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Texas is one of those states that people have preconceived ideas of before they visit. Whether those ideas are derived from old western movies set in Texas or from the many country music songs that mention the Lone Star State, Texas – perhaps more than any other place in the USA – has a cowboy reputation. While Texas isn’t entirely synonymous with ranching and cowboys, there are still certainly parts of the state where you can experience that unique culture. And you don’t have to drive all the way out to West Texas to experience it either. In fact, in the heart of one of the state’s largest cities, you’ll find an area that proudly showcases its wrangler roots: the Fort Worth Stockyards. There are lots of great things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards that are fun for adults and kids alike who want to embrace cowboy heritage, even if just for a day.
This guide to the best things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards includes information about the historical district in Texas and ten fun Fort Worth experiences to have while you’re there.
About the Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards is a National Historic District located just north of downtown Fort Worth. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its significance as a stop along the Chisholm Trail. Between 1866 and 1890, Fort Worth was known as the final stop for cowhands called “drovers” who were driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail from south Texas to Kansas. In that span of time more than four million head of cattle were driven through Fort Worth, giving it the nickname “Cowtown”. Fort Worth is still affectionately called “Cowtown” by many of its residents.
Eventually investors realized they could start up meat-packing plants in Fort Worth rather than shipping off the cattle to Kansas to be processed, and thus Fort Worth became a thriving city – thanks almost entirely to its cowboy roots.
The area of Fort Worth known as the Stockyards has a lot of preserved charm, from the brick streets to the old west architecture. But the major tourist draw to the stockyards is the livestock. You can walk through the stables anytime during the day and view longhorns, horses, and even reindeer for free. They offer guided tours, as well, if you want to learn more about each animal, it’s purpose, and the history of the stockyards. For a small fee, you can even take your photo on a real longhorn.
The best things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards are great to visit, especially for those who did not grow up anywhere near Texas. It is a way to experience the cowboy way of life both as it is today and how it was in the past. Located just north of downtown Fort Worth’s modern Sundance Square, the Stockyards offers guests an authentic cowboy experience in Texas. Its a good place to spend a few hours exploring and taking in all the best things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Watch the only twice-daily cattle drive in the world
Watching the cattle drive in the Fort Worth Stockyards is one of the best things to do in Texas! Twice a day (at 11:30am and 4pm) cowboys in early 20th century attire conduct a cattle drive down the brick-laden East Exchange Avenue, which is the main street in the stockyards. Tourists and locals alike will line the street on each side to watch the longhorns herded through the street. There is no charge to watch the Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive, which lasts about 15 minutes from start to end. The Fort Worth Stockyards is the only place in the world where you can still witness a twice-daily cattle drive.
Go through the Cattle Pen Maze
There are so many great things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards for kids, and the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze is just one of them! The wooden labyrinth is a blast for kids and adults alike to navigate through. Spanning 5,400 square feet, this maze is open everyday from 10am to 6pm.
There is also an observation deck above the maze. This is a great place for parents to watch their kids as they make their way through the maze or get a sneak peek of the challenge before you attempt it.
Other fun things to do for kids at the Fort Worth Stockyards include a petting zoo and pony rides.
Tour the Fort Worth Stockyards Museum
At the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards is the Cowtown Coliseum and the adjacent Livestock Exchange Building, which is now home to the Stockyards Museum. Inside the Stockyards Museum you can learn about Fort Worth’s history, how the stockyards came to be, and the beginning of the cattle and ranching industry in Texas.
The museum offers a unique history lesson on the old Chisholm Trail and how it helped shape Fort Worth as a city during the western expansion across the United States.
Price: $2.00 per adult
On Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 8pm, you can also catch a rodeo inside the Cowtown Coliseum.
Take a ride on a vintage train
Stockyards Station, the original railroad station built in the stockyards to transport cattle, is now the hub of tourist activity in the historic district. Nowadays, Stockyards Station has a variety of shops and restaurants.
