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A small-town atmosphere in the midst of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex may seem a bit of a contradiction, but that’s exactly what you get in Grapevine, an old city that’s never lost its charm. Filled with wine, art, good food and shopping, it offers all the finer things in life, minus the pretension.
Start your day with breakfast at Main Street Bistro & Bakery, where the coffee is flavorful and the pastries are some of the best this side of the Atlantic. Then stroll down Main Street and take in the sights—there’s plenty to see, from the historic Torian Cabin, built circa 1845, to an old bank (now a jewelry store) from which Bonnie and Clyde’s gang made a significant withdrawal in the 1930s. And there’s the town’s first “calaboose” (Spanish slang for “jail”), where the first prisoner is rumored to have been a dog.
At the Grapevine Vintage Railroad train depot, you’ll find the Grapevine Historical Museum, complete with artifacts from prehistoric through modern times. Admission is free. A few of the fun things you’ll run across include a coat from Grapevine’s smallest man in 1932 (40 inches tall, 58 pounds), a 1914 wedding dress, a front door from the first brick house in the area, a cast of a dinosaur track discovered at Lake Grapevine, an old-fashioned soda fountain table and menu, and a large collection of milk bottles.
If you’re up for a jaunt by rail, take a seat in one of the vintage Victorian-style cars, pulled either by “Puffy,” an 1896 steam locomotive, or a 1953 diesel locomotive. The train travels along the Cotton Belt Route to Fort Worth, delivering passengers to the heart of the city’s Stockyards for a couple of hours before making a return trip.
As you may have guessed from the name, Grapevine has a strong wine culture. Numerous tasting rooms and wineries around town offer up samples of vino from Texas and beyond. Delaney Vineyards offers free tours, giving you an inside look at the winemaking process from harvest to glass. Every August, the public is invited to come and stomp the grapes (research has shown that wine produced from foot-stomped grapes actually tastes better—or so the tour guide tells you), and in September, Grapevine stages GrapeFest, known as the largest wine festival in the Southwest.
The city’s festival scene is always hopping, with more than a dozen big events throughout the year. (Find a schedule on the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau website.) For year-round entertainment, the Grapevine Opry hosts shows featuring everything from Southern gospel and country Christian to big-band swing and 1950s rock ’n’ roll.
By this point, you’ll no doubt have noticed the myriad statues around town. Many were produced by artist in residence Archie St. Clair, whose studio is open to the public. You’ll be amazed by this former commercial pilot’s story: A helicopter accident in 1994 and 17 hours in subzero temperatures left the Australian near death and doctors doubtful he’d ever walk again. But St. Clair, who spent 3 1/2 years in a wheelchair and taught himself how to sculpt during that period, has fully recovered from the crash and is now renowned for his realistic bronze sculptures.
If you’re looking for a place to hang your hat for the night, you’re in luck—Grapevine has it all, from slick resorts to down-home accommodations. If you have kids along for the ride, you may want to check out Great Wolf Lodge, which boasts outdoorsy-themed rooms and an indoor water park where the air stays a balmy 84 degrees. Right across the street is the massive Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center, which is just big and bold enough to seem more like it belongs on the Vegas Strip rather than in North Texas. The on-site Glass Cactus nightclub is 39,000 square feet and offers pretty lakeside views and a large dance floor. For something a little more quaint, the Garden Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn is close to all the action but feels a world away, with just four suites and peaceful, spacious grounds that feature trees with twinkling lights and three wrought-iron gazebos.
Whatever you choose to do, city shuttles will take you to and fro for just $5 a day, so there’s no excuse to miss anything this throwback town has to offer.
Haley Shapley, formerly of Coppell, is a freelance writer based in the Seattle, Washington, area.