Photo Source: Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau
Fort Worth’s tagline, "Cowboys and Culture," is well fitting. This Texan city was originally founded as a military outpost, then became a prime cattle depot, and in recent years has undergone a rebirth with epicurean offerings, great museums, and thriving public areas. Here are three areas of Fort Worth definitely worth exploring.
In recent years, Downtown Fort Worth has seen much revitalization, particularly Sundance Square, a district with restaurants, shops, and boutiques occupying restored buildings that back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The key attraction here is "Homage to Chisholm Trail," an impressive wall mural on the Jett Building facing Sundance Square’s plaza. Another repurposed site that had served as a domino parlor now houses the Sid Richardson Art Museum, which specializes in Western paintings. Other noted buildings in the downtown area include Fort Worth’s own Flatiron Building (yes, it was inspired by its NYC counterpart) and the Hilton Fort Worth, a landmark property once known as the Hotel Texas where JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy spent the night before making their fateful trip to Dallas. An adjacent memorial commemorates the President’s visit. To really learn about the history of the downtown area, particularly through its structures, consider going on a tour led by Authentic Fort Worth Tours.
In Downtown, dining picks are plenty. Reata Restaurant goes with a ranch motif but dishes out Southwestern fare with lunch and dinner options. Consider trying their brunch version of sausage and biscuits with fruit on the side. Then before heading out, go up to the rooftop area for great views of the city. Consider heading to Del Frisco's Double Edge Steakhouse for a classic steak dinner. Back in Sundance Square, The Bird Café is a gastropub serving artisan dishes such as shared plates featuring mango green chile goat queso or shrimp and housemade grits.
During the late 19th century, Fort Worth served as the final rest stop for cattle herders and long steers making their way to railheads in Kansas along a route called the Chisholm Trail. It was also a place for the cowboys to enjoy some adult fun. Thanks to these ranchers, Fort Worth became a serious cattle market venue, with auctions conducted in the Stockyards and two major meatpacking plants nearby. The Fort Worth Stockyards historic district is a living museum to this era. Go on a walking tour that leaves from the Stockyards Visitor Center and traipses in, out and around various buildings.
Sites to visit include the Livestock Exchange Building, which was called "The Wall Street of the West" for the cattle trades conducted here; the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Coliseum, which holds weekly rodeo shows. Also, stick around to catch the Fort Worth Herd. Every day, at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., a herd of longhorns and their handlers parade down Exchange Avenue as a symbol of the marches that once took place through Fort Worth. The Stockyards also contains various Western wear shops and restaurants serving everything from steak to Mexican and what’s called "cowboy cuisine." Fans of chicken fried steak will be pleased at Horseshoe Hill Cafe to find traditional and specialty takes on this Western dish. Also in the Stockyards region, trek to Esperanza’s Mexican Café and Bakery, especially for their Mexican-style pastries!
Like Downtown, Near Southside has changed quite a bit over time. Nowadays it’s also referred to as Magnolia due to West Magnolia Street, which has the largest concentration of dining and nightlife options in this part of town. Benito’s keeps the midnight oil burning with late-night servings of Mexican and Tex-Mex fare. For pub grub, The Bearded Lady dishes out specials like grilled cheese and burgers and fried servings of leek rings, okra and even cactus tips. If you’re looking for something sweet, Stir Crazy Baked Goods features cupcakes, cakes, and other tasty treats made from all-natural ingredients. Plus get buzzed at coffee shops like Brewed.
Besides epicurean finds, next to Near Southside is the lovely Historic Fairmount district. This district is a neighborhood of homes dating back to the early 20th century that’s worth a drive through.
West of the Downtown area, the Culture District has a collection of museums and nearby nature spots that give visitors different ways to see Fort Worth. In this district, the Will Rogers Memorial Center is home to the annual Fort Worth Stock Rodeo & Show, a citywide tradition that happens every January and features rodeo competitions, performances and exhibitions. Across the way, you can spend a good amount of time walking through the museums found along this neighborhood. The Kimbell Art Museum has a small but largely impressive art collection that is a mix of antiquities and contemporary art. Its signature piece is what is said to be Michelangelo’s first known painting, "The Torment of Saint Anthony." Then, head to Ammon Carter Museum of Art has quite a collection of American art, as well as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for more international, modern and contemporary art. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History showcases nature’s wonders, while the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is all about the ladies connected to the American West.
Nature lovers also have a lot to see and do the Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, and Trinity Park. Also, check out Trinity Trails, an intertwining collection of about 40 miles of biking/running trails and 17 trailheads intersecting with public parks, plus five areas for setting off in a kayak or canoe. Cyclists will be happy to try out Fort Worth’s B-cycle bike sharing program, with over 40 checkout stations throughout the city. For one more taste of barbecue before leaving Fort Worth, head to the TCU area to Woodshed Smokehouse. Their menu features grilled, smoked, and slow-cooked choices including the sausage of the day and a "today’s animal" of the day plus some non-carnivore friendly options.
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