Fort Worth, Texas is where I call home. For those of you that don’t live here, you should add this town to your bucket list of places to visit in your lifetime for many reasons. Fort Worth is the 16th-largest city in the United States and welcomes over 6.5 million visitors annually!
Fort Worth was established in 1849 as a system of 10 forts protecting the American Frontier from Indian attacks. Which is why it is known as the city “where the West begins.” When herds of Longhorns were driven from Texas to Kansas, referred to as the Chisholm Trail, Forth Worth was put on the map and started to boom. Gambling parlors, saloons and bakeries sprang up all around town and became known as “Hell’s Half Acre.” The Chisholm Trail ran from the 1860s to the 1870s and then in 1876 the Texas & Pacific Railway arrived bringing new wealth to the region with a boom in the cattle industry and wholesale trade.
Fort Worth, or “Cowtown” as it’s known today, embraces its western heritage but also has world-class museums (many are free), modern architecture, extensive art collections, and diverse dining options.
Top 10 Things to do in Fort Worth, Texas from a Local
1. Fort Worth Stockyards, Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Stockyards Museum and Billy Bob’s
If you are looking to dive into the history of Fort Worth, this is where it starts. Nothing embodies the western heritage better than the Stockyards National Historic District. Since 1866, ranchers sold and traded cattle in this market. Regular auctions have long since disappeared, but you can still see a daily cattle drive (at 11:30 am and 4 pm). You can also visit weekend rodeos at the world’s first and largest indoor rodeo, brick walkways and wooden corrals that ooze history.
Kids will enjoy getting lost in a maze, visiting the petting zoo and street performances. If you’re hunkering for some boots on your feet or souvenirs the stores that line the district will give you a plethora of shops to visit. Saloons and Steakhouses occupy the Old West-era style buildings making this area a one-stop location for hours of fun. If you stop at the Visitor Center for info, you can sign up for a guided walking tour that leaves from Stockyards Station.
Missed the cattle drive? Don’t worry; you can wonder over to the pens where the Longhorn cattle are kept. Catwalks overhead provide excellent vantage points. The pens are behind the Stockyards Museum, which lies opposite the visitor center on Exchange Ave.
You can also explore the past at the Stockyards Museum and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame showcasing modern rodeo cowboys, horse drawn carts and wagons, and impressive collections of cowboy paraphernalia.
A visit to the Stockyards District is not complete without going to Billy Bob’s! It promotes itself as “The World’s Largest Hokey Tonk” with 127,000 square feet housing a bull fight arena, bars, dance floor, concert area, bingo, billiards and restaurants all in one. Country western dancing lessons are held weekly, so you can learn how to two-step with the best of them.
2. Fort Worth Water Gardens
Known as “cooling oasis in the concrete jungle,” the Fort Worth Water Gardens is a unique and free activity to do in the city. There are three different waterfalls in the gardens – the aerating, the quiet and the active pool – each with their own personality.
The active pool is the most attractive pool with its concrete steps that lead to the base of the pool. It’s a little scary to walk down these steps. However, it is worth it because you can sit down right in the center and admire the architecture as well as take some great pictures.
The gardens have a different vibe at night when lights of different colors start to highlight the water features.
These water features are NOT for swimming or wading. It’s a bit of a tease in the hot summer sun. The garden is located adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center. Parking meters can be found around the garden, but this activity is free!
3. Kimball Art Museum
Touted as one of America’s best small museums, the Kimball Art Museum houses European masterpieces by
Caravaggio, El Greco, and Cézanne, as well as Michelangelo’s first painting, The Torment of St Anthony. Galleries are spread between an original Louis Kahn building and a more recent edition, designed by celebrated architect Renzo Piano.
The museum is in the heart of the arts district of Fort Worth. It’s surrounded by other cultural icons such as The Modern Art Museum, the Casa Manama theater, the Natural History Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, and the Will Rodgers Colosseum.
The permanent collection is impressive, and the best part is it’s totally free.
4. Amon Carter Museum of American Art
The Amon Carter Museum of American Art concentration of works falls into the 1820s through the 1940s. The collection focuses on the Old West, including iconic works by John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, and Alexander Calder. It also boasts an impressive collection of over 400 works depicting the American West by artists Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell. There’s also an extensive photography collection documented by 45,0000 prints. Walking through the exhibits is like taking a visual tour of US history.
Admission and parking are free!
5. Fort Worth Botanic Garden & Japanese Garden
The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is the oldest garden in Texas. 110 acres and 22 specialized gardens dappled with shade comes as a relief in summer along with splashes of color.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is comprised of twenty-two specialty garden spaces containing over 2,500 species of plants, a garden conservatory, a public perennial trial garden, as well as naturalized areas and vistas. The specialty gardens include a four seasons garden with a meandering brook, a fragrance garden, and a Japanese garden featuring a koi pond, waterfall, and Japanese maples.
Each weekend from June 1st through July 4th, the Vista transforms into lawn seating for Concerts in the Garden in conjunction with the Fort Worth Symphony.
The Japanese Garden, as well as the Rainforest Conservatory, have admission prices, while the rest of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is free.
