(Houston Chronicle) Fort Worth may be next to Dallas, but it has its own vibe and personality - and its own attractions, from food to fine art. In recent years, folks have started calling Fort Worth the new Austin: laid-back, cool and cultured, but not yet overrun with hipsters and traffic. Get there while it's still a state secret.


Soak in the arts: The city's cultural district is just across the Trinity River from downtown, and three excellent art museums are lined up next to each other. The Kimbell Art Museum, already famous for its Louis Kahn-designed building, has a new pavilion designed by Renzo Piano (3333 Camp Bowie; kimbellart.org). The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth features an outstanding collection of post-World War II art in all media, but the building - a mix of concrete, glass and steel accented by a 1.5-acre pond - is a work of art on its own (3200 Darnell; themodern.org). And the Amon Carter Museum of American Art features a broad collection of paintings, photographs, sculpture and works on paper, much of it from the 19th and 20th centuries (3501 Camp Bowie; cartermuseum.org). The area is walkable, so you can get from museum to museum on foot - but if you prefer to drive, parking's usually not a problem.

Sundance Square: The square - named for the Sundance Kid, who hung out here with Butch Cassidy around 1900 - is the 35-block district that forms the heart of downtown, with retail and restaurants on every block. A one-acre plaza offers a place to rest and enjoy a 216-jet fountain that shoots plumes of water into the air. Wander any direction from the plaza and you'll find shops and galleries, bars and restaurants. Parking is free after 5 p.m. and on weekends; sundancesquare.com.

Classic Cowtown: Fort Worth is known as Cowtown, and you can't leave the city without taking in a little of its cattle-herding, meat-packing history. In the Stockyards, you can catch a cattle drive at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. The Fort Worth Herd, 15 Texas longhorns, ambles down Exchange Avenue, offering an ideal Cowtown photo op. fortworthstockyards.org and fortworth.com/the-herd.


Magnolia Avenue: Eat, drink and enjoy Magnolia Avenue on the city's Near Southside. Several long blocks offer an appealing variety of restaurants - from authentic Italian (Nonna Tata), Southern (the Paris Coffee Shop, which opened in 1926) to vegan (the Spiral Diner). Shop for vintage home goods and clothing at 44Bootlegger and gifts and art prints at Hutson Studio. The street makes for excellent people-watching on weekends; sit down with a latte at Avoca Coffee, have a beer at Chimera Brewing Company, or enjoy a proper cocktail at The Usual, a sleek bar that specializes in Prohibition-era drinks. Most of the action is between the 700 and 1500 blocks of Magnolia Avenue, bound by Eighth Avenue on the west and Hemphill Street on the east; fortworthsouth.org.

Fort Worth Water Gardens: Designed by Phillip Johnson and opened in 1974, the convention-center-adjacent park features three pools of water: the aerating, the quiet and the active pool. Open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Free to the public, 1600 Commerce Street.


The Ashton: In the heart of downtown, this boutique hotel's 39 rooms and suites are housed in a 1915 Italianate building with a fully restored exterior. Inside, it's 21st-century elegance, with mahogany furnishings and a collection of art by members of the Fort Worth Circle, who were active from the 1930s through the 1960s. Rates from $199. 610 Main, 817-332-0100; theashtonhotel.com.

Rosen House Inn: This bed-and-breakfast is in the historic Fairmount district. Its three rooms each have private bathrooms, hardwood floors and plenty of modern technology (including free WiFi). Guests have access to an outdoor pool, and proprietor Kelly Bowden makes breakfast for guests each morning. Rates start at $105 on weeknights, $125 on weekends. 1714 S. Henderson, 888-791-4850; rosenhouseinn.com.

Etta's Place: This Sundance Square inn is a cross between a B&B, a private home and a downtown hotel. Some of the rooms are actually suites with kitchens, living room areas and lavish baths; others are comfortably simple with WiFi, TVs and fluffy terry robes. The complimentary breakfast is sure to please, as do the nooks and crannies of this interesting, multi-level space. Etta, by the way, was the Sundance Kid's enigmatic girlfriend. Rates start at $162. 200 W. Third, 817-255-5760; ettas-place.com.


Clay Pigeon: This buzzy spot in west Fort Worth serves American cuisine made with local and organic ingredients. In addition to steaks, seafood and house-made pasta, the small but frequently changing menu features imaginative flatbreads, simple salads and roasted bone marrow (served with a chewy toasted sourdough). Entrees are in the $25-$35 range. 2731 White Settlement, 817-882-8065; claypigeonfd.com.

Woodshed Smokehouse: Everything's cooked with fire or smoke at Woodshed, which sits on the banks of the Trinity River. The restaurant's three smokers, two rotisseries and two wood grills crank out an excellent assortment of beef, pork, wild game, fish and more. The dining room is a casual indoor-outdoor space, and there's some sort of live music most nights. Snacks and simple plates are $5-$10; tacos and sandwiches are $9-$11; and traditional barbecue is sold by the pound. 3201 Riverfront, 817-877-4545; woodshedsmokehouse.com.


Source: Houston Chronicle