Sometimes overshadowed by its bigger sibling Dallas, Fort Worth deserves a brighter share of the spotlight. Its Western heritage, thriving cultural scene and true grit make it a classic Texan city...
Fort Worth occasionally gets overshadowed by its bigger sibling Dallas, but it deserves a brighter share of the Lone Star spotlight. Its solid Western heritage, thriving cultural scene and true grit make it a classic Texas city. At nearly half the size of Big D, it also has a comfortable urban feel, with 11 easily navigable entertainment districts and nearly 100 attractions within a 16-kilometre radius of downtown.
A big part of the city’s appeal is its history tied to Texas’ legendary cattle drives—the Stockyards District still hosts some good ol’ fashioned cowboy business, including livestock auctions and rodeos. A completely different type of culture is celebrated at several world-class art museums (The Kimbell, The Modern and The Amon Carter Museum of American Art), featuring fascinating works from Texas and the world. Read on for nine more reasons to visit...
Searching for some True Texas? Look no further than a district dedicated entirely to cattle. The Stockyards National Historic District, 3.2 kilometres north of downtown, genuinely represents Fort Worth’s cultural history. Livestock pens, a rodeo arena, saloons and other historic structures tell the Wild West stories of cattle drives and hearty trail hands in places like the Stockyards Museum, Livestock Exchange Building and Stockyards Hotel. The Stockyards’ twice-daily cattle drives feature a dozen magnificent longhorn cattle clip-clopping down brick streets with period-costumed drivers. Top your day off with some traditional line dancing at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk.
Travellers can spend a full day (or three) in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Don’t miss the Kimbell Art Museum, housed in a remarkable Louis Kahn-designed building that radiates natural light on the museum’s concrete walls covered with artwork by Monet, Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse. The adjacent Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is another stunning structure (designed by Tadao Ando) that appears to float on a placid pond with equally amazing views inside, including Andy Warhol silkscreens. The nearby National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame showcases the important role women played in the American West, with a dazzling exhibits and a simulated bronco-riding exhibit.
A city’s robust brewery scene can often be a tipping point for travellers in search of a distinctive destination. Fortunately, Fort Worth is overflowing with quality home-grown beers, as evidenced by its Ale Trail, which provides visitors with a vibrant, diverse group of brewers redefining the city’s character one perfect pint at a time. From novices to beer geeks and pilsners to porters, the Ale Trail offers a roadmap for you (and your Uber driver’s) ultimate Fort Worth pub crawl.
Fort Worth’s Stock Show and Rodeo is considered the nation’s oldest continually running livestock show and rodeo. Held in mid-January through early February, the rodeo is the city’s largest annual event, drawing over a million visitors from around the world. Throughout the year, visitors can also experience the Stockyards Championship Rodeo in the magnificent 1908 Cowtown Coliseum, a perfect backdrop for one of the world’s oldest indoor rodeo arenas. Lasso in the traditional events, from bull riding to barrel racing to roping competitions.
Fort Worth’s most famous entertainment venue is Billy Bob’s Texas, billed as ‘the world’s largest honky-tonk'. Located on the northern edge of the Stockyards District, Billy Bob’s is a giant arena (it was originally built in 1910 as a cattle barn for the rodeo), and the 1.2 hectares inside look like a cavernous Las Vegas casino. Some of the most genuine Western features of the club are the live bull-riding area, colossal dance floor and monstrous gift shop. For those seeking to scoot their boots: line dancing and lessons are available most nights.
The 35-block Sundance Square Downtown Entertainment District is bustling with restaurants, art galleries, pubs, museums and clothing boutiques. The area is named for the legendary outlaw known as the Sundance Kid, who, along with fellow notorious bandit Butch Cassidy, reportedly roamed the local streets between robberies. Many of Sundance Square’s buildings have been restored, and several bronze markers, known as the Heritage Trails, are in Sundance Square, including one dedicated to the famous outlaws.
Appropriately, beef is one of the top menu items in the city known as ‘Cowtown.’ Steakhouses, barbecue and Southwestern cooking are featured cuisines across the city, but the Stockyards District is the best place to start. As a major destination for Chisholm Trail-era cowboys, the Stockyards collected and processed cattle for markets across the country. This beefy legacy is on delicious display at places like renowned chef Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que and Heim BBQ, which often sells out of it's savoury smokey treats. But if you're feeling adventurous, there's also another kind of meat to try: rattlesnake. At Lonesome Dove you can try this curious meat in sausage form – an inventive dish popular with the locals.
Although most major American cities have zoos, they don’t compare to the Fort Worth Zoo. This sprawling three-hectare complex – recently named the fourth best zoo in the country – appears less like a traditional zoo and more like a gathering of habitats, with continental critters (rhinos, elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys, giraffes and hippopotamuses to name a few) often just 20 meters away from visitors with only a pond separating man and beast. The Meerkat Mounds are especially popular, and the 'Texas Wild!' corral is a good way to get a handle on the impressive variety of creatures roaming around the Lone Star State.
Live music is a Fort Worth staple. You'll find quintessential Texan bars across the city hosting performances of all kinds, with musicians such as Ornette Coleman, Townes Van Zandt, Van Cliburn, T-Bone Burnett and Leon Bridges all hailing from the city. Some of music’s greats have graced Fort Worth's stages, from Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam to George Strait and Robert Earl Keen. Their embracing approach to music even earned Fort Worth the title of Texas' first 'music friendly city' by the Texas Music Office.
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