Renee's Route--Where Texas Gets Real! Grapevine, Waco and Granbury

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Sculpture of cowboy herding longhorn cows in Waco Texas used as header for Where Texas gets real, Grapevine, Waco,and Grandbury


Grapevine is one of the oldest settlements in Texas and as such it's sites and attractions chronicle the state's history in a unique way. Simultaneously the city manages to be thoroughly modern with more than 200 restaurants and 20 hotels (see Gaylord Texan) designed to fit every taste and budget. Grapevine is located a few miles from Dallas Forth Worth Airport (DFW) entrance and is a great destination, hub for travel throughout the state or day trip from the airport. Organized tours are available from DFW that are a perfect adventure during a layover.                

In 1843 Sam Houston led a group to Tah-Wah-Karro Creek, Grape Vine Springs, to open the Texas frontier for US settlers. Ten regional indigenous nations met and signed a treaty. Homesteaders immediately poured into the area, largely from the southern states, bringing their slaves with them. Grape Vine was established the next year and named after the wild grapes that grew there.                 

One of the first sites visitors see is the 9/11 Flight Attendants Memorial, dedicated on July 4, 2008. Dean Thompson sculpted the bronze tableau that consists of five figures, two pilots, two flight attendants and a child clutching a teddy bear. The 14-ft. figures represent the 33 crew members who lost their lives on 9/11. The 12-ft., white Texas limestone, base faces west with the crew's names etched around it. The flights involved were American flights 11 and 77 and United flights 93 and 175. The memorial is situated so that it can be seen by DFW flights. 

Grapevine's Main Street is a National Registered Historic District and the 6-block street has more than 60 sites of architectural and historic importance. Many of the structures date from the early 1900s when brick buildings were erected in place of existing wooden ones. Highlights of the self-guided tour are the 1888 building that was once a bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde and the Great American West Gallery that exhibits more than $1-million in western art.             

There is debate about Bonnie and Clyde's participation in the bank robbery but there is no doubt about the events on Easter, April 1934. Bonnie's mother lived in Dallas and the gang drove through the area often. On this Sunday they parked their car, reasons are unclear, and were approached by two troopers. They killed both men. The Wheeler-Murphy Monument has been placed at the site.

exhibit of wanted posters on Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde

The relocated Grapevine Calaboose, Spanish for dungeon, is located on Main Street and was in use from 1909 until the 1950s. This one-room, stone, jail was used for overnight incarceration until felons could be transported to a larger facility. Members of Clyde's gang were held here. It is considered the best-preserved original "calabozo" in the nation.

calabose in Grapevine, Texas


Grapevine's shiniest gem is its 75-ft. tall Glockenspiel clock tower over the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Twice daily two 9-ft. cowboys exit the doors and reenact Nat Barrett and Willy Majors' train robbery and gunfight complete with animation and dialog. Computers select the winner. Best views are obtained from a viewing plaza across the street.

The railroad came to Grapevine at the end of the 19th-century and the spirit of that experience continues with rides aboard the Grapevine Vintage Railroad on the Cotton Belt Route. An 1896 steam locomotive is one of two vintage locomotives that pull the Victorian coaches. Special events, wine tours and rentals are regularly scheduled.                

The Settlement to City Museums is a complex that consists of three facilities that interpret individual aspects of Grapevine history and culture. Inside the 1888 Keeling House a museum, through a series of dioramas, artifacts and memorabilia, displays the city's story from pioneer to present. The 1900 Donald Schoolhouse portrays the story of education on the prairie.  A 1910 house is the site of the Grapevine Cotton Ginner's Museum. Texas Cotton was once an important crop and the museum tells its story with both hands-on and static exhibits.        


