Located on West Lancaster Avenue are the Fort Worth Water Gardens. Though, the best entrance is arguably just off the corner of 14th street and Houston street – across from Bob’s Steak & Chop House and the Omni Fort Worth, a walk away from Fort Worth’s Convention Center.
The hem of my green dress flaps in the wind. It’s a cool day, windy as usual. The leaves have swept onto the cracks of the pavement. The temperature is caterpillar crawling down, but the sun is hot and bright.
I’ve visited the Fort Worth Water Gardens twice before (once three years ago, once six years ago). Each time, I seem to arrive in the midst of a different season. And although the lay of the lot never changes, the tone is clearly sculpted by the weather.
In today’s Texas travel guide, I’m diving into seven secrets (and reasons) to visit the Fort Worth Water Gardens!
The Fort Worth Water Gardens Are Located In Hell’s Half Acre
In the late 19th century, Hell’s Half Acre was an infamous red-light district. As all-too thirsty cowboys, buffalo hunters, and railroad workers slid into the region (the result of successful cattle drives), saloons, dance halls, and brothels started to pepper the space between the Railroad Depot and Courthouse Square.
The spot became a rough patch, a bit rowdy and (more than) a bit wild. But city officials looked the other way, allowing the businesses, reaping in money, to boom loudly in the background.
Over the next few decades, after runs of bad press and the onset of Campie Bowie, Hell’s Half Acre was tamed and watered down (quite literally).
Today, the Fort Worth Water Gardens sits on that very same lot of land – the same lot outlaws, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, once tousled with.
The Fort Worth Water Gardens Were Designed By A Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect
Philip Cortelyou Johnson is one of the most well-known names when it comes to postmodern architecture. His roll of works is impressive: the Seagram Building in Manhattan, Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, the New York State Theater (at the Lincoln Center), PPG Place in Pittsburgh.
When Johnson was commissioned to design the Fort Worth Water Gardens, he had no restrictions.
The end result: a place that is definitely modern, a place that feels like an interactive work of art, a place that draws you into the community but also, a place that lets you take in the smaller, stiller, quieter moments outside.
The Active Pool Was Featured In Logan’s Run
Modernist architecture always looks a little dystopian.
So it’s no surprise that the Fort Worth Water Gardens’ Active Pool was one of the filming sites in Logan’s Run, the cult classic sci-fi film.
Logan’s Run first aired over 40 years ago but diehard fans still make their way to the Fort Worth Gardens every year to experience a little slice of the movie world.
You Can Walk Down The Steps Of The Active Pool
Just like Logan and Jessica, you can walk down the steps of the Active Pool at the Fort Worth Water Gardens.
The Active Pool is a showstopper. It’s a terraced waterfall sliding down 30 feet heights. Sit along the edge and you can hear the stream roaring like a lion.
If you choose to walk down, go slowly (there were four deaths over a decade ago. the design has since changed slightly to be safer). Take your time.
You’ll hear 10,000 gallons of water pounding down upon each step. Although the Fort Worth Water Gardens is an urban park of sorts, you’ll quickly forget about the city as you progress towards the bottom pentagon!
There Are Actually Four Gardens Total
Over time, the Active Pool has become synonymous with the Fort Worth Water Gardens. But there are actually four gardens total (three water features and one non-water feature) that collectively comprise the Fort Worth Water Gardens.
The Mountain is the antithesis of the Active Pool. It’s a terraced structure, dry to the bone, jutting upwards instead of downwards.
Under a roof of oak trees is the Aerating Pool, row-upon-row of tiny spray fountains. In the heat of the summer, this is one of the best places to cool off in Fort Worth.
My favorite garden is the Mediation Pool, a block of bright, baby blue water cast under the shadow of tall cypress trees. When you enter, you hear all the little sounds: the gurgle of a brook that skirts the rim, the rustle of the leaves, the soft footsteps that pad around the main water feature.
The Mountain Is One Of The Best Places To Get A View Of Fort Worth
When you clamber up The Mountain, one knee-tall lunge after another, you’ll start to see a pinch of some of Fort Worth’s taller buildings sweep into view.
At the top, the buildings are big and clear and dominant. But you don’t feel small. You feel tall, like you can reach your hands towards them and touch the tiny windows if you tried.
In the summer, after 10 AM, The Mountain is packed with kids hoisting themselves up to the very top. If you want to save the best views for yourself, you’ll want to come in the early hours of the morning or evening.
P.S. This is one of the best sunset spots in Texas!
The Fort Worth Water Gardens Are Free To Visit
The Fort Worth Water Gardens are completely free to visit. The gardens are open every day from 7 AM to 11:30 PM (at night, the pools illuminate under the light of the moon).
Know of any other DFW secrets? Let me know in the comments below! As always, I love hearing from you.