Starting from the north, take Interstate 35 southbound (depending on the exit you use, you may also take I-35 East for a brief time) to Denton, home of two universities and a vibrant music scene. Denton’s Welcome Center features local “Dentoning Experts” to provide suggestions for your time here. I love The Juicy Pig, a barbecue restaurant with a trippy, Instagram-friendly mural covering one side of the building.
Hop on U.S. Route 380 eastbound to the Dallas North Tollway south about 40 minutes to Frisco, home to The Star (the Dallas Cowboys Headquarters), Dr. Pepper Ballpark (if you’re in the mood to float in a lazy river while watching a Frisco Roughriders game), the National Soccer Hall of Fame and the National Videogame Museum, where I learned about the science, technology, and engineering values in computer gaming.
Jump onto the Dallas North Tollway south about 5 minutes and you’ll be in Plano. I love The Shops at Legacy (located right off the highway) –– more specifically, Legacy Hall at Legacy West, with its variety of food and beverage stalls. Take a drive on the President George Bush Turnpike to Downtown Plano if you want to explore further, or if you’re road tripping in September, head that way for the Plano Balloon Festival.
Hop back on the Dallas North Tollway and take a short 20-minute jaunt down TX-121 to Old Town Lewisville, where you’ll find tons of local gems. Grab a bite at the new J2 Steakhouse, or take a tour of Witherspoon Distillery (for those 21+). The Perc Coffeehouse in is a great place to grab a cup of joe before hitting the road to Dallas!
From Lewisville, it’s another half hour south toward Dallas. Get ready — this one might test your DFW-driving skills. Take I-35E south to 635, where you’ll want to pit-stop at the Galleria Dallas (a must if you have an American Girl Doll owner). From 635, head south on North Central Expressway (US Highway 75) to the heart of the Big D. Dallas is so large and diverse that it would take days to explore everything. Deep Ellum, Uptown and the Bishop Arts District are three of my favorite fun, funky areas—full of places to eat, things to see and Instagram-able moments.
Leaving Dallas, it’s approximately 20 minutes via I-35 north and Texas State Highway 183 west into Irving. Try stand-up paddle boarding or grab a bite and see a show at their newest venue, the Toyota Music Factory!
It’s another 20 minutes on local streets (Rock Island Road to North Belt Line Road) from Irving to Grand Prairie, home to Epic Waters, the nation’s largest waterpark, and Lone Star Park, where you can spend a day watching the thoroughbreds run.
From Irving, my hometown Arlington is another 20 minute jaunt (via the President George Bush Turnpike south and Interstate 20 west) where you’ll find Six Flags Over Texas, Globe Life Park (home of the Texas Rangers), and AT&T Stadium – which is hopping with or without the Dallas Cowboys. The Arlington Museum of Art also has a fabulous exhibition: Cut! Costume and the Cinema, which runs through mid-August.
Make your way to Grapevine (about 35 minutes on Texas State Highway 360 north) and unpack your bags at one of their magical hotels like the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. Visit one of the seven winery tasting rooms (I’m partial to Umbra Winery).
Leaving Grapevine, it’s a brief 10 minutes (via Texas State Highway 114 Business, also called Northwest Highway) into lovely Southlake. Town Square is one of my favorite places to shop and dine –– one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten came from Truluck’s Seafood, Steak and Crab House.
It’s a little over 30 minutes on Texas State Highway 121 southbound to Fort Worth, where the West begins. Believe me, Cowtown’s a lot more than a herd of longhorns thundering twice daily through the Stockyards. A maze of mixed-use districts all over town (Sundance Square, Waterside and Clearfork are three of my favorites) will provide you hours of shopping, eating and Instagramming fun. I haven’t even mentioned our fabulous Cultural District, but trust me: It’s worth spending more than one day here.
Featured Image Courtesy: @tdifonzo