Local Unknown is my new blog series exploring my hometown of Arlington, Texas and the local area. It focuses on local history, oddities, arts, and culture. Watch for new posts on Wednesdays!
More than the Big Four
- Parks and Outdoors
- Local History
- Public Art
- The present started in the past
In my previous post, I gave an overview of Arlington’s Big Four:
- Six Flags Over Texas (amusement park)
- Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (water park)
- Globe Life Field (home to the Texas Rangers baseball team)
- AT&T Stadium (home to the Dallas Cowboys football team)
Arlington is more than the Big Four in our Entertainment District. They’re popular, and icons of our skyline, but there’s more to Arlington than that. I may downplay the Big Four at times, but tourism is significant for Arlington. It goes back to the city’s beginnings and really took off in the 1930s. It’s part of our past, present, and future.
It’s some of the lesser-known things in this city that gives it charm and personality. The Big Four aren’t really for me. So what do I like about Arlington then? Let’s find out. I’ll explore many of these further in future posts.
In recent years, Downtown Arlington has sprung back to life. It’s once again becoming the heart of the city. From local history, things to do, and unexpected surprises, you can find it all Downtown. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the city. It’s pedestrian-friendly and an excellent place to explore on foot. There’s also plenty of free parking. Urban Union — a new district within Downtown — offers unique entertainment and dining options.
While in Downtown, learn about local history. Check out Founders Plaza to learn more about the founding families of Arlington. Arlington Cemetery is another place to learn about history — in the daylight, of course! Stop by the historic Vandergriff Building, and view the enormous mural.
There are also some Texas Historical Markers around here. You can even see the original town markers. With the north and south edge of the town only a half-mile apart, you can get an appreciation for how much the city has grown.
If you’re a culture vulture, visit the Arlington Museum of Art. This intimate art museum hosts traveling exhibits and ones from local and youth artists.
Or, catch a performance from Theatre Arlington or Symphony Arlington. The Arlington Music Hall is one of Arlington’s best places to hear live music or see a performance. The Levitt Pavilion is another option for live music. Check out their outdoor concert series!
All of that exploring will work up an appetite. J. Gilligan’s Bar & Grill and J.R. Bentley’s are iconic Downtown Arlington restaurants serving delicious food.
Nothing beats an old school arcade. Leave the quarters at home and check out Free Play Arcade. They have over 100 arcade games and pinball machines.
If you’re thirsty, Downtown has you covered. Local breweries include Legal Draft Beer Company and Division Brewing. On Tap is a watering hole with 50 beers (and other surprises) on tap.
Parks and Outdoors
Downtown Arlington is a great place, but sometimes you need a nature fix. Luckily, Arlington has more than 80 parks. Local favorites include Cravens Park, Stovall Park, Vandergriff Park, and Veterans Park. There’s also the Crystal Canyon Natural Area, which is an unexpected treat.
One of my favorite places in the whole city is River Legacy Park. It’s a 1,300-acre area of nature that includes an 8-mile hiking trail. And, don’t forget about Lake Arlington.
I mentioned local history in Downtown Arlington. There’s more than that. Take a guided tour of Top O’ Hill Terrace — a legitimate restaurant and tea garden in the 1930s that also had a brothel and illegal casino hidden away. Known as “Vegas Before Vegas,” it’s now part of Arlington Baptist University. (Yes, you read that right.) The story is as incredible as it sounds.
The Fielder House Museum and Knapp Heritage Park also offer a much different glimpse of the past, although they’re just as fascinating.
There are at least 50 Texas Historical Markers and City Landmarks in Arlington. These help to illustrate the local history.
The Arlington Museum of Art isn’t the only place to see art. There are dozens of murals, sculptures, statues, memorials, monuments, and abstract pieces scattered around the city.
For something really cool, there’s the massive Caelum Moor sculptures in the Entertainment District. These five monuments seem unworldly.
There’s also the Arlington Sculpture Trail in Richard Greene Linear Park. Or, check out the Entertainment District Art Trail.
And, there’s the “The Star of Texas” Project. There are 20 of these six-foot stars throughout the city, each is painted differently. It can be a fun scavenger hunt to find them all.
The University of Texas at Arlington is more than a college campus. Sure, there’s collegiate sports with the UTA Mavericks. But there’s also the UTA Planetarium with its 60-foot dome screen. View a guided stargazing tour of the nighttime sky, or see a movie.
UTA also has its own music and theater departments, with a variety of shows and performances. There’s even the Gallery at UTA, which showcases student artwork.
The present started in the past
All these contribute to making Arlington an attractive place to visit and live. But they barely scratch the surface. With a variety of things to do and plenty of local flavor, Arlington is much more than the Big Four. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Arlington today got its roots from Arlington in the past.
In my next post, I’ll start to dive into the city’s history.
Check out my other “Local Unknown” posts!