There’s a lot to do in Cowtown that doesn’t involve cows.
Written in Partnership with Hotels.com.
The essence of everything cowboy related, Fort Worth in Texas was once home to cowhands, cattlemen and outlaws. Today, it has a more urban vibe with a wealth of fascinating museums including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the magnificent Kimbell Art Museum.
Having grown up near Fort Worth, I spent a lot of time here as a kid. What I thought was normal – twice-daily cattle drives, rodeos, a historic Stockyard and unmissable honky-tonk concerts at Billy Bob’s – apparently is unique. When I took my kids this past summer they were blown away by everything cowboy. And who wouldn’t be! Fort Worth has done an amazing job at retaining its original deep-rooted cowboy culture while also becoming urban and hip. What’s not to love… With that said, I talked to my kids about what they loved and have put together the following list of the best places to go, sites to see and things to do in Fort Worth. (I may have added a few of my personal favorites too.)
Go Back to the Wild, Wild West at Fort Worth Stockyards
Perhaps the best-known area in the city, the Stockyards. The historic cattle district is now a vibrant hub for live entertainment. Here you’ll find everything from rodeos and shootout shows to concerts and live music, together with the opportunity to discover more about the city’s Wild West culture.
As one of the biggest stockyards and processing operations in the West where over four million cattle were driven through the city, Fort Worth was formerly known as ‘Cowtown’ for a good reason. A visit to the Stockyards is like stepping back in time to a foregone era with the chance to meet real cowboys and visit some of the original, authentic shops.
Marvel at the Masterpieces in the Kimbell Art Museum
Fort Worth is a city with many interesting museums, and the Kimbell Art Museum is surely one of the best. This world-class art museum was designed by famous architect Louis Kahn and it contains a small but impressive collection of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse and Goya.
Its permanent collection of artwork is considered to be one of the best in the world and the building itself is recognized as one of the top works of 20th-century architecture. What makes it so special? It has been designed in a way that allows natural light to always display the pieces inside in the most amazing way. It’s really a must-see for art lovers.
Staying at a hotel nearby the locations you plan to visit is one tip not to overlook. I’ve teamed up with Hotels.com for this article and wanted to note that for things to do in Fort Worth on this list staying somewhere in the Stockyards or Sundance Square, which is in the heart of downtown, will give you the most flexibility. (You will need to plan to rent a car or Uber it. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the distance between places.)
Browse the Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Whether you’re an art enthusiast or you just love to browse, a visit to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in the city’s Cultural District is a must. Founded in 1960, there are more than 200,000 pieces of American Art from the 19th and early 20th centuries ranging from oil paintings and sculptures to amazing photography collections and rare books. The museum was founded under the will of the late Amon G. Carter, the founder and publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
View Contemporary Works at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
If contemporary artwork is more to your taste, the Modern Art Museum won’t disappoint. The stunning concrete and glass building houses a number of collections representing everything from Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism to Pop and New Image Painting. You can also expect to find work from prominent artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock on display here.
Spend a Morning at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Cultural District is bursting with interesting places to visit but the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has to be one of the most popular. It combines amazing hands-on interactive exhibits, the Nobel Planetarium and an IMAX Dome with a 120-foot screen all under one roof. It’s a great destination for both children and adults alike.
Enjoy the Natural World at Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Also located in the city’s Cultural District, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden contains 2,500 species of plants in 23 specialty gardens and it is the oldest garden of its kind in Texas. The gardens are spread over 109 acres and its lush gardens, views of the city and winding footpaths provide a welcome haven from the busy city. Be sure to visit the Rose Garden with its 2,000 varieties of roses and the Japanese Garden with its traditional cherry trees, koi ponds, waterfalls and bamboo bridges.
Dine and Shop Till You Drop at Sundance Square
No visit to Fort Worth is complete without a visit to Sundance Square. With its hundreds of bars, restaurants, boutiques, museums, movie houses and galleries set in beautifully restored historic houses on the redbrick streets and pretty courtyards of the downtown area of the city, a visit here is one of the most popular things to do in Fort Worth.
It’s the number one destination for shopping, dining, people watching and just taking in the atmosphere, especially as it has a really family-friendly vibe.
Take the Train to Sip in Texas Wine
Wine making doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you think of Fort Worth. After all, don’t cowboys preferred beer and liquor over wine? However, there are a growing number of vineyards and wineries appearing in the area between Dallas and Fort Worth, especially in my hometown of Grapevine, which is aptly named.
From Fort Worth, you can jump on the train and in about 30 minutes be sipping wine the historic downtown Grapevine. Here you’ll find the Grapevine Urban Wine trial made up of several tasting rooms to pop in and out of.
Visit the Award-Winning Fort Worth Zoo
The oldest continuously run zoo in Texas, the Fort Worth Zoo is well worth a visit. From humble beginnings when it opened its doors in 1909 with just six species of animals – one lion, two bear cubs, one coyote, an alligator and a few rabbits – it’s now a major tourist attraction and has been named as a top zoo by USA Today, Family Life Magazine and the LA Times. Today you’ll get to see over 7,000 native and exotic animals together with a petting enclosure for the kids where they’ll also be introduced to the care and conservation of animals. If you’re traveling with kids, this is for sure on the M.U.S.T.S. of things to do in Fort Worth.
Take Sanctuary in the Fort Worth Water Gardens
Next to the Fort Worth Convention Center, you’ll find the Fort Worth Water Gardens, a tranquil natural sanctuary that provides a peaceful haven in the busy downtown area. Designed by Philip Johnson, its cascading waterfalls, modernist pools, sunken gorges and terraces are the perfect antidote to city life and the central plaza is the place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of ‘Cowtown’.
Enjoy All that Fort Worth Has to Offer
Fort Worth is much more than just a ‘Cowtown’. In fact, there are many places to see and things to do in Fort Worth that don’t involve cows at all! What would you include on this list? Have you been to Fort Worth? Let me know in the comments.
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.