We arrived in Texas with one main goal in mind… to experience the wild west. To visit the stockyards, meet some cowboys, and maybe catch a rodeo or two. We only had a couple of days to spend in Texas, and after much deliberation about where to spend our time (San Antonio, Austin and Houston were all in the running) we settled on Dallas / Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Stockyards at the top of our list. Unfortunately, since we were visiting Texas in February, we didn’t have the best weather, with constant rain and bitter cold making it a little bit harder to experience everything Fort Worth had to offer. But we gave it our best shot, trying to see everything we could between the downpours!
Just north of Dallas’ CBD you will find Fort Worth Stockyards, the historical district built on the original stockyards site, celebrating the area’s proud tradition as part of the cattle industry in America. The Stockyards is known as “where the west begins” and is actually the last standing Stockyards in the United States. Between 1866 and 1890 drovers trailed more than 4 million cattle through Fort Worth, giving the city it’s nickname Cowtown. When the railroad arrived in 1876, Fort Worth became a major shipping point for livestock, so the city built the Union Stockyards in 1887.
These days, thousands of visitors from all over the world head to the Stockyards to experience Cowtown and a real western experience. Local volunteers still run the world’s only daily cattle drives through the Stockyards, to the delight of the kids and tourists (like us), and thousands of cattle are still sold from the Exchange Building by satellite video. Plus a town full of entertainment venues, shopping and dining, all dripping in cowboy theme, there’s no reason not to go.
How to get there
By car – Fort Worth is about 25 minutes away from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, or approximately 50 minutes away from Downtown Dallas. The major highways will take you straight there, but watch out for toll roads, because you can accidentally end up on them easily if you’re not paying attention. Make sure you rent a GPS when you pick up your rental car and change the settings to no toll roads to avoid extra charges.
By train – using the Trinity Railway Express (TRE), you can get to Fort Worth from either Downtown Dallas or DFW International Aiport by getting off at the Fort Worth Intermodal Tranportation Centre (ITC) Station and then catching a bus.
By bus – From the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Centre (ITC) Station you can take bus routes 1, 14, 15 or 17.
There is free street parking along East Exchange Avenue, as well as several lots available for only $5 during business hours, and then free at night. Special event parking throughout the Historic District is $5-10USD.
What to do
Stockyards Championship Rodeo
Fort Worth Stockyards is home to the world’s only year round rodeo – with the action taking place every single Friday and Saturday night at 8:00pm in the historic Cowtown Coliseum. The two hour Championship Rodeo features bull riding, tie down roping, team roping, barrel racing, bronc riding and break away roping, as well as a calf and mutton scramble with prizes for the kids! You can buy tickets on their website here, or at the ticket box at the door. Make sure you buy your tickets early in the summer months as they can sell out, especially during the summer holidays.
Herd Cattle Drive
When I think of the wild west, the first thing I think of (even subconsciously) is the Texas Longhorn and an American Cowboy! Fort Worth brings the tradition of cowboys and cattle drives back to life, offering authentic cattle drives of the Texas Longhorns, driven by genuine Texas cowhands, twice daily through the main centre of Fort Worth Stockyards at 11:30am and 4:00pm.
Historic Walking Tours
Take a walking tour through the Stockyards to visit the historic locations of the area, offering interesting facts, culture and stories about the olden days from extremely knowledgeable personal guides.
Livestock Exchange Building
Built in 1902, the Livestock Exchange Building was once an office for cattle traders, and know as “The Wall Street of the West”, taking care of all the business that occurred in the Stockyards. These days the building is mainly used as offices, but you can still find the North Fort Worth Historical Society Museum inside, as well as satellite cattle auctions every other Friday on the first floor.
If you want to test your skills on a mechanical bull and pretend you’re a cowboy, you can find one across the road from Stockyards Station.
Stockyards Ghost Tours
Interested in ghosts, hauntings and paranormal activity?! Well, the Historic Fort Worth stockyards are the perfect place to go – the paranormal activity is some of the most active and written about in the United States! The Ghost Tour takes about 90 minutes, and walks you through the active paranormal areas of the Fort Worth Stockyards, sharing the detailed history of the Stockyads, Bordello’s, the shoot outs, the hangings and so much more! You can check out the ghost tour here.
Filthy McNasty’s Saloon
Found one block west of Main Street, Filthy McNasty’s is the place to go for live entertainment and dancing, and to be a part of the history of the west in the place where it began!
There are so many things to see and do in the Fort Worth Stockyards, these lists are barely scraping the surface! Check out the upcoming events on their website, as live entertainment changes often and big names are often found in the Stockyards. And for a complete list of everything else you can see or do, check out a list of all attractions here.
Where to eat
120 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth
For authentic Texan barbecue and slow smoked meats, Riscky’s is the place to go! Jim Riscky – grandson of the original owner, Joe Riscky – even designed his own smoke pits that operate 24 hours a day.
Billy Bob’s Texas Honky Tonk Kitchen
2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth
The World’s largest Honky Tonk! Billy Bob’s is absolutely HUGE (three acres to be specific!), with its own indoor rodeo area for bull riding – with the best bull riders in the world competing here live every week, a Texas-size dance floor, dozens of bar stations, as well as restaurants, arcade games, a wall of fame and a general store. Billy Bob’s is also a ten time winner of country music’s “club of the year”, with big names performing regularly – so make sure you check the schedule in advance to see who’s playing! (By the way – this is probably where you find the cowboys!)
111 West Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth
This family owned cafe was opened in the early 1900’s and is an iconic Texas hot spot. It has all it’s original charm from the olden days and is a nostalgic trip back to the cowboy days.
Cattlemen’s Fort Worth Steakhouse
2458 North Main Street, Fort Worth
If you’re looking for a good steak in Fort Worth, Cattlemen’s internationally famous Steak House is the place to go – offering quality cuts of meat as well as great wine and beer in an authentic western environment. A great menu option is always the Heart o’Texas rib-eye steak, which you can watch cook over an open fired in the centre of the dining room!
110 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth
A love music and burger joint located in the historic Stockyards district. With a unique Western spin on classics like the Texas Angus burgers and hand-cut fries, the Love Shack is a one of a kind dining experience for anyone visiting the area. Their signature burger – the Dirty Love Burger – has also been named by critics as “one of the best in America”.
Where to stay
Stockyards Hotel – 109 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth
Hyatt Place Fort Worth Stockyards – 132 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth
Courtyard By Marriott Fort Worth North / Stockyards – 2537 North Main Street, Fort Worth