While sitting at Gate 7 in Orange County, California, waiting for my flight to Dallas, a fellow workmate recognized me in civilian clothes. By day, I’m an airline pilot. We gazed at each other, and all they said, tongue in cheek, was, “You heading to the ‘Big D’?”
“Yep,” I replied.
Crewmembers for American Airlines, the largest airline in the world, know that a trip to the “Big D” means regularly required training. For a passenger, a scheduled stop at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) might entail a long layover as they wait to travel the world.
We have all heard the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and DFW is no different! It can seem overwhelming and daunting when you arrive at the Big D. A little planning ahead will ensure you get the most out of your long layover at DFW.
1. Head To Historic Grapevine
By all means, if you have time, go to Grapevine!
Grapevine boasts a historic, quaint, charming downtown area that is an easy 10-minute ride from DFW airport by train or car! Catch the TEXRail train from Terminal B and exit at the first stop, Grapevine. A quick ride, and it is less than $3! Of course, Uber is always an option.
When you get there, you can hop on the free Grapevine Visitors Shuttle that connects Grapevine’s hotels, its historic main street, and the Grapevine Mills Mall. Sit in the 23-seat, retro-style shuttle with handicap-equipped transport. Check their website for operating times.
Grapevine is a darling, flat area, and easy to navigate. If Mainstreet U.S.A. warms your heart, this is your place. Lip-smacking Texas barbecue restaurants, upscale foodie meccas, shops, thrift stores, old school train depots, and glorious Texas sunshine await you in Grapevine. It’s easy to spend as little as 1 to up to 3 hours in this area — plus the short train rides to and fro make this the best option for ease, sightseeing, and soaking up local Texas charm.
2. Get The Cow Town Low Down In Fort Worth
If you have several hours on your layover, consider leaving and going to Fort Worth.
I would mosey on down to the Fort Worth Stockyards and soak up the Western heritage and watch a real-life cattle drive with Texas longhorn cattle, cowboys, spurs, and all! Viewing happens twice daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., weather permitting, and it’s free!
Follow up walking and shopping after viewing the cattle in their corrals with authentic Texas barbecue. There are over ten barbecue shops within the Stockyards area, but Cooper’s BBQ is pretty dang world famous! Don’t worry, they have wipes, and you will need them!
An Uber to Fort Worth takes about 30–50 minutes depending on traffic. Or you can take the slower route on the TEXRail train to Fort Worth station, then board either the number 12 or number 15 Trinity Metro bus northbound to the Stockyards.
Pro Tip: There is a live bull available for a photo opportunity for about 5 bucks!
3. Lone Star Downtown
Dallas is a cosmopolitan city that has something for everyone. Depending on how long you have, this city could be calling you to two-step through its cultural museums, parks, historical tours, and art galleries.
Those of us old enough all remember where we were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated; taking a historical tour and walking in the footsteps of JFK’s last tour in Dallas might be your calling. Or maybe you can visit the first Neiman Marcus shop or a sculptural water park. This city has too many activities to list. Downtown Dallas is easy to navigate, is mostly flat, and has scrumptious food options on just about every corner.
Uber is the most direct and time-saving means of transport from DFW. Plan on at least an hour each way. Or take a slower route and take the train.
Pro Tip: If there are any cheerleaders or football players in your group, a tour of AT&T Stadium might interest them.
4. Investigate Who Shot J.R.
Poke around the home of the fictional Ewing family (from the hit TV show Dallas) by visiting the Southfork Ranch. Walk the same path to the living room as the Ewings. See the gun that shot J.R.
Southfork Ranch is 35 miles away from DFW, and Uber is the fastest and most direct mode of transport. Check the ranch’s website for hours of operation and to pre-book trail ride and a tour of the grounds.
5. Hit The Links
Feel like swinging for a hole-in-one between flights? Head over to Bear Creek Golf Club, located on near the DFW airport grounds. The perfect combo of golf, jets, clubs, and food, all under the flight path of DFW. This popular club offers two 18-hole courses designed by Ted Robinson.
Play among mature oak trees, manicured greens, and Bermuda fairways. The two courses, East and West, have water features, deep roughs, and expansive bunkers all while leaving the terrain completely natural. Take a short Uber ride from the airport and rent clubs and a golf cart. There is a place to store your luggage while you play a round. Once your game is complete, grab a bite to eat with fresh-prepared food and a full bar. Then head back to DFW and continue to your destination, hopefully with a hole-in-one for your memories!
Pro Tip: If you are over 50, be sure to ask for the discount. Guests can ride for free on the golf cart.
6. Ride High On Skylink
Once inside security, getting around one of the largest airports in the world is a breeze on the Skylink tram system. This free, convenient, air-conditioned automatic tram zooms over the airport, stopping twice in each terminal. It is easy to navigate since the trains run clockwise and counterclockwise from stop to stop. It runs 24/7, arrives every two minutes, and takes nine minutes from the two furthest points.
Pro Tip: AvGeeks (aviation geeks) will love taking the aerial tram ride to take great shots of aircraft from above.
7. Admire The Miracle Of Human Flight
An AvGeeks delight can be found at Founders Plaza. Grab an Uber and jet over to this park with amazing views of aircraft taking off and landing. Listen to the feed of Air Traffic Control talking to pilots on the tower frequency at DFW airport. Get outside and enjoy picnic tables, telescopes, historic information, and a special monument. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
8. Get Your Groove On
Pop on some headphones, hit play, and head over to the LiveWell Walking Path to get your groove on! Enjoy this covered and air-conditioned 0.7-mile walkway. The path is marked with distance markers shaped like medallions. Start at Gate D6 and head toward Gate D40. Maybe play an upbeat tune while you bob and weave between all the rushing passengers. Enjoy the agility training!
If you want to “up” your workout, hit the two optional step courses in the form of 55-foot-high staircases at the Skylink Train Station near Gate D40.
9. Spa La La
Two spas are available at DFW. XpresSpa has locations in terminals A and D. Be Relax also has two locations, one in Terminal B and one in D. Both of these spas have a little something for everyone. A place to get away from the crowds, get a massage or a facial, get your nails done, or maybe grab a juiced drink.
10. Laze In The Lounges
Lounges are an option if you want to camp and pass away the time. They’re places to hibernate from the stress of the noisy concourse, and they include food and drink options with your entrance fee.
This is American Airlines Country, and at DFW, AA has lounges in every terminal. Day passes are available for sale. Lounge Pass offers a day pass that you can pre-book online to enjoy a quiet place to sit, eat, relax, and shower.
United, American Express Centurion, The Club, and Delta also have lounges available.
Pro Tip: Minute Suites is a great option in lieu of a lounge. Take a nap, make a call, or rest in a private suite while you wait for your next flight. It has fast internet, and you can bring up to three people into your suite.
One More Place To Stay
Just outside of security is the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It’s accessible by train, on foot, or by the hotel shuttle. The hotel offers access for about forty dollars to their fitness center. The gym offers free weights, cardio machines, yoga mats, and medicine balls. Hit the steam room, shower, and freshen up. Towels and toiletries are included in the entrance fee. As of publishing time, the pool is slated to re-open soon.
Pro Tip: Be sure to call the Grand Hyatt Hotel, not the Hyatt Regency also on airport grounds.
No matter how you chose to spend your time at DFW, there is something for everyone to pass the time. That said, try to catch the first flight available when booking trips through DFW during the summer months This area is smack in the middle of Tornado Alley. In spring and summer, thunderstorms pop up frequently as the day progresses. First flights of the day have better statistics of arriving on time and minimize weather delays.