This quaint Texas town is full of vacation surprises, from gondolas to great tunes
Wait a minute! The end of summer is nigh? Lucky for us Texans, our inferno heat lasts a few extra months, letting us sneak in a summer jaunt if we want.
But if you don’t have too much time or the moolah for airfares, a trip to Irving might just be your ticket to pool time, art, history, music and even a gondola ride. Here are six surprising things about Irving that make it a great spot for a vacation.
Life is indulgent at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas in Las Colinas. The only caveat to staying in such lavish digs may be that you may never want to leave. The 400-acre, five-star property features four pools, including one designated just for families, a luxury spa and a golf course that's home to the AT&T Byron Nelson PGA Tournament.
The hotel is steeped in golf tradition, honoring Byron Nelson champions past and present with memorabilia throughout the property. Be one of the first in Texas to snag a ride on a Golfboard, a cross between a surf board and a golf cart, letting golfers carve up the award-winning TPC fairways at speeds of up to 10 miles an hour.
The hotel’s service is impeccable, with the staff anticipating all your first-world needs. A supervised kids club with activities like golf and tennis clinics, art workshops, calf roping and games gives parents a little break to slip off to the spa or just float lazily in the resort pool.
Of water views and gondolas
The Omni Mandalay at Las Colinas, with its 421 rooms and suites, sits on the edge of Lake Carolyn, offering guests a taste of life by the water with activities like paddle boating and pedal boats. There’s a heated lakeside swimming pool, waterfront dining and a spa.
To woo the one you love, Gondola Adventures offers the unique opportunity to ply the placid waters of Lago de Claire in an authentic Venetian gondola, complete with a singing gondolier. Choose from several packages, which include breakfast, dinner or a dessert and Champagne spread. Note that the other ride location at Lake Carolyn is currently not in operation until further notice.
On an unassuming street in a neighborhood in Irving stands a nondescript, two-bedroom home. It's nondescript until you learn about two fateful families, the Paines and the Oswalds, who were flung into extraordinary infamy on November 22, 1963, the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. This house belonged to Ruth Paine, a close friend of Marina Oswald, wife of Lee Harvey Oswald. At the time of JFK’s assassination, the Oswald family was living at the Paine’s home. Oswald himself lived in Oak Cliff, to be close to his job at the Texas School Book Depository in downtown Dallas, and visited his family on weekends.
However, on the night before the assassination, Oswald made a surprise visit to his family in Irving. The Ruth Paine House Museum tour spans two locations and begins at the off-site visitor center near the Irving City Hall. The small visitor center displays personal letters and artifacts of the families, plus the televised interviews of Ruth Paine. A docent then buses you to the actual house, which has been brought to life with a meticulous restoration. Kevin Kendro, Irving City Archivist, gives the tour and is an essential part of the experience with his detailed retelling of this tragic story. Reservations must be made in advance at The Ruth Paine House Museum.
Brand new to historic downtown Irving, the Texas Musicians Museum (TMM) offers an up-close encounter with memorabilia from music icons of the Lone Star state. There are stage outfits, awards, instruments, personal letters and music contracts from hundreds of musicians. Exhibits from artists like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Destiny's Child, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin and Waylon Jennings represent multiple musical genres.
The 18,000-square-foot space includes an adjacent music garden where concerts are held regularly. Book a docent-led tour to appreciate the largest public display of Texas music history in the world and hear all the juicy backstories.
American art gem
For American art aficionados, there’s a hidden treasure inside the National Scouting Museum: more than 60 Norman Rockwell original illustrations used in calendars, handbooks, posters and magazines. The little-known exhibit pays homage to Rockwell’s role in shaping the image of the Boys Scouts of America and chronicles the group's history with thousands of artifacts.
Hope that you’re lucky enough to catch 87-year-old Jim Dunkley giving a docent tour. Dunkley, a scout veteran since 1940 who counts scouting as his lifelong passion, is living history himself. There’s also a movie theater featuring an animatronic Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, and an interactive area where children can try their hand at a shooting gallery, race derby cars at the pinewood track, and canoeing and spelunking.
Inside the tough, hard exterior of bike icon Rick Fairless (of Strokers fame) is a man with a heart for Irving. Longtime Irving residents Rick and his wife, Susan, couldn’t bear the thought of Big State Fountain and Grill closing after more than 65 years. The classic '50s diner had been the center of so many Fairless family meals that the couple decided to buy the business to keep the tradition alive for future generations.
It’s truly a small-town experience, where the staff know your name — and your children’s, too! Burgers are made fresh, fries come out hot and crisp and Texas toast is a staple. Hand-spun malt shakes are also a crowd favorite. Completing the throwback experience is an old-fashioned jukebox that plays your favorite diner tunes for free, compliments of a family that loves Irving.