14 Top Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Fort Worth
In North Central Texas and considered the gateway to the historical American West, Fort Worth grew out of a military post established in 1849 and rapidly developed into a leading cattle-ranching center (hence its nickname, Cowtown). Just 32 miles west of Dallas, Fort Worth has held its own in terms of development and importance despite its proximity to its larger relative, and is home to numerous excellent art galleries and museums, some of which celebrate the city's past as a cattle town, while others host important art collections from around the globe. Fort Worth has, over the years, also become something of an entertainment mecca, boasting numerous excellent concert and event venues, such as the Cowtown Coliseum (home to a weekly rodeo), and superb theaters including the exquisite Bass Performance Hall. Shoppers and diners aren't forgotten either, with Sundance Square, a massive 35-block residential, entertainment, and retail district.
See also: Where to Stay 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 US - these once saw millions of cattle pass through. Today, the area has been transformed into one of Fort Worth's biggest tourist attractions and takes visitors back to the days of the great cattle round-ups with all kinds of entertainment and fun things to see and do, from rodeos to live music shows, museums, and western-themed shopping. Some of the old cattle driving traditions live on, and volunteers can still be seen demonstrating the art, while for those wanting to try their hand at being a cowboy or cowgirl, a number of fun horse treks are available. Start your adventure at the Stockyards Visitor Center or the Stockyards Museum in the Livestock Exchange Building.
Address: 500 NE 23rd Street, Fort Worth
2 The Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall
Widely regarded as one of the best and most important theaters in Texas (if not the US), the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall - usually simply referred to as the Bass Performance Hall - opened in 1998 and is well worth a visit. Built in a distinctly European style, this majestic limestone opera house in Fort Worth's Sundance Square district was named after the donors who largely financed its construction, and has since become the city's most iconic structure. In addition to the two 45-foot-tall sculpted angels adorning its exterior, the building is crowned by a dome measuring 80 feet in diameter and also boasts a sumptuous interior with many fine artworks. If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with one of the theater's regular performances, whether it be classical, operatic, or pop music, a ballet or drama production.
Address: 525 Commerce Street, Fort Worth
3 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.
Address: 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth
4 Editor's Pick 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, it's home to 2,500 species of plants laid out in 23 unique gardens, with highlights including the Fragrance Garden; the Japanese Garden with its many quaint paths, ponds, and bridges; the Rose Garden; and the Conservatory. The center is also involved in interesting programs and projects such as the Begonia Species Bank, a living collection of begonias designed to help maintain the species. Other fun things to do include adult educational programs, kids' workshops, and dining at the on-site restaurant's patio overlooking the gardens.
Address: 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth
5 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 chock-a-block full of fun. 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 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," as well as theaters such as the Bass Performance Hall and the Circle Theater with 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.
Address: 201 Main Street #700, Fort Worth
6 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 large-scale facility with thousands of creatures from around the world. After major upgrades in the early 1990s, the zoo opened a number of new exhibits that have since raised its status to one of the city's major attractions, as well as being ranked among the top 10 zoos in the US. In addition to its diverse range of animals - it's home to everything from penguins to raptors, cheetahs to meerkats, and numerous indigenous species -other attractions include a carousel, rock climbing, the miniature Yellow Rose Express Train, a petting zoo, and a 40-foot-long statue of an iguana nicknamed Iggy.
Address: 1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth
7 Kimbell Art Museum
The Kimbell Art Museum is an architectural delight housing an important art collection. 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 examples from Europe, Asia, and Africa, along with regularly changing and traveling exhibits. The Kimbell also offers a number of programs designed to educate, along with an on-site restaurant.
Address: 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth
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 focus of the collection is on pieces showing the action, drama, and scenes of daily life in the historical west, including many fine examples by lesser-known artists. Highlights of a visit to this free museum are fun educational programs and themed guided tours.
Address: 309 Main Street, Fort Worth
9 Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
The focus of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is on post-WWII art, the basis of which is 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 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.
Address: 3200 Darnell Street, Fort Worth
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, a 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 important rodeo cowgirls, along with information concerning the everyday women who lived and toiled here. Equally important is the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, focusing on the men and women of the rodeo circuit, and the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, highlighting the contributions of other groups to the building of the west, including those of Hispanic, European, African, and Native American descent.