Settlement to City Museums in Grapevine , Texas


Gaylord Texan Resort is a clear choice for any visit to Grapevine. Situated on Grapevine Lake, the hotel offers luxurious accommodations and nearly 5-acres of indoor gardens and water features. Guestrooms offer a full menu of amenities and guests can avail themselves of a world-class fitness center and the services at the on-site Rel√Ęche Spa & Salon. The Gaylord is a destination hotel and they are renowned for their spectacular holiday decorations and presentations including "Lone Star Christmas." Highlights of the Christmas season are more than 2-million lights and the "On the Blocks" ice bar for guests 21 and older.

atrium in Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas
Gaylord Resort

Grapevine was named a "World Festival & Event City" in 2012. The city puts on events, fairs shows, parades and festivals throughout the year and 40 days at year's end it is known as the Christmas Capital of Texas hosting more than 1-million visitors.                


Bowl of chilie at Tolbert's in grapevine, Texas


Do not leave the area before stopping at Tolbert's for a bowl of their award-winning chili. For 50 years this restaurant has been wowing locals and visitors alike. 

A 60-minute drive south of Dallas takes you to the city of Waco, once the site of a Waco Indian settlement. The Waco Indians were forced from their land by the Cherokee in the early 1800s and shortly there after the Texas Rangers established a fort. Fort Fisher was soon vacated and in 1844 Torrey's Trading Post No. 2 opened. Additional people began moving into the area and in 1849 the first black resident, a free man named Armstead Ross, arrived and helped built the first house in the town. #explorewaco                

It should be noted that historians state that nonindigenous Texas history begins with North African Estevanico who was part of the 1520s Spanish expeditionary forces and later crossed the territory alone. Under Spanish rule Texas' population was 15% black and in 1836, when Texas became a republic, there were 13,000 people of African descent.                

Most early Waco citizens were either born in the southern states or were native Texans and the city, as the state, was firmly on the Confederate side. After the war Waco felt the economic impact of the loss of enslaved labor. Waco recovered as part of the Chisholm Trail, a route used by cowboys to herd the cattle to stockyards and railheads. The city became a transportation hub and supply point for cattlemen and settlers heading further west.

sign at Waco suspension bridge

bridge plaque

Waco Suspension Bridge was built in 1870 and was the first single-span suspension bridge to cross the Brazos River. The 1870 bridge is 475-ft. long has been free since 1889 and in 1971 it was closed to traffic. Panoramic views of the city can be obtained from the middle of the bridge. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. 

Suspension bridge in Waco texas

Located on the north side of the bridge is a bronze sculptural diorama, "Branding the Brazos," that depicts life on the trails that ran in or near Waco, the Chisholm, Shawnee and Western Trails. The three figures represent the groups that drove the cattle, a Hispanic vaquero and an African American and a European. The men are based on actual cowboys and such attention has been paid to detail that their saddles are tooled, the vaquero dons a bandolier and the spurs spin. The figures are larger than life and there are more than a dozen steer strung out along the walkway, each weighing 1,200-lbs.                 

Sculpture of cowboyu and longhorns on Waco riverwalk next to Brazos River

Brazos Sculpture

A great path for touring is the 7-mile Waco Riverwalk that winds beside the Brazos, past Baylor University and through downtown. Baylor University red brick buildings make up one of the world's most beautiful campuses. The science building, the largest academic building on a college campus, is in the shape of a bear claw. The garage is so fancy that is called known as Garage Mahal and the $267-million McLane Stadium is on a lake. 

Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV's "Fixer Upper," are based in Waco. Waco Tours gives a fun and informative tour that relates city history and visits homes that were featured on the show. One of the most visited places in the city Magnolia Market, a retail experience designed by the Gaines. Adjacent to the market is the Silo Bakery Company serving phenomenal baked goods. 

A park in Waco honors hometown Doris "Dorie" Miller, the Navy cook who became a hero at Pearl Harbor. Efforts are underway to build a memorial.


