Fort Worth, Texas-City of Cowboys and Culture

When you think of cities in Texas, you generally think of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. Most people can’t even name another city in Texas-if they can even name all those. Fort Worth is that other city at the end of the name of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport. Fort Worth is overlooked for its bigger, more famous neighbor but I think that Fort Worth should be a mandatory stop on any visit to Texas. The city of Cowboys and Culture gives you a real authentic Texas experience.

Fort Worth feels and looks like the old west. It’s not massive with a glitzy skyline like Dallas. It’s not America’s 4th most populous city like Houston. It is a real city with a great downtown area alive with restaurants, bars and pleasant walks. It also has a lot to offer outside of downtown that I had no idea about until I actually got down to Fort Worth and had a look for myself.

They call Fort Worth the city of cowboys and culture. Well, more than anywhere else I’ve ever been in Texas, they hit the nail on the head with that tagline. First, Fort Worth has a great cultural district with five world-class museums. I’m not generally a museum guy but some of these were pretty cool to check out.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was good to visit because it had a really cool Titanic exhibit. I am a bit of a Titanic historian so that was fun for me. Right next door is the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum. I was of course picturing a bunch of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders pictures but that’s not what it is. It is a museum, a very well done one at that, which pays homage to some of the women who helped shape Texas and Fort Worth into what it is today.

Finally, just a short walk down the street, the Kimbell Art Museum is known as “America’s best small museum” and it is very impressive. It is actually the permanent home to Michelangelo’s first painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony. The Kimbell offers a world-class collection of art, with masterpieces from by El Greco, Cezanne, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse. The museum also regularly hosts major traveling exhibitions.

After a morning of culture, I needed a taste of Fort Worth. So I headed over to the Firestone and Robertson Whiskey Distillery. The distillery itself is located in a really cool area of town that was completely abandoned just a few years ago. It’s in an old factory that has been gutted completely and salvaged beautifully.

Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. is the only artisanal bourbon distillery in North Texas. The bourbon is aged in the North Texas climate for several years, which, given the dramatic temperature swings and sustained summer heat of the region, will produce a bourbon whiskey of distinct provenance.

I have to say it was delicious and very smooth. It’s a shame there are some outdated interstate commerce laws in Texas that stop them from being able to sell online and throughout the country. You have to go to Fort Worth to get it-trust me it’s worth it!

Since I talked about the culture of Fort Worth, now it’s time to talk about the cowboys and oh are there cowboys.

Heading over to the Stock Yards area of Fort Worth is like stepping into a time warp. The old west feeling is amplified here and there are saloons aplenty up and down the main drag. The stockyards are home to a lot of cattle, hence the name, and they do a cattle drive twice daily which is fun to watch and photograph. Aside from that, you can sit on steers, have your picture taken or just explore this throwback part of town. If you were ever going to get a cowboy hat and spurs, this is the place to get them-and wear them.

We went to dinner that night at a steakhouse called H3, which was fantastic right in the Stock Yards. What was memorable to me about the restaurant wasn’t the meal but it was that every man in the restaurant looked like Yosemite Sam-yes the Bugs Bunny cartoon character. I’m talking hat, boots, chaps, beard, and spurs-the whole thing. I thought a duel was going to break out at any time. It was pretty great!

Right near the restaurant is the Cowtown Coliseum where they host weekly rodeos. I had previously been to a Professional Bull Riding (PBR) event at Madison Square Garden in New York twice. It was always fun to watch the cowboys ride the bulls and get thrown off like you see in the movies. In Fort Worth they do it a little different.

There are a variety of different events at the rodeo. They have bull riding and bucking broncos but they also have team events. These team events are different but involve a bunch of cowboys on horses and a herd of calves that look identical and are numbered 1-9. The MC calls out a number and that calf has to be singled out from the group of calves and then lassoed by a cowboy at his hind leg.