Address: 1720 Gendy Street, Fort Worth
11 The Vintage Flying Museum and Fort Worth Aviation Museum
Fans of flying machines have much to get excited about when visiting Fort Worth. First stop should be the Vintage Flying Museum at Meacham International Airport, a superb collection of vintage aircraft offering a chance to fly aboard a historic WWII-era DC3, as well as seeing up close iconic aircraft such as a B-29 Superfortress. Also worth seeing is the Fort Worth Aviation Museum, home to a vast collection of US made aircraft, and the American Airlines CR Smith Museum with its displays and artifacts relating to the history of one of the country's largest airlines.
Address: 505 NW 38th Street # 33S, Fort Worth
12 Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
Opened in 1945, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History features many excellent hands-on educational exhibits related to science and energy. Really five museum collections under a single (large) roof, highlights include the Fort Worth Children's Museum, a place for kids under eight to play and learn, and the DinoLabs and DinoDig exhibit portraying the story of dinosaurs in the state, complete with a replica of a dig site. Of particular interest is the Cattle Raisers Museum dedicated to the importance of the cattle industry. Be sure to take in a show at the on-site planetarium and IMAX theater.
Address: 1600 Gendy Street, Fort Worth
13 Log Cabin Village
Fort Worth's Log Cabin Village is a fascinating living history museum featuring a number of original 1800s buildings salvaged and moved to this location from across the state. Furnished with authentic artifacts and each fashioned in a unique theme, these fine old buildings include a water-powered gristmill, a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and several old log homes. The effect is enhanced by costumed interpreters re-enacting the lifestyle of Texans from this important period, and fun interactive events in which visitors can participate, such as planting, enjoying games and activities, and listening to live entertainment.
Address: 2100 Log Cabin Village Lane, Fort Worth
14 Eddleman McFarland House
One of the most notable older buildings in Fort Worth is the lovely Victorian style home built in 1899 for one of the "cattle baron families", as the richest of those in the business were dubbed. Idyllically located on Quality Hill overlooking the Trinity River, this fine old house is now owned by Historic Fort Worth Inc. and can be toured with advance notice. Another important old property owned by the same group is majestic Thistle Hill, built in 1904 and included on the National Register for Historic Places (it too can be toured).
Address: 1110 Penn Street, Fort Worth
Where to Stay in Fort Worth for Sightseeing
The best place to stay in Fort Worth is right downtown, where the city has done a great job of restoring its historical architecture. A lively entertainment scene revolves around the Sundance Square area, while the art galleries, museums, and gardens are two to three miles to the west, near Trinity Park. The cute Molly the Trolley offers free rides on a set route in the downtown area. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: The sleek and modern Omni Hotel, offering first class service and amenities, is in the southern part of downtown, across the street from the Fort Worth Convention Center and the Fort Worth Water Gardens. Housed in a building on the National Register of Historic Places, The Ashton Hotel is a boutique establishment, just steps from lively Sundance Square. The Hilton is a Fort Worth landmark hotel, built in 1920, and the place where President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy stayed the night before he was assassinated in Dallas.
- Mid-Range Hotels: At the top-end of the mid-range bracket is the Embassy Suites, with large rooms and a great location in the Sundance Square area. Molly the Trolley stops right outside the hotel's front door. Also in a good location and offering a free five-mile shuttle is the TownePlace Suites. The Holiday Inn Express, on the west side of downtown, is just a five-minute drive or pleasant walk through Trinity Park to a number of museums and also offers a free shuttle service.
- Budget Hotels: The best budget hotels tend to be about a 10-minute drive outside the downtown core. The brand new La Quinta Inn & Suites Fort Worth Eastchase is perfect for sports fans, with the AT&T Stadium just over three miles away. The Best Western is west of the city center and is surrounded by a selection of restaurants. North of the city, the Comfort Inn offers large rooms and good value. All of these hotels have outdoor pools.
Day Trips from Fort Worth
There's no end of fun places to explore within an easy drive of downtown Fort Worth. For those wondering what the city might have been like in its early days, a visit to Granbury, 38 miles southwest of Fort Worth, will give you an idea. On Lake Granbury, this pleasant old community features a historic town square with several of the older buildings fully restored, including the Opera House (built in 1886), the jail, and courthouse. The small town of Glen Rose, originally a trading post established in 1849, is also a fun day trip. Many historic buildings still stand, including the Barnard Mill and Art Museum, built in 1860 and now home to an art museum which displays paintings, sculptures, and other art works.