Cowtown & Culture Capital, Fun things to do in Fort Worth Texas

Fort Worth is known for its share of Saloons, Stockyards, Rodeo and cowboy boot stores but did you know it has an amazing culture scene from Jazz to Opera to Art!  Because of Fort Worth’s location on the Old Chisholm Trail that helped establish it as a cattle trade center Fort Worth earned it’s the nickname “Cowtown.”  But today’s Fort worth is a tree-lined boulevard paved with manicured grounds, home to Cultural experiences at The Modern Art Museum, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth Opera and Casa Manana. The Sundance square area in downtown Fort Worth is alive with charming shops and restaurants. And you can find Western Experience at the Fort Worth Stock Yards.

Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort Worth’s Cowtown

Fort Worth’s Culture Capital

You can find many museums and rich cultural experience at the Fort Worth Cultural District. It is located a few miles west of downtown and has one of the finest collections of museums in Texas. It is a great place to take the kids to broaden your horizons or just to spend some quality time with your family.

Kimbell Art Museum

The Kimbell Art Museum has an amazing permanent collection housed in a building by world-renowned architect Louis Kahn. It contains holdings ranging from the third millennium B.C. to the mid-20th century and includes major works by Fra Angelico, Velazquez, Bernini, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Mondrian and Matisse. It is one of the top things to do in Fort Worth!

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
Kimbell Art Museum

Kimbell Art Museum is also home to Michelangelo’s first known painting. You can find works of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Gaugin, Paul Cezanne to the old world masters of Rembrandt van Rijn, Diego Velazquez. Special exhibitions are held at Renzo Piano Pavilion. We have been there a few times and you can find a few of the masterpieces from the permanent collection that I loved in the post of my art walk in the Kimbell Art Museum.

Monet at The Kimbell Art Museum
A special Monet Exhibition in the Renzo Piano Pavilion at Kimbell

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The Modern Art Museum, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando is in another great Fort Worth Attraction. It has contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs. The Modern houses Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, a lot of other cool paintings and an amazing Stainless Steel Tree by New York artist Roxy Paine. See this post for my favorites at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

tainless Tree by Roxy Paine at The Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth
Stainless Tree by Roxy Paine

The Steel Tree is 40 foot by 45 foot structure juxtaposed against the lush green lawn area with the Fort Worth buildings in the background. Ms. Peachy loves their collection of Andy Warhol. While you are there enjoy a meal at Café Modern located inside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. It is the perfect place to relax, its serene reflecting pool is visible through curving floor-to-ceiling windows and it feels like you are floating on a pond.

Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth

The Cultural District is also home to the Will Rogers Memorial Center one of the top equestrian show facilities, Dickies Arena the new home of the Annual Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. While the famous Casa Mañana has Live Broadway, Children’s Performances and Concerts. Founded in 1946, Fort Worth Opera is the oldest continually operating opera company in Texas, and the 14th oldest opera company in the United States.

While we have been to the Dallas Opera, we have not been to the Fort Worth Opera. You can find their schedule and tickets here.

A Couple of my other favorite places near the Cultural District are Fort Worth Botanic Gardens and The Fort Worth Zoo.

The Fort Worth Zoo

If you have kids, you might want to plan for an entire day at The Fort Worth Zoo. There is a lot to do – kids can learn how to round ’em up at Texas Wild!, a hands-on exhibit that showcases the unique wildlife of Texas, visit the petting zoo, see four great ape species in the 2.5-acre world of primates. When our kids were young they loved taking the Yellow Rose Express, which travels between the Safari Depot and Texas Wild!.

Feeding birds at the Parrot Paradise in the Fort Worth Zoo
Feeding birds at the Parrot Paradise in the Fort Worth Zoo (Old photo but still a favorite)

Parrot Paradise is another favorite where you can walk-thru the aviary. Inside the domed structure, hundreds of cockatiels and parakeets soar through the air, coming to rest on whatever looks like a comfortable perch – from tree branches to shoulders. Guests also have the option to buy a seed stick to feed the birds. The Great Barrier Reef is another popular attraction that takes visitors to the mysterious waters of the Coral Sea. It is one of the best things to do in Fort Worth with kids.

