Exit sign at Billy Bob's Texas — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
It’s the "city of cowboys and culture," but let’s face it, it’s the cowboys that most people associate with Fort Worth. After all, its nickname is Cowtown.
You probably already know about the historic Stockyards, where you can still see the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, and the world-renowned zoo. You probably also know about the authentic BBQ and Tex-Mex.
But what about the art? The architecture? The cowgirls?
Here are ten surprising reasons to join the herd in Fort Worth, y’all.
Don't Quit Your Daydream by Katie Murray in Inspiration Alley — Photo courtesy of Alex Lepe
World-class art is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Fort Worth, but that just makes it even more of a treat every time you see it – which will be often.
From the Instagrammable murals in the Foundry District’s Inspiration Alley to the masters in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the city is a mecca for art. Spend some time at the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Sid Richardson Museum, and take a picture in front of the three-stories-tall Chisholm Trail Mural, which has become one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Some of the many shelves of boots (and customer ledgers) at M.L. Leddy's — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
If you don’t come to Texas with a pair of boots, at least leave with a pair. And make sure they’re from M. L. Leddy’s, where they’ve been handmaking them with painstaking attention to detail for four generations.
They’ll custom-make anything you want, entering your individual foot measurements in the legendary ledgers that adorn their shelves and tell the history of more than a quarter of a million customers including presidents, royalty and rock stars. But order now because there’s a wait list of over a year.
Fort Worth Water Gardens
The beautiful Fort Worth Water Gardens — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
The four-and-a-half-acre Water Gardens in downtown Fort Worth are literally an oasis in the middle of the city, offering an unexpected but welcome touch of nature.
Designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the Water Gardens are made up of a variety of spaces surrounding a central plaza. There are three pools – the quiet pool, the aerating pool and the active pool – which feature waterfalls, fountains, steps and terraces. A lovely spot to walk, take a jog or just sit and think, this is truly a celebration of the shape of water.
Billy Bob's Texas
Blake Shelton's handprints on the Wall of Fame at Billy Bob's Texas — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
The world’s largest honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s IS Texas. It’s the home of big-name concerts, bull riding and chicken fried steak with a reputation as gigantic as the state itself.
Billy Bob’s is a must-visit when you’re in Fort Worth. For a nominal entry fee, you can check out the Guinness Book of World Records’ largest belt buckle (at the time), take a free line dancing lesson on Thursday nights and snap a photo in front of the Wall of Fame, where everyone from Loretta Lynn to Blake Shelton has been signing their handprints for more than two decades.
Or, hygiene be damned, you can join the fans who have left their own lip prints in return, bless their hearts.
Fort Worth Ale Trail
Rahr & Sons is one of the breweries along the Fort Worth Ale Trail — Photo courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
Download your Fort Worth Ale Trail passport – which is full of fun facts about each brewery – or pick it up in person at a participating brewery or a Fort Worth Visitor Center, and discover what’s brewing around the city.
There are ten craft breweries on the trail and each offers a distinctive experience, from a local nano brewery to one that’s nationally recognized and produces over 20,000 barrels of beer a year. Get your passport stamped at five breweries and you earn a special edition T-shirt. Ten stamps gets you a $100 gift card to Dickies.com. Now, that’s something to drink to.
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Omni Fort Worth Mokara Spa
Treat yourself to the Sweet Tea Body Gloss at Omni Fort Worth Mokara Spa — Photo courtesy of Omni Fort Worth Mokara Spa
The Omni Fort Worth pampers all its guests (be sure to join Omni’s loyalty program for free Starbucks and other perks), but its Mokara Spa takes pampering to a whole new level.
There’s reflexology for feet tuckered out from sightseeing, quenches for skin dry from too much time in the sun and massages for overall relaxation. Best of all, though, there’s the Sweet Tea Body Gloss. Reflecting the way true Texans like their tea – freshly brewed with lots of lemon and sugar – this treatment combines ground tea leaves and lemon oils to exfoliate and leave your skin feeling soft and as velvety smooth as a good Texas whiskey.
The food at Joe T. Garcia's is worth the long line — Photo courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
Of course, great barbecue and Tex-Mex abounds here – try Joe T. Garcia’s for fajitas, margaritas and nachos that are a meal unto themselves, Woodshed Smokehouse for brisket, Riscky’s for ribs, Coopers Old Time Bar-B-Que for its famous Big Chop – but there’s so much more.
Start the day with red velvet pancakes at Yolk, don’t miss the crispy chicken sandwich for lunch at Little Red Wasp, and share chicken lollipops and Tabasco duck legs at Bird Cafe, where the eclectic food and the view overlooking Sundance Square Plaza will make you feel like you're in a European piazza.
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame — Photo courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
The only museum in the world dedicated to "honoring women of the American West who have displayed extraordinary courage and pioneer spirit in their trailblazing efforts," the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is a reminder that cowboys weren’t the only ones who built this part of the country.
With over 4,000 artifacts, interactive exhibits and information about more than 750 inspiring women, this is an empowering place to spend a few hours. Just reading the names of the 228 National Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees is an ode to girl power.
Sundance Plaza, at the center of Sundance Square — Photo courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
This easily-walkable downtown district is filled with shops, restaurants and all kinds of indoor and outdoor activities.
Spanning 35 blocks, the award-winning area is a unique mixture of the past and present, featuring red-brick streets, historic buildings and modern sustainability initiatives. At the center of Sundance Square, a 55,000-square-foot plaza acts as the town’s living room where, on any given day, you can join the community for yoga, Zumba, live music or movies.
Bass Performance Hall
Two 48-foot-tall angels welcome you to Bass Performance Hall — Photo courtesy of Visit Fort Worth
This gorgeous building is immediately recognizable by the two 48-foot angels gracing its facade. You can take a free docent-led tour on most Saturday mornings to learn about its history and architecture, and explore the lobby and audience chamber.
Bass Performance Hall is home to a number of prestigious arts organizations including Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theater and Fort Worth Opera. Yes, Fort Worth has an opera company. It’s actually the oldest continually performing opera company in Texas and one of the 14 oldest in the country.
Known for championing new and rarely-performed works, the company often produces cutting-edge, contemporary operas which attract visitors from all over the world. It literally hits a high note in Fort Worth’s stellar arts community.