ON THE ROAD AGAIN: FORT WORTH

Most cities would be insulted if they were referred to as “cow towns,” but not Fort Worth, which sees the term as a badge of honor for striving to maintain the image of the Old West, and for celebrating the lifestyle of that sadly fading American icon, the cowboy.

When visiting Fort Worth it is imperative to start with the Stockyard District, which has remained relatively untouched since the late 19th century. The Livestock Exchange Building is where cattle are still auctioned off but in a concession to modern times, the livestock is shown on closed circuit high definition television screens instead of physically at the stockyards adjacent to the building. There are some bulls and cows here but they are there for strictly tourism purposes.

Every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. there is a ceremonial cattle drive down East Exchange Street. A rodeo every weekend at the Cowtown Coliseum boasts the best bull riders, horseback riders and calf ropers, who compete for prize money. The Cowtown Coliseum opened in 1908 and was one of the first venues in which Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly performed.

Located behind the Cowtown Coliseum is Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest honky tonk bar, where line dancing is still an art form and the best country music is routinely performed. For the record there is no mechanical bull here. Billy Bob’s should not be confused with the defunct Pasadena, Texas nightclub, Gilley’s, which was the setting for URBAN COWBOY.

Fort Worth also has cultural institutions that are the envy of many metropolises, ones that pride themselves on sophistication. Fort Worth’s Cultural District has numerous museums and many of them are free to the public. The Kimbell Art Museum contains works European masters, El Greco, Gaugin, Cezanne, Rembrandt and Picasso, as well as ancient African and Asian art. The Anon Carter Museum, designed by famous New York architect Philip Johnson, reflects Fort Worth’s western heritage and houses sculptures by Frederic Remington and paintings by Charles Russell and Georgia O’Keeffe. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is renowned for its collection of modern photography and showcases some of Andy Warhol’s last paintings.

Leaving the art world, the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History, has an extensive collection of dinosaur bones and other fossils native to the Lone Star State. The newest museum in the Cultural District is the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to those who helped settle the west including Annie Oakley, Dale Evans, Patsy Cline, current rodeo stars, and entertainment personalities who promoted the western lifestyle. Its male counterpart, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, is located in the Stockyards District. Among those enshrined here are former Dallas Cowboys running back and rancher Walt Garrison, bull riders Ty Murray and Lane Frost, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and singer/rancher George Strait whose early hits included “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?”

The Fort Worth Zoo is deservedly rated right up there with the San Diego, Bronx and Washington National zoos, thanks to its large collection of primates, rhinos, koala bears and big cats such as the endangered Texas jaguar. The zoo covers many acres and has long winding paths between exhibits, so make sure to wear a comfortable pair of sneakers.

Similar to what is currently going on in Long Island City, and what has already occurred in Tribeca and SoHo, many old factory buildings in downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square section are being converted into high-rise apartment buildings, artists’ lofts and retail stores. Yes, the name Sundance is a reference to the Sundance Kid, whose partner-in-crime was Butch Cassidy. The bank robbers, who were immortalized on screen by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, made Fort Worth their home. In downtown Fort Worth you can catch the Trinity Railroad, which takes you to Dallas, some thirty miles to the east, for the reasonable price of $3.50 one way.

Baseball fans can watch the Texas Rangers play in beautiful Ameriquest Field, located in the town of Arlington, which borders Fort Worth to the east. The ballpark is eleven years old but still looks new. If the new home for the Mets is anywhere nearly as nice as this fans will be delighted. In Fort Worth itself, the independent league Fort Worth Cats play at LaGrave Field. Longtime baseball aficionados may remember when the Fort Worth Cats were the Texas League affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers and such Hall of Famers as Duke Snider and Don Drysdale played at LaGrave Field, although it has been refurbished over the years. Fort Worth has plenty of lodging across the price spectrum.

For more information:

Fort Worth Visitors Bureau
Telephone: 800-433-5747
www.fortworth.com