Most cities want to increase visitors and they need to provide appropriate resources for their growing and diversifying populations. As the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Metroplex will be home to about 9 million people by 2027, these imperatives will become more crucial.

Grapevine Vintage Railroad
In many ways, the Grapevine Vintage Railroad is a symbol of the region's challenges, as it reflects the ways the region developed to be part of the fourth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States. Metroplex communities have been forced to change and some have adjusted better than others. As the DFW International Airport and Lake Grapevine replaced surrounding farmland, Grapevine shifted a significant portion of its purpose and economy to attract and serve visitors.

As a stop on the historic Cotton Belt Route, which ceased operations in 1997, Grapevine opened a passenger station in 2019 on the new commuter TEXRail commuter line between Fort Worth and DFW International Airport, the region's busiest transportation hub, creating new potential to attract visitors. Through preservation and development, Grapevine has made great efforts to utilize its history and central location for the interests of the local population and to attract visitors.

As a community of about 50,000 people, Grapevine has more than a small challenge to make an attractive place in the larger region; it needs the entire Metroplex to succeed in order for Grapevine to succeed. That's the situation for dozens of communities throughout North Texas, which are not simply suburbs of one gravitational major city, but rather puzzle pieces of a continuous and sprawling urban region. However quaint their attractions, in order to be most useful and sustainable, they need to be understood in a more comprehensive view of the region's cultural resources, where most every place strives to be a quality attraction.

Texas cities rank among the largest in the nation. However, their rank in visitors and tourism interests are not up to the level of their rank by population.

Compared with the largest cities and the most popular visitor destinations, Texas cities have a disadvantage in cultural (and natural) resources that requires them to do more with less. They also have a long-standing disadvantage in not effectively utilizing existing cultural resources and potential visitor attractions. The oversight is not only in obvious areas, like historic preservation and education, but also in not fully utilizing and engaging non-profit organizations and philanthropic entities.

Some Texas cities want to increase visitors with campaigns that may partially recognize their cultural resources (particularly using celebrities and slogans) in hopes to develop tourism interests, but without making serious efforts to shore up or improve attractions so that the advertised image and the visitor experience more closely match. The result is that travelers prefer to visit other nationally-prominent cities more than Texas cities. Due to lack of strategy in transforming cultural resources into visitor attractions, their rank in convention business is also disappointing and could be volatile as more cities compete for conventions and trade shows.

This report is for city leaders, planners and managers of unique districts, as well as philanthropic strategists, to consider the best prospects when they take up the topic of visitors and visitor attractions. As an overview, but not a detailed inventory of cultural resources, the report offers helpful ideas and recommendations. It will be useful to involve institutions, organizations and philanthropists.


With the inevitable course of DFW to be a supercity, the proposed goal for the region is not only be a model one, but to join the ranks of the national and international World Class Cities.
"Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." -Tom Landry
This report provides many recommendations about ways to improve cultural resources and visitor attractions in DFW.

While DFW may have substantially more cultural resources and visitor attractions than most other Texas cities, the region faces many problems. It is not cohesive, not strategic, not widely informed, not meeting the region's needs, and certainly not utilizing its full potential.

The report is not a full cultural resource inventory, though that is one of its recommendations. It provides a way to understand cultural resources and the benefits of transforming them into visitor attractions. Where city governments tend to think in silos, mostly out of obligation and necessity, and they may be mired in the reactionary demands of city government, this report promotes a plan to think about the greater DFW area more comprehensively and productively.

Read more summarized content below or continue to the Full Report.

Ranking Texas Cities

The report compares the size of Texas cities with the largest cities in the nation and the way Texas cities rank by numbers of visitors and tourism interests. To help readers understand the relevance of the rankings, it lists many of the largest categories of visitor attractions and tourism-based industries by most numbers of visitors, as well as common levels of visitors. The report may help DFW area cities make more effective plans to improve visitor attractions and increase visitors in the future.

The DFW area is not only Dallas and Fort Worth, along with many inconsequential suburbs. Communities north of Dallas make up a complex larger than Dallas and its 1.3 million people. The cities between Dallas and Fort Worth make up a complex nearly as large as Dallas. North of Fort Worth is a complex about as large as Fort Worth and its .8 million people. Roughly the equivalent of three Top 10 cities and two Top 20 cities exist in the DFW area. But its visitor attractions and services are mostly rooted in thinking just about Dallas and Fort Worth as two separate, but close-by places.

Top Visitor Attractions and Industries

The report explores the top attractions and visitor industries in many major U.S. cities. The following list of the most utilized visitor attractions in many U.S. cities provides a guide for future considerations in the DFW area as it strives to provide for a wider array of potential visitor interests.

Transportation Centers and Hubs
Amusement Parks and Theme Parks
Major Parks and National Parks
Cultural and Historical Districts
Major Museums
Museums, Cultural Centers and Galleries
Professional Sports
Fairs, Festivals and Music Festivals
Outdoor Recreation

Learn more about Visitor Attractions

Cultural Resources

Like natural resources in the natural environment, cultural resources are the many resources in the human environment, including human relationship with nature. For the purpose of the report, the ones of interest are the resources that produce interests and activities, which is nearly all of them. A fuller understanding of cultural resources will help produce services and attractions that better match visitor interests and build greater enthusiasm for the region's attractions.

