Everyone is wearing cowboy boots and Stetsons and drinking frozen margaritas down at the Stockyards National Historic District in Fort Worth, Texas.
Here, Texas bighorns sweep down the main street in a daily cattle drive that celebrates the region’s rich cattle ranching origins. But Fort Worth is so much more than cattle, cowboys and rodeo: filled with some of the country’s most acclaimed museums and art collections, and possessed of a sophisticated dining and entertainment scene, it’s equal parts frontier town and slick metropolis.
The horses’ hitching rails are long gone from outside the Stockyards Hotel but the antique interior of this historic lodging remains faithful to its early 20th century origins. Earplugs are provided on the nightstand as a remedy for a modern problem: traffic and late-night revellers coursing down E. Exchange Avenue. The Omni Fort Worth Hotel blends modern comforts (spa, rooftop pool, well-appointed suites) with a touch of the Wild West (fat steaks at Bob’s Steak & Chop House and live music and boot-shining at the Whiskey and Rye bar on Tuesdays). For a more elegant and intimate experience, check in to The Ashton Hotel, a boutique property housed in two heritage-listed buildings. Here you’ll experience classic Texas hospitality during hosted wine hours on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Eat your way through Fort Worth’s diverse culinary traditions, starting with a traditional Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles (eggs, corn tortillas, salsa verde and oodles of white cheese) at one of Esperanza’s two homely outlets. At lunchtime, find a seat at the open-air counter at Fred’s Texas Café, a rustic burger joint wallpapered in bright old road signs, neon lights and steers’ horns. Order a specialty burger (topped with melted Oaxaca cheese or chipotle sauce, stuffed with serrano or a vegetarian-friendly portobello mushroom and served with hand-cut fries). As the day winds down, head to Kent & Co, a slick concept store which incorporates a wine bar, specialty shop and drop-off car service centre. Against the backdrop of a new and classic car display, enjoy a Napa Valley wine or seasonal beer and a charcuterie board. For dinner, take a seat among the locals at Brewed, a restaurant styled as a living room and established with the goal of nurturing and nourishing the community. Diners can build their own plate with a choice of protein (flat-iron steak, Bay of Fundy salmon, bone-in chicken) and healthy sides like cauliflower mash, sweet potato fries and grilled broccolini.
Spend a day or two exploring Fort Worth’s Cultural District, a walkable, park-like precinct filled with galleries, gardens, trails, museums, outdoor sculptures, theatres and a planetarium. The Kimball Art Museum, a Louis Kahn-designed modernist structure with an addition by Renzo Piano, exhibits artworks by the masters, including Michelangelo’s first-known painting. If you haven’t time to peruse the extensive post-WWII collection at the Tadao Ando-designed Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, take a moment at least to step into its lobby and bathe briefly in the light that pours into this glass-steel-and-concrete structure. Discover the enthralling story of Annie Oakley (of Annie Get Your Gun fame) and other trailblazing Wild West women at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Shop for multicoloured cowboy boots at the stockyards, or south-western jewellery, art and clothing at Sundance Square, a downtown shopping precinct centred on historic buildings and red-bricked streets.
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