Fort Worth once was a rough-and-tumble frontier town, dusty and lawless, home to the brave and the brawling, the soldier, the frontiersman, the outlaw. Today, Fort Worth is the one of the largest cities in Texas and the 16th-largest city in the United States. It’s a destination shaped by a commitment to its downtown revitalization and urban renewal, a dedication to its world-renowned cultural arts district, rich pride in its Western heritage and a loyalty to major-league attractions.
A visit to Fort Worth is not complete without seeing the famed Stockyards National Historic District. It looks much the same today as it did 100 years ago. In fact, the entire 15-block area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Catch the Fort Worth Herd, the world’s only daily cattle drive, on its twice-daily trip down Exchange Avenue. The authentically restored Grapevine Vintage Railroad carries visitors into Stockyards Station, the former hog-and-sheep pens turned shopping-entertainment-and-dining marketplace. Rodeo action and Wild West shows take place year-round in the Cowtown Coliseum, built in 1918 and home of the world’s original indoor rodeo. The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, located in the Stockyards’ original mule barns, features the Sterquell Wagon Collection with more than 60 authentic lifestyle wagons and honors the top cowboys and cowgirls in Texas.
“Texas-sized” takes on a whole new meaning at Billy Bob’s Texas – world’s largest honky-tonk. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011, this must-see, named “Club of the Year” an amazing 12 times, can hold up to 6,000 people and plays host to country music’s top performers. Live bull riding at Billy Bob’s indoor arena thrills visitors each weekend with an up-close perspective on rodeo’s wildest event. Nearby, the White Elephant Saloon is an authentic Western watering hole offering country-and-western music nightly. The entire historic district is recognized as much for family entertainment and shopping as for saloons and boot-scootin’.
Downtown Fort Worth is a success story few cities can boast. Glittering skyscrapers form a ring around Sundance Square, Fort Worth’s heralded shopping and entertainment district that is now restored to its original Victorian beauty, filled with restaurants, theaters, shops, museums and galleries, and hotels and residences. This 35-block area also is the site of the $67-million Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall, which opened in May 1998. Called the “last great performance hall built in the 20th century,” it is the permanent home for the city’s professional symphony, opera and ballet companies, as well as the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and productions of Casa Mañana Theatre. It is noted as “One of the World’s Top 10 Opera Houses” by Travel + Leisure magazine, one of only three named in the United States. Also located in Sundance Square is the Sid Richardson Museum, which showcases a large collection of paintings and bronzes by American West artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell.
Sundance Square has emerged as a national model of urban revitalization. By day, it is a dynamic business district and by night, a broad array of entertainment options abound. Nestled inside this premier district is the newly developed and aptly named Sundance Square Plaza. The 55,000-square-foot plaza features a permanent stage for concerts and movies; stunning water features; four 32-foot tall Teflon umbrellas, the first of their kind in the United States; three new restaurants; a high-end cigar bar; shopping and much more.
The Fort Worth Water Gardens and the Fort Worth Convention Center, which recently underwent a $75-million expansion, occupy what was once Hell’s Half Acre, a brothel- and saloon-packed district where cowhands had their last bit of fun before heading out on the Chisholm Trail. Fort Worth and its renewed convention center now attract professional meetings and tradeshows from around the world and host thousands of convention-related visitors annually. Fort Worth’s new convention center headquarter hotel, the Omni Fort Worth Hotel features 614 rooms and 68,000 square feet of meeting space and adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center. The Omni Fort Worth Hotel joins more than 2,000 beautiful hotel rooms in downtown and more than 12,000 rooms citywide.
“America’s Best Small Museum,” the Kimbell Art Museum, opened its newest addition, the Renzo Piano Pavilion, on November 27, 2013. Located across the lawn from the museum’s original home – a modernist icon designed by Louis Kahn – the distance between the two buildings was quoted as “close enough for a conversation, not too close and not too far away” by architect Renzo Piano. The $125 million pavilion houses classrooms and studios essential to a full-scale museum education department; a larger auditorium; an expanded library; and generous underground parking for patrons. On the horizon in downtown is an ambitious $400 million-plus Trinity River Vision project that will bring a complete transformation to 88 miles of the Trinity River, which runs through downtown Fort Worth. The plan calls for a lively waterfront area to include a town lake and a host of recreational activities, as well as business, retail and residential development. Quickly becoming one of the most bike-friendly cities in the United States, Fort Worth launched the first bike sharing system, Fort Worth Bike Share, in North Texas in April 2013. The system features 300 specially designed Trek bicycles available for checkout from 30 docking stations located throughout downtown and Sundance Square, Near Southside District, TCU/University District and the Cultural District.
The Fort Worth Zoo, ranked as a top five zoo in the nation, is known worldwide for its collection and natural habitat exhibits that replicate animals’ homes in the wild. The popular Texas Wild! exhibit, a major addition to the Zoo that showcases the diversity of Texas wildlife and terrain, is set on eight acres and features 200 native animals and a replica of an 1890s Texas town. In 2010 the Fort Worth Zoo opened the most elite herpetarium in the nation, where the “art” slithers, hisses and chirps, known as the Museum of Living Art (MOLA).
Major-league auto racing has captivated Fort Worth with Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) the second-largest sports and entertainment facility in the country. Throughout the year, the superspeedway plays host to NASCAR and IRL IndyCar races, plus other major forms of American auto racing. The 1.5-mile oval track is set within a stadium that accommodates more than 200,000 fans. Come April 2014, fans will receive an up-close-and-personal view from any seat in the house as TMS reveals the world’s largest high-definition video board nicknamed Big Hoss. The board is 79 percent larger than the Dallas Cowboys screen at AT&T Stadium.
The Texas Civil War Museum in northwest Fort Worth is rich in artifacts with more than 3,000 pieces and 70 flags. It is the largest Civil War museum west of the Mississippi River. If you want to see how Texans make billions, visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Currency Facility, one of only two U.S. locations that print paper currency.
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