Visitor Interests

The most effective strategy to increase visitors is to effectively utilize the cultural resources of a city or region. Not only to utilize them effectively, but to involve the largest possible segment of the population in developing attractions in order to gain and distribute the benefits. Without the benefits of enjoying events, presenting traditions, experiencing nature, appreciating talented artists, learning new things, knowing history, tasting unique foods, selling interesting products, joining with fans, etc., the city lacks the necessary base of commitment from local populations and has little hope of elevating its attractions.

The following is a list of many reasons people choose to travel, with several highlighted for their possibilities - even tremendous potential - to build on with widespread goals to serve visitors, improve communities, promote education, achieve greater tranquility and overall raise quality of life for the region.

Green = Great Potential    Blue = Good Potential    White = Neutral    Yellow = Caution

Amusement Parks
Architecture, Landmarks
Arts, Performing Arts
Celebrations, Holidays, Parades
Conventions, Conferences
Diversity, Cultural Interests
Fairs, Festivals
Food (Cuisine), Beverage
History, Historic Sites
Innovation, Ingenuity
International, Cosmopolitan
Monuments, Statues
Movies, Film Locations
Museums, Centers, Galleries
Music, Festivals
Nature, Landscape, Parks
Personal Recreation
Professional Sports
Relaxation, Spas
Transportation, Connectivity
Weather, Climate

Learn more about Visitor Interests


The way the DFW area is arranged, with dozens of small cities and towns sprawling throughout the region, it has the needs of four or five major cities that are unnaturally bound together, but it generally serves two of them. More than a puzzle about how to become a highly reputable World Class City, DFW's could be viewed as a challenge to be an ideal supercity. The following are recommendations described in the report.

Build a New Foundation
DFW needs more proactive and strategic philanthropy.
Build Truly Great Attractions
Realize the potential to create the nation's best.
Be the Most Innovative
DFW should lead the way, or others certainly will.
Grow Non-Profit Organizations
Increase numbers and funding for the community fabric.
A Central Transportation Hub
It's the make-or-break challenge to attract visitors.
A More Cohesive Region
Fill the massive gaps in the region's cultural resources.
Hub for Broad Regional Tourism
Become the central hub to increase regional tourism.
Cultural Resource Accounting
Develop a full understanding and value for what DFW offers.
Inclusive Price Structures
Make visitor attractions accessible to masses of residents.
Launch Campaigns for Attractions
Raise public awareness of the region's cultural resources.
Walkability and Practice
Attraction distribution should be walkable and useable.
Block by Block Quality Survey
Create a user-driven quality of life model for the region.
Preserve Unique Attractions
Fair Park and the Stockyards, sure, but small businesses, too.

Several of the above goals may be met by the establishment and steering leadership of a strategic foundation, tentatively described as Funding Advisory Network of Dallas-Fort Worth (FAN of DFW).

Learn more about the Recommendations

About the Author

The report was written by Mark Lacy for Imagine a Museum.

Lacy lived in Dallas during several of his grade school years - even throwing the Dallas Morning News - before attending college in Houston. After a career working in universities and non-profit organizations, he returned to the DFW area in 2015 to work on an expansive archive of documents and start a publishing company. He was surprised to see how far DFW had come, in many way surpassing Houston. But he recognized it was still far behind other U.S. cities, not only the larger ones, but many of the smaller ones, as well.

Lacy spent many years traveling, creating cultural resource inventories (for education, dissaster recovery, non-profit funding, etc.) and surveying major national attractions. He knows what makes cities great and he continues to study the phenomena. In 2016, Lacy visited Chicago, Memphis, Hot Springs, New Orleans, Miami, Miami Beach, Key West, St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Eureka, Seattle, Portland, Port Townsend, Ellensburg, Coeur d' Alene, Cody, Las Vegas, Denver, Boulder, Durango, Moab, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sedona, Tucson, Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, El Paso, and many others, just because they are interesting places. Learn More

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Continue to the Full Report

Feature: The BIG 5 for BIG D
Five big initiatives for BIG D, or Five big challenges for BIG D

Fair Park Forecast

NEW: Fair Park Recommendations

Recommendations to Improve and Increase Visitor Attractions

NEW: Dallas-Fort Worth Recommendations

NEW: Greater Houston Recommendations

There are many dynamic topics to be consideration and discussed in the future, including:
The case of VIA: Could public rideshare supplant short-run buses in Metroplex communities?

The quality of life and social impacts of increasing visitor attractions across the Metroplex to improve its well-being.

Increasing resources and visitor services to fill future employment gaps left by artificial intelligence and automation.

The social and educational benefits of spreading resources and increasing local participation in visitor attractions.

The state of parks in the Metroplex (to be revised and reposted based on new management developments at Fair Park).

COMING SOON: The economic impact of arts and the role of cultural resources in visitor attractions.

Does DFW have the ingenuity and vision to lead the nation in new cultural institutions?

What are creative industries and how do they develop from grassroots cultural interests?

Do cultural traditions and history matter more or less as the world rapidly changes?

Media Archive and Resources
Press Releases

Timeline of Provident Visions for the Future of Texas

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