Hub of the hottest performance horse shows in the world, and charmed with old time western culture, there just isn’t a bad time to visit this great Texas city, but if you’re hankering for the hottest rodeo action, now might just be the best time.
World’s Original Indoor Rodeo
The pinnacle event this time of year has to be the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo held January 17th through February 8th at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. This Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo is unlike any other from it’s grand entry serpentine ride kick off each performance, 21-member live orchestra, Best of the West Ranch Rodeo (where some of the most famous ranch brands are represented), Best of Mexico Celebration, Bulls Night Out PRCA Extreme Bullriding and the Cowboys of Colour Rodeo, all hosted within the three week rodeo extravaganza.
If you’re into western, the shopping in Fort Worth is second to none. The downtown area of Sundance Square will delight your senses with shops, restaurants and galleries. Offering the best in handmade boots, saddles, clothes, belts and buckles, walk away with once-in-a-lifetime treasures at stores such as Sean Ryon, or Maverick Fine Western Wear at the Stockyards National Historic District, where you can have a drink at the step-up bar while your partner browses through racks of unique western brands. Visit the Downtown Fort Worth Rail Market, a European-style market that bills itself as “Texas’s First True Public Market,” located in the historic Santa Fe Warehouse. For the musically inclined, Ernest Tubbs Record Shop is the ideal stop, or order yourself a pair of Ponder Boots in their custom boot shop, or visit Bum Steer, a mecca of vintage clothing, furnishings, antique tack or eclectic game mounts.
A trip to Fort Worth is absolutely not complete without stopping at the world-renowned Stockyards National Historic District. A former livestock market that began operation in 1866, you can still imagine the rumble of train tracks and thousands of hooves that filled the pens so many years ago, as you take in one of the daily scheduled cattle drives of Longhorn cattle down the cobblestone streets. Since its glory days as a hub of livestock trading, it has transformed itself into the entertainment hub of today. Spend your Texas night at the Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo or one of the many western bars and restaurants. Don’t forget to stroll through the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange, where you will get a true taste of a city built on agriculture.
Fort Worth boasts some of the greatest western museums in the country. Consider visiting the Amon Carter Museum. Founded by Carter himself in 1961, the building is a beautiful renaissance structure that houses an extensive collection of the works of famed western artists Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington. Or, make your way to the National Cowgirl Museum, where you will be immersed in a fascinating tribute to the courageous, resilient and independent women who shaped our West. Catch a special exhibit of Plains Indian art by artist Cathy A. Smith in the months of January and February. For a bit of whimsical, head over to the Adobe Western Art Gallery for a good taste of original works, limited editions and vintage artwork from a wide variety of artists.
Named for the ranch in the movie, Giant, enjoy the rooftop bar and dining area at Reata in historic Sundance Square. Southwestern fare such as chicken-fried steak, tenderloin tamales and blackened buffalo rib-eye is served by wait staff in jeans and cowboy vests. A definite must while in the historic Stockyards, and just reopened in the fall of 2013 after a kitchen fire destroyed a good part of the restaurant, the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro is a four-star culinary delight owned by celebrity chef, Tim Love. Indulge your wine taste buds with the award winning collection of vintages from around the world, and savor such house specialties as white truffle mac and cheese, elk sliders and wild boar ribs. It’s not unusual to run into fellow boots and spurs aficionados at Uncle Julio’s, where fresh and authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food and a busy vibe bring out-of-towners back again and again. If you hanker for one last bite of Texas food on your way out of town, pop by one of the Cousin’s Bar-B-Q joints at Dallas/Fort Worth International, rated one of only two of Texas’s top barbecue joints by Texas Monthly magazine, the other being Longorias BBQ, about 20 minutes north of the Will Rogers Stadium, in Everman. House specialties here include smoked brisket sausages and burgers. For the purist of authentic Mexican, check into Benito’s with its colorful decor and classics that include sopes and guisado, or the laid-back Esperanza’s, with it’s decadent tres leches cake, carnitas (braised pork) or melt in your mouth barbacoa beef cheeks. Finally, it’s not your usual Mexican restaurant but the hamachi ceviche, Michoacan-style masa or mole poblano (even if you can’t pronounce them, order them!) are not to be missed at the quaint Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana.
Who hasn’t heard of the legendary Billy Bob’s nightclub? It is, after all, the World’s largest honky tonk, and a must see at least once, whether you want to brush up your dance moves, take a mechanical bull ride, or hit one of the many fantastic concerts they host. Catch the grunge country sounds of Ryan Bingham on January 25th, or the phenomenal Josh Weathers Band on the 31st.
Journey to a town filled with frontier history and folklore legends at Granbury. Start off at the picturesque town square – filled with antiques shops, unique boutiques and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, and especially pretty in it’s festive garlands pre-Christmas. Take the kids to the hanging gallows at Hood County Jail and Historical Museum, and on weekends, you can hop on the free trolley for a spin around town or take the Ghosts and Legends tour. Every second Saturday of the month the Historic Granbury Gunslingers duke it out on the square.
With the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy just past, there is a resurgence of interest in the former President’s death, and conspiracy theories are anything but stilled. Draw your own conclusions by visiting The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas (known as the Texas School Book Depository, where shooter Lee Harvey Oswald was said to have drawn the fatal trigger). Examine the life, death and legacy of JFK through artifacts, photographs, documentary films, areas where evidence was found, eyewitness accounts and interactive educational programming on both the sixth and seventh floors.
There’s scores of budget hotels and motels within easy range of the Will Rogers, but if you’re hankering for a splurge try the Stockyards Hotel, an over 100-year-old hotel with Old West charm and themed rooms, right in the middle of the historic Stockyards. Guest rooms have a casual Texas feel at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, an architecturally innovative skyscraper towering over the city skyline, and in Dallas, the historically rich and century-old Aldolphus is filled with fine art and antiques.
The cowboy town of Weatherford boasts not only the much-photographed cutting horse statue on the front lawn of the local Macdonalds, but a rich western heritage. Once you’ve explored the historic square, lunch at the Downtown Café and then take a drive up scenic Old Garner Road, where you’ll come across Oswood Stallion Station, where a visit might garner you photo ops with such big guns as Dual Rey, Halreycious, Like A Diamond, One Time Pepto and Walla Walla Whiz.