By Laura Smith and Caroline Morrow
Last weekend we had the exciting opportunity to attend the 25th annual GrapeFest—A Wine Experience in Grapevine, Texas. The festival honors the wines, vineyards and wineries of north Texas and is the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the country. This year’s competition featured 119 wines from 33 Texas wineries. And trust us, they were all delicious!
Legoland Discovery Center and SEA LIFE aquarium
Before we could indulge in the savor of the Texas-made vino, we toured two new and entertaining attractions in Grapevine – Legoland Discovery Center and SEA LIFE aquarium, both located at Grapevine Mills shopping center. Upon arrival to Legoland, we felt as though we were actually stepping into a ride at Disney World. Professor Bric-a-Brac walked us through the Lego “factory” process where we learned how the Legos are actually made. From there, we hopped aboard the Kingdom Quest ride where we zapped trolls and skeletons with laser guns to rescue the captured princess!
Craig Hardin, our tour guide and sales coordinator for Legoland Discovery Center, then brought us into the main Discovery Center room where kids (and adults!) can build Lego buildings, Lego cars (and race them down a track), play in a Lego-inspired play zone, watch a movie in the 4D theater or visit the Princess Palace. Miniland, however, was definitely our favorite area: a room filled with an extensive model of the Grapevine/Dallas-Fort Worth area built entirely out of Legos. According to Hardin, Miniland took a year to build. Everything in Legoland Discovery Center is created by the master model builder, who was found through a city-wide search last year. The master builder even created a life-size Mavericks basketball player in honor of their 2011 NBA Championship victory. The figure stands at exactly seven feet tall; now that’s a lot of Legos! Legoland also hosts approx. 18 to 20 birthday parties a week. That’s not surprising considering the wide array of activities and attractions!
Next we headed across the mall to SEA LIFE. We were intrigued to find out SEA LIFE is the biggest aquarium brand in the world; even London houses a SEA LIFE aquarium. The Grapevine aquarium just opened on July 12 and we couldn’t have been more impressed. Craig took us through the entire attraction, beginning with a look at aquatic life in Texas, then highlights of river environments, and then eventually a look at sea life itself. The Ocean Tank was especially captivating: filled with 140,000 gallons of salt water, it is home to 11 sharks. In addition to the Ocean Tank, we experienced the 360-degree Ocean walk where you can see sharks, fish, rays and more swimming next to you, below you and right above your head.
GrapeFest- A Wine Experience
After ooh-ing and aaaah-ing at Lego masterpieces and sharks swimming overhead, we headed to GrapeFest for the People’s Choice wine tasting, where 119 wines from 33 wineries were poured for meticulous judging. About 500 people crowded under a massive white tent for an hour and a half, sampling merlots, Rieslings, sangrias, chardonnays and more. We also enjoyed pairing the wines with different types of cheeses and crackers.
Some of our favorites (and those we suggest to try) were:
- Lenoir-Sage Vineyard’s Bells (chardonnay)
- Homesteaad Winery’s Prairie Rose
- La Buena Vida Vineyards’ Red Headed Stepchild (sangria)
But the festival was not just about the wine. We enjoyed great festival food, which included roasted corn on the cob, fried Oreos, freshly-squeezed lemonade, corndogs and more. Yum! There were approximately 100 vendors that ran down the center of Main Street, selling everything from hand-crafted necklaces (Laura bought two!), homemade soaps, wooden crosses and pottery. There was also a kids’ area where parents could drop the young ones off as well as a full-sized carnival area complete with a Ferris wheel and roller coasters.
Perhaps what makes GrapeFest most appealing (besides the wine competition of course) is the activities that took place during the weekend. We got a kick out of watching teams of two compete at the Grape Stomp and indulged in examining luxurious prizes at the Vinter’s Auction. Other activities included the Champagne Cork Shoot-Off, the Legoland Discovery Center’s Junior Builder Contest and the Tribute dinner, where we sipped nine award-winning wines in a black-tie setting.
The best part of GrapeFest? The proceeds will benefit the Grapevine Heritage Foundation’s ongoing project at Nash Farm where groups learn about the history of the North Texas settlement, farming technology and more. We can tell you one thing about GrapeFest - we will be back again!
Photos by Laura Smith