Once he is caught the other cowboys hop off their mounts and basically beat the shit out of the calf to get him to the ground and then tie all his legs together. The whole time the calf is screaming and wailing in agony. Finally, when he’s all tied up, one cowboy runs over to the timekeeper on the side where there is a brand iron. He grabs the brand iron, runs back to brand the calf then runs back to ring a bell, signaling the end and the team makes their time.

If it sounds awful to read, it is worse to watch. It’s one of those things that you can’t believe what you’re seeing but this is apparently what some people love in Texas. Up north, we always hear about rodeos and we always think its just cowboys riding bulls or broncos, but it is much more and there is actual strategy to it. However, it’s a little cruel to me. To be honest though, that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is mutton bustin’. Check out these videos to see why!

After leaving the rodeo early, we headed over to Billy Bob’s. It is the World’s Largest Honky Tonk with 127,000 square feet, several dance floors, musical stages, arcade games, billiard tables and an indoor rodeo arena.

Billy Bob’s also hosts a variety of national and local music artists every Thursday-Saturday night-there is a whole wall of the great musicians who have played there. Artists who were virtually unknown have received their big break at Billy Bob’s, including George Strait, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and Travis Tritt-some of my all time favorites!

Billy Bob’s was super cool and really overwhelming. As I mentioned the place is massive and has 100 different bars and it’s the kind of place where you can literally do whatever you want. It’s essentially a fairground under one roof. It’s the quintessential place to go out in Fort Worth and a true icon-I really enjoyed my time there and would go back in a heartbeat.

My time in Fort Worth also included a Dallas Mavericks game in Dallas and a Dallas Cowboys game in Arlington; which I will write a separate post about soon. I would also be remiss if I didn’t state for the record how good everything we ate was.

The Tex-Mex and Barbeque in Fort Worth was ridiculous. We had lunch at a place called Joe T.’s; which is a famous Mexican place in Fort Worth. It was likely the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in the United States and even better than a lot I’ve had in Mexico! Trust me, I do not throw out compliments like that-ever!

So as my time in Fort Worth wound down, Hurricane Sandy rose up in the New York area so I was forced to stay an extra 5 days in Texas. I will write about that experience in an upcoming post too but I wanted to thank my host, the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau for being so amazing during my many flight cancellations. I really appreciate the generosity and understanding they showed and I want to especially thank Jessica and McKenzie for being such great hosts. So even though I got a lot more Texas than I bargained for, I can’t wait to go back to Fort Worth again.

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau on this trip to Fort Worth. All views and opinions expressed in this article are solely my own and have in no way been influenced.

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  1. Travis Tritt is one of your all time favorite singers? I’m assuming/hoping that’s sarcasm!

    • Haha yes it is sarcasm…if Travis Tritt was at breakfast with me right now at my table I would recognize him even if he said his name as Travis Tritt!

  2. Great story onTexas. I lived in Dallas for 4 years back in the early 2000’s and I always loved going to FTW because it didn’t feel like Dallas. It’s so close and there is so much more culturally to see and do there. Dallas is fine but has no culture-except where JFK got shot…

    • Thanks Sophia, I am not a big fan of Dallas to be honest either, I was always partial to Houston because I used to work there a lot and just got used to the city. Dallas was always kind of boring to me but yes Fort Worth was great, I really enjoyed my time there!

  3. Christopher says

    That rodeo video is amazing. I can’t believe people let their children do that!

  4. Great post, I love your sarcastic, funny take on things but how at the same time you’re informative and truthful…I enjoy reading your articles!

  5. I had no idea Fort Worth was a separate city from Dalas to be honest, thanks for the clarity on that. Sounds like a fun place to check out. I have never been to Texas and I would have definitely gone to Dallas and Austin and that’s it. I am one of those people who couldn’t name any other cities as you said, LOL!

    • Haha, well I hope you make it soon Angela, Texas is actually a great place, the whole state over. It is really different from most other places. I don’t know where you’re from but Texas to NYC is like a different galaxy…but that’s what I like about it! And the people are so nice!

  6. I’ve been to Billy Bobs, great spot. I still can’t get over how big it is!

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