historic Stockyards, you can’t go far without taking a breather.
Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus East
Need a break from people-watching in Sundance Square? Walk up Main Street toward the old courthouse and make a right for the TCC Trinity River Campus East. A cascading fountain runs the length of this architectural vision, leading you away from the bustle of downtown into a sunken plaza that opens onto the Trinity River. The scenic view will soon include an access point to the Trinity Trails as part of the city’s ambitious Trinity River Vision project, but you can still walk west along the river and rent a kayak or canoe at the Panther Island Pavilion.
Located near the Convention Center on the south end of downtown, the Fort Worth Water Gardens is a unique urban oasis surrounded by high walls and shade-providing trees. Though there are three separately designed pools, the best known is the active pool featured in the 1976 sci-fi film Logan’s Run. As you descend the terraced steps you can feel the force of falling water all around you. Be sure to check out the gardens at night; they are illuminated until 10pm.
Besides housing a wide variety of contemporary and historic work, these three adjacent museums form a continuous landscape that’s a calm companion to the flourishing West 7th area. The world-class Kimbell Art Museum is itself a work of art. The older Kahn building is famous for its repeating cycloid vaults that allow natural light to illuminate the artwork, while the recently completed Piano Pavilion complements its style. The permanent collections are free here and at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, while the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is free on Sunday and half-price on Wednesday.
The crown jewel of the cultural district, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Texas, boasting 110 acres of blissful foliage. There’s ample free parking and free admission to most of the 22 specialty gardens. If you can work around the frequent wedding parties you might practice your photography on more than 2500 species of native and exotic plants. Photos on the website will even give you a good idea of what’s in bloom. Every summer the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra hosts a series of evening concerts at the garden, accompanied by a finale of fireworks.
It is well worth the additional seven dollar admission fee to stroll the seven-and-a-half acre Fort Worth Japanese Garden located near the heart of the Botanic Garden. Established in 1973, this traditional landscape was further developed by donations from Fort Worth’s Sister City of Nagaoka, Japan, including cherry trees and Japanese maples best viewed in the spring and fall respectively. Semiannual festivals accompany the spectacle with demonstrations of traditional Japanese art and culture, but you can always enjoy wandering the picturesque bridges over ponds brimming with hundreds of colorful koi.
Playground, fishing pier, duck pond… Trinity Park has it all. Beginning just north of where the Trinity River crosses Interstate 30, the park stretches 252 acres along the river all the way to the West 7th entrance to downtown. Walk, jog, or bike along the extensive Trinity Trails back south of I-30 and grab a bite at the Clearfork Food Park. Or better yet, climb aboard the Forest Park Miniature Railroad near the entrance to the nationally ranked Fort Worth Zoo, and a little locomotive will take you across two bridges on a five-mile round-trip through the park.
Known locally as ‘Fort God‘ for its privileged view of the skyline and commanding bell tower, the grounds are available at any time and open to those seeking respite around the TCU area. The prayer garden features a footpath labyrinth if you’re the meditative type, or bring a picnic from the nearby restaurants on West Berry and watch the sunset gleam off the downtown skyscrapers.