Fort Worth

Play, Stay, Eat in Fort Worth, Texas

Story and photos by Janie Pace (unless otherwise indicated)

Fort Worth’s History

Doubling in population since 1990, Fort Worth is famous for its cowboys and culture, Where the West Begins, and the nickname “Cowtown.” The 1843 Treaty of Bird’s Fort between the Republic of Texas and many Native American Tribes established Fort Worth as an Army Outpost in 1849 on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Founded by Major Ripley Arnold, Fort Worth received its name from the commander of the Texas Army, General William Jenkins Worth.

“Where the West Begins” famous slogan came from the treaty agreement that Native Americans would remain west of the line passing through the future site of Fort Worth. Vast herds of longhorn cattle were driven along the Chisholm Trail past Fort Worth to Kansas. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their outlaw compadres roamed “Hell’s Half Acre” in the old downtown frequenting the saloons, gambling halls, and the red-light district.

The Texas and Pacific Railroad reached Fort Worth in 1876, providing a substantial economic boost to the growing area. Cowhands built cattle pens in the stockyards, and Fort Worth became the shipping point. The Post Office Department contracted the longest stagecoach line of over 1500 miles from Fort Worth to Fort Yuma, Arizona, where part of the route had an escort of troops to protect from hold-ups and attacks.

Beef, Oil, and the Military in Fort Worth

Meat Packing became the city’s first large industry when Swift & Company, Armour & Company, and McNeill & Libby packing houses all came to the Fort Worth Stockyards in 1902. 

Fort Worth Stock Yards

Oil and War brought the next boom to Fort Worth with Camp Bowie’s construction in 1917 for over three million dollars.  The 36th Division for Texas and Oklahoma trained here during World War One. Many oil gushers rushed in near Ranger, 90 miles west of Fort Worth in October 1917. Fort Worth became the “pipeline center of Texas” where bank deposits soared, and oil profits resulted in the construction of refineries, many tall office buildings, and large homes. 

During WWII, the Fort Worth Army Air Field, Quartermaster Depot, and Marine Air Base were constructed, along with the establishment of an aircraft plant near Lake Worth and the airfield.  With more than 3,000 B-24 bombers built during the war, the plant changed defense contractors over the years – Convair, General Dynamics, and currently Lockheed Martin, which today produces the B-36 Peacemaker and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. 

Fort Worth Today

Downtown Fort Worth

Today, Fort Worth thrives on oil, gas, the aviation industry, and its Cowtown history. The nation’s fastest-growing city with a population of over 895,000, Fort Worth is the 13th largest city in the country. The Fort Worth-Dallas-Arlington metropolitan area is the 4th most populous area in the United States.

People who don’t live here and are not familiar with the lay of the land here in North Texas tend to group Fort Worth and the surrounding metroplex in with Dallas. That’s the fastest way to insult a citizen from Fort Worth and Tarrant County. We are from Fort Worth, Keller, Southlake, Colleyville, Grapevine, North Richland Hills, Arlington, Hurst, Bedford, Euless, Weatherford, Aledo, Watauga, and Haltom City, not Dallas. (Smile!)

Fort Worth, at an elevation of 653 feet, is the county seat of Tarrant County, covering 350 square miles into the three surrounding counties of Denton, Parker and Wise. DFW Airport is positioned on the county line between Fort Worth and Dallas and is the largest hub for American Airlines, is the fourth busiest airport in the world by aircraft movement, and the fifteenth busiest by passenger traffic. Take the TexRail-Trinity Metro from the airport to downtown Fort Worth providing daily passenger rail service in Tarrant county with stops along the way. Or choose airport shuttles, taxis, or lyft and uber rides. Amtrak makes a stop in Fort Worth as well.

Weather in Fort Worth

Average weather temperatures vary from 59/36 degrees in winter, 78/55 degrees in the spring, 97/76 degrees in the summer, and 81/58 degrees in the fall. It doesn’t cool off until late October. The weather begins to warm up in May to almost 90 degrees. Extremes can range from 107 degrees in July and August to 8 degrees in January and February. Storms blow in from west to east where winds hit 60 mph and up and spawn some tornados in the spring or late fall. When fronts come from the north, expect the temperatures to plummet below freezing.

