Fort Worth is one of the most unique cities in Texas and in the country. Having lived in several cities in Texas, it’s one of my favorite places to live and visit.
Together with Dallas, it is part of one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas. It’s known as the city of cowboys and culture. Some of the things Fort Worth is most famous for are TCU, the Fort Worth Zoo, and its Western heritage.
1. Cowboys & Cowgirls
Fort Worth has been a hub for cowboys since its founding. To this day, it remains one of the main centers for ranching and cattle herding. It isn’t uncommon to see someone walking around with boots and a Western hat, and it’s not just for tourists.
Of course, it’s not just cowboys who are important in Fort Worth. You’ll find plenty of cowgirls in the city as well. It’s even the location of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for the cowboys, there’s just a Hall of Fame.
2. The Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards is one of Fort Worth’s most famous attractions. For over a hundred years, this has been the center of cattle trading in the area.
In the early 1900s, over a million cattle were sold at the Stockyards per year, making it the Texan equivalent to Wall Street back in the day.
Today, fewer livestock auctions take place here. However, Fort Worth is the only major city in the country to have a daily cattle drive, called the Herd. This takes place twice a day in the Stockyards.
Texas Christian University, or TCU, is one of the most important universities in the state. The horned frogs are known all around the country. No matter where you are in Fort Worth, you’ll find students and alumni sporting their purple gear.
The university’s prestige goes beyond football. TCU is known for its stout academics and prestigious fine arts program. The campus has several old-fashioned buildings and pleasant walking paths, so if you happen to be in town, it’s worth taking some time to explore the grounds.
4. Sundance Square
Sundance Square is one of the prettiest spots in town, especially during Christmas. Starting in November, the square lights up with ornate decorations and a giant Christmas tree complete with Santa Claus.
The square is nice to visit year-round. During the summer you’ll often see outdoor yoga classes or cultural events.
You can find good BBQ almost all over Texas, but as the cowboy capital, Fort Worth has a special claim to this specialty.
While you can get good BBQ in pretty much any restaurant, my personal recommendations are Riscy’s and Cooper’s Old Time BBQ Pit, both of which have convenient locations near the Stockyards.
6. Trinity River Trails
Fort Worth and North Texas have been known for the Trinity River for quite some time, but recent conservation efforts have turned this river into one of the city’s most popular outdoor gathering places.
With hundreds of miles of scenic and well-kept trials, the Trinity River is popular for cycling, jogging, and a simple nice stroll. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes along the river, so it’s also just a nice place to meet for a cup of coffee.
7. Kimbell Art Museum
For art lovers, it doesn’t get much better than the Kimbell Art Museum. This world-class art museum has one of the world’s finest collections. Almost every great artist you can think of is on display here, from Michelangelo to Picasso.
Not only is the collection cool, but the museum itself was designed by the famous architect Louis Kahn, so the building is worth seeing just for that. The permanent collection is free, but there are rotating exhibitions that require an entrance fee.
8. Modern Art Museum
If you didn’t get enough art at the Kimbell, the Modern Art Museum is also excellent. Also designed by a world-class famous architect, Tadao Ando, the museum is a stunning example of modern architecture with lots of natural light and glass. It’s a nice place to sit with a sketchbook or just enjoy the art. The collection includes, unsurprisingly, modern art and has lots of rotating exhibits.
Fort Worth wouldn’t be much of a cowboy city without a rodeo.
Every year, Fort Worth attracts some of the most important cowboys and cowgirls from around the world for the rodeo. The rodeo usually lasts about a week, and it’s a great family-friendly activity and a great chance to see some real bull riding.
10. Billy Bob’s
This dance hall is one of the most famous country-western music halls in the country. It also claims to be the world’s largest honky tonk.
It attracts some of the most famous country music stars, and even when there isn’t a concert going on, there’s always good music playing and fun to be had. So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to Texas two-step, head over.
There’s plenty of experts who will be happy to teach you.
11. Texas Ballet Theater
If two-stepping isn’t really your thing, Fort Worth is also known as being home to one of the country’s most prestigious ballet companies.
Texas Ballet Theater is split between Dallas and Fort Worth. The company attracts some of the most world’s most famous choreographers and dancers.
In addition to classics like The Nutcracker, the company has a wide repertoire and there’s always something new to see.
12. Bass Performance Hall
If you’re going to the ballet in Fort Worth, you’re probably going to Bass Performance Hall. This multi-functional concert hall hosts events such as ballet, musical theater, and live music events.
The building is known for its giant angel statues, which were carved by the famous artist Marton Varo using Texas limestone.
13. Fort Worth Water Gardens
This urban park is one of the many works of architecture for which Fort Worth is known for.
Built in the 1970s, the gardens were designed to be an oasis in the urban jungle of downtown. In addition to a meditation pool, the gardens have plenty of spots that are great for reading a book, reflecting on nature, or having a nice picnic.
14. Fort Worth Botanic Gardens
If you’re more into green nature, the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens have some of the most beautiful gardens in the state.
The most famous are the Japanese Gardens, which include a replica of the famous Zen rock garden in Kyoto, Japan. The other gardens are also very beautiful, especially in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
15. Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo is the oldest zoo in Texas and is frequently rated the top zoo in all of the United States. Gorillas, tigers, and even bonobos call this zoo home.
