Friday, August 15, 2014

Totally Texas -- Last minute vacation destination: Fort Worth

My daughter and her husband waked up one hot August morning and realized eek!, they hadn’t taken a family vacation this summer. What was quick and within their budget? Neighboring Fort Worth! It’s only a forty-five minute drive from Dallas, but there’s way too much to do in a day. Checking into a hotel for a couple of weekday nights made it a real but unrushed and budget-friendly vacation.

I’d tried to talk them into visiting what must have seemed like a totally weird spot for family fun¾ a government organization complete with double, barbed-wire topped fences and bullet-proof vested security guards. Sound like not so fun? Amazingly, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth was well worth a visit.

Confession: I worked for years for a Department of the Treasury agency without ever getting to see where we make the money. Millions and millions of dollars practically within reach! What’s not to like? And the tours are free, although I splurged on a couple of vials of shredded currency ¾ cost $3.50 each¾ for the grandkids at the BEP’s onsite gift shop.

BEP’s site at 9000 Blue Mound Road on Fort Worth’s far north side is only one of two currency printing sites in the United States. (The other is in Washington, D.C.) It offers an enclosed catwalk view of the entire printing process (yes, that’s real money you’re looking at!) and interactive exhibits of the current engraving and printing process as well as historical exhibits. (Did you know the U.S. once printed $100,000 notes? That a $100 bill has a life expectancy of 15 years? That the Currency Redemption Center once refunded a farmer $600 for cash eaten by his cow?)

The Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing runs three shifts 24 hours daily churning out its half of the 6.048 million notes the Federal Reserve orders for 2014. However, the Tour and Visitor Center is only open Tuesday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with last tour starting at 4:30 p.m. Best for kids with at least some reading ability and possibly some appreciation of money. For more information, see

My daughter and her husband, as artists, would have appreciated the BEP’s information about design and engraving. However, with young kids, they settled for tours of the Fort Worth Zoo (kids’ favorite animals: salt water crocodiles and Malaysian tigers), the Kimbell Art Museum with its current exhibition of samurai arms and armor, and the Stockyards.

Her eight-year-old twins are connoisseurs of zoos, but my daughter’s estimation is that the Fort Worth Zoo still equals if not exceeds the Dallas Zoo. They lucked out by getting half-price admission for their Wednesday admission. For information and discounts, see .

At the Kimbell, they got half-price tickets Tuesday to admire the special exhibit, Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection. (Admission is always free to the Kimbell’s regular collection.) For information and discounts, see From the Kimbell’s wonderful gift shop, they picked up a couple of children’s books on the artists Degas and Renoir that their new dogs are named for.

Then it was on to the Fort Worth Stockyards for rides on a mechanical bull (only the boys were brave enough for this one), the twice-daily mosey of longhorns down the street, and a visit to the Coliseum where the rodeos are held. For more about the Stockyards, see

(Next Friday -- say it’s not so¾ the last weekend before school starts!)

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