On average, we have beautiful golf weather all year round. We might get a light dusting of snow every three to five years. Nine inches of snow is a big deal. Ice like we had during the Super Bowl at the new AT&T Stadium on February 6, 2011, was a freak event. There is not enough ice or snow removal equipment here, and most people stay home; there are too many crazy drivers on the road. Annual rainfall averages range from drought conditions at 19 inches to 62 inches, where the lakes are full.

Cowboys and Cultures

World Famous Billy Bob’s Honky Tonk

Cowboys and Culture is famous for the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District featuring the twice-daily longhorn cattle drives, weekend rodeos, and Billy Bob’s Texas, the iconic “World’s Largest” country music honky-tonk with an indoor rodeo arena, mechanical bulls and dozens of bars and eateries known for hosting top country and western stars.  You’ll find the Stockyards Legendary Hotel with western-themed rooms in a historic 1907 boutique hotel that was frequented by Bonnie and Clyde. 

Let’s Rodeo

Annually, from late January through mid-February, since 1896, our city hosts the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo at the Will Rogers Coliseum and debuting at the new Arena this year.  You’ll see livestock and horse shows, kid-friendly activities and livestock exhibits, live music, carnival midway, shopping, great food, and some of the most exciting bull riding ever.

Museums and the Arts in Fort Worth

Annually, from late January through mid-February, since 1896, our city hosts the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo at the Will Rogers Coliseum and debuting at the new Arena this year. You’ll see livestock and horse shows, kid-friendly activities and livestock exhibits, live music, carnival midway, shopping, great food, and some of the most exciting bull riding ever.

Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth

Cowboys and Culture is also famous for the museum district, home to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held every four years, The Kimbell Art Museum by the American architect Louis Kahn, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth designed by Tadao Ando, The Amon Carter Museum of American Art designed by Philip Johnson housing one of the world’s most extensive collections of American Art,

The Sid Richardson Museum redesigned by David M Schwarz housing Frederic Remington and Charles Russell Western art, The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History designed by Ricardo Legorreta of Mexico housing the Omni Imax Theater, and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame Museum dedicated to honoring women of the American West.

Downtown Fort Worth

When you arrive in Fort Worth, make your headquarters in one of the downtown hotels near Sundance Square, the perfect place to shop, dine, and be entertained.  The Plaza at Sundance Square offers free entertainment, yoga, live music, a refreshing fountain, theater performances, and the spectacular Christmas tree lighting, visits from Santa, and other seasonal events.  

Sundance Square Plaza Water Fountains

You’ll find upscale restaurants in abundance as well as sports bars, patio bars, theaters, the Bass Hall for ballet, orchestra, opera, and other popular entertainment. You’ll see police and security on foot, riding bicycles or horses; our downtown is a safe place.  Step aboard Molly the Trolley to connect from Sundance Square to the Convention Center with stops along the way every 10-15 minutes, seven days a week, from 10 am to 10 pm.  Fare is free. 

Bass Hall for the Performing Arts in Fort Worth

Hotels in Fort Worth

Make your hotel reservations at the Omni Hotel across from the Convention Center or the Hilton Hotel, a historic landmark hotel that was the scene of the 35th President John F. Kennedy’s final address on the morning of November 22, 1963. The New Sinclair, Autograph Collection Marriott Hotel features high-tech innovations in its 164 guest rooms and a 2-story penthouse suite with Kohler digital showers, LG wallpaper TVs, and Savvy Electronic mirrors.

View from Reata’s Rooftop

Feast on steaks and seafood at the Wicked Butcher and indulge in cocktails and small plates at the 17th floor Rooftop Bar. Stay in Etta’s Place, a Bed and Breakfast named for the woman who was romantically involved with the Sundance Kid. The historic Summit Blackstone Hotel housed WBAP, Fort Worth’s first radio station on the 22nd floor, where Western Swing musician Bob Wills recorded his first version of “San Antonio Rose.” The Worthington Rennaissance, Aloft Fort Worth Downtown by Marriott or Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown with The Chef’s Table restaurant are other great downtown hotels. Find other modern hotel brands nearby. 