The zoo is involved in many conservation efforts, and there is a lot to learn during your visit. It’s a perfect outing for families, but adults will also have fun during their visit.
16. NASCAR Racing
For NASCAR fans, Fort Worth is famous for the races at the Texas Motor Speedway.
This racecar track hosts several races throughout the year including the NASCAR Cup Series and the IndyCar Series. The Texas Motor Speedway hosts musical concerts and other events in addition to the races.
17. Money Printing
There are only two places in the United States where bills are printed and engraved. One is Washington, D.C., and the other is none other than Fort Worth, Texas.
If you look at a dollar bill and find the initials FW printed in the corner, it means that the bill was printed in Fort Worth at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
If you’re interested in seeing how money is printed, visitors are allowed to tour the facility on one of the Bureau’s guided tours.
Several other federal administrations have offices in Fort Worth including the National Archives and Records Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FBI.
18. Music Competitions
Every four years, Fort Worth hosts the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. This is one of the most famous and important piano competitions globally.
The competition is hosted on TCU’s campus and attracts some of the most famous pianists and classical music enthusiasts from around the world.
If you can’t make it to Fort Worth to see the competition yourself, it has been livestreamed since 2009. The competition takes its name from the famous classical pianist Van Cliburn, who lived and worked in Fort Worth for much of his life.
19. Log Cabin Village
This historical monument in Fort Woth is easy to overlook, but it’s one of the city’s most important landmarks.
This living history monument has several log cabins from the 1800s. These houses have been restored to their original condition and moved from around the state to Fort Worth, where visitors can see what life was like during the 19th century.
One of these houses is the Van Zandt Cottage, named after K.M. Van Zandt. Van Zandt was a Tennessee native who was responsible for helping with the annexation of Texas into the United States. He was also responsible for much of the founding of the city of Fort Worth.
Thanks to the city’s restoration efforts, his farm and cottage can be visited in their original condition.
20. The Fort Worth Five
Fans of the Wild West are probably familiar with the Fort Worth Five. They were one of the most famous gangs in Western history. Two of the infamous Fort Worth Five were none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The gang didn’t last too long. Shortly after a famous photograph was taken of the gang in Fort Worth, the members of the gang went their own ways. The photograph came to be known as the bad luck photo.
Though Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid didn’t have the happiest of endings, it’s rumored that Sundance Kid’s girlfriend opened a successful brothel in Fort Worth after the gang’s demise.
This claim remains disputed, but whoever it was who opened the brothel became a very successful businesswoman in the city until she died in a fire at the Waco hotel in 1962.
21. Chisholm Trail
Today, the Chisholm Trail is known as the name as one of the major toll roads in Fort Worth, but the name is much older than that. After the Civil War, this trail was established as one of the main trails for cattle transport.
Back in the heyday of ranching, a single head of cattle sold for about $4 in Texas. In other parts of the country, the price was about $40. Thus, the Chisholm Trail was established to bring cattle from as far south as San Antonio to the Kansas railroad, where cattle would then be shipped around the country.
Fort Worth was one of the main stops on the Chisholm Trail, which is one of the many reasons why the city became a center for cattle trading and cowboys.
The trail took its name from Jesse Chisholm, an influential trader who was half Cherokee and who, together with a scout named Black Beaver, developed the trail and were the first to use it to herd cattle.
22. Kennedy’s Last Night
In more recent history, Fort Worth is known as the last stop President John F. Kennedy had on his way to Dallas.
Before heading to Dallas, Kennedy spent a night in Fort Worth at the Hilton hotel. He only slept a few hours in the hotel and was assassinated the next morning.
The hotel lobby has an exhibit commemorating his stay, and visitors can book the presidential suite where Kennedy spent his last night.
23. Hell’s Half Acre
In the days of the Wild West, this area of Fort Worth was famous as one of the West’s red-light districts. The area took its name because of the rampant prostitution and loose morals. Later it also became known as the Bloody Third Ward because of its violence.
The most famous establishment in the area was the White Elephant, which was known for its elegant yet risqué entertainment as well as its gunfights. The area was one of the favored spots of outlaws such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Today, nothing remains of this sensational history except a historical plaque. The area was absorbed by downtown Fort Worth and fell into decline as the cattle trail lost most of its allure. Prohibition didn’t do much to help business, either.
24. Where the West Begins
If you haven’t already noticed, Fort Worth was one of the most exciting places to be during the days of the Wild West.
As early as the 1840s, the city was referred to as “where the West begins.” Back then, the saying was quite literal thanks to the river trading posts and military fort that would give the city its name.
The city hasn’t had a military fort since the 1850s, but it has remained one of the most important cities for Western culture and trading thanks to the cattle industry and cultural heritage of the West.
Though there might not be as many cattle as there and there’s not as many outlaws running around, Fort Worth is still very much a Western city, living up it to its title as the cowboy capital.
That’s it, folks
Hopefully, this has helped you learn a little bit about what Fort Worth is known for. Of course, there’s so much more to the city than what’s on this list.
If I missed something out, feel free to share it in the comment box below. You’re also welcome to drop your BBQ recommendations, share your knowledge about Texas history, or let me know what’s new in the city.