I wish I would have allowed more time to spend in the National Historic District of Fort Worth Stockyards because there was so much to see and do and a real look at what old western USA life and times were 100+ years ago.
Between the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, live animals on the street, plenty of places to eat and drink (including Texas fare and libations like Buffalo Butt Beer!) and
Fort Worth, which was once known as “Cowtown” and another area of that was known all over the West as “Hell’s Half Acre” but it was its reputation (thanks to the railroads) as a major shipping point for livestock and stockyards and meat packing.
Today, the area boasts tourist and visitor attractions from;\
Texas Trail of Fame
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame
Fort Worth Stockyards Stables
Fort Worth Herd Longhorn Cattle Drive
Cowtown Cattlpen maze
Stockyards Championship Rodeo
Billy Bob's Texas Honky Tonk, Bar and Restaurant
Booger Red's Bar
Lots of friendly people and a small step back in history....
The rich history of the Stockyards will be honored with the Cowboys who made Cowtown what it is today at the Celebration on July 29, Sun. front lawn of the Exchange Building, when the million Cowboys "riding their Brand" will be honored with colorful cowboy music, gunfighters shoot out, Cowgirl from 1930s telling of starting at age 5 Trick Riding in Rodeos, John Buttrum from Pat Buttrum, Gene Autry comic side kick fame as announcer to let JOHN WAYNE, aka Jack Edmondson, speak about being a Cowboy, and Monty Moncrief Teel, noted poet of many different Cowboy Poetry gatherins giving his story of Cowboys.
The Longhorn Cattle Drive will follow this show with the example of why cattle drives were not as easy as some might think when you see these horn spans of 8-10 ft. Awesome animals to have coming your way without a horse to carry you out of harms way.
Winners of the Cowboy Poetry contest will be announced and paid CASH prizes. This will be the 1st year of this exciting event which will be a day program next year to give honor to those who became the 1st American Heroes. This is a FREE -No Admission event.
Going to the stockyards is like going back in time. This is the way cattle farming and ranching was done back in the day. Today you can still see them work the cattle daily. Explore the shops, buy some candy, and pretend what it would be like to be back in that era.
Built in 1849 by Army Major Ripley Arnold and his troops as a outpost to protect settlers. By 1853 the frontier pushed west. Once the army abandon the fort it soon was taken up by settlers and become Fort Worth. If you love western history then you will love this place. It has all the making of the wild west still. The buildings are all maintained wonderfully and you can almost hear the voices of the past as you enter each building. Resturants, shops, museums, hotels and living history abounds here. It is most certainly a place to spend the day and explore. In fact, take the time to strike up a conversation from one of the locals and you'll be amazed at what you learn. Very friendly people work here, which makes a visit enjoyable.
We were extremely lucky to make it in time to observe the march of the longhorns which was just amazing to witness. I couldn't decide if I wanted to take home a longhorn or one of the rough and rugged handsome cowboys who guided them through the stockyards.
While we were there, we took time to do some shopping, and I will warn you right now, don't waste your money. Most of the shops are extremely overpriced, and believe it or not, you will find a better deal at the novelty shops for Stockyard items than at the boutiques which are filled with mostly mass produced junk. In other words, before you buy anything, compare and shop every merchant for the best deal as they all carry the same things for the most part. I think the most disappointing shop was Lone Star Wines. Not only did they not carry any locally produced wines, they had absolutely no knowledge of their inventory much less on the art of wines in general.
If you are lucky enough to see the Grapevine train waiting in the station, take a peak inside and explore the exterior. It is so amazing to see the train up close. Also, stick around to watch it depart. Just seeing it on the turnstyle to depart for Grapevine is really interesting to watch. Other activities include a maze, which was featured on the Amazing Race, and many other shops, restaurants and even a nightly rodeo.
I am happy to report that just about everywhere is handicapped accessible, with the exception of some of the shops, if it looks cramped from the outside, it is even worse once you enter it.
I must also say, do not get suckered into visiting Billy Bobs. There is really nothing special about it. You will get trapped, even with a handicapped placard, to park a considerable distance away from it and forced into paying a fee to even do so. Once inside, it is huge with an arcade, a shop of common wholesale junk (but with some Stockyard souvies), a stage, bar and uncomfortable booths where you are served below average tasting BBQ. Believe me, it's a tourist trap, and unless you want to party it up and get drunk, there is nothing special to see there. Many times they have special celebrity guests perform, which might make the visit worth it, but if you don't have a specific reason to visit Billy Bob's, don't waste your time. If you want a great dining experience and the best steak to be had in Fort Worth, travel down the street to Cattlemen's and you won't be disappointed.