Sign at Dr. Papper Museum in Waco, Texas

Dr Pepper Musuem

In 1885 Waco pharmacist Charles "Doc" Alderton created Dr. Pepper, a carbonated soft drink and in 1904 the drink was served to millions at the St. Louis World's Fair. It remains the oldest major manufacturer of soft drink concentrates and syrups in the nation. The Dr. Pepper Museum related the history of the soft drink through restored vehicles, soda wagons and a 7 up bottling line.(More about musuem) Must stops include the gift shop and soda fountain.

Sign in fornt of Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas

Texas Ranger Museum Sign

Texas Ranger Museum

If you have ever seen a western then the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum is for you. The museum interprets ranger history from their beginning in 1823 to the present with more than 14,000 artifacts in 7 galleries. They are the oldest state law enforcement agency in the country. Self-guided tours begin with a 45-minute film and continue with a timeline, artworks, rogues' gallery and pop culture icons the Lone Ranger and Walker Texas Ranger.

Diarama at Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas

Texas Ranger Museum diorama

There are three female Texas Rangers, their average age is 42 and there is no forced retirement. The iconic hat can be white or fawn and are most often purchased from Master Hatters of Texas. The tour ends with the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. There are 30 honorees, all deceased.

sign at Waco Mammoth National Monument

Mammoth Site sign

President Obama designated Waco Mammoth Paleontological Site and Museum a national monument, the only site of its type in the world, in 2015. Approximately 65,000-years ago a natural event, probably a flash flood, killed a nursery herd of Columbian Mammoths. The site was discovered in 1978 and excavated 1984-2001.

picture of mammoth and guide at Waco Mammoth National Monument
A mammoth

Two of the ten acres have been excavated and 24 mammoths and other Ice Age mammals can be viewed in situ. The female herd surrounded their babies for babies for protection.  Camels, once indigenous to N. America, were found on the periphery of the herd. Mammoths had no real predators and poor vision. Camels were vulnerable, had good vision and could sound a loud warning. The camels were allowed to accompany the herd in a trade-off. The exhibition building has an elevated walkway for viewing from all angles and an accurate mural on the rear wall details the event. This is a singular attraction. (More about Mammoth Site)

fossils at Waco Mammoth National Monument

mammoth bones

Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village focuses on artisan and agrarian pursuits on 520-acres. The complex features heritage barns, a 1760's gristmill, a forge, craft shops and Cafe Homestead. The village teaches traditional crafts including furniture making. (More about Homestead Heritage

students in carpentry class at Homestead Heritage in Waco Texas
Homestead Heritage carpentry class

Before heading out of Waco, visit Vitek's, home of the Cooking Channel's #1 Best College Eats winner, the Gut Pak, layers of beans, brisket, corn chips, onions, pickles, sausage, and jalapenos peppers. The experience is 

BBQ at Vitek's in Waco Texas

Vitek's BBQ

When you think West, think Waco. 

Granbury, Texas, in Hood County, is scenic, historic and filled with dining options, shopping opportunities and outdoor activities. It is also unique as a destination because Granbury is notorious for the number of sites believed to be haunted and the number of famous, quirky, residents who have called it home. The earliest of these notable residents were dinosaurs who lived near an ancient ocean.

longhorn cow skull at texas ranger Museum in Waco Texas

Dinosaur Valley State Park allows views of some of the nation's best-preserved fossilized footprints. Prints can be seen in limestone layers near the Paluxy River. The Taylor Site within the park has been the scene of controversy because of what appears to be "man tracks" beside the dinosaur tracks. This has been used as proof that dinosaurs lived alongside humans. Reputable scholars state they lived 60-million years apart. The park also has hiking, swimming, camping and biking. 

The first humans to settle the area were Native Americans and it was they that the first nonindigenous settlers encountered in 1854. At that time the area was the edge of "civilization." It was on the deadline and settlers who crossed the Brazos were in Comancheria, land of the Comanche. The land was given to the families of those who fought in the 1836 Texas Revolution. In 1846 representatives met with area tribes atop Comanche Peak to inform them that Texas was now a state and they no longer controlled the land. Comanche Peak, 1,100-1,200-ft. tall, was traditionally a sacred meeting place and a site for smoke signals. 

