The StarCityGames.com Open Series is coming to Dallas/Fort Worth this weekend, and three short weeks later, the Grand Prix circuit will come around.
Both events will be held in the Fort Worth Convention Center, located downtown in “Cowtown,” and of the StarCityGames.com columnists, I’m
best-positioned to supply a local’s guide to the area. Now, I actually live in Dallas proper, which is a bit awkward for writing about Fort Worth, but
still, this is my townâ€”er, Metroplex.
Luckily for y’all, the Fort Worth Convention Center is also where local tournament organizer AussieFox holds PTQs in the Metroplex, so I have
familiarity with the area. Prepare for a barrage of advice and country music!
Getting To the Tournament Site
People who are flying in have it a little more complicated. Step one is not to be fooled by both events being held in “Dallas/Fort Worth.” They’re in
Fort Worth, period. Fly into Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Airport. Don’t get fooled into flying into Dallas Love
Fieldâ€”it’ll just make for a longer and more expensive trip to get to the actual tournament site.
The last Grand Prix Dallas (back in 2007) was held at a hotel in Grapevine that was really close to the DFW Airport. No such luck this time, as the
Fort Worth Convention Center, as previously mentioned, is in downtown Fort Worth. DFW Airport is out-of-the-way for both cities, and taxis are
expensive: $43.00 plus tip from DFW to the Convention Center proper. (You are
There are a
couple of shared-ride van operators
that will drop the cost to $20 – $30 but will add to your time elapsed. (This goes down to $15 for the Grand Prix if you arrange it with SuperShuttle.) Some area hotels have courtesy cars that will pick you up from the airport, but
getting around is usually your problem from there on out.
Then there’s the mass transit optionâ€”yes, even a sprawling Metroplex like Dallas/Fort Worth has its mass transit options. The Trinity Railway Express (or TRE) is a heavy rail line that runs from downtown Dallas to downtown
Fort Worth. To get to the TRE from the airport, take the parking shuttle from any of the terminals to the Remote South parking lot. At Remote South,
take the shuttle to the CentrePort/DFW Airport rail station. Buy your pass (single ride or day pass if you’re making a round trip) before you
get on the trainâ€”you don’t want to be sitting there with your money out, expecting to pay the conductor, only to get hit with a fare evasion citation.
The train trip in is cheapâ€”it’s just $3.50 to ride from CentrePort/DFW Airport to the Fort Worth ITCâ€”but there are drawbacks. The schedule can be pretty sparse, especially on Saturdays, when you get exactly one shot to ride to Fort Worth to make it in time
to the tournament. The TRE doesn’t run on Sundays, so you’ll need to find alternate transportation that day. Still, if you’re arriving on Friday night
and staying in a close hotel, like the official Sheraton for the Grand Prix, it’s a
viable option for getting to Fort Worth, as long as you don’t mind putting the “lug” in “luggage” for several blocks.
Get on the train heading west toward the Fort Worth T&P Station, but get off one station earlier, at the Fort Worth ITC. (ITC stands for
“Intermodal Transportation Center,” a name only a committee could love. It has local buses, and it’s also Fort Worth’s Greyhound bus and Amtrak train
station.) When you step off the train, look up and in front of you. Find the broad round dome and the long building to its left a few blocks in the
distanceâ€”that’s the convention center.
The Fort Worth Convention Center is huge. We’re talking double-digit city blocks huge. It
has two major parts: the round “arena” section and a long rectangular section that is laid out like a more typical convention center with meeting rooms
and ballrooms in various sizes. Both events will be in the rectangular section, as seen on this map:
The StarCityGames.com Open Weekend will be held in Ballroom B on the second floor.
The Grand Prix will be held in Exhibit Hall A on the ground floor.
You’ll see plenty of pay-to-park lots and garages around the convention center, as well as limited street parking with meters. The first two serve a
useful purpose on weekdays, as well as on the weekends, but here’s the dirty little secret: on weekends, street parking at meters is free. If
you can find a spot, it’s the cheapest parking option around, and it’s a great incentive to arrive early. Just don’t park at a red-bagged meterâ€”that
could get your vehicle impounded, and tow shops in Texas don’t play.
Eating and Drinking
Most of the nearby hotels have coffee bars of some kind, including at least one Starbucks, so you can get your brand-name caffeine fix (or brand-name
fruit smoothie) in the morning.
Convention center food: just say no. Don’t spend eight bucks on a weak barbecue sandwich and coleslaw or three dollars on a bottle of soda at one of
the vending machines. It’s just not worth it. It’s the very definition of “last resort food.”
