fort worth texas national stockyards longhorns

Fort Worth | Texas triumph | From A to Z | Cowboys and culture

Brainy and cheeky. Witty and inventive. Always smoking hot.

One minute longhorns, lassos, lager, the next cocktails, fine food and old masters. As Susan Skelly discovers, Fort Worth is not just next door to Dallas…

Mayor Betsy Price is holding court in Fort Worth’s sparling new Sundance Square Plaza. She’s just come from winning the women’s division in a clay-pigeon shoot and has invited visiting Australian media to a meet-and-greet. The mayor is wearing a pink top, tan ostrich-skin boots and a belt buckle of turquoise and rhinestones with a neat little fringe of gold chain.
In office since 2011, Price has overseen a revitalisation of the Texan city’s downtown and the emergence of hip new precincts such as the plaza we’re standing in, The West 7th area and Near Southside. She has introduced fitness programs that include cycling and walking tours and, under her watch, the 35-block Sundance Square has taken shapes, funded largely by local philanthropy.
Since Qantas’ direct flights to Dallas Fort Worth took off in May 2011, Australians have been discovering the cool mash up of cowboys and culture that defines Fort Worth. It is not a set piece, but rather a city that lives and breathes its cowboy heritage: ranching, rodeos, riding, and its craft brews. But at its centre there beats an artistic heart.

Here’s an A to Z of what the city has to offer.


American art

Aamon Carter Museum of American Art is a holding pen for paintings by Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell, which capture the spirit of America’s horseback pioneers.  3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard 


Billy Bob’s Texas

There’s no escape. Billy Bob’s Texas is the real deal: “the world’s largest honky tonk” – arcades, casinos, line-dancing lessons, bull-riding demonstrations and country music icons such as Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam. Historic Fort Worth Stockyards, 2520 Rodeo Plaza.

Boots and more boots

Get used to being asked whether you want boots for everyday wear, dressing up, dancing or working. Yes, it matters. From pink leather cowgirl boots for under $100 to something rich and handpainted north of $10,000, a pair of cowboy boots is the memento to bring home from Texas. At the Stockyards you’ll find: Maverick (100 East Exchange Avenue); ML Leddy’s (2455 North Main Street); Finchers White Front (115 East Exchange Avenue); plus Justin Boots Outlet in Near Southside (717 West Vickery Boulevard).

fort worth texas art culture food guide boots

For dancing, riding or working, there’s a boot or every occasion.



Any young gal who ever watched Doris Day in Calamity Jane will love the National Cowgirl Museum. Built in the early 2000, it’s a tribute to the contribution women made to the American West (in arts, science, politics, education and business) since the mid-1800s. Heroines include sharpshooter Annie Oakley (real name Phoebe Ann Moses), Georgia O’Keeffe, Patsy Cline, Sandra Day O’Connor and Hollywood favourites. There’s a bronco ride (yee-ha!) and a cool shop. 1720 Gendy Street.

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Mural at the Cowgirl Museum, Fort Worth. Photo courtesy Cowgirl Museum

Cultural District

Fort Worth’s key art galleries are within walking distance of each other: the Aamon Carter Museum of American Art (see A), the Kimbell Art Museum (see K) and its Renzo Piano Pavilion extension (see P), and the Modern Art Museum (see M). Go on a day the Dallas Cowboys are playing at home and you’ll have them all to yourself.


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Dallas Cowboys

At the  Dallas Cowboys Stadium at Arlington, between Dallas and Fort Worth, you can toss a ball around on one of America’s most famous football fields, tour the Cowboys’ locker-rooms, and queue for an autograph from a former player. The stadium itself is pretty awesome. Get ready for some stats: it’s one of the largest domed structures in the world; is as high as a seven-storey office building; cost $US1.2b to build (2006-2009); has seating for 80,000, and 20,000 standing; a video screen that weighs 600 tonnes; more than three million LED lights; 3207 TVs around the venue; more than 300 guest suites over five levels. A real big day out. AT&T Stadium, 1 AT&T Way, Arlington 

fort worth texas art culture food guide dallas cowboys AT&T Stadium

See the Dallas Cowboys in action at a home game at the AT&T Stadium. Photo Getty Images


