Places in Fort Worth Where You Can Still See the City's 'Old West' Roots
They don’t call Fort Worth “Cowtown” for nothing. Though the city is increasingly pairing this reputation with a more hip feel, you can still see signs of Fort Worth’s longstanding Old West roots. When you want to find out why they say Fort Worth is where the west begins, here are the places where you can find a comprehensive — if at times a bit kitschy — look at the city’s heritage.
The Stockyards - Fort Worth Stockyards Historic District
When most people in other parts of the country think of Fort Worth, the image many have is of The Stockyards. Also known as the Fort Worth Stockyards Historic District, the area was the equivalent of Wall Street in the 1800s. This was the central marketplace for cattle traders to show and trade their livestock. The city has taken great strides to maintain the original look and character of the stockyards area, which means that strolling through the area feels like you’ve stepped back several decades. Walk along the original brick streets and watch twice-daily cattle drives.
Billy Bob’s Texas - Downtown Fort Worth
“The Stockyards” is a catch-all term that refers to several different attractions in the same area just northeast of Downtown Fort Worth. Billy Bob’s Texas is the quintessential experience for country music fans. Stop in on almost any night of the week and see performances by local and national country music acts. You can fuel up on Tex-Mex fare like BBQ or enchiladas paired with a cold beer. They say this is the world’s largest honky-tonk — a claim that can’t necessarily be proven — but you’re guaranteed a good time with country line dancing and mechanical bull riding. This huge place is touristy, but it’s a must-see in Fort Worth.
The Cowtown Coliseum pulls off the unique feat of being modern enough to have comforts like air conditioning yet still remain true to its roots. It feels completely historic and can be rented out for events when you want that authentic Texan backdrop. The coliseum was completely refurbished in 1986 and is open to the public for tours during the week. The Cowboy Hall of Fame relocated to this site in 2010, and it’s fun and educational to wander the halls and look at the memorabilia. It’s both the world’s first indoor rodeo and the only year-round rodeo, where you can go to a rodeo every Friday and Saturday night.
The Cowtown Cattlepen Maze
The family-friendly The Cowtown Cattlepen Maze is 5,400 square feet of wooden pathways, designed to resemble the cattle pens used by historic cowboys. Herding cattle through wooden pathways was more challenging than you might realize, so this gives an interesting approximation to make it easier to comprehend. This maze is frequently changing, so it’s the kind of thing you can’t master once. There’s also an observation deck on the second story, which both gives an overview of the whole maze — helpful if you have a photographic memory — and provides a clear view of the entire Stockyards area and of the daily cattle drive.
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
Western culture wasn’t all about the guys. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors the contributions of the women of the American West. The museum originally started in 1975 in a library in tiny Hereford, Texas, more than 300 miles northwest of Fort Worth. It moved to Cowtown in 1994, eventually settling in its permanent home in the Cultural District in 2002. Despite being a relatively recent addition to the lore of the west, it honors pioneering women from several walks of life, including Sacagawea, Patsy Cline, Temple Grandin, and Dale Evans. Did you know that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has cowgirl roots? She’s honored here, too.
Sid Richardson Museum
This small museum and gift shop hosts a permanent collection of Western art by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. Even though it doesn’t take a long time to go through the museum, admission is free, and the carefully curated selections of paintings and sculpture give you an educational view of life in the Wild West. The security guard is dressed like an old-school sheriff, and the gift shop offers unique choices for non-kitschy Texas memorabilia.
Fort Worth is the 16th largest city in the United States, which makes it a pretty major metropolis in its own right. But it looks likely that the city will make sure nobody forgets its western roots.