Fort Worth is one of the most historical towns in Texas as the center of cattle trading for over 150 years. From the stockyards to the Cowgirl Museum, it’s a family-friendly town full of Old West history.
Fort Worth was established in 1849 as one of seven army outposts to protect American settlers along the western frontier after the Mexican-American War. It quickly became the center of the Texas longhorn trade on the Chisholm Trail that was used to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas and grew into a bustling town. It even got the nickname of Cowtown.
With the importance of the railroads in the late 19th century, Fort Worth experienced a boom in wealth and population surrounding the Fort Worth Stockyards now linked to the Texas and Pacific Railway. Migrants from the post-Civil War devastated South flocked to the town in hopes of finding a job at the meatpacking facilities or heading further west for more land (depicted in the recent Paramount show, 1883). With its position as the westernmost railhead, Fort Worth became the last stop for pioneers before crossing into Indian territory, resulting in a rough entertainment district full of saloons and dance halls high in crime. Called “Hell’s Half-Acre,” it was regularly visited by infamous Western bandits like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
With the coming of World War I, a huge military camp was established near the town, which cut down on the lawlessness, and the town went through another boom with the explosion of the oil and gas industries in the 20th century. It was the fastest growing city in the US in the early 2000s and continues to grow today along with the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area.
I visited Fort Worth this past spring while on a college visit with my son (we loved Texas Christian University’s campus!). After the college tour, my son and I explored the historical sites the town has to offer
The must-see historical site in Fort Worth is the Fort Worth Stockyards. It’s a great place to get the feel of Old Texas from its Wild West-style buildings to the plethora of stores selling cowboy gear. If you’ve seen one of my favorite shows, 1883, you’ll recognize the stockyards and its surroundings from the first episode.
You can stand on the platforms above the famous Texas longhorn and gaze out over the prairie, imagining yourself to be one of those brave pioneers from the late 19th century! There’s even a maze along the platforms!
Don’t miss the herd cattle drive every day at 11:30 am and 4 pm. It really is something to see the longhorn cattle ambling down the street! Kids will love it!
Historical walking tours are available (best for teens and older) along with carriage rides. There are many museums to visit, including the John Wayne Museum, the Stockyards Museum, and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Kids will be enthralled with the animals at the petting zoo, and you can even schedule a horseback ride! And the restaurants are full of great Texas bar-b-que and all of the fixings!
We just enjoyed walking on the quaint sidewalks, feeling like we were back in the Wild West. It really is atmospheric and unique!
- Cost: free (museums and activities charge fees)
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 3 – 4 hours (more for dining)
- Shopping: Many shops spread throughout the area
- Transportation: A car is needed to get to the stockyards. Plenty of paid parking lots are available.
- Dining options: There are many restaurants at the Stockyards – our favorite was the excellent Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-b-que. It was fantastic!
- Nearby hotels: There are many chain and local hotels in the stockyards. We stayed in Dallas (it’s an easy day trip).
- Nearby attractions include: Fort Worth Aviation Museum, Vintage Flying Museum, and JFK Tribute Memorial
Just a few miles south of the stockyards is the Fort Worth cultural district which includes the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. I chose to visit the Cowgirl Museum since it was displaying the costumes from the Paramount show, 1883, while I was visiting. I loved seeing the actual items worn by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and the other actors. Check here to see what’s on exhibit during your visit.
I also really enjoyed the main part of the museum, especially the signed guitars and memorabilia from country music stars. Kids will enjoy the interactive exhibits and seeing the pretty horses.
The museum also touches on Native American history.
There is a stunning horse video that kids will love!
Don’t miss the park outside the museum with its horse statues! If you have a child who loves horses, this is a great museum to consider visiting.
- Cost: $12/12 and up; $6/children 4-11; free/children 3 and under
- Recommended: 10 and up
- Tour time: 30 minutes
- Gift shop located onsite
- Transportation: A car is needed with plenty of paid parking lots.
- Dining options: A restaurant district including our favorite, In-and-Out Burger, is only 6 minutes away on West 7th Street.
- Nearby hotels: Check out hotels on the Fort Worth Tourism site. We stayed in Dallas, and it’s an easy day trip.
- Nearby attractions include: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Fort Worth Botanical Garden, Museum of American Art, Fort Worth Zoo, Monnig Meteorite Gallery, and Seaquest Aquarium
Fort Worth is full of family fun and makes a perfect spring break destination. If you’re visiting any colleges this spring, be sure to spend some time in the Old West!
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