Grapevine, Texas is a Fun Weekend Getaway
This stone calaboose opened as Grapevine's jail cell in 1909.
Main Street quiets down at the end of the day.
Tolbert's is a tourist attraction on Main Street, Grapevine, Texas
Romantic French style wine cellar at Delaney Vineyards.

Grapevine is the product of a thriving airport and an Aussie traveler, both of whom dreamed the small Dallas suburb could become bigger and better… and it has.

The airport is Dallas/Fort Worth International, which opened in 1974. It now welcomes 64 million passengers per year and pours millions into local tax coffers.

The Aussie is Paul W. (P.W.) McCallum, who settled here decades ago and, as executive director of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, has transformed Grapevine into a tourist attraction and marketing hub for the Texas wine industry.

With the charms of yesteryear along a restored Western Main Street (courtesy of the active Grapevine Preservation Society), several annual festivals, a few big hotels, the manmade Lake Grapevine for recreation, and the 180 shops and attractions at Grapevine Mills; Grapevine attracts 19 million annual visitors as a layover and weekend destination.

Touring Locally Around Grapevine, Texas

Grapevine was founded in 1844, even before the republic of Texas, on the same land where General Sam Houston had negotiated a peace treaty with the local Native Americans. By 1888, the Cotton Belt Railroad arrived, bringing with it prosperity from transporting locally grown cotton through Tarrant County.

Among the red brick storefronts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can see that the more than 80 antique stores, wineries and restaurants are not always what they appear. But every attraction has its story.

Start your history tour at the historic Grapevine Depot station dating to 1888. Part of the Cotton Belt Railroad until 1972, it was moved with the Grapevine Heritage Center to Main Street in the 1990s and is now a ticket office for the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. It runs all the way to the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District for an afternoon of Wild West history, shops and sights. We boarded an evening Jazz & Wine Train for a very pleasant excursion after a hot summer day. Depending on season, the train also runs a North Pole Express and a Thomas the Tank Engine themed outing.

Another oldie is Nash Farm, which occupied 500 acres of Grapevine prairie back in 1859 and is now surrounded by split ranch homes. Pay a visit to costumed re-enactors who introduce yesteryear, explain blacksmithing and the Smokehouse, let you card cotton, and encourage the kids to interact with farm animals.

The Historic Thread of Downtown

Within 5 minutes of Main Street shops is all the history you’ll need at the Settlement to City Museums. Small displays of artifacts from daily life include household items, family memorabilia, and a printing press from the Grapevine Sun, lovingly narrated by volunteers. The same complex houses the Grapevine Cotton Ginners Museum and the one-room Donald Schoolhouse – both moved her from other locations — and the recently built replica Ice House that houses the Historical Museum.

Our favorite in-town historic attraction is the authentic Calaboose, a one-room stone prison measuring 8 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet that opened in 1914 and was moved over the years until it ended up in this Heritage Park.  

Take a Break from Yesteryear

The Grapevine C&VB built their handsome headquarters and visitors center in the town’s signature red brick, surrounded by an arcaded walkway that shades visitors from the hot summer sun. Above it all, the 2012 clocktower is actually the Grapevine Glockenspiel, which puts on a loud show of mechanical train robbers emerging from the tower for a shootout. Bring binoculars if you have them; it’s a fun diversion at noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm daily.

Families will enjoy a stop at Willhoite’s restaurant – once an old filling station with a gas pump outside and a Model T Ford suspended over the tasty buffet. Site of the town’s first silent movie parlor, then gas station, it later made room for the town’s law enforcement – a sole night watchman who checked on locked doors and watched for stray dogs until 1956. See if the kids can spot his eight-foot tall bronze statue, by Jack Bryant, holding a lantern high above 200 S. Main Street -– or hear his ghost, said to haunt the restaurant.

Nearby, Tolbert’s Restaurant celebrates columnist and cook Frank Tolbert, whose popular chili recipe led him to found the annual Terlingua Chili Cookoff 50 years ago. While the competition allows entries of any meat flavored with a tomato and chili roux and seasonings, Tolbert’s specialty is a Bowl of Red, ground beef with a tomato based sauce. (Do not miss their famous Donkey Tails, a Texas version of pigs in a blanket.) The corner restaurant is part of the 1911 Robinson’s Mercantile, a commercial storefront that evolved over the decades, at one point housing a Laundromat and at another, an ice skating rink.

The Grapevine Move into Wine and Vineyards

And what about the wine? You may not associate Texas with fine wines, but the state is the fifth largest American wine producer after California, Washington, New York and Oregon. Grapevine, named for its mustang grapes, wholeheartedly adopted the “Sideways” mystique and is home to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Thanks to a determined tourism office, this little town that could boasts an Urban Wine Trail and an annual September WineFest estimated to draw 260,000 guests for its 30th anniversary.

There’s even a Vineyard Campground to stay in. One of Texas’ most awarded wines, Messina Hof Winery, leads 10 tasting showrooms that represent top Texas vintners. Delaney Vineyards, a popular spot for weddings, has planted 10 acres of grapes near their French chateau style winery, making their tour more interesting to young families and children.

Grapevine Loves Festivals and Holidays

The self-dubbed “Christmas Capital of Texas,” Grapevine has over 1,400 events during their own holiday season, events that attract families from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Starting on weekends in late November, Grapevine has activities like a Handblown Glass Ornament Workshop, the annual Parade of Lights, a carol concert featuring “Elvis Presley” and an illuminated boat parade. 

Planning a Visit to Contemporary Grapevine

Getting around Grapevine is easy, making a fun layover from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport very doable, especially for those interested in shopping.  If you’re staying overnight, The Grapevine Visitors Shuttle departs hourly every day from hotels to restaurants, shopping and attractions, on a fixed route. Day passes are $5 per adult or $10 for families (this means any two adults plus all the kids with them who are under age 18), and you can pick it up at the Grand Hyatt DFW attached to Terminal D.

If you’re looking to make your layover fly by, the Grapevine Texas USA Layover program (212/744-4767) offers two packages at $55 per person. The Leisure package includes dining, transportation, a Grapevine Mills mall coupon book and a voucher for the Sea Life Aquarium; the Wine & Dine package includes the above and a wine tasting at a local winery instead of the aquarium tickets.

Ready to spend the night? There’s a large Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark resort and the full service and entertaining Gaylord Texan plus many friendly B&Bs. And don’t forget to stop by the Grapevine Visitors Center (recognizable by that clock tower) and say Howdy!

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