6. Bass Performance Hall
The Bass Performance Hall‘s 2,000-plus seat theater topped with an 80-foot dome is not only home to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Opera, the Texas Ballet Theater and the world-renowned Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, it also regularly invites Broadway plays and global events. It was voted as one of the “top 10 opera houses in the world” by Travel + Leisure magazine. The 48-foot tall hark angels on the exterior of the hall are mesmerizing while inside the hall boasts a classic European feel.
7. Modern Art Museum
The Modern Art Museum maintains one of the foremost collections of postwar art in the central United States. You can see the world-renowned architect Tadao Ando’s “Arbor for Art.” You can also see the work of Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.
There is a student price if you have a student ID. Museum is free to the public on Sundays and 1/2 price on Wednesdays.
8. Sid Richardson Museum
If the stockyards didn’t fulfill you need for cowboy heritage and history, then mosey on over to the Sid Richardson Museum. Here you can enjoy artwork that spans the conflicts among cowboys, soldiers, explorers and Indigenous Americans during the westward expansion. They are the legacy of the late oilman and philanthropist, Sid Williams Richardson. They were acquired by him from 1942 until his death in 1959. The collection includes works by Oscar E. Berninghaus, Charles F. Browne, Edwin W. Deming, William Gilbert Gaul, Peter Hurd, Frank Tenney Johnson, William R. Leigh, Peter Moran and Charles Schreyvogel.
Admission to the Museum is Free.
9. Log Cabin Village
The Log Cabin Village is a living history museum owned and operated by the City of Fort Worth. The purpose of Log Cabin Village is to educate the public through the collection, conservation, and interpretation of artifacts, representative structures, and other items of the social and cultural significance of the Texas’ pioneer era (1840-1890).
Six log houses, dating back to the mid-1800s, are furnished with authentic artifacts and provide a vivid look at life in the nineteenth century North Texas frontier. Each log house displays different aspects of pioneer life. The exhibits include a water-powered gristmill, a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, a herb garden, and several log home settings. Historical interpreters depict the lifestyle of the people who lived and settled the area in the mid to late 1800s.
Admission costs are low at $5 for adults and $4.50 for kids and seniors.
10. Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo is home to 5,000 native and exotic animals and is named as a top zoo in the nation by Family Life magazine, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, as well as one of the top zoos in the South by Southern Living Reader’s Choice Awards. The zoo’s exhibits include Penguins, World of Primates, Asian Falls, Raptor Canyon, Flamingo Bay, Meerkat Mounds, Australian Outback, African Savannah, Parrot Paradise, Texas Wild! and the Museum of Living Art (MOLA). The zoo features an unusual Texas-sized sculpture. A furious 40-foot iguana sculpture named ‘Iggy’ was lowered by helicopter onto the roof of the animal hospital in 2010. You should be able to find lots of shady resting spots as well as food and drink options.
The Zoo is open 365 days a year and Wednesdays are half-price admission! Normal admission rates are $14 for adults, $10 for kids 3-12, Free for kids 2 and younger and $10 for seniors. Parking is $5 per vehicle.
Honourable Mention – Texas Motor Speedway
If you have a need for speed or have never seen cars driving over 150 mph, then you can’t miss the Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR and IRL IndyCar racing, along with every other major form of American car racing, is at the Texas Motor Speedway. Want to get behind the wheel and drive? Driving classes are open to the public.
Fort Worth hosts a wide variety of special events throughout the year — from street festivals, and blockbuster art shows to major concerts and exciting sports. Check out a calendar of events for happenings of interest to you.
When to Visit Fort Worth, TX
Summers are grueling in Texas with temperatures ranging from the high 90’s to over 100 degrees. Additionally, the high humidity levels during summer make outdoor activities near impossible. Believe me when I say that summers can be a truly humbling experience. Being a native Texan, I’m used to the heat. However, I still camp inside, sipping on iced tea in my air conditioned home most of the summer. If you have never felt 100-degree weather and blazing sun, you might want to skip the summers here.
The best time to visit is between September and November when the tourist traffic has died down; the temperatures are cooler, and the Texas State Fair is in full swing. March through May can be great weather, but Cowboy season is during this time, and you could see higher hotel rates.
Getting around Fort Worth, TX
The DFW area is not known for its public transportation. You can find buses and a light rail system, but to truly take it all in your going to need a car. We have taken Ubers around town. However, if you plan on going to a few places outside of Downtown, it’s probably more feasible just to rent or drive your own car. Word of warning to those driving, traffic, especially on I35 going towards the Texas Motor Speedway can be a headache any time of the day due to massive construction. Most other freeways will have heavy traffic only during rush hour from 7 am – 9 am and from about 4 pm – 7 pm.
Top Hotels in Fort Worth, TX
The Ashton Hotel
Omni Fort Worth Hotel
The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel
Fort Worth has an incredible selection of restaurants. From BBQ joints to Steakhouses to Tex-Mex you’re going to find it all. What you’re not going to find is a lot of the flashy restaurants that Dallas offers. You will find restaurants with down-home roots and a western flair. Click here for a complete dining guide.