Grand Prairie may be nestled next to higher-profile Arlington and sandwiched between Dallas and Fort Worth, but the Texas city can not be overlooked when it comes to big-time entertainment options.
The city of nearly 200,000 is crisscrossed by two busy interstates and two major state highways, and all roads lead DFW Metroplex residents to fun including a horse racing track, indoor water park, skateboard park, music venue, outlet mall, flea market, a lake, parks, and more.
“We’re smack dab in the middle of the metroplex,” Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen, who has been the city’s mayor for almost a decade. “We’re right along major highways, and there’s plenty of things to do here.”
Grand Prairie Grew Slowly in the Early Years
Today, Grand Prairie is the 15th largest city in the Lone Star State – larger than cities such as Waco, Brownsville, Abilene, and College Station – but the city grew very slowly after its founding in 1863 along the West Fork of the Trinity River.
In fact, Grand Prairie was more prairie than town as late as 1940 with a population then of just 1,595 spread out over 81 square miles.
Grand Prairie traces its roots to Alexander McRae Dechman’s purchase of 239.5 acres on the eastern side of the Trinity River and another 100 acres of timberland on the western side.
Dechman did not live in the area immediately, and things did not grow until he sold half his property to the T&P Railroad in 1876. A train depot, and the first post office in 1877, were originally named Dechman (or Deckman as was the case with the post office when the federal government official couldn’t read the handwriting on the application).
The area’s name was later changed to Grand Prairie, a moniker originally found on maps of the area from the 1850s that labeled the land between Dallas (founded 1841) and Fort Worth (founded 1849) as the “the grand prairie of Texas.”
America’s Aviation Defense Industry Rooted in Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, incorporated as a city in 1909, and grew in the 20th century after it became a defense aviation center.
Curtiss-Wright Airport was opened in the cattle and farming community in 1929 and three years later the Hensley Army Air Force Base (later renamed Dallas Naval Air Station) was opened nearby.
“The base would forever change Grand Prairie,” says the History of Aviation in Grand Prairie.
In 1939 North American Aviation chose a site near Hensley Field for a new production plant. The federal government committed to building a $1 million housing development of 300 homes in Grand Prairie for those coming to work in the plant.
During World War II, iconic planes such as the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the P-51C and K Mustang variants rolled out of Grand Prairie plants.
According to aviation history: “In one 30-day period, 728 aircraft were produced – a mark never bettered [sic] in the U.S. before or since.”
At the peak of the war effort, the city of previously some-1,500 employed 38,500 workers around-the-clock in three 8-hour shifts.
Grand Prairie’s proud aviation defense tradition continues today with Lockheed Martin the area’s second largest employer; Bell Helicopter-Textron the 4th largest; and Vought Aircraft Industries the 7th largest.
Family Friendly Fun Abounds in Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie with the largest indoor water park in North Texas, a world class skate park, a lake with 60 miles of shoreline and adjoining state park abounds with family friendly fun.
Of course, the adults are not overlooked with live horse racing at the 315-acre Lone Star Park, big-name concerts at Texas Trust CPU Theater, and The Summit, a $23 million fitness center for ages 50+.
The highlight of the year for all ages is the Prairie Lights holiday display. Opening on Thanksgiving night for 40 days, the display features more than three million lights
Here are entertainment opportunities you can take advantage of in Grand Prairie:
- Grand Prairie Premium Outlets: Shop for the entire family with 90+ outlet stores.
- Lone Star Park: 700,000 horse racing fans visited this racing track each year with its seven-level, glass-enclosed grandstand that can seat about 8,000. Two live racing sessions are hosted each year (from April to mid-July and early September to mid-November) on the one-mile dirt oval and seven-furlong turf track.
- Joe Pool Lake: The 7,500-acre man-made lake was completed in 1989 and features fishing for largemouth black bass, crappie, and catfish. The lake is ringed by parks including Loyd Park, Lynn Creek Park, and Cedar Hill State Park. A popular DFW metroplex destination, Joe Pool Lake is a rare Texas lake that flows North.
- Cedar Hill State Park: Located on the Cedar Hill side of Joe Pool Lake, this state park offers hiking, biking, picnicking, swimming, fishing, and boating. There are 350 developed campsites and the Dallas Off Road Biking Association Trail, open to hikers and bikers, crisscrosses 1,200 acres.
- Lynn Creek Park: 784 acres with amenities that include white sand swimming beach, playground, restrooms, showers, two boat ramps with eight lanes, a concession stand, and almost 100 picnic sites.
- Action Park Grand Prairie: The largest action sports facility in the state. This skate park facility once hosted the X Games trials.
- Texas Trust CPU Theater at Grand Prairie: This $63 million music venue opened in 2002 and has a capacity of 6,350. Popular acts from Janet Jackson to Justin Bieber to Bob Dylan to Nicki Minaj have played at this venue.
- EpicCentral: This 172-acre park includes The Epic fitness and youth center, The Summit 50+ fitness center, PlayGrand Adventures inclusive playground, Epic Waters Indoor Water Park along with a grand lawn, boardwalk and five lakes.
- Epic Waters Indoor Water Park: The largest indoor water park in North Texas has a retractable roof and is open year-round.
- Traders Village: Bargain hunt at the self-proclaimed largest flea market in Texas.
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Includes a wax museum and 7D Moving Theater.