Pros: Wild West heritage, the Stockyards, relatively vibrant and safe downtown, Fort Worth cultural district.
Cons: Not a top tourist destination
I’ve lived and worked in Dallas Fort Worth area for more than a Decade, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in the United States. I lived most of my life in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. During this time I’ve visited many places inFort Worth, with the kids, my wife, and with overseas visitors. I think I have feeling for what people from outside of the Dallas Fort Worth area may like. In this review I am making a recommendation forFort Worth, and I am comparingFort Worthand Dallas from a visitor/tourist perspective, and I am stating my top-ten list with respect to tourist attractions in the city of Fort Worth(not the Dallas Fort Worth area). I should say that the list in geared towards people with kids and far away visitors. Locals may or may not agree.
Dallas versus Fort Worth
The Dallas Fort Worth area, or the Metroplex, is a fairly large urban area with about six and a half million people. The largest cities in the Metroplex areDallaswith 1.2 million people (city proper) andFort Worthwith about 0.75 million people (city proper). Dallas is located in the East end of the Metroplex and Fort Worth is located in West end of the Metroplex, and between and around them are several dozen cities including; Arlington, Plano, Irving, Richardson, Garland, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Carollton, Allen, Coppell, Addison, Lewisville, Garland, White Settlement, Keller, and many more. It is likeTexas’ own “Ruhrarea”.
The Dallas Fort Worth area is not really a great area for tourists. However, there are some things to see. Historically (and currently)Dallasand Fort Worth has been in competition in various ways. I am going to make a quick comparison between the cities.
The Dallas Arts district features one large prominent art museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center(we were there yesterday), the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, and a few smaller museums and theaters, as well as several upscale restaurants. The Dallas Museum of Art, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, and the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, are spectacular and beautiful buildings. In fact the Dallas Arts district is large and beautiful and may be the best thatDallashas to offer. In additionDallashas several museums in theFairParkarea and another performance hall. There is also the Sixth Floor Museum commemorating the assassination of John F Kennedy downtown Dallas.
The Fort Worth Cultural District is also quite impressive in the sense that it has many museums, in fact significantly more museums than the Dallas Arts district, as well as livestock shows and entertainment centers. However, the cultural center only has one performance hall and there are not many great restaurants in the Fort Worth Cultural District. On the other hand parking is cheaper and much easier to find in the Fort Worth Cultural District compared to Dallas Arts district. I should also add that Fort Worthhas a nice performance hall downtownFort Worth, the Bass Performance Hall.
Adding this up means thatDallashas slightly more impressive performance halls and museums and a nicer arts district thanFort Worth. Therefore I declare Dallas the winner in the Arts & Museums category.
The Fort Worth Zoo and the Dallas Zoo are comparable in size and number of species. However, Fort Worth Zoo is nicer, more fun, and it is easier to get a good view of the animals at the Fort Worth Zoo. At the Fort Worth Zoo you look down, or into, the big animals residing in spacious habitats, whereas at the Dallas Zoo they often have cages and buildings where the often hide. When the weather is bad or too hot you may not see much more than squirrels.
Therefore I declare Fort Worth the winner in the Zoo category.
Naturally there are other tourist attractions to consider. Dallas has the West End historical district, but it is not that impressive and does not compare to the Stockyards in Fort Worth. On the other hand Dallas has a pretty good Aquarium and an indoor Zoo (Dallas World Aquarium) as well as the Reunion Tower and the American Airlines Center.
The big tourist attraction in Fort Worth, however, is the stockyards. The Stockyards is an old historical district, which truly makes Fort Worthin to the Cowboy capital of the World. It features 19thcentury buildings, shops, interesting restaurants, museums, and a year around rodeo show at the Cowtown coliseum, stock shows, daily herding of cattle herd through town, a market, a vintage railroad, and various other entertainments. Fort Worth also has a botanic garden and the famous Water Gardens.
I feel thatFort Worthfeatures more impressive special tourist attractions and therefore I declareFort Worththe winner in the Special Attractions category.
Downtown Dallas is bigger than downtown Fort Worth but it is fairly dead and mostly closed after 9PM, and not very safe. There are entertainment areas in Dallas but they are spread out, and some of them, like Deep Ellum, are run down weird areas. Quite frankly for a city of the size of Dallas, Dallas is Dead Boring.
Fort Worthon the other hand has a smaller but a vibrant downtown area that seems to stay open all night, as well as theSundance Square.
So with respect to downtown areas and night life I think thatFort Worthcomes out slightly as the winner again.
So in the end I have to say that from a tourist attraction stand point I think thatFort Worthcomes out as the winner and that is despite me living inDallas.
My Top Ten List for Fort Worth
Below I am listing ten tourist attractions in Fort Worth, which I think are great, and perhaps the top ten. Again I am judging this from the perspective of a far away out towns perspective and from a family perspective. The list below is not ranked. Instead I grouped together tourist attractions that sort of belong together.
