Though most folks are likely more familiar with nearby Dallas’s glitzy, glamorous nightlife, Fort Worth is home to its fair share of after-dark fun—albeit with a distinctly cowboy feel. “Cowtown,” as it’s commonly called, is steeped in rich Wild West history—the city was once a stop on the Chisholm Trail, during the famous open-range cattle drives of the 19th century—and the iconic Stockyards are still the main tourist attraction (in addition to a high-brow arts and culture scene). When it comes to nightlife, Fort Worth has a laid-back, endearingly unpretentious vibe all its own, one that’s entirely different from that of the Big D, or any other Texan city for that matter. When the sun goes down, take your pick from a slew of time-worn dive bars, local breweries, fine arts establishments, and swanky craft cocktail dens.
Bars and Nightclubs
Billy Bob’s Texas is one of the city’s most legendary nighttime hot spots—you can’t come to Cowtown without paying a visit to this souped-up honky-tonk (the world’s largest, according to Billy Bob’s). You can do it all at there: line dance, play pool, sway to live country tunes, or just knock back a few whiskey shots. Things are a little more chill at Corporate Image, a beloved East Fort Worth dive bar, where karaoke and pool reign supreme as the main pastimes. Speaking of dives, Ozzie Rabbit Lodge is a must-see. Once owned by Pantera’s famed guitarist Dimebag Darrell, this wild and crazy joint exudes rockabilly-cowboy charms mixed with a touch of JFK (yes, the former president). Why JFK, you ask? Well, eerily enough, Lee Harvey Oswald resides in a nearby cemetery, and the bar took its name from Oswald’s call sign in the Army: “Ozzie Rabbit.”
In the mood for something a tad more upscale? The Usual is where all the fancy cocktail connoisseurs congregate and try to impress the bartenders with their mixology knowledge. The bar menu here focuses on Prohibition-era cocktails and you can't go wrong with anything you order. Meanwhile, at Boiled Owl Tavern, a hip, young crowd packs in for open mic nights, craft beer, and live music. The sidewalk patio, on Magnolia Avenue, is prime people-watching territory.
The Flying Saucer is where true beer nerds come to play; Malone’s is great when you need your Irish pub fix; and T&P Tavern has one of the coolest settings with gorgeous art deco chandeliers, cool old metal barstools, and one of the biggest covered patios (5,000 square feet) in the city. When it comes to cozy neighborhood hangouts, it doesn’t get much cozier than The Chat Room, a former Internet bar turned real bar, or Thompson's Bookstore, a downtown craft cocktail lounge that pays homage to the original Thompson's Bookstore, which occupied the building in the '70s through the mid-'90s (you'll need a password to enter; check their Facebook page for more info).
Fort Worth has a bevy of live music venues, performing arts centers, and other cultural entertainment that’s well worth checking out. At Lola’s Saloon, hang out inside where the (reliably decent) bands play, or choose between one of two outdoor patios to hang out on. White Elephant Saloon has live music seven nights a week, while Scat Jazz Lounge boasts some of the best local, regional, and national music talent, with a heavy emphasis on jazz and blues. For a serious dose of Fort Worth authenticity: In the Stockyards, mosey on over to Rodeo Exchange, a highly-frequented “cowboy nightclub.” There’s a dance floor for two-stepping and regular live music—and if you’re not sure about your two-stepping prowess, head over on a Tuesday night to take a dance lesson. Pearl's Dancehall & Saloon offers a mix of Texan-ified music and dance styles, including Western Swing, country, and honky-tonk, so come ready to twirl around with a sea of cowboy-hat wearing regulars. At Tomcats West you can enjoy cheap cover prices and even cheaper drinks while basking in the sounds of very, very loud guitars and an ever-rowdy crowd.
Fort Worth is also a premier destination for late-night culture vultures, and Bass Performance Hall is a beacon. It’s a mainstay of national performing arts acts, including touring Broadway shows, in addition to being the home of the Fort Worth Opera, the Texas Ballet Theater, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. There's a host of other performing art venues scattered around town, as well: Casa Mañana, the Circle Theatre, Cowtown Opry, the Jubilee Theater, and the Hip Pocket Theatre are just a few of the many lauded venues in the area.
Tips for Going Out in Fort Worth
- Always check the city events calendar, to stay up-to-date on what’s going on each night. You’ll find everything from special film screenings to bar crawls to game nights and more.
- There are dozens of cool festivals happening in Fort Worth throughout the year; nightlife lovers might consider attending the Food & Wine Festival, the Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival, or one of several notable music festivals. (Check out the 2020 festival calendar online.)
- Expect to pay a cover charge of anywhere between $5 to $10 for entrance to clubs (expect to pay more for touring performers).
- Use rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft to get around at night, especially if it’s late.