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Daytripper with Chet Garner: Denton

Fast Times Around Denton
Written by Chet Garner.

(Photo © Vivadrome LLC)

While folks in “Big D” have a reputation for living life in the fast lane, there are some around the Metroplex city of Denton who live life even faster. I headed to “little d” to explore this burgeoning utopia of art and live music, with a NASCAR side trip.


6:45 a.m.  I drove onto the infield of the Texas Motor Speedway, which sits about 17 miles southwest of Denton in north Fort Worth. On certain Saturdays when the track isn’t hosting a race in front of 165,000 screaming fans, adrenaline junkies can get in on the action at Team Texas High Performance Driving School. The program allows drivers the chance to get behind the wheel of a real stock racing car and cruise around the track at speeds of up to 150 mph!  I passed my training with flying colors and even donned the required outfit, yet nothing prepared me for the thrill of flying around a NASCAR track. The engine roared as the world turned into a giant blur outside my window.

11:00 a.m.  I started my tour of Denton proper by driving through the campus of the University of North Texas, past the towering spire of the Hurley Administration Building, and then onward to Texas Woman’s University. Both institutions infuse Denton with a steady stream of youthful energy.

12:00 p.m.  I cruised down the street to the Denton Courthouse Square. The downtown square re-mains the beating heart of the city, with buildings housing restaurants, shops, and, most importantly, people.

12:15 p.m.  I walked into Denton County Independent Hamburger Co. and ordered their classic chili burger served atop a plastic 
cafeteria plate and accompanied by fries and a spoonful of steaming pinto beans. One bite of my burger confirmed that these guys know what they’re doing, and there’s a reason they’ve been around for 35 years.  

1:00 p.m.  Back on the square, I popped into the Downtown Mini Mall to find what can only be described as the oddest, but most awesome, shopping mall in Texas. Time escaped me as I browsed booth after booth and floor after floor of knickknacks, vinyl records, and items as random as Andre the Giant stuffed dolls and shirts made entirely of 8 mm film.

3:00 p.m.  As my afternoon sweet tooth kicked in, I followed the masses to Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, which serves 91 flavors of ice cream ranging from old-fashioned vanilla to candied jalapeño. After a sampling, I happily settled on “hog wild,” a maple ice cream with chocolate flakes … and bacon!

4:00 p.m.  I browsed the local music scene at both Mad World Records and Recycled Books. Given the impressive music department at UNT, Denton has long been a fertile ground for new musicians and has cultivated artists such as Roy Orbison, Don Henley, Norah Jones, and Meat Loaf. The store clerks offered tips on where to catch some live music before the day was done.

6:00 p.m.  For dinner I headed to the gritty local hotspot known as Rooster’s Roadhouse. I had decided on an order of “redneck sushi,” consisting of tortilla-rolled brisket and peppers, when a voice from the dark side tempted me to try the house “Hell Burger.”  The name and required waiver should have indicated this was a bad idea. Nevertheless, I tried the deliciously devilish burger topped with jalapeños and a habanero-and-ghost-chile sauce. In a single bite, my mouth, lips, and tongue felt as if they were being blowtorched out of my face.

7:30 p.m.  I walked down to Dan’s Silverleaf to hear some live music. I grabbed a drink and a seat as a group of young guys with banjos and fiddles took center stage. I don’t know what makes Denton music so good, but it always leaves me wanting more.

No doubt, a day in “little d” is a day well spent. So wheth-er you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

Contact the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau at 888/381-1818.

Chet Garner is  the host of The Daytripper™ travel show on PBS.

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