Eat it up


Paddock-to-plate practitioners Ellerbe Fine Foods (1501 West Magnolia Avenue) is one of the town’s best fine-dining options, from heirloom tomatoes and farmers’ market vegetables to cornmeal-crusted okra and the smokiest, tastiest tenderloin you’ve ever ordered. Reata (310 Houston Street), Spanish for “rope” and named for the ranch in the 1950s movie Giant, is the place for legendary Texan cooking. There is blackened buffalo rib-eye the size of a saddle, tamales, cat’s eyes (don’t ask), smoked sausage, jalapeño and cheddar grits, bourbon-creamed corn and pecan pie. Plus, hold onto your hat, tacos with caramelised bananas and chocolate gravy. There’s a dinky gift shop and a buzzing rooftop cocktail bar. Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery & Cafe (two locations: North Main Street and Park Place Avenue) is part of the famous Joe T Garcia restaurant family, feeding Texans since 1935. Esperanza’s serves the hangover cure: scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage, chunky potatoes and refried beans on the side. The Tex Mex cafe is popular with locals and out-of-towners. Grab a pumpkin empanada on the way out.


Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

You’ll be seeing flying saucers if you try to sample all the craft beers on the menu at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. A must for connoisseurs, there’s an 80-tap beer wall and a menu of more than 100 craft beers. It’s more emporium than salon, with pleasant alfresco spaces. 111 East Third Street


Grand Prairie Premium Outlet

The most mall-averse visitor will be bowled over by the offerings and the prices at the Grand Prairie Premium Outlet this tidy-town outlet. There are discounts on discounts. Walk away with a new corporate wardrobe for under $500. Shop up a storm for the family. Brands include Tumi, Saks Fifth Avenue, J Crew, Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers, Aldo. Throw in Prada sunnies and you’re done. 2950 West Interstate 20, Grand Prairie 



Hats are as mandatory at Peter Brothers  as boots. Peter Brothers will custom-make one if you can’t find a big-brand version you like. Cowboy hats, men’s dress hats, Stetsons, straw hats and fedoras. 909 Houston Street 


Insider Tips

The Aardvark (2905 West Berry Street) and Bass Performance Hall (pictured below, 4th and Calhoun Streets) for music. Rodeo Goat (2836 Bledsoe Street) for a gourmet burger. Fred’s Texas Cafe (915 Currie Street) and the Salsa Limon food trucks for Tex Mex. Grace (777 Main Street) and Waters Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine (2901 Crockett Street) for fine dining. Shady Oaks Country Club (320 Roaring Springs Road) and Hawks Creek Golf Club (6520 White Settlement Road) for golf.

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Bass Performance Hall for all the top notes. Photo courtesy Fort Worth Tourism



Scat Jazz Lounge is right in the heart of Downtown, in the basement of the historic Woolworth building. It’s a swanky getaway with ruby red curtains and art deco lines. The joint showcases local, regional and national jazz musicians – from Ricki Derek to Quamon Fowler to Shelley Carrol. 111 West 4th Street 

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The Scat Jazz Lounge in Fort Worth. Photo Getty Images


Kimball Art Museum

Louis Kahn’s imposing gallery, the Kimbell Art Museum, opened in 1972; it’s home to Michelangelo’s first known painting, The Torment Of Saint Anthony, and a world-class collection from antiquities to 20th-century. 3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard


Live Oak Music Lounge

A great rooftop space with good city views, Live Oak Music Lounge (1311 Lipscomb Street) is just the thing for a steamy night and a hankering for the craft ale this town does so well. More 1950s lounge/music hall-style inside downstairs, with acts from the emerging to the established.


One of the most enduring Texan symbols is surely the longhorn. Visit the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District  (see S) and see the beefy beasts up close. This breed of cattle has a horn span of about 2m, the A380 of steers! Don’t miss the twice-daily cattle drives (11.30am/4pm) and chat with the cowhands. Stockyards Station, 130 East Exchange Avenue 

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The Texan longhorn is a symbol of Fort Worth. Photo Getty Images



Molly is a trolley, a vintage-style streetcar that’s a free, quick way to travel around Downtown. She runs every 10 minutes, travelling from the Fort Worth Convention Center to Sundance Square, stopping at most downtown hotels, landmarks, and key dining, entertainment and shopping spots. Molly operates seven days a week, 10am-10pm, and on Saturdays from Downtown to the Stockyards National Historic District($US1.75/$2.30 one-way; $US3.50/$4.50 for a day pass).

