As a kid growing up in Arlington in the 1980s, there was really nothing in my little world that compared to the excitement and energy of Arlington’s entertainment district.
Sure, I enjoyed the sights, sounds and general vibe of the other cities I got to visit, both in Texas and in other parts of the country. But the feeling I had for the place “where Six Flags and the Rangers are” was special. The other places I’d been were interesting and exciting, too, but Arlington was mine. I would look down at the dazzling view from the Six Flags Oil Derrick or survey the crowds of thousands at Arlington Stadium (then the home of the Texas Rangers) and think “All of this happens where I live. I’m a part of this.”
There are too many wonderful memories from that era to pick one that means the most, but as I thumb through my mental scrapbook, there are a few that stand out:
- The evenings spent watching the Rangers play from one of the “old stadium’s” luxury suites. Boy, did I think I was grownup – and a total rock star – every time I was invited to join my parents and their friends in a “Rangers box. (The suite life is still my favorite way to roll at Globe Life Park, by the way—and they’re even fancier now!)
- Going to eat at T.G.I. Friday’s, which was a hotspot right in the middle of the action over at Lincoln Square. In junior high, my gang of friends always wound up there to celebrate the last day of school. In high school, I thought I was cool if I ended up at Friday’s on a date or for a “night on the town” with a girlfriend.
- The Six Flags spring break outing I made with my friend Stacey every year in elementary school. The temperature was just right, the crowds were perfect. Sometimes we’d talk our way into a three-in-a-row rides on the Runaway Mine Train.
- About a thousand visits to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, where we’d spend hours floating the Lazy River, working our tans, brandishing lip gloss, and pretending not to pay attention to the boys. Sometimes, my friend Jennifer and I would slip on street clothes over our suits and walk across the road to the Arlington Hilton, where we’d order an elegant lunch and pretend to be tourists. It always drove my mother crazy when I’d come home late in the afternoon, after hours at a waterpark, with dry hair and a near-pristine towel.
- My first “not in high school anymore job” working at a seafood restaurant near Six Flags. Oh my, did I ever think I was hot stuff reporting for work the first night in my cute hostess outfit. Off and on through college, I probably logged about a thousand miles running up and down the stairs at that joint, serving brightly-colored tropical drinks and teriyaki shrimp to weary Six Flags guests and tourists and locals out on the town. I’m still friends with some of my college co-workers to this day, as I am with all of the other people I’ve mentioned.
What Arlington tourism means to me
When I was a kid, the destinations where Arlington tourism happens were the places where I created lifetime memories. Although I understood that “having the Rangers here is good for the economy”, I didn’t think too much about things like hotel occupancy and sales tax. All I grasped was that the collective experience that the grownups referred to as “tourism” was a huge part of what made my life in Arlington special.
Of course my perspective changed as I got older. As an adult who has lived or worked in Arlington for many years post-college, I have a well-founded appreciation for the mighty economic benefit that tourism has on our city:
- More than 10 million visitors visit Arlington each year
- More than 10,500 jobs are supported by travel and tourism in Arlington
- Travel and tourism generates a staggering $91 million in local tax revenue for Arlington
And that's not to mention the health and wellness benefits that travel and tourism offers, which has been confirmed in study after study. A healthy travel life translates into a healthier mind and body, especially with respect to reduced risks for heart disease and depression. How often can you say that something that's good for you is also tons of fun? But I guess in some ways I’m still an Arlington kid at heart. Economics aside, at the end of the day, tourism in Arlington for me will always come down to lifestyle, identity, and ownership—something that gives our city’s character its one-of-a-kind shape.
I can still point to the Six Flags Oil Derrick and say “that’s mine”, and you can, too. And that’s pretty dang cool, wouldn’t you agree?
Happy National Tourism Week, my friends. Celebrate the many benefits of travel by entering the Arlington CVB's contest (see details below). And may your summer be full of Rangers victories, Pink Things, and great seats for the Cowboys pre-season!
- Healthy living through travel: Learn more about the positive health benefits of tourism with Project: Time Off
- Arlington CVB's National Tourism Week Contest: Facebook entrants are encouraged to comment and tag an out of town friend or relative on the official contest post. Winners will be chosen at random to win a prize package for themselves and the out of town guest they tagged in the original post. The out of town guest will get a hotel room in addition to tickets to a Rangers game and Six Flags Over Texas. A local awareness contest will also exist every day of Tourism Week, with local fans encouraged to come to the Arlington Visitors Welcome Center and snap a photo with one of the photo opportunities set up for a chance to win a plethora of prizes including tickets. They must hold up a “#TourismMatters” sign in the photo and post it to their social media, tagging @visit_arlington, #TourismMatters and #ArlingtonTX.