One thing that stands out when you visit Fort Worth is how much the locals love it there. Every Fort Worth native will proudly point out the city's rich history, spout off their favorite place in the Stockyards, and share a list of other fun facts. Even though Fort Worth is sometimes overlooked by its larger neighbor, Dallas, there's an undeniable pride. Want to know why the locals love it so much? Start here, with the best things to do in Fort Worth, Texas.
Experience The “Old West” in The Stockyards
Step back in time in this historic district. The Stockyards date back to 1890 and still feature original brick walkways and many of the same buildings. Originally 206 acres of livestock markets and butchers, these businesses helped build Fort Worth’s vibrant economy. Today, only 98 acres remain, but visitors can watch the twice-daily cattle drive with real modern cowboys, stay at the Stockyards Hotel, the same hotel that Bonnie and Clyde hid out in, and shop for their own Western attire.
Explore the Trinity River Trails
The Trinity River stretches 710 miles through Texas, cutting through Fort Worth, where there are more than 70 miles of trails to explore. Take a stroll along the river or head out on horseback through the nature trails. In the summer, the river offers the perfect opportunity to cool off. Visitors can rent equipment for water activities, including paddleboards or innertubes. During the summer, rent a tube and float up to "Rockin' The River," a waterside concert series.
Be Entertained in Sundance Square
Downtown Fort Worth's centerpiece is the vibrant Sundance Square, a large plaza easily distinguished by its large umbrellas and a colorful fountain show. This square also hosts events almost weekly that are free and open to the public, including outdoor movies in the summer and festive tree lighting during Christmas. The surrounding neighborhood also has so much to discover, from boutique shops, delicious eateries, venues for live music and stand up comedy, you could easily fill an entire itinerary in these blocks alone!
Spend a Night at Billy Bob’s
No visit to Fort Worth would be complete without a trip to Billy Bob's, the world's largest honky-tonk. Billy Bob's is like a one-stop-shop for everything Texas: enjoy a drink and a meal from their Honky Tonk Kitchen, watch live bull riding (or take a photo on the mechanical bull), take a line dancing class and learn how to boot, scoot, boogie on the dance floor, or catch a live concert. Billy Bob's has hosted the biggest names in music, from Ringo Starr to Willie Nelson. Whatever you do at Billy Bob's, it will be a night you won't forget.
Learn About the Wild West
Fort Worth is one of the central scenes in what is now thought of as "the Wild West." This frontier era shaped U.S. history, leaving a lasting legacy that is still portrayed throughout songs, movies, and television shows. Learn more about this fascinating history—and the role women played in it—at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, the only museum to honor the women, including Native Americans, on frontier lines. Interested in Western art? The Sid Richardson Museum is also worth a visit.
Discover Your Inner Art Critic
While Fort Worth might best be known for its cowboy history, it has an art scene that is not to be missed! Fort Worth's art museums are plentiful and world-class: there's the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Museum, and the Kimbell Art Museum, showcasing works by everyone from Dan Flavin to Dorothea Lange. Most of the city's major museums are clustered in the Cultural District, making it easy to explore.
Hang With the Cool Kids on Magnolia Avenue
What used to be considered the "wrong side of the tracks" has seen an impressive turn around in the past three years. Now, Magnolia Avenue is the star of Fort Worth's southside. Locals have managed to turn a once-abandoned area into a neighborhood with a unique charm. Stop by Nonna Tata, a small Italian restaurant that even accepts euros. Seats are limited, so if it's full head next door to The Usual, and order your usual (or something new) and this speakeasy-inspired bar. If you're there during the day, check out SiNaCa Studios, an old gas station turned glass blowing gallery, where you can watch artists in action and even buy original pieces.
Go Brewery Hopping
Fort Worth has a booming brewery scene sure to impress even the pickiest of beer snobs. From rotating seasonal beer menus to staple favorites, and from backyard bands, to city center digs, there truly is a brewery for everyone. Local favorites include Rahr & Sons, Wild Acre Brewing, and Cowtown Brewing. You can even follow the city's official Ale Trail. Pick up a passport at the Fort Worth Visitor Center and collect stamps at the breweries. Once you've earned all the stamps, you can turn your passport back in for a prize!
See a Rodeo
Keeping with the cowboy tradition, Fort Worth is the only place in the world to have a year-round rodeo. Head to the Cowtown Coliseum at the Stockyards every Friday and Saturday night for bull riding, barrel racing, and more. There is also the rodeo extravaganza that is the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, a 23-day celebration of everything livestock that draws more than one million visitors each year. Beyond bull riding, there are concerts, carnivals, auctions, and more!
Explore South Main Street
South Main is another up-and-coming area that’s just at the beginning of its boom. Once abandoned buildings on South Main are being refurbished into the charmingly quirky businesses of SoMa. Enjoy a gourmet popsicle from Alchemy Pops or grab a drink at Bearded Ladies, where each beer tap is decorated with a bearded version of a famous woman. Speaking of powerful women—South Main seems to be where Fort Worth’s women are making their mark. South Main even has an entire block of woman-owned businesses!
Escape to Fort Worth Water Gardens
The Fort Worth Water Gardens are part urban park, part fountain. More than just a great photo op, the Philip Johnson-designed Fort Worth Water Gardens are the perfect spot to cool down in the summer, sip your morning coffee, or take a date for a stroll. The largest of the three pools has steps for visitors to walk in and around the gardens, while the smallest meditation pool is the perfect spot to find some quiet in the surrounding bustling downtown area.
Get Wild at Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo was founded in 1909 with just 10 animals and has since grown to more than 60 acres with around 5,000 animals from 542 species, including 68 endangered species and the largest exhibit of reptiles and amphibians in the world. The zoo has made a strong commitment to conservation and education, specifically with endangered turtles. One visit and it's easy to understand why the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has recognized the Fort Worth Zoo as one of the world's best.
Explore the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
The oldest botanic garden in the state, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden serves as an excellent place to stop and smell the roses, pardon the pun. With a 7.5-acre Japanese garden (beautiful in all four seasons), a rose garden, an expertly-planted display garden, and more, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden will delight gardeners of all types. The garden's restored conservatory will host a large exhibition of exotic butterflies in spring 2020.
Check Out Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, adjacent to the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, has an abundance of exhibits for both kids and adults. The museum features articulated dinosaur skeletons (as well as a replica dig site), an IMAX theater, and a 90-seat planetarium. It's also home to a museum-within-a-museum, as 10,000 square feet is dedicated to the Cattleraiser's Museum, a large exhibition showcasing the ins and outs of Fort Worth's most significant industry.
See a Show at Bass Performance Hall
The stunning Bass Performance Hall, located downtown, is the hub for Fort Worth's performing arts scene. From Broadway to symphony to opera, the hall showcases the best that Fort Worth has to offer. Depending on the season, visitors can see performances by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Texas Ballet Theater, and the Fort Worth Opera, all in the heart of the nation's third-largest cultural district.
With Fort Worth's cattle-rich history, it should come as no surprise that barbecue is often the dish of choice. There's no shortage of options either, whether you're looking for an old-school joint that serves a meat-and-three with an ice-cold Shiner Bock or a modern take, where you can enjoy your brisket alongside a whiskey cocktail. For the former, Angelo's, near downtown, is arguably the spot for a signature sliced brisket sandwich with mustard and pickles. Heim, a relative newcomer, adhering to a "farm to smoker" philosophy, serves up equally delectable meats, alongside a whiskey list of more than 150 selections.
—with Laura Ratliff