ncaa final four

NCAA Final Four: Travel ideas for sports nuts going to North Texas

DFW.comApril 3, 2014 

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    More DFW travel ideas: Our sister publication DFW.com has created several more visitor itineraries specific to personal interests: food, culture, music, cowboy culture, shopaholics, families and restaurant lovers. Find them all here.

    DFW.com has also worked with the Forth Worth comedy troupe Four Day Weekend to come up with the best bets for visitors to the city. Find that story here.

If you're sports nuts, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is the ultimate asylum.

This weekend, the NCAA Final Four will take center stage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, between Dallas and Fort Worth, with the University of Kentucky playing the University of Wisconsin in the second game on Saturday.

The staggering $1.2 billion stadium is home to America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. Within the past few years, North Texas also has hosted two World Series, the NBA Championship and All-Star Game, and Super Bowl XLV.

The region also happens to be the center of the bowling universe (more on that later). Throw in MLB's Texas Rangers. the NHL's Dallas Stars and NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and visitors will think they've died and gone to Jock Heaven.

Stay: The Gaylord Texan, a huge resort overlooking Lake Grapevine, is the official hotel of the Cowboys (it's also where they crash the night before home games). It's only a few minutes from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. (1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine; (817) 778-1000; Marriott.com/hotels/travel/dalgt-gaylord-texan.)

Play: The Gaylord is right next to Cowboys Golf Club (1600 Fairway Drive, Grapevine; (817) 481-7277; Cowboysgolfclub.com), probably the nicest public course in DFW. It'll cost ya (almost $200 for a play-all-day package), but if you're a serious golfer, you won't want to miss it. You might even bump into Emmitt Smith; let the NFL's all-time leading rusher play through. For more moderately priced but still great golf, try WaterChase Golf Club in Fort Worth (8951 Creek Run Road; (817) 861-4653; Waterchasegc.com) or Texas Star in Euless (1400 Texas Star Parkway; (817) 685-7888; Texasstargolf.com).

Nosh and drink: The only thing that DFW has more of than big-time sports is big-time sports bars. If you want luxury, try Texan Station Sports Bar & Grill at the Gaylord. It has a 30-foot-tall, 52-foot-wide crystal-clear screen and overstuffed leather recliners.

But if wings and pretty things are more your speed, check out Grapevine's "Breastaurant Row," which includes Bone Daddy's (1720 William D. Tate Avenue, Grapevine; (817) 251-0835; Bonedaddys.com), Hooters (Hooters.com) and Big Racks BBQ and Sports Grill (Bigracksbbq.com).

If you want a more old-school sports bar vibe, try Bobby V's (4301 South Bowen Road, Arlington; (817) 467-9922; Bobbyvsports.com), named for the former Rangers manager. It has a boxing ring in the center of the restaurant, and the wings are a knockout.

Shop: Rally House Texas (309 Curtis Mathes Way, Suite 117, Arlington; (817) 468-3883; Rallyhousetexas.com) offers one-stop shopping for souvenirs from all the Texas teams, college and pro. Get your discounted Texas Rangers ALCS T-shirts here. Or a TCU jersey or Longhorns jersey or a Mavs jersey. You get the idea. The Cowboys and Rangers have shops in downtown Fort Worth, right on Main Street.

Dine: If you want to dig into one of the best steaks in DFW, Pappas Steakhouse (10477 Lombardy Lane, Dallas; (214) 366-2000; Pappasbros.com) will deliver. Just ask Cowboys rookie Dez Bryant, who famously picked up the $54,896 tab for his teammates there. (Ah, rookies.)

In Fort Worth, try Dutch's, named for legendary TCU football coach Dutch Meyer (3009 South University Drive, Fort Worth; (817) 927-5522; Dutchshamburgers.com). It also happens to serve one of the best bacon blue cheese burgers we've ever tasted.

Attractions: AT&T Stadium, site of the Final Four, is a bigger draw than the Dallas Cowboys themselves, so don't miss the popular VIP guided stadium tour ($27.50), which takes you inside the locker rooms and the fanciest suites. You can even stand on the star.

Globe Life Park, home of two-time American League champions the Texas Rangers, is right next door and also offers tours for much less ($14). So does Texas Motor Speedway ($8), which just unveiled "Big Hoss," the largest TV screen in the world.

But for a one-of-a-kind experience, check out the International Bowling Hall of Fame (621 Six Flags Drive, Arlington; (817) 385-8215; Bowlingmuseum.com).

Rick Press is a former Herald-Leader features editor.

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