You may have heard of historic Grapevine because it’s the self-declared Christmas capital of Texas. My son’s new college friend Landon, who hails from the North Texas suburb, told me all about his childhood city when he came to visit. In late November, Grapevine gears up for forty days of extravagant Christmas events, during which the city of about 50,000 is decorated with millions of lights, enormous decorations, and a bustling outdoor ice rink just off Main Street.

While holidays in the Christmas capital are festive and fabulous, I decided to check out Grapevine in the summer, stopping en route to transporting my son to Camp Sweeney in Gainesville. Located halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Grapevine is also a six-minute drive from DFW Airport, making it a convenient stop for travelers. I reserved a room at the Hotel Vin, a boutique lifestyle property that opened in 2021, smack-dab in the middle of the walkable historic downtown. Landon and his family provided a list of recommendations, and with my son and his camp trunk in tow, I headed to Grapevine.

To be honest, we turned off the hot and endless interstate with fairly low expectations. Everything in Texas this time of year seemed dusty, dry, and yellow, and we were weary from the triple-digit temperatures. We reassured ourselves we’d be fine with a comfortable bed, a mid-level cheeseburger, and maybe a Chipwich from 7-Eleven. My son hoped for a channel showing Storage Wars, and I dreamed of an in-room coffeemaker to fuel the next day’s drive to camp.

So when we reached Grapevine’s Main Street, a stretch of mid-nineteenth-century buildings that are enchantingly preserved and bustling with local businesses, we were thrilled. I even spotted an independent bookstore, Talking Animals Books. A couple of hours later, my son and I were eating hand-pulled xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and listening to live music in a space that reminded me of the food hall at Grand Central Station in New York City. This was not the bland ’burb I’d expected. I knew then that I would return for a long-weekend Grapevine getaway—which I recently did, and deeply enjoyed. I discovered fascinating shops, historical landmarks, culinary treats, and serenity at a Main Street spa. Grapevine strikes an elusive balance, combining the peaceful feel of a small town with big-city art and luxury—and not just at Christmas.

Guests riding the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.
Guests riding the Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Amanda Eyre Ward
The Grapevine Vintage Railroad.
The Grapevine Vintage Railroad. Amanda Eyre Ward

See + Do

My favorite part of Grapevine is the palpable sense of the town’s complicated history. In 1843, in nearby Arlington, General Sam Houston negotiated the Treaty of Bird’s Fort with members of ten American Indian nations. Shortly after, Anglo settlers began arriving, many from Germany and Czechoslovakia, in covered wagons. Named for the wild mustang grapes that still grow just outside of town, Grapevine is the oldest immigrant settlement in Tarrant County, originating under the Lone Star flag of the Republic of Texas in 1844, a year before Texas was annexed by the United States of America.

To delve deeper into this rich past, stop by the Grapevine Historical Museum, whose facade is a stylish replica of the former Grapevine Ice Company building. We enjoyed insights into the cultural and economic growth of Grapevine, as well as learning about its significance as a stop on the historic cattle drives that passed through the region.

History buffs and train-obsessed kids will also enjoy the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which boasts authentic 1920s coaches, refurbished to perfection. Throughout the year, the trains are meticulously decorated for holidays and other special occasions: think Father’s and Mother’s Day, spring break, and the North Pole Express at Christmas, to name a few. Live musicians serenade tipsy guests on the Jazz Wine Trains in the spring. One block away is the Texas Star Dinner Theater. As a fan of Agatha Christie, I was especially enthralled by its promise of Murder Mystery Train Parties, “where historical meets hysterical”—yes, please!

The fabulous interactive art space Meow Wolf opened its exhibit “The Real Unreal” on July 14. It’s an experiential world created by artists, allowing visitors to wander through rooms of visions and try to solve a mystery. Strolling past “Missing” posters and pondering hidden video clues inside an entire house built inside the exhibit, I felt like I really was Nancy Drew—on acid.


I knew I wanted to focus my itinerary on downtown, so I checked into the Hotel Vin, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The 120-room hotel is architecturally inspired by the vintage look of a rail station, and its grand lobby is spacious and inviting and—during both of my visits—full of laughter and groups of revelers. The rooms are very snazzy, with Mad Men–era chic furnishings like orange-print reading chaises with bronze, circular tables that are just the right height for a cup of tea (or glass of wine, or a Don Draper Scotch), and sleek marble bathrooms.

Without leaving the hotel’s 42,000-square-foot mixed-use complex and its air conditioning, you can access Harvest Hall, a glorious European-style food hall; Third Rail, an indoor/outdoor entertainment and event venue; a massive outdoor plaza that’s lit up at night like a Greek taverna; and a 150-foot-tall observation tower with 360-degree views of the city.