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens

This is a hidden gem in Fort Worth! Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is one of the oldest botanic garden in Texas and home to more than 2,500 species of plants in its different specialty gardens. My favorite is the Japanese Garden! It is a beautiful garden where you will find koi-filled pools, walkways that meander through sculptured hillsides, weeping willows, crafted stonework and dramatic waterfalls. 

Where to find Fall colors in Fort Worth - Photo by @OutsideSuburbia
Fall colors at the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth

The Japanese Garden is one of my favorite places to find fall colors in DFW area. Make sure to check before you go, they hold tea ceremonies and other festivities to coincide with the peak fall foliage and cherry blossom season. It is such a small window to go see the cherry blossoms that typically reach full bloom in March but the Gardens are lovely in summer and a great place to stop for an afternoon.

Japanese Garden in Fort Worth
Find tranquility at Japanese Garden in Fort Worth

While the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is free to visit, there is a small fee for visiting the Japanse Garden.

Cherry Blossoms at the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth
Cherry Blossoms at the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

I used to work near here and have frequented this museum. The Carter collection celebrates the breadth and depth of American art. The museum was founded around Amon G. Carter Sr.’s extensive collection but it has since expanded to encompass artworks by thousands of artists working from the early nineteenth century through to today. There is no admission fee and one of the free things to do in Fort Worth!

The Foundry District

While you can art in the various Fort Worth museums, you can also find them in the streets and alleyways. One of the popular ones is the Foundry District. At Weisenberger Street just east of Carroll Street, you find an alley filled with some of the most detailed portrait pieces as well and fun still life and abstract works. Have you seen the murals in Deep Ellum Dallas yet?

Found some wings at the Foundry District

Magnolia Street

Magnolia Street in Fort Worth is filled with many cute shops and fun murals.  It is very similar to Bishop Arts District in Dallas.  We love getting vegan food at Spiral Diner and some ice cream at Melt Ice cream. Whether you drink coffee or not, how can you resist this Coffee and Amor mural!

Best spots in Fort Worth for photos
Coffee lover here!

WestBend

WestBend is another area I like to stop for a meal or coffee after visiting one of the museums in Fort Worth. It is located just south of I-30 along the Trinity River in the city’s University District. This modern district has nice restaurants, stores and office spaces. I love BarTaco here where you can enjoy some nice Baha fish or cauliflower tacos in a white-washed interior, with woven basket light fixtures all the while enjoying views of the river.

Love sculpture by Laura Kimpton at Westbend, Fort Worth
 Love sculpture by Laura Kimpton

Stroll through the area, you can also take in the public art and murals that dots the grounds. You will find some great photo ops here and murals by local artists. My favorite is this Laura Kimpton’s Love sculpture.

Things to do in Downtown Fort Worth

Fort Worth’s city center buzzes day and night with people and has a lively vibe. The heart of downtown is Sundance Square, a 35-block shopping and entertainment district lined with charming, beautifully restored buildings that stand alongside big skyscrapers.

Fort Worth Water Gardens
Fort Worth Water Gardens

On a sunny day (which is most days in Texas) you can relax in the Sundance Square Plaza under the enormous umbrellas and grab a bite to eat on a patio. You can see a performance in the acoustically perfect Bass Performance Hall, known for its towering angels carved in limestone. We watched the Phantom of the Opera show here a few years ago!

The Fort Worth Water Gardens is a beautiful and refreshing oasis and pausing there for a few minutes is a great thing to do in Fort Worth downtown! It is located adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center. Designed by Phillip Johnson, the Water Gardens is an architectural and engineering marvel that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The park features three pools of water: the aerating, the quiet and the active pool.

Texas Motor Speedway

D was a NASCAR fan when he was little and we took him to a couple of car races when they built the motor speedway a few years ago. Located about 30 minutes away from Fort Worth Texas Motor Speedway is a motorsports facility in Texas, hosting IndyCar, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races.

If you like fast cars then you must check them out. A favorite Fort Worth attraction for out of town visitors! See their website for more details.