Sports and Other Attractions

The Colonial Country Club is home to the PGA Charles Schwab Challenge scheduled every mid-May, the longest-running host of a PGA Tour event played on its original Fort Worth site. AT&T Cowboy’s Stadium in nearby Arlington is home to The Dallas Cowboys and select college football games, rodeos, supercross events, and more. The new Globe Life Field, the domed Texas Rangers ballpark, will open the season this March in nearby Arlington. Texas Motor Speedway in north Fort Worth houses the NASCAR, AAA Texas 500, Texas Sprint Car Nationals, and the Monster Energy Series racing.  Bet a quinella at Lone Star Park, a Class One thoroughbred and quarter horse racetrack with seasonal live racing and simulcast horse racing seven days a week just east of Fort Worth in Grand Prairie. ESPN College GameDay Kickoff at Sundance Square is a live broadcast in the ‘living room’ of downtown over Labor Day Weekend, a great partnership embraced by the community. 

Fort Worth Zoo, Botanic Gardens, and West 7th

Lovely Fort Worth Botanic Gardens

The Fort Worth Zoo, the 4th top zoo in the nation, features “A Wilder Vision’ a $100 million master plan to completely redesign the zoo with renovated and reimagined habitats. The Botanic Gardens, established in 1934, is the oldest botanic garden in Texas, with twenty-one specialty gardens including the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the BRIT Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 

Other popular attractions include West 7th in Fort Worth, a five-block pedestrian-friendly urban village west of downtown features high-concept dining, local specialty fashion retailers and salons, spas, gourmet, and fast-casual eateries, bars, and a movie theater. Try Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, or El Bolero – Crockett Row.  Magnolia Avenue, a funky-chic neighborhood in a pocket just south of downtown near a group of hospitals, is a mix of modern restaurants, shops, and bars in a historic area. 

Fort Worth Water Gardens

Fort Worth Water Gardens

Try Kent & Co Wines, 200 wines by the glass or dinner at Ellerbe Fine Foods, refined yet laid-back.  The Fort Worth Water Gardens, located in the south end of downtown near the Convention Center, offers a 4.3 acre architectural and engineering marvel with refreshing water features, including steps leading down to a water fountain. Main Street Arts Festival, held four days every April with 223 artists, stretches along nine brick-lined blocks with incredible art, local entertainment, and great food.

Great Eats and Drinks in Fort Worth

Have a refreshing Beer-Rita

Margarita, the official Fort Worth cocktail, comes on the rocks with a salt rim, or beer-rita, frozen with an 8 oz Dos Equis or Corona turned upside down in the drink, frozen margarita swirled with sangria, plus flavors of strawberry, mango, cucumber, peach, prickly pear and more.  Check out the twenty-plus Breweries in the Fort Worth area, each with a unique craft beer experience, who are celebrating the new ‘beer to go’ law effective last September 1st. Firestone & Robertson Distillery, constructed on the grounds of an old golf course, touted their Texas Whiskey as the award-winning “Best American Craft Whiskey.” Every cork holds a circle of boot leather by Justin, Tony Lama, and more. 

Restaurants in the Fort Worth area featuring southwestern cuisine, Mexican food, steaks, and New American fare are among my favorites. Reata at Sundance, named for the majestic ranch in the 1950’s epic movie “Giant,” starring James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, is one of my favorites.

You’ll find legendary Texas cuisines like the Tenderloin Tamales, famous steaks like the Blackened Buffalo Ribeye, exquisite wines, and one of the tastiest margaritas anywhere. Sip a Fort Worth Old Fashioned made with Firestone & Robertson TX Whiskey before dinner on the rooftop bar. Grace features prime steaks and creative New American cuisine on 777 Main Street with fine wines in elegant contemporary décor.