Pasta from Pizza by Luigi in Harvest Hall.
Pasta from Pizza by Luigi in Harvest Hall. Courtesy of Pizza by Luigi

Eat + Drink

Harvest Hall features eight kitchens, and a coffee shop, two bars, and a festive event venue. Sorely tempted by Pizza by Luigi and FireBawks Hot Chicken, we decided to chow down on dan dan noodles and the above-mentioned dumplings at the Monkey King Noodle Company, where chef Andrew Chen showcases northern Chinese street dishes. The food was absolutely fantastic.

As the sun set, diners flocked into the outdoor patio space, which is called WineYard Grille + Bar and serves smash burgers, sandwiches, Mediterranean-inspired barbecue sides, and craft cocktails. The lights strung among the trees were ethereal and appealing, but I’d brought the new issue of the New Yorker to read while my son watched American Pickers, so I headed upstairs to my seventies-style settee.

For those in a convivial mood, Grapevine’s namesake grapes produce myriad varietals, from bold reds to crisp whites. After dinner, you may want to stroll downtown and pop in to one of the tasting rooms, including Grape Vine Springs Winery, Bull Lion Ranch and Vineyard, Landon Winery, and Off the Vine. In addition, Hotel Vin offers wine experiences and mixology classes, and there are locally guided wine tours via Grapevine Wine Tours.

The next morning, we stopped in the beautiful Bacchus Kitchen + Bar for a Mediterranean-inspired breakfast. From the lovely, patterned floor tiles to the leather chairs and marble tables surrounding a gleaming central bar that made me feel like I was breakfasting in Paris’s seventh arrondissement, the restaurant is a stunner. From our table, we could watch trains coming into Grapevine, a weirdly compelling activity. The hotel also has an intimate, eighteen-seat, speakeasy-style cocktail bar called Magnum.

For my son’s last meal before three weeks of camp chow, we headed to Napoli’s Italian Kitchen & Market, housed in the former Levvitt Drug Store. My son loved his Italian sub sandwich, served with homemade parmesan potato chips, and I devoured my chicken parmigiana. We both enjoyed cappuccino gelatos to go. A couple blocks down Main Street is JudyPie, where I was tempted to order three or seven pies to go. Resisting temptation, I settled on a slice of pecan pie.

On my return trip to Grapevine, a foodie highlight was taking a class on how to build my own charcuterie board at YaYaYum Boards. Founder Ayesha Patel, who grew up in Grapevine, graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2019, and while she was job-hunting, her mother suggested she sell the charcuterie boards she liked making for friends and family. A Facebook post led, eventually, to a downtown storefront and a thriving catering business.

I settled into YaYaYum’s breezy, modern space, pulled up a counter stool, and learned the secret formula of how much cheese to buy and the best tools to use to make art from charcuterie. Ayesha offers wine by the glass or bottle, and is a brilliant and convivial teacher. I made her promise that she would Zoom into my home for my birthday, because I honestly can’t think of a better birthday party than one with all my friends making roses out of salami and discussing which cheese best complements fig jam.

Inside Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery.
Inside Vetro Glassblowing Studio. Courtesy of Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery
Glass blowing at Vetro Glassblowing Studio. Courtesy of Vetro Glassblowing Studio & Fine Art Gallery

Shop + Indulge

I stowed my very impressive cheese board in my hotel mini fridge and treated myself to a spa treatment at Heaven on Main Spa, a cozy and appealing spot located within walking distance of Hotel Vin. Later, feeling artsy, I went to Vetro Glassblowing to create my own hand-blown, blue-and-white blizzard of an ornament. Turning the hot glass into color crystals was intriguing.

To cool down when I was finished, I grabbed a popsicle from Hip Pop, a shop founded by husband-and-wife team Ben Bates and Rosy Gurung that focuses on sophisticated popsicles combining fresh fruit juices and herbs. I can recommend the Kiwi Lamar (kiwi mixed with lime) and Insane in the Membrane (mango and habanero).

Main Street was buzzing when I strolled back to the Hotel Vin after dinner at the new, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Piaf. If I hadn’t already tried the rosewater-infused crème brûlée there, I may have stopped to join the many families eating ice cream around the ridiculously adorable gazebo in Town Square.

This was about the point I contemplated moving to Grapevine. As the daughter of a single mother, I have always loved Gilmore Girls, and I would not have been surprised to see my idol, nerdy-but-cool Rory Gilmore, with one of her boyfriends and her ever-present knapsack wandering down Main Street. A sign on the local bookstore, Talking Animals Books, which proclaimed that the store was “Closed for Romance (Book Club)” made me go back to my luxurious room and investigate nearby Zillow listings.