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A Guide To Sundance Square

March 21, 2011 1:12 PM

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The Sundance West apartments in Fort Worth's Sundance Square. (Photo credit: CBS)

26 restaurants, 16 stores, an opera house, a museum, a movie theater, four live performance theaters, two apartment buildings, five hotels, two radio stations, two office towers, private security guards who patrol on bicycles, and five banks. Oh, and free parking after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

The real question about Sundance Square isn’t “What’s down there?” but instead “What isn’t down there?”

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The famous "Wild Bunch" photograph of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the rest of their gang.(Photo credit: John Swartz, 1901)

FACTS

Sundance Square is a 35-block area of downtown Fort Worth. It runs from 1st Street to 5th Street north and south, and from Grove Street to Taylor Street east and west.

It’s routinely hailed as one of the best downtown shopping and entertainment districts in the country. And in the decades-old rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth, Sundance has proven to be one thing that Dallas just can’t match. Dallas has lots of great stuff, but a great downtown isn’t one of them.

Most of the credit for Sundance Square goes to the Bass brothers. Ed, Sid, Bob and Lee own most of the area. They turned the scary and somewhat dangerous downtown Fort Worth of the 1980s into a fun, clean, safe, and exciting destination.

And as near as we can tell, about the only thing you can’t find in downtown Fort Worth is a grocery store. But unless you live there, it shouldn’t really be a problem.

Locals aren’t the only folks who have noticed Sundance Square’s charm. ESPN is making it their home base when Super Bowl XLV comes to down in early 2011. The usual crowds will probably triple or more in size.

Sundance Square is named after The Sundance Kid, as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their old west gang, the Wild Bunch, spent time in Hell’s Half Acre, a notoriously rough part of downtown Fort Worth at the turn of the 20th century. Although Sundance Square is several blocks north of the old Hell’s Half Acre, apparently the name was too good to pass up.

PARKING

As in any downtown, parking during the workday is tricky. Parking meters line the streets, and there are paid several surface lots and parking garages. They’re all pretty full during the workday, but it is possible to find a spot if you are patient.

But it’s a different world after 5 p.m. Unlike most other big cities (we’re lookin’ at you, Dallas), most parking in Sundance Square is free at night. The Bass-owned surface lots and garages are free starting at 5, and the city’s parking meters are free beginning at 6. And all three are free on weekends and holidays.

Parking Garages: Sundance has two big ones open to the public, both on the east side of downtown. The entrance to #1 is on Commerce Street between 1st and 2nd. Pull into #2 on Calhoun between 3rd and 4th.

Surface Lots: Five of these offer free parking after 5 and on weekends. The most centrally-located ones occupy a full block each and are right next to each other, sitting on both sides of Main Street. Enter both from 3rd street. They’re pretty much in the middle of Sundance Square. A smaller free lot is at 3rd and Taylor on the west side. About a block to the southeast is another free lot, at Throckmorton and 4th. And there’s also one between 2nd and 3rd off Calhoun, on the east side. That one is between the two big garages. There are also a handful of smaller paid lots on the fringes of Sundance Square.

For more info visit www.sundancesquare.com

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Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth's Sundance Square.(Photo credit: CBS)

DINING

You can find pretty much any kind of food you’re looking for in Sundance Square. From chains like P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Pizzeria Uno to locally-owned places like Riscky’s Barbeque and the Flying Saucer beer bar, it has a little bit of everything.

The best-known restaurant in Sundance Square is also the most Texan. Reata, at 310 Houston, is decorated in a style that fits the East Coast stereotype of Texas well: cowhide-covered chairs, stuffed animal heads on the wall, and even a framed & mounted set of wooly chaps are here. The décor plays to the stereotype a little too much for our tastes—believe it or not, not everyone in Texas hunts deer and owns a ranch–but the food more than makes up for it. It’s very Texan but very modern at the same time. And everything on the menu is great. Be sure to try the jalepeño and cilantro soup.

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The Flying Saucer beer bar / restaurant in Fort Worth's Sundance Square. (Photo credit: CBS)

SHOPPING

Sundance has shops that sell everything from Stetsons to sterling silver. One of the coolest stores there is Leddy’s Ranch, which is a branch of the famous M.L. Leddy’s custom boot & saddle maker. They’ll make you a pair, but prices start at about $500. If your budget is a bit more modest, you might want to look at the $90 western-style shirts with pearl buttons and fancy embroidery.

Sports fans can also get their shopping fix in Sundance. Both the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers have fan shops there.

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