In downtown Fort Worth, the area just south of the convention center was once called Hell’s Half Acre. It was a neighborhood of ill repute where outlaws and rustlers took a break from their dastardly deeds and took in a little vice at the saloons and bordellos during the days of the cowboy and wild west. Well, that little piece of hell was baptized in 1974 when the Fort Worth Water Gardens was put in its place creating an oasis in a hectic modern-day city.
When I was a kid, I went to school in Fort Worth at the Texas Boys Choir School. We visited the gardens a few times for photo shoots or to kill time if we were performing downtown. I remember them being much bigger and grander than we found them a week ago, but that’s probably because to a child, the water gardens really would seem like another world.
As my sister and I approached from the convention center, we entered past a water fall and found ourselves looking over a pristinely blue pool surrounded by cypress trees and towering composite-rock walls with water flowing down them. It was a pretty site even in the dead of winter. Across the path was another pool with fountains evenly spaced throughout spraying little mushroom-shaped plumes. That one was supposed to be an optical illusion, according to the sign, but we didn’t see it. It did look cool though.
These were cool to see but the grandest as I remembered it was yet to come. Sure enough, in the midst of the composite rock walls that created mountains and valleys, there was one more water sculpture to be found. This one is a pit or canyon called the Active Pool. It has water flowing down from all sides with steep waterfalls behind. There are platforms that lead down into the center where you can be engulfed in the sound of flowing water.
It is pretty surreal, but let me warn you that if you get vertigo easily or are scared of falling, don’t go down the steps. In 2004, four people died after falling in. It was closed temporarily as they remodeled with a much shallower central pool.
This little oasis is a fun place to visit. Whether in downtown for a convention or work or you just want to take a trip, the Water Gardens is a perfect adventure to add to your list.
While we were downtown, we also walked up through Sundance Square and to the courthouse. Preparations were in full swing for the Super Bowl and ESPN but that’s not what caught my eye the most. As I walked up Houston Street, I was admiring the beautiful architecture. There are many wonderful examples of art deco design.
At the opposite end of downtown from the water gardens sits another great destination, the Tarrant County Courthouse. It is still used as a municipal building and courthouse, but is a historic treasure. In the courthouse’s yard are many monuments and memorials to service men and women ranging from Civil War soldiers who fought for the Confederate States of America to firefighters and police officers of recent years.
An addition to the courthouse also sports some amazing faux painting giving the illusion of grand rusticated stones on the building with large bas relief details of angels. These are similar to the real bas relief/3D angels on Bass Hall also in downtown Fort Worth.
Just like many big city downtowns, Fort Worth has a lot to offer in terms of adventures for both the history buff, art lover and even the cosmopolitan shopper. Also, for those who don’t want to walk, Molly the Trolley makes her loop around between the courthouse and water gardens all through the day. Visit the Fort Worth Conventions and Visitors Bureau website to plan an itinerary for your adventures in cow town. Of course you can also use the Adventure Patches Google Map to find these places for your own adventures, just follow the link on the side.