For the Sports Fans

If you are a sports fan then the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers need no introduction. We love baseball and football at our house. Mr. Suburbia makes the drive out to AT&T Stadium to watch the Cowboys play during the Football season. D our baseball player loves watching the Texas Rangers. Opening Day at the Globe Life Park in Arlington is his favorite time of the year. We are excited about the new Texas Rangers facility and can’t wait to visit!

Globe Life Park in Arlington
In his element at the Globe Life Park in Arlington

Being a baseball family, we are always in the fields either for practices or watching our son’s team play. But nothing beats taking in a Rangers baseball game at the Globe Life Park in Arlington. D loves to go early before the game starts to watch the Rangers warm up and maybe even catch a practice fly ball! 

See the Old West at the Stockyards

Stockyards is not just a popular tourist attraction in Fort Worth, it is a place where you can see The Old West come to life. Where else in the world can you see a daily cattle drive featuring the famous Texas Longhorns? Presented by the Fort Worth Herd, real Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.  A great place to take friends and family visiting from out of town.

Cattle drive featuring the famous Texas Longhorns at the Fort Worth Stockyards
Cattle drive featuring the famous Texas Longhorns

Stockyards have become a very popular tourist attraction. This where Fort Worth gets its “Cowtown” image from.  In addition to being a historical center, the Stockyards is also an entertainment and shopping district with plenty of fun things to do for families.  The cowboy lifestyle is still very much a big part of Texas’s culture. Stockyards Station used to be an important livestock center where cattle, sheep, and pigs were bought and sold. Today it has cute stores where you can buy cowboy boots and hats, the railroad still runs through the Stockyard station.

Fort Worth Stockyards Station
Stockyards Station

Cowtown Coliseum

Cowtown Coliseum was the first indoor coliseum in the United States.  The building was refurbished in 1986 so it now has air conditioning and heating. They have the Fort Worth Stockyards Rodeo every Friday and Saturday night which started back in 1918, when they hosted the world’s first indoor rodeo. You can see the showtimes and purchase tickets here.

A longhorn part of the Fort Worth Herd

Behind the Coliseum, you will find the Fort Worth herd. There are about 20 longhorns that are part of the herd. Originally native to Spain, these cow with their long horns are emblematic of Texas. There is a viewing platform you can climb up to see the animals up close but from a safe distance.

Fun things to do at the Stockyards

To learn about the history of the area, you can take the 90-minute guided walking tour of the Stockyards. Tours leave from the Visitors Center at 130 East Exchange Avenue three times a day.  Or you can just walk around and explore on your own.  There are great murals, and you can also see where the Chisholm Trail began. Look out for the stars that make up the Texas Trail of Fame.

Kids will enjoy the Cowtown Cattle Pen Maze which used to be the cattle pens of the old west. The wooden maze covers over 5,400 square feet and they are always changing up the pathways so it is always a challenge.   There is also a petting zoo, toy train rides and sometimes you will find a cowboy with his steer for photo ops. There are lots of western experiences at the Stockyards to keep the whole family entertained.

You should try some of the famous Texas BBQ and steak in one of the restaurants at the Stockyards. There are many country bars on Exchange Ave including the Rodeo Exchange, White Elephant Saloon, and the famous Billy Bob’s that everyone raves about. At Billy Bob’s you can see bull riding during the weekends they also feature a large dance floor with country music headliners often. 

One day in Fort Worth, Texas

We live in the suburbs of Dallas and usually visit Fort Worth as a day trip. We used to take the kids to the museum or the zoo and then stop at the downtown area for dinner. Now that the kids are older, busy with school and don’t need us to drive them around we find ourselves visiting these familiar places again sans kids! They are plenty of fun things to do in Fort Worth for a weekend, I recommend staying a night in one of the downtown Fort Worth hotels. If you are spending just one day in Fort Worth, start your day at the Stockyards, then visit a museum or garden depending on your interest. I’m sure if you will plan a return visit to explore more of Cowtown!

You might also want to check out the sister city Dallas and go on a few day trips from Fort Worth.

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