Where the West Began:
Twice daily the "Fort Worth Herd" of Texas longhorns rumble through the city's downtown streets, just as they did in the days of the Old West.*
By Sharry Buckner
Fort Worth Whips Up Cowboy Fun
Set your mind-clock back a hundred years, put on your cowboy hat and head for Fort Worth, Texas. Begin your walking tour at the Stockyards National Historic District Visitor Information Center (817-624-4741 or www.fortworthstockyards.org), 130 E. Exchange Ave. While the Historic District encompasses only a few blocks, pick up a copy of the Fort Worth Visitors Guide. The fold-out map is invaluable.
The city “Where the West Begins” proudly preserves its western heritage and rowdy roots as the last stop on the Chisholm Trail, hence its nickname “Cowtown.” Fort Worth is a huge draw for Western history buffs and tourists alike. Museums, rodeos, Western wear shops, and country music honky-tonks keep the spirit of the Old West alive.
Head ‘Em Up! Move ‘Em Out! Red brick Exchange Avenue is the only place in the world to see bona fide Longhorn cattle drives twice a day. Driven by authentic cowboys in 1865 period clothing, the Fort Worth Herd (817-336-4373 or www.fortworthherd.com), parades twice daily at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Shop or dine in Stockyards Station (817-625-9715 or www.stockyardsstation.com), 130 E. Exchange Ave. Old livestock pens are now trendy shops, galleries and eateries.
Cowtown Coliseum (888-COW-TOWN or www.cowtowncoliseum.com), 121 E. Exchange Ave., is home to the Stockyards Championship Rodeo (see photo below). Prices are $11 per adult, $9.50 for seniors and $8 per child 3-12. In the off-season, children under 12 are free on Fridays.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy viewing championship rodeo events like the bucking broncos at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo.*
The Stockyards Museum in the old Livestock Exchange Building (817-625-5082), 131 E. Exchange Ave. Visitors learn the history of the cattle drives, meat packing industry, and how Fort Worth became “Cowtown.” A donation is requested.
The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame (817-626-7131 or www.texascowboyhalloffame.com), 128 E. Exchange Ave. honors the cowboys and cowgirls of the Lone Star state. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children 3-12.
After lunch (check out the "Grabbin' Some Grub" sidebar below for savory suggestions) hop in the car and continue your western heritage tour with a short drive.
From the corner of Exchange Avenue and N. Main Street, go south on N. Main Street for two and a half miles until the road wraps around the courthouse (it’s one way and Belknap Street is at the light). Turn right onto Belknap Street, drive seven blocks to Henderson, turn left, drive six blocks to W. Seventh Street and turn right.
On the left side of the street, visitors will see the Cattle Raisers Museum (817-332-8551 or www.cattleraisersmuseum.org), 1301 W. Seventh St. Experience the legends and lore of cattle ranching through entertaining displays and interactive exhibits. The museum contains the largest branding iron collection in the world. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and young adults 13-18 and $1 for children 4-12.
Leaving there, continue west on W. Seventh Street for 1.2 miles to a light at a six-way intersection. Bear left onto Camp Bowie Boulevard, go two blocks and turn left onto Will Rogers Road. Drive around the Will Rogers complex and find a parking place in the free lots.
The Will Rogers Memorial Center (817-392-7469 or www.fortworth.com), 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. is a multi-purpose entertainment complex.
Built for the Texas Centennial in 1936, the tower, auditorium and coliseum (the first domed structure of its kind in the world) exhibits striking art deco architecture. Added to the site in 1988, the Will Rogers Equestrian Center (817-392-7469) is widely recognized as one of the finest equestrian centers in America.
Behind the Will Rogers complex is the newest addition to the area, the state-of-the-art National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (800-476-FAME or www.cowgirl.net), 1720 Gendy St. The museum (shown in the photo below) honors extraordinary Women of the West. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and children 3-12. This fee includes admission to the adjacent Fort Worth Museum of Science and History hands-on exhibits.
The Cowgirl Hall of Fame explores the culture and history of the Old West and also the modern rodeo era from a female perspective.*
If time allows, cross Lancaster Avenue in front of the Will Rogers complex to the Amon Carter Museum (817-738-1933 or www.cartermuseum.org), 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd. It is renowned as one of the nation’s greatest collections of American art, including founder Amon Carter’s amazing collection of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell’s works (see photo below) There is no admission charge.
Remington's work, including this sculpture, showcase the cowboy era.*
Retrace your way back to the Historic Stockyards for an evening of dining (see sidebar) and entertainment.
An absolute must is Billy Bob’s Texas (817-624-7117 or www.billybobstexas.com), 2520 Rodeo Plaza, the world’s largest honky-tonk. Three acres of lively Western entertainment include an indoor rodeo arena, restaurants, bars, arcades, a general store, and a Texas-sized dance floor. Check the concert schedule for your favorite performer.
The historic White Elephant Saloon (817-624-8273 or www.whiteelephantsaloon.com), 106 E. Exchange Ave., serves up live country music and dancing in an authentic Wild West saloon. Featured in the TV show "Walker, Texas Ranger," the saloon is worth a visit to see the cowboy hat and elephant collections.
After a long day, take off that cowboy hat and re-enter the 21st century – but let the memories of a bygone era linger on.(800-433-5747 or www.fortworth.com).
Grabbin’ Some Grub
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (817-624-3945 or www.cattlemenssteakhouse.com), 2458 N. Main St., has been serving quality meats since 1947.
The H3 Ranch (817-624-1246 or http://h3ranch.com), 105 E. Exchange Ave., serves excellent wood-grilled meats. It is adjacent to the funky Booger Red’s Saloon.
Riscky’s BBQ (817-626-7777 or www.risckys.com), 130 E. Exchange Ave., celebrates its 80th year in Fort Worth this year.
For More Information
Contact the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-433-5747 or 817-336-8791 or www.forthworth.com.
Sharry Buckner, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, contributes to Texas Highways and Texas Hill Country. She has also written five guidebooks about Texas travel. Buckner also writes about her RV adventures traveling across the U.S. and Canada.
*All photos are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.