Modern Art Museum

The building is just as cool as its contents. It’s the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando and home to the Modern since 2002. The Modern Art Museum’s permanent collection represents abstract expressionism, pop art and minimalism, as well as aspects of new image painting from the 1970s and beyond, recent developments in abstraction and figurative sculpture, and contemporary must-see photography, video and digital imagery. Plan to have a bloody Mary, artisanal breads and lunch at the excellent Café Modern, which is set beside a lake. 3200 Darnell Street 

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The Modern Art Museum, with a building as cool as its contents. Photo Corbis


Near Southside

Previously known as the Fairmont Historic District, Near Southside has vibed up, with 22 restaurants opening last year and 12 new storefronts. The zone is also home to two distilleries, a brewery, cafes (check out Brewed, 801 West Magnolia Avenue), food trucks, art, live music and vintage buildings. A monthly concert series, Friday on the Green, happens every second Friday (April-October).


Omni Fort Worth Hotel

Diagonally opposite the Water Gardens, the Omni Fort Worth Hotel has spacious rooms, a grand lobby, bars, wine room, an army of staff, and the Kimbell Museum gift shop. The free courtesy cars are a bonus in a big city. From $US199 ($258). 1300 Houston Street 


Piano Pavilion

The $US125m ($162m) Renzo Piano Pavilion, made of glass, concrete and wood, surrounded by elms and red oaks, was added to the Kimbell Art Museum in 2013. It provides an auditorium, classrooms and studios, and houses an elegant collection of Chinese and Japanese art. 3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard

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The Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimball Art Museum. Photo Corbis



The national airline, Qantas has six Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth return flights each week, notable for being the largest passenger aircraft (A380) on the longest air route (13,805km/15 hours).



The Stockyards Championship Rodeo in the Cowtown Coliseum (built in 1908) has Friday and Saturday night rodeos. It’s a regular family night out with bull riding, calf roping, barrel races and calf chasing for kids.  121 East Exchange Avenue 

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Hats and rodeo, the Fort Worth staples. Photo Alamy



To visit the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District is to immerse yourself in a Wild West past. Witness a cattle drive, talk to the drovers, Instagram the lounging longhorns. There’s shopping, big food, the Livestock Exchange Building and a stretch of vintage railroad.


Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame

 he  Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame documents the history of the cattle trade and those who have excelled in the sport of rodeo. Inductees include musician Lyle Lovett and actor Tommy Lee Jones. 128 East Exchange Avenue 


Urban planning

Sundance Square Plaza used to be a parking lot. Since November 2013, it’s been the downtown hub of Fort Worth. It’s a happy space of water features, four 10m tall Teflon umbrellas, shops, a cigar bar, stage and plenty of meeting spaces. Part of the 35-block Sundance Square, it’s a residential hub in one of the fastest-growing cities in the country (population nudging 800,000).  420 Main Street


Vintage threads

“I like my money right where I can see it – hanging in my closet”. Carrie Bradshaw (Sex And The City), the ultimate luxe shopper, would love ReVint Boutique in the West 7th district, said to be one of the best vintage clothing stores around. Buy boots, designer handbags, cameo rings and all manner of pre-loved stuff that really pops. 931 Foch Street


Water Gardens

 A tranquil oasis on the southern edge of downtown, designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, near the Omni and the Fort Worth Convention Centre, the Water Gardens have three very different pools – the aerating, the quiet and the active pool. 1502 Commerce Street

West 7th

This area bridges Downtown and the Cultural District in a five-block, pedestrian-friendly urban village. Hunt out restaurants, boutiques, nightlife, and the Movie Tavern (2872 Crockett Street), which offers in-theatre dining.


Xtra-Large Everything

Pick-up trucks, steaks, breakfasts, longhorns, stadiums, pretzels.



The all-inclusive welcome vernacular. You will hear it constantly.


The Fort Worth Zoo

The Fort Worth Zoo’s claim to fame is housing all four great ape species (gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and chimpanzees). Add to that a couple of baby elephants and a world-class collection of reptiles and Zoo is mandatory. 1989 Colonial Parkway 

Source Qantas The Australian Way May 2015

Your turn: What surprises did Fort Worth toss up for you?


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.