Over the years, this three story orange brick building has been the home for many tenants. It features a pressed metal cornice and elaborate brick work including some nice corbelled banding above the first floor and on the parapet. Over the course of time, a ground floor canopy has been removed and the windows altered on the lower floor. The building has housed a hotel, boarding house, furniture company, and a dry goods store. In 1935, the building was purchased by the Masons and the Stock Yards Lodge No. 1224 relocated to the upper level from their previous home on Main Street. In 1956, the Masons moved to a new home in the area. Now it is a place for dinner, dancing and laughter.
The Cantina Cadillac
Hours: 5pm to 2am (Th), 4pm to 2am (Fri-Sun)
James F. Dill Grocery is the earliest known tenant of the building and the exact date of construction is not known. William T. Stanford moved in 1912 -1914 and operated his furniture business. You can see this by the old painted sign out front. This beautiful building consist of a corbeled brick freize and lovely arched second floor windows. The corner of the storefront door is angled nicely at the intersection of Exchange and Ellis. Over the years it has been used as rooming houses or hotels. Now it serves as a wonderful Interior Design and furniture store.
Ranch House Trading Co.
This might be a bit of a tourist trap but it's free and takes only a few minutes so if you find yourself in the Stockyard District at 11:30am or 4pm you might as well take a few minutes to see it. It's billed as the world's only twice daily cattle drive, a team of cowhands drives a herd of longhorns along Exchange Avenue through the Stockyards. Everything about it is supposed to be authentic and historically accurate.
We had no trouble finding a spot to watch it, in the more crowded months you may find a bit larger of a crowd and may want to stake out a spot if you want to get photographs.
I did find the longhorns to be rather fascinating to look at, many of the ones with the longest horns looked like they could barely support the weight of the horns. Try as I might, I couldn't find any reason why they would have such longhorns or why it was beneficial to breed them so they'd get longer horns. What I did find about out them was that they were the 1st cattle in North America, evolved without human intervention and they can survive in harsh conditions but were nearly extinct in 1927 when the breed was saved by some folks from the US Forest Service. The longhorn is a beef cattle, the meat is leaner than other breeds and they are a very hardy breed.
After lunch, we headed to the Stockyard Historic District to have a look around, there are restaurants, shops and saloons up and down the street. We first headed to the Stockyard Station which is right off Exchange Avenue, we then made our way to the tourism office and then up and down the rest of Exchange Street popping into shops and for an ice cream along the way. At 4 pm we watched the Cattle Drive down Exchange Street and then headed over to Joe T. Garcia's for dinner and then finally to the Rodeo. A couple people made one last stop at Billy Bob's, the world's largest honky tonk, but I was tired and headed back to the hotel instead.
You can park once for all of this although we did move the car to go to Joe T. Garcia's, we probably could have walked and we certainly could have walked if Cattlemen's Steakhouse had been that evening. On the weekend you can park for $5 all day in a lot off Exchange Street around the center of that block.
If you are planning to visit the Historic Stockyards District, make sure you make plans to be there around 11:30 or 4pm daily. You will get the special treat of getting to see a live cattle drive when the cowboys of yesteryear drive their cattle down the road.
The key to bear in mind when enjoying this exhibition is to stay out of the way of these cattle. Although most of them are docile and happy to move over to a pen to receive food, if they are provoked, they do have nice big horns that may gore you. Better safe then sorry, so stay up on the curb!
During the middle of the 1800's the path between Texas and prime grazing country to the North was known as the Chisholm trail. When you look at a map of this path, Fort Worth naturally sticks out in your mind as an ideal location to re-supply before heading north across the Red River and into Indian country. As the cattle drivers grew in number and also head of cattle, the necessity came due to have some sort of system for keeping the cattle before they headed north. The Stockyards area was not the original location for this herding, but became much more viable in the late 1800's when it was determined that the best way to move the herds were via railroad, and the best place to put this railway was north of town by a couple miles, which is the current location of the stockyards.
The sheer numbers of animals that have moved through this area is amazing. In 1944, over 5 million head of livestock made it through this area, where as only 50,000 went through after 1986 annually.
These days, you only have to be worried about being run over by cattle two times a day, and most of the fun comes from inside the rodeo arena, but there is something for everyone here now.
Antique shopping, gifts and post cards, good dining, and of course the western activities such as mechanical bull riding, calf roping, and other things. Enjoy your time in the historical area!
This Bull Ring -has a wooden picnic table on the sidewalk. It is a Restored old Saloon next door to White Elephant Saloon has one of the most extensive collections of early 1900s Texas art on the walls. Open on Mon. when other Museums are closed this Bull Ring is also a Starbucks so get your special Latte there.
This building when as a Saloon in the 1950s was the place of one of the last murders in the modern Stockyards when a couple men go into a fignt in the basement over a shffle board game.
If you love good Strawberry Ice Cream, they have a special brand available only at hotels and restaurants which is the "Best Strawberry Ice cream in Texas".
Be Sure to Check this place out-it is one of the best kept secrets in the Stockyards!