As part of the greater megaplex that includes Dallas and Grapevine, Fort Worth is ‘where the west begins’. The city was originally established as an army outpost in 1849 to protect the settlers of West Texas after the Mexican War. It soon transformed into a booming town when it became a key stop along the Chisholm Trail and the last stop for cowboys to restock and refuel before heading north. Millions of cattle passed through Fort Worth and by the end of the 19th century it was the central point of the cattle drives.
The city is deeply rooted in its cowboy heritage. It’s both what the residents’ identify with and hold dear. While the cattle drives have long ceased, cowboy culture can still be found all over the city.
The Stockyards Historic District
The best example and largest concentration of this cowboy culture can be found at the Stockyards Historic District. The District is filled with sites from the Old West and gives you that quintessential Texan experience.
As I walked along Exchange Avenue, I felt as if I had suddenly been transported onto the set of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Weather-beaten wooden buildings lined the street housing saloons, restaurants, and shops dedicated to all things ‘cowboy’. All that was missing was the single tumbleweed rolling down the center of the street.
Twice a day, the Stockyards pays tribute to their cattle herding past. At 11:30am and 4:00pm, the Fort Worth Herd marches down Exchange Avenue flanked by drovers (men who drive the herd). The cattle drive doesn’t last long, about 10 minutes for the herd to make it down the length of the street, but it’s quite the experience seeing the longhorns up close.
The fun continues into the evening, especially on weekends. Every Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm, the Cowtown Coliseum hosts the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, the world’s first indoor rodeo. There’s bull-riding, calf roping, barrel racing and even a calf and mutton scramble for the kids. Also at the Cowtown Coliseum on Saturdays at 2:30pm and 4:30pm is Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show. Based on actual events, these shows recreate the original Wild West Show from the early 1900s and include trick roping, shooting, and riding.
When you’ve had your fill of rodeo fun, head over to Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest Honky-Tonk. This sprawling 127,000 square foot venue has everything from line dancing to pool tables, bull-riding demonstrations to arcades, and live-musical performances. In fact, every major country singer makes a stop at Billy Bob’s Texas at some point in their career. People of all ages enjoy Billy Bob’s Texas and this is the perfect place to break in those newly purchased cowboy boots.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
The ‘old west’ culture wasn’t just reserved for the men. In fact, many women played important roles in shaping the American ‘wild west’. From Annie Oakley to Dale Evans, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame pays tribute and celebrates characters and women through exhibits, films, and interactive displays. It’s the only museum in the world of its kind and features information on more than 750 women. Walking through the two-floored museum, I was in awe at how badass and remarkable these women are.
The museum also features an interactive bronco riding experience where you’re recorded and transposed via green screen into a movie of you riding a bucking bronco. Get as silly and into it as you want! It makes for a great laugh.
Fort Worth is the perfect place for that true Texan experience. But as I’ll be showing you later this week, it isn’t all about cowboys and rodeos in this city.
Travel assistance provided by Texas Tourism and Fort Worth CVB. All opinions remain my own.