Located just 32 miles west of Dallas, Fort Worth is often overshadowed by its bigger sister city, although it is full of major tourist attractions. Although nicknamed Cowtown for its deep roots in the cattle ranching industry, Fort Worth boasts a rich and diverse cultural history.
Today, the city welcomes nearly nine million visitors annually who come for work and play, enjoying Fort Worth's wide range of things to do. In addition to historic sites, Fort Worth is home to several art museums, beautiful public spaces, including the oasis-like Water Garden, entertainment venues like Bass Performance Hall, and shopping galore in areas like Sundance Square.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Fort Worth
1. Fort Worth Stockyards
Established in 1866, Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District owes its fame and unique character to the cattle industry. The last big stopover on the Chisholm Trail - and the last remaining historic stockyard in the United States - it once saw millions of cattle pass through.
Today, the area covers nearly 100 acres and has been transformed into one of Fort Worth's biggest tourist attractions. A visit takes visitors back to the days of the great cattle roundups, with all kinds of related entertainment and fun things to see and do, from rodeos to live music shows, museums, and western-themed shopping.
2. Fort Worth Water Gardens
Located in downtown Fort Worth, adjacent to the Convention Center, the Water Gardens are far more than simply a collection of pretty fountains to gaze at. Designed to allow visitors to cool themselves in the flowing water, the Water Gardens are a refreshing contrast to the hot urban landscape of this southern US city.
Built in 1974, the Water Gardens feature three pools set amid a sprawling 4.3-acre park. The largest of these water features, the "active pool" is a 38-foot-tall terraced area that is used by waders as steps while the water flows across the stone and into a central pool. The "aerating pool" is a collection of fountains that sits beneath the shade of towering oak trees, especially beautiful at night when it is lit up.
3. Fort Worth Zoo
Established in 1909, Fort Worth Zoo got off to a humble start with just a handful of animals, but over the years, it has grown into a world-class facility.
Today, visitors come from far and wide to view its many hundreds of species from around the world, including 68 endangered and threatened species. It's also famous for being the only zoo in the United States that houses all four species of Great Ape (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans).
Fort Worth Zoo is also renowned for having one of the world's most successful flamingo breeding colonies, and is one of only five zoos worldwide to have two of the five rhino species. Other zoo residents include favorites like penguins, cheetahs, African lions, giraffes, meerkats, hippos, and even elephants with their babies.
In addition to its diverse range of animals, the zoo has several attractions, including the Country Carousel, rock climbing, the miniature Yellow Rose Express Train, a petting zoo, and a 40-foot-long statue of an iguana nicknamed Iggy.
4. Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Established in 1961 to host a collection of artwork by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, the Amon Carter Museum has expanded considerably over the decades to encompass all facets of American art.
Today, visitors can see numerous paintings, photos, and sculptures, along with excellent temporary exhibits. Highlights include examples by landscape painters of the 1830s to modern artists of the 20th century, featuring such greats as Alexander Calder, Thomas Eakins, and Alfred Stieglitz.
5. Fort Worth Botanic Garden
One of the city's most popular tourist attractions, Fort Worth Botanic Garden is spread over 109 acres and is a great place to visit any time of year. Established in 1934 and the oldest such facility in Texas, it is home to 2,500 species of plants laid out in 23 unique gardens. Highlights include the Fragrance Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Rain Forest Conservatory.
One of the most popular sections is the idyllic Japanese Garden, a peaceful 7.5 acres of magnolias, cherry trees, bamboo, and other traditional flora, with lovely paths that arch over footbridges and past ponds full of koi.
The center also has special projects, including the Begonia Species Bank, a living collection of begonias designed to help maintain the species, as well as water conservation projects with an entire garden dedicated to sustainability.
The Botanic Garden also hosts a variety of interesting programs, such as adult educational programs and kids' workshops. There's also on-site dining with garden-view patio seating.
6. Sundance Square
One of Fort Worth's most popular destinations for visitors and locals alike is Sundance Square, a privately owned, 35-block section of the historic downtown core that is full of fun things to do. Consisting of a mix of residential, commercial, retail, and entertainment buildings and named after the infamous outlaw, the Sundance Kid, the area is safe and fun to explore on foot thanks to its many pedestrian zones.
In addition to its numerous restaurants, cafés, and hotels, Sundance Square contains many excellent shopping opportunities, from high-end boutiques and interesting art galleries to large department stores. It's also a vibrant cultural center, home to a number of important museums including the Sid Richardson Museum with its collection of works by one of the country's most revered 'cowboy artists'.
Also found here are a number of major venues such as the Bass Performance Hall and the Circle Theater, which feature regular drama, music, and dance performances. The centerpiece of the district is Sundance Square Plaza, a vast public square boasting fountains and seating, as well as a stage used to host live concerts and other entertainment.
7. Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell Art Museum is an architectural delight. Designed by Louis I Kahn and opened in 1972, the museum's creative use of natural light is particularly interesting, and wandering the grounds is a fine way to spend time, particularly at dusk.
Although small, the museum's collection features a number of important pieces from a variety of periods, ranging from 20th-century art to age-old antiquities. Highlights include paintings, sculpture, and pottery from Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the museum hosts regularly changing and traveling exhibits. The Kimbell also offers a number of educational programs and has a small restaurant.
8. The Sid Richardson Museum
A must for art lovers, as well as fans of the Wild West, the Sid Richardson Museum displays artwork compiled by collector Sid Richardson between 1942 and 1959. Housed in a replica of an 1880s building, the museum consists primarily of works by American artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, who famously captured the spirit of the west in their late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings.
The collection's pieces show the action, drama, and scenes of daily life in the historical west, including many fine examples by lesser-known artists. Regarded as one of the top things to do for free in Fort Worth, the museum also offers fun educational programs and the opportunity to join one of its themed guided tours.
9. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth focuses on post-WWII art, with a large permanent collection of 2,600 modern and contemporary pieces in a variety of media. Some of the more famous names represented are Anselm Kiefer, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Susan Rothenberg, and Andy Warhol.
Designed by Tadao Ando, this unique complex with its five pavilions of concrete and glass was built in 2002 and overlooks a one-and-a-half-acre reflecting pond around which is a sculpture garden and terrace. The museum is a fine addition to Fort Worth's Cultural District and is close to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Kimbell Art Museum.
10. National Cowgirl Museum and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
In addition to its rich artistic heritage, Fort Worth isn't shy about celebrating its role as the gateway to the once-Wild West. One of the most important of these establishments is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
The museum is a fitting tribute to the women of the American West who distinguished themselves and exemplified the pioneer spirit, including cowgirls and ranch women, writers, artists, teachers, and entertainers.
Among the best known inductees are sharpshooter Annie Oakley, singer Patsy Cline, and artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Other highlights include biographies of prominent rodeo cowgirls and depictions of everyday life for women who lived and toiled in Texas's early years.
Equally important is the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, which focuses on the men and women of the rodeo circuit, and the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The latter highlights the contributions of other groups to the building of the west, including those of Hispanic, European, African, and Native American descent.