Cheap, nearby options: there’s a Subway in the ITC, which is just a few blocks away. That’s honestly the best option for “within walking distance” and
“cheap” that’ll get you to food and back between rounds, barring visiting one of the small convenience stores or pub-types dotting the area.
Main Street has a couple of quasi-walking-distance locations that are suitable for longer breaks, like the Blackstone outpost of Corner Bakery on Main
Street. There’s also a pizza joint at 5th and Main, formerly called Picchi Pacchi; I don’t know what it’s called these days, but it’s known for good
pizza-by-the-slice with a chance of calzones.
Ordering pizza for delivery is also a possibility, though nominally frowned-upon for the disruption potential; if you go that route, skip the usual
suspects (Domino’s, Pizza Hut), and try either Rocco’s Pizza or the Mellow Mushroom (if you have a little more cash on you).
If you find yourself with a little more time and a lot of friends (lunch off a bye, perhaps), I recommend hitting up the Whiskey & Rye for their Hell’s Half Acre chicken fried steak sandwich. Five
or six Magic players can get that and a pitcher of water and walk out about $10 lighter in the wallet but more than full. The under-21 crowd can be in
there until 6 pm, but after that, you’re out of luck.
on Main Street, less than two miles away, is part of a small local chain of burgers-and-beer joints, all of which sport greasy gastronomic goodness and
attractive waitresses with attire one tasteful notch more covered-up than the outfits at Hooters. Closer to the convention center is Fort Worth’s
famous Sundance Square, the obligatory dining-drinking-shopping district, where the obligatory
mentions are an outpost of The Flying Saucer and Brazilian steakhouse option Texas de Brazil. (For an expensive but memorable night at one of Cowtown’s more traditional steakhouses,
try Bob’s Steak and Chop House or Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House.)
Also in Sundance Square is Riscky’s Barbeque, an American success story. The small
chain founded by Polish immigrants covers the classic Texas staple of barbecue. Sauce, rub, meat, yum. Also serving wicked barbecue: Billy Bob’s Texas
Entertainment and Things to See
The granddaddy of drinking-laced entertainment options in Fort Worth is Billy Bob’s Texas in the
Stockyards district, which bills itself as “the world’s largest honky-tonk” and backs up the hype. Come even if you’d only be able to appreciate this
place ironically. They don’t have mechanical bullsâ€”they have actual bulls and professional or semi-pro bull riders every Friday and Saturday
night. (No, you can’t ride one, but there is a place where you can pose on a fake bull and have your picture taken for a fee.)
As you might expect from a honky-tonk, they also have live music, including a great concert series. The Friday before and the Saturday of each weekend
has a concert lined up.
March 18 – 19 (StarCityGames.com Open Weekend)
Friday: local act Josh Weathers.
April 8 – 9 (Grand Prix: Dallas)
Elsewhere in the Stockyards (a National Historic District), there’s a twice-daily cattle drive as well as great shopping for Western wear. Get a bunch
of Magic players together and supply them with cowboy hats, and hilarity ensues. Put them in the Stockyards, and well, I’m expecting Grundy County Auction Incident-level mayhem.
Other attractions in Fort Worth proper include the art museums of the Cultural District, the Fort Worth Zoo on the
west side (accessible via the Safari Shuttle at the Fort Worth ITC
Monday through Saturday). Monday through Friday, you can take a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing branch in Fort Worth and see U.S. currency being
printed. Do you like money? Yes, I thought so. The Fort Worth Water Gardens,
adjacent to the convention center, is a relaxing zone that’s perfect for clearing your head and letting go of how you punted against that terrible
player in the second round.
For the sports fan, the American Airlines Center in Dallas is just a train ride away, Fort Worth ITC to Victory Station. ($10 a person for the round
trip isn’t bad at all.) On Saturday, March 19, hockey fans and StarCityGames.com Standard Open scrub-outs can watch the Dallas Stars take on the
Philadelphia Flyers. Not a hockey fan? Then come for fights on ice and the Ice Girls.
Everything’s better with ice!
On April 8, the Friday before the Grand Prix, there’s NBA action as the Dallas Mavericks host the Los Angeles Clippers. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the
greatest European basketball players of all time. Blake Griffin does filthy, filthy things to
European basketball players. Enjoy the game, and if both of them are having an off night, at least you’ll have the Dallas Mavericks Dancers to cheer you up.
Of course, there’s one big source of entertainment we’ll all have in common: Magic. Whether you’re coming to Fort Worth for a StarCityGames.com Open or
the Grand Prix, you have a weekend to make some great memories. Make the most of it!
P.S. Have a question about Fort Worth, or a favorite restaurant to share? Take it to the forums and help and be helped by your fellow Magic player!