Pappadeaux Redfish with Crab

Patio dining in Fort Worth is premiere. Outdoor seekers frequent the Bird Café in the historic Land Title Block Building downtown, Press Café, Felipe Armentas restaurant on the Trailhead in Clearfork, Brewed with an outside fire pit and picnic-style seating, Wild Salsa serving fancy Mex food and pitchers of “Ritas de Casa,” Woodshed Smokehouse, Tim Love’s shed on the Trinity and Winslow’s Wine Café on Magnolia Avenue.

The Downtown Fort Worth Inc, Main Table, held annually in September, spans four blocks, right down the middle of Main Street, and features delectable steak dinners from five of downtown’s premier restaurants, opening with champagne and hors d’oeuvres in General Worth Square. Eat fresh seafood at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House.

Outdoor Attractions in Fort Worth

Visit Outdoor attractions like Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, a 3,000-acre preserve with 20 miles of hiking trails, plus a multitude of birds, alligators, deer, and buffalo. Bike Fort Worth, a comprehensive plan for promoting safe bicycling and backed by our mayor Betsy Price, established the downtown loop, Thunder Road, and additional bike lanes across Fort Worth. The Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show held every October displays the importance of the aviation industry, its products, and services and culminates with the Blue Angels Flyover.

Thistle Hill and Other Historic Attractions

Historic Thistle Hill in Fort Worth

See historic attractions like Thistle Hill, also known as the Wharton-Scott House on Pennsylvania Avenue just south of downtown, a historic mansion built in 1904 by a Texas Cattle Baron.  The Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House built in 1899 on Penn Street was Fort Worth’s premier example of Queen Anne-style Victorian architecture with turrets, gables, copper finials, and a slate tile roof.  A perfect wedding and reception venue, the Fort Worth Masonic Templehome to four Craft Lodges, and several Masonic appendant bodies and organizations in Tarrant County was built just west of downtown in 1932. Fort Worth Aviation Museumat Mecham Airport north of the city tells the history of aviation in North Texas with 26 military aircraft from a 1943 BT-13 trainer to a Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet. 

Tarrant County Courthouse

Other historic areas are the Twenty-three districts and 86 individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places in Tarrant County, including the Fort Worth Woman’s Club and the W. T. Waggoner Building downtown. Elizabeth Boulevard, the Silk-Stocking Row of the 1920s, named after the wife of its developer John Ryan, was the city’s first Historic District and was added to the National Register in 1979.

The Tarrant County Courthouse, on the list of U. S. National Register of Historic places, is a pink Texas granite building in the Renaissance Revival style erected in 1894, resembling the Texas State Capitol except for the clock tower. Visit the museum inside to learn more about Fort Worth.

Ghosts, Money, and Cowboys

Saddle Barstool in Booger Reds Bar in the Stockyards

Ghost Tours: Fort Worth’s Ghost Bus Tour explores the madness, mystery, and mayhem of outlaws, oil and cattle barons, and ghosts, after drinking a signature ghost tour cocktail at Acre Distillery before departing. Stockyards Ghost Tours investigates the most active paranormal activity found during this 90-minute walking tour including bordellos, shoot outs, hangings, and ghosts at Miss Molly’s B&B, the Cadillac Hotel, the Stockyards Hotel and more.

And most unusual, The U. S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing Western Currency Facility, one of only two such facilities, prints millions of dollars right here in North Fort Worth. It is a free tour, but no free samples.

I have fallen in love with Fort Worth since we moved here in 1993. Come and visit Fort Worth, known for its Cowboys and Culture and Where the West Begins. Amon Carter, the first publisher of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Will Rogers were lifelong friends. Will Rogers told Amon, “Always drink upstream from the herd.”

Janie Pace, loving life as a travel writer and photographer, is a native Texan from Fort Worth.  Janie writes about restaurants, travel destinations, wineries, breweries, cruises and much more locally, nationally and internationally from Peru to Canada plus Hawaii to Bermuda.  She is a member of the ITWPA, USPA, and IFWTWA. 

Journey Mapped