Forty-acres on the Brazos River were given in 1866 to plot the town and it was named for a Confederate general. A 16' X 16' log cabin Hood County Courthouse was built on the square followed by a 2-story stone structure.  After the first two burned a Second Empire courthouse was constructed in 1890 for $40,000. The 3-story courthouse was made of Brazos limestone with an illuminated clock tower. The working Seth Thomas clock is still hand wound. The courthouse is listed on the National Register.                

Courthouse in Granbury, Texas
Granbury Courthouse

Elizabeth Crockett, widow of Davy, moved to the area with her family to settle on the 1,280-acres awarded to Davy for his wartime service. Elizabeth died there in 1860 and is buried 5-miles from the town square in Acton State Historic Site in what is the smallest state park in Texas. The park measures .01-acres and the gravesite is 12' X 21'. A 28-ft. monument of a female pioneer marks the grave. Directional signs lead to her grave in the cemetery and an interpretive plaque gives information.

Nutt House in Granbury, Texas
Nutt House

Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour is a wonderful way to see the historic district, learn about the characters who lived there and those who have refused to leave. Earlier era authentically clad guides lead you on a 90-minute walking tour that departs from the Nutt Hotel on the town square. The spirits of Granbury have been featured on Discovery Channel's "Ghost Lab" and there are ongoing ghost investigations. The city hosts an annual Paranormal Festival and Frommer's has rated this one of the top seven ghost tours in the country.    

Two blind brothers erected the Nutt House in the 1860s as a log mercantile store. In 1891 they built the limestone structure you see today. Businessmen began to stay overnight and the store became known as the Nutt Hotel. It is now a B&B with stunning architectural features. The hotel is said to be haunted by Sudie Nutt who ran the hotel.

The Old Hood County Jail is a tour highlight. The original log jail was built overlooking the Brazos River in the 1850s. A 50' square limestone building replaced it in 1886 and was in use until 1978. Ironically no one was ever executed there because the ne prior legal execution so horrified the citizens that they never had another. The sheriff lived in the four rooms on the first-floor, the second floor housed a cell for women and the gallows and men were in cages in a different section. Meals were prepared in a separate kitchen in the rear. Exhibits are on view in a small museum. Ghost hunting groups often lead investigations here. 

Old Jail in Granbury,Texas
Old Jail

Historic Granbury Opera House dates from 1886 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the complete town square. Originally named the Kerr Opera House, the theater was on the second level and was used by touring companies. The theater has been restored and has such features as dual curving staircases and an imported chandelier. 


sign on Granbury opera house
Granbury Opera House

The ghost of the opera house is a man named John St. Helen who mysteriously appeared in the town after the Civil War. In spite of a pronounced limp he acted and taught theater. It was said that he drank on only one day a year, April 14th, the date of Lincoln's assassination. At one point he became very ill. On what he thought was his deathbed he confessed that he was, in truth, John Wilkes Booth. He recovered and left town. People have both seen and heard him walking in the balcony.

book showing John Wilkes Booth on display in granbury, Texas

In 1951 the 103-year old J. Frank Dalton died in Granbury. It was believed by many that he was Jesse James as he claimed. Identifying marks included 33 bullet wound scars, a noose scar and burns on his feet. He was buried in Granbury Cemetery as Jesse W. James. In 2002 papers were filed to exhume the remains for DNA testing. They disinterred the wrong body.

Jesse James wanted posters in Granbury, Texas
Jesse James

Bonnie and Clyde liked the town so much they ate lunch at a restaurant on the square. There are now many more places to choose from and locals voted for the Rib Shack. You can eat-in or take-out the "Best BBQ in Hood County."

Rib Shack in granbury, texas
Rib Shack

Granbury is a great destination with a "spirited" twist. Get to know Texas in a different way.