Despite its laid-back image and small size, Fort Worth abounds with sights, sounds, and things to do. Whether you're a cowboy, an aesthete, or a historian -- or just plain folk -- Fort Worth, an enjoyable, relaxed, and cultured city that's also remarkably well organized for visitors, should prove entertaining. There are three distinct parts, each a couple of miles from one another: the Stockyards National Historic District, the focus of the city's cattle-raising and livestock auction legacy as the cow town of the cattle drives north in the 19th century; newly revitalized historic downtown Fort Worth, a beautifully laid-out, clean, and renovated core; and the Cultural District, a world-class museum, arts, and architecture center with the superlative Kimbell Museum (perhaps Texas's finest art museum), the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, and the fantastic new Modern Art Museum. We'll take them in that order, though where you start should match with your interests in either art or a living museum of the Old West.
Plenty of attractions in Fort Worth are free; pick up the flyer Everything Free to Do in Fort Worth at the visitor center to find out how much you can do for no money.
Coupon Discounts -- Visit the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau website for money-saving coupons at major attractions, including the Stockyards, Museum of Science and History, Cowgirl Museum, and Billy Bob's Texas, as well as the airport shuttle. Go to www.fortworth.com/16coupons/16coupons.shtml and print out any of more than a dozen coupons.
The Stockyards National Historic District
Two miles north of downtown Fort Worth, off North Main Street, is the still-beating heart of Fort Worth's Old West heritage. The Stockyards National Historic District -- where women police officers patrol on horseback, and a cattle drive takes place daily on the cobblestones of Exchange Avenue -- is part Western theme park and part living history museum. The livestock industry's 1880s roots are here, and it became the biggest and busiest cattle, horse, mule, hog, and sheep marketing center in the Southwest (and quite a pocket of wealth). The 125-acre district encompasses the Livestock Exchange Building, the focus of old livestock business; Cowtown Coliseum, the world's first indoor rodeo arena; Stockyards Station, the former hog and sheep pens, now overrun with Western shops and restaurants; Billy Bob's Texas, known as the world's largest honky-tonk; Western shops and authentic saloons, such as the White Elephant; and the historic Stockyards Hotel, where bar stools are topped by saddles and Bonnie and Clyde once camped out while on the lam. Such Western heroes as Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and Bob Wills are honored in bronze along Exchange Avenue's Trail of Fame.
The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is held the last 2 weeks of January and first week of February. It's hands-down the time in Fort Worth to see a surfeit of rodeo performances, as well as the nation's oldest continuous livestock show. For information, call tel. 817/877-2420 or get tickets at Ticketmaster outlets or online at www.fwssr.com.
Christmas in the Stockyards -- A fairly new tradition in the Stockyards, Christmas in the Stockyards, is held the first Saturday in December. Perfect for families, it features games, crafts, roping lessons, a parade, and Cowboy Ride for Toys, all of which is followed by the lighting of a 45-foot tree and Christmas carols. For more information, call tel. 817/625-9715 or visit www.fortworthstockyards.org.
Longhorn Express: Fort Worth Herd -- Amazingly, the Fort Worth Stockyards still look the part of the Old West. To enhance the atmosphere even more, a twice-daily "cattle drive," the Fort Worth Herd, takes place on the main drag, Exchange Avenue (at N. Main St.), at 11:30am and again at 4pm. About 15 head of 1-ton longhorn steers, led by cowhands dressed the part in 19th-century duds, rumble down the redbrick street past the Stockyards, on their way to grazing near the West Fork of the Trinity River and back again to the Stockyards. Claimed to be the world's only daily longhorn cattle drive, it's perfect for photo ops. The best places to view the longhorns are the front lawn of the Livestock Exchange building and from the catwalk above the cattle pens. For more information, call tel. 817/336-HERD (336-4373).
Historic Downtown & Sundance Square
Charming, unassuming, and remarkably unhurried, downtown's centerpiece, Sundance Square (named for the Sundance Kid, who hid out here with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, and a prime stop along the Chisholm Trail during the cattle drives of the 1800s), is 14 blocks of redbrick streets, late-19th-century buildings, and attractions that include the Bass Performance Hall, a couple of museums, and a pair of Art Deco movie theaters. It's a model of urban planning, and a real rarity in Texas: a place with sidewalks that invites nonmotored strolling. Downtown Fort Worth is lit up like a Christmas tree at night, and Sundance Square's bars and restaurants are the heart of downtown nightlife.
A Water Break -- Take a breather at the refreshing Fort Worth Water Gardens, designed by the famed architect Philip Johnson -- 4 acres of water (19,000 gal. per minute) cascading over cement and into five pools. At Commerce and 15th streets, downtown; call tel. 817/871-7699 for more information.
The Cultural District
Fort Worth is the cultural capital of the Southwest, with the finest art museums in Texas and the most impressive small art museum in the country. The city ropes off the Cultural District, making it an elite island by placing it safely apart from downtown business interests, a couple of miles west. Arts philanthropy has thrived in Fort Worth to a degree unmatched in Texas and many parts of the United States. Wealthy patrons and an enthusiastic city have welcomed some of the world's most celebrated architects, including Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson, and Tadao Ando, to create museums that make much larger and more cosmopolitan cities salivate with envy. The presence of the glorious new Modern Art Museum across the street from the Kimbell and down the block from Philip Johnson's expanded Amon Carter has entrenched Fort Worth as perhaps the top art and architecture city between the two coasts. South of downtown is an area of parks, gardens, historic homes, and the Fort Worth Zoo, considered one of the top five in the country.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.