As mentioned the Stockyards in Fort Worth is a historical district inFort Worthand probably Fort Worth’s number one tourist attraction. You can come here for rodeo shows, for shopping at the big market (the Stockyards Station), watch Cattle Herding, you can ride a horse or a horse cart, or a mechanical bull. There are some really great steak houses here, as well as some great Tex-Mex restaurants, and Wild West restaurants serving rattle snake, rabbit and Wapiti, etc. There are museums reminding us about the Wild West epoch as well as the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame and more.
The Stockyards Championship Rodeo
I have separated out a few special attractions located in the Stockyards including this one. The Stockyards Championship Rodeo is a fun rodeo that is open year around on Fridays and Saturdays. There is bull riding, horse back competitions, bareback riding, roping and tie die roping, and more. Both Cowboys and Cowgirls compete. There is also fun stuff for the kids in the intermissions. Younger kids get to chase after a sheep so that they can grab a flag attached to the sheep and kids around 12-years old can do the same thing with a calf. Whoever gets the flag is the winner. Any kid is allowed to participate.
TheStockyardsMuseumis open daily from 10AM to 5PM. It is free but a $2.00 donation per adult is suggested. The Stockyards museum feature a lot of 19th century artifacts, and early 20th century artifacts, for example, steam locomotives, garments, horse carts, vintage cars, cattle herding equipment, etc.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
The Grapevine Vintage Railroad operates old-time passenger trains including an 1896 steam powered train and sometimes a diesel engine from 1920. The train travels on 21 mile track between the Stockyards station inFort Worthand Grapevine. This is fun ride to take for both children and adults. I should point out that this is not a children’s train or an amusement park train like they have atMagicKingdomat Disney World, but a real historical experience.
The Fort Worth Zoo
The kids loved visiting the Fort Worth Zoo when they were younger. The Fort Worth Zoo has an interesting and substantial collection of animals (435 species), including, 72 mammals, 141 bird species, and 135 reptile species. Fort Worth Zoo is the only zoo in the nation sporting all of the Great Ape species, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, and chimpanzees. The Fort Worth Zoo also has three rhino species; black, white, and one horned Asian rhinos. I could go on, but it is pretty interesting.
However, the best part of the Zoo is probably the intelligent and simple layout and the spacious but easily viewable animal habitats. The Fort Worth Zoo also has a large area with 19th century buildings featuring kids play areas and shops.
Fort Worth Cultural District
Fort Worth Cultural District is an area inFort Worth featuring several museums, a performance hall, the Woodall Rogers entertainment center, live stock shows, as well as the National Cowgirl Museuma nd Hall of Fame. The museums include the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Parking in the area is $3.00 a day or $5.00 a day, or free, and except for the free parking areas always available. Fort Worth Cultural District is a pretty impressive and convenient cultural district in my opinion, even though it is not as impressive as the Dallas Arts District.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History was recently rebuilt and expanded and the end result is pretty modern and nice. It features various kinds of exhibits related to science, technology, natural history (lots of dinosaurs), history, as well as a children’s museum, and it has an IMAX theater and a planetarium. It also hosts traveling exhibits and additional museums like the Cattle Raisers Museum. The architecture is modern and beautiful and eco-friendly. I have to say that it beats Dallas’ museum of Natureand Science. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is located inFort Worth cultural district.
Kimbell Art Museum
TheKimbellArt Museumis a small but prominent art museum located in the cultural district inFort Worth,Texas. Despite being a small museum it features excellent art work including pieces from many famous artists. The museum features the only painting by Michelangelo in the Americas. Other artists on display are Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Mantegna, Cézanne, Poussin, Velázquez, Bernini and many more. The museum also features ancient art from Egypt, Rome, Assyria, and Greece, as well as Mayan and Aztec art. Basically this museum focuses on quality over quantity and it is also expanding.
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
The NationalCowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is a small but fun museum. The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame reside inside a 19th century looking building inFort Worth’s cultural district right across from the junior stockyards and next to Fort Worth Museum of Science and Natural History. The Exhibits include 5,000 artifacts and 6,000 photographs, movies, and posters, and hall of fame featuring 200 women. The museum details the life of Cowgirls including Wild West legends, famous rancher girls, rodeo competitors, and Wild West show performers. One famous rancher girl on special display right now is Sandra Day O’Connor.
Downtown Fort Worth
As mentioned down town Fort Worth is vibrant and seems to stay open all night. There are jazz clubs, piano bars, night clubs, restaurants, etc. The Sundance Square features the Bass Performance Hall (opera, symphony, and theater) as well as bars, restaurants, and clubs. The area is fairly safe and not eccentric or weird. There are also nice parks and buildings to see.
BasicallyFort Worthmay not be a major tourist city like New York, Las Vegas, or San Francisco. However, for a regular below one million inhabitants sized city it corresponds to a pretty good tourist attraction. It is nick named Cowtown and is probably the most prominent city with respect to our Wild West heritage. From a tourist perspective I think it beatsDallasand I have listed ten great tourist attractions. I hope the list will be helpful. If you come to the Dallas Fort Worth area I recommend a visit to some of the attractions inFort Worth, at least the Stockyards.