The Fort Worth Stockyards offers a rare glimpse into the Wild West circa 1880. Old railroad tracks are everywhere, brick roads are not uncommon (but thankfully much easier to navigate than those of Boston’s Beacon Hill), and the spirit of old Texas is alive and well. There’s a sense of local pride in the stockyards, probably because they are still used today for their original purpose back in 1866. Fort Worth became known as Cowtown in the mid to late 1800s. It was the last town cattle were brought through before hitting the railroads for transportation. Later, meatpacking facilities moved to the Fort Worth area with the expansion of the railroad and a space for selling cattle was created. The business nearly died with the railroads but the city has created an organization to preserve the history of the Stockyards. This has created a unique and immersive experience into the world of Fort Worth during the height of its success. While I don’t make it a point to visit the Stockyards every visit to Texas, it’s a fun day or afternoon trip if you haven’t been before. To inspire a visit to the Stockyards, I’ve put together a day's worth of recommendations.
Get the day started at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and Stockyards Museum. They’re a great way to pass the morning and give you all the background you need to properly appreciate the history of the Stockyards. The Stockyards Museum shares the complete history of the Fort Worth Stockyards from their origin to being the Wall Street of the West to the ultimate collapse of business through today. It’s a great way to start your visit to the Stockyards because it offers a background to why this place existed, what it’s importance was, and why the people feel it needs to be remembered. Admission is only $2 and it’s a nice escape from the heat in warmer months so what is there to lose?! The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame honors individuals who embody the western lifestyle in Texas and excelled either within the sport or business of rodeo...or even both. A few of the more famous inductees (some of which are a bit surprising) include Tommy Lee Jones, George Strait, Ty Murray, Willie Nelson, and more. See memorabilia from each inductee while walking through a building that was originally built for housing horses and mules. Much of what you’ll see is original architecture from a rebuild after a fire in 1911.
Once you’ve gotten your fair share of history and memorabilia, head to Cattle Drive for the twice daily cattle herd. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a longhorn. It’s what the Stockyards are known for and considering there are two chances each day to witness the cattle parade, it’s silly to miss it. Once the cattle have moved through, explore the Stockyard Station, which is essentially the body of the Stockyards. Train tracks flow through the center of the space which is home to many restaurants, shops, and more. Grab a bite to eat at Riscky’s BBQ, one of my personal favorite barbecue joins in Texas. Browse knick knacks and old-time goodies at the Longhorn General Store or grab some rare candy finds at Candy Barrel. Bring home your very own cowboy/girl wear at one of the several Western clothing stores. Just be prepared to spend a pretty penny if you’re looking to go home with a pair of boots. And my favorite...browse around the specialty and artisan food shops like The Spice & Tea Exchange.
After exploring the Stockyards Station, head to the ticketing station for a one-hour train ride touring the historic Cotton Belt. The Trinity River One-Hour Train Excursion starts in the Stockyards, rides along the Cotton Belt Route for 30 minutes before heading back to the Stockyards. It’s a great opportunity to see the Texas sights and also rest your feet for a bit. It’s one of the many vintage train routes available in the Fort Worth area, including a wine train. The schedules vary based on the seasons, if there’s a theme (like Halloween and Christmas), and weather but if you have a chance to take one of these trains, it’s a great experience and beautiful scenery. Plus, the old-style vintage cars can’t be beat. They’re one of a kind!
Finally, once you’ve arrived back from your vintage train adventure, head over to Joe T. Garcia’s for a delicious fajita dinner. Known for their expansive outdoor patio, you go to Joe T’s for the patio experience. Founded in 1935 by the Garcia family, the restaurant has continued its tradition of a simple but incredible dinner featuring homemade fajitas or enchiladas and fresh made chips with salsa and guacamole. And let me say...the chips are worth a visit alone. The food is great but the ambiance and the patio are even better. It’s one of my favorite places to visit every time I’m in Texas. It’s even more perfect this time of year when the weather is cooler. Wrap up in your favorite cozy sweater and enjoy a plate of fajitas near a bonfire or under one of their heat lamps as the sun sets. It’s a wonderful end to a busy day.