The experienced pilots of Business Aircraft Services, LLC soar over the Dallas–Fort Worth area, providing aerial views of its iridescent spread of Christmas lights. In preparation for an hour in the sky, mentors summarize their aeronautic experience before briefing duos on the workings, safety features, and dietary habits of the Cessna 172 aircraft. Passengers chart their own courses, though guides are on hand to suggest such bastions of yuletide radiance as Highland Park Village, Mira Vista, and downtown Fort Worth. Once the metallic falcon is fully flapping its wings, participants gaze down at patterns of colored lights, which glimmer against the dark backdrop of the landscape like fallen constellations.
When Birgit and Bruce Anderson first purchased their 2-acre property in Burleson, Texas, the new surroundings where they grew vegetables and raised farm animals reminded them of the then-popular television show Little House on the Prairie. The couple—who originally trained as a tax agent and sociology professor—and their daughters farmed the land for several years before a 1995 trip to Napa Valley seduced them into the vineyard lifestyle. After 10 years of studying grape-growing and winemaking, the Andersons opened Sunset Winery, which they've nicknamed and trademarked "The Best Little Wine House in Texas."
Since opening, the late-blooming winemakers have established themselves by winning multiple prizes for their wines and drawing a steady stream of visitors each year. Sunset's lauded bottles include Moon Glow merlot and Twilight Tango malbec, the latter of which won top accolades at the 2009 GrapeFest People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic, edging out other malbecs and a chagrined Susan Lucci.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.
Fiendish ghouls and lost souls stagger across Chaos Crew Presents Mischief Manor and Chaos Academy, the successor to the 13-acre Texas Scaregrounds, which was lauded as one of the top haunted venues in the United States by Haunted Attraction magazine. After the twists, turns, and bloodcurdling screams of the dozens of strobe-light-filled rooms inside Mischief Manor Haunted House, visitors can try their luck at the interactive zombie-themed apocalypse training ground, an abandoned town where the leftover denizens' favorite food is brains. After surviving both attractions, visit Panic's Playground, where you can play games or get your face painted with the likeness of friendly zombie butterflies or carnivorous flowers.
Consider activities that take about an hour to complete: a trip to the grocery store, a relaxing massage, watching a favorite television show. Rarely, if ever, do haunted houses fall into this category—unless you're talking about Cutting Edge Haunted House in Fort Worth. In 2009, the attraction’s length caught the attention of Guinness World Records, which deemed Cutting Edge the longest walk-through haunted house in the world.
Looming in a section of the city dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre,” Cutting Edge populates an abandoned meatpacking plant that was originally built in the late 1920s. The plant’s equipment is still fully operational, and still resides inside—only today, it processes humans. To escape such a grisly fate, guests must grope through a multi-storied labyrinth replete with unthinkable horrors such as live monsters, realistic special effects, and salsas made in New York City. Cutting Edge is so terrifying, in fact, that it even earned the top spot on HauntedHouseRatings.com's list of the best haunted attractions in 2013.
Atop Segway i2 personal transports, guides at Cowtown Segway Tours escort explorers through the botanic gardens, the cultural district, and other Dallas landmarks. Voyagers take part in a 15- to 30-minute training session to become acquainted with their Segway's controls and favorite conversation topics before setting out on their sightseeing adventure. The Cultural District and Trinity Trails tour takes groups of about 10 sightseers on a cruise through the Fort Worth art district, where they take in the marvels of nature, science, and modern architecture that permeate the landscape. During the cultural district tour, riders also zip through a scenic portion of the 32-mile Trinity Trail while gliding past picturesque foliage and racing competitive squirrels on the path to Trinity Park.
The guides at Fort Worth Tours & Trails seek out storied locales and dish out historical secrets of Panther City through the outfit's assortment of tours via bus or by foot. For walking tours, groups gather at one of two locations: the east lawn of the Courthouse for the Hell's Half-Acre to Sundance Square tour or in front of the Visitors' Center on Exchange Avenue for the Stockyards and Historic North Side tour. The former stops at several spots that figured prominently in the downtown area's early development, while the latter combs the brick streets of the historic north side, home to the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the world's only longhorn herd that hasn't succumbed to Internet stardom as a dancing flash mob. On both excursions, tour-goers have the opportunity to hear a plethora of little-known facts and cocktail party-worthy anecdotes from the city's rich history.