Hometown: Albany, New York

Occupation: Freelance writer and editor of AlbanyKid.com, a blog about enriching family travel.

Describe Fort Worth in three words: Spunky, Spirited, and Surprising.

If you want to discover America’s frontier spirit, there’s no better place to find it than in Fort Worth. The Old West comes alive every day in the Stockyards when cowhands drive a herd of Texas Longhorns through the Historic District. But on a recent visit, I discovered that there’s a lot more to this “Cowtown.”

Lush Gardens

The Texas landscape of my imagination is one of dusty trails, lone oak trees and barbwire fences. Not the verdant gardens—brightened by cottage pink roses, towering azaleas, and abundantly stocked koi ponds--that graced my stroll through the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. And as if that wasn’t enough to permanently shift my mental picture, the Botanic Garden offers a number of educational exhibits, including the extremely kid-friendly Texas Native Forest Boardwalk.

Renaissance Art

I was expecting to see works by legendary Western artists such as Frederic Remington, but little did I know that Fort Worth is home to world-class art collections.  The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth houses the second largest collection of modern and contemporary American and European art in the United States. And the Kimbell Art Museum, known as “America’s best small museum,” permanently displays Michelangelo’s first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony. Both museums are neighbors in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, where a number of outdoor sculptures prompted smiles (and even raised eyebrows.)

Loss and Remembrance

When I visited, Fort Worth had just unveiled the JFK Tribute commemorating the city’s place in history as the site of President John F. Kennedy’s final speech before his assassination. I was staying across the street at the Hilton Hotel (formerly Hotel Texas) where JFK and the first lady spent their last night together, and thus had ample opportunity to study displays celebrating JFK’s accomplishments. What struck me, though, was not the photographs and signage, but the sense of pride and gratitude in his legacy emanating from a Texan vet I met at the exhibits.

I hope you dance.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk, has to be seen to be believed. We dropped in early on a weeknight, so I didn’t experience the energy of a 100,000 square foot establishment capable of holding 6,000 people. Instead, I was able to get a good gander at the decorative displays: the world’s largest belt buckle; walls covered in hand prints from the likes of Ringo, Richard Petty, and Huey Lewis; and a homage to the Live at Billy Bob’s Texas” label listing county music legends from Merle Haggard to Billy Joe Shaver who have recorded onsite. The image that will stay with me, however, is that of a middle-aged couple dancing on the wooden floor, under neon lights and a rhinestone studded saddle.

Seems to me that Fort Worth is full of fun and educational things to do with kids, but it’s also the kind of place that makes you want to dance.

Billy Bob's Texas Two Step Dancing