The Stockyards Trinity River Excursion, operated by the Grapevine Vintage Railroad starts and ends at the Fort Worth Stockyards. The rail tour takes place each weekend and lasts about 45 minutes. It is a perfect way for families to relax and take a short break during the peak heat of the day. While about the vintage train ride, you’ll experience the Great Train Heist. Those aboard can help railroad detective solve the mystery of who robbed the train, in an interactive and entertaining dramatization.
Price: $10-12 depending on age
Meet the Fort Worth Herd
While cattle drives typical ended at slaughter house, the cattle that take part in the Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive are living their best life. Meaning these cows aren’t going to become anyone’s dinner.
Known as the Fort Worth Herd, the 17 Texas Longhorns that take part in the cattle drive each represent one decade from Fort Worth’s past. At the Stockyards, you can wander through the stables and meet the famous longhorns.
Try Texas cuisine at one of the great Fort Worth Stockyards Restaurants
A visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards wouldn’t be complete without sampling true Texas cuisine. Texas is known for its love of steak and potatoes, chicken fried steak and barbecue. You’ll find some of the best BBQ in Dallas and Fort Worth at the stockyards.
Riscky’s Steakhouse is a great place to sample these popular Texas staples. It is the oldest operating restaurant in Fort Worth, dating back to 1927. The food is great and the prices are surprisingly reasonable for being in the heart of a tourist area. There are about 14 restaurants and a dozen bars in the stockyards, so you’ll find a variety of options from casual to fine dining.
Visit the largest dance hall in Texas
Billy Bob’s is another experience worth having in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Billy Bob’s is the largest dance hall in Texas. Having lived in Fort Worth for the better part of my twenties, I spent many nights at Billy Bob’s watching some of my favorite country artists perform. Billy Bob’s often hosts large concerts and live bull-riding, as well.
It is a kid friendly ‘honky tonk’, although there are certain areas of the venue where children are prohibited. At Billy Bob’s you can learn to line dance or two step, watch cowboys ride a bucking bull, have a cold beer, and listen to some of the best names in country music perform… all of this under one roof.
Ride a Mechanical Bull
Try out your rodeo skills while marking an item off your Texas bucket list all at the same time. If you don’t mind an audience, you can take a ride on a kid-friendly mechanical bull. The mechanical bull in the Fort Worth Stockyards is located directly in front of Stockyards Station. The goal is to stay on the saddle while holding on with just one hand. The mechanical bull will buck and rotate, simulating an actual rodeo bull ride.
Since the speed and intensity is controlled and the landing area is an inflatable surface, this is a great activity for both kids and adults alike. And take it from this Texas native, it’s harder than it looks!
Price: $8.00 per ride
Shop for boots, a cowboy hat, and all things Texas!
Looking for a great Texas souvenir? The Fort Worth Stockyards is the perfect place to buy your cowboy-themed gifts or souvenirs. Try on a pair of boots or a cowboy hat or shop for other cowboy attire. For many, like myself who grew up in Texas, cowboy hats and boots are commonplace. But for those not from the area, a visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards is the perfect opportunity to try on the local attire and see how Texas looks on you!
Ride in an old-fashioned stagecoach
To get a feel for what it was like in Fort Worth in the late 1800s, you can take a ride back in time. Each weekend, you can catch a ride in an old-fashioned stagecoach or carriage. The horse-drawn carriages are as Texas as they get and have become somewhat iconic in Fort Worth.
Price: $15 per adult, $5 for kids 5-9 years old
Plan to stay the night in the Fort Worth Stockyards? Book your stay in a western-themed hotel.
Why you should add these Fort Worth Stockyards activities to your list
Texas is known world-wide. Some love it. Some hate it. But they all know it. And there are few places more “Texas” thank the Fort Worth Stockyards. This isn’t just a list of things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards, these are true Texas experiences, that will give you a better appreciation of the state, its history, and its unique cowboy culture.
Have a question or comment about what to do in the Fort Worth Stockyards? As a former local, I’d love to hear from you and help! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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This post on the top things to do at the Fort Worth Stockyards was originally published in April 2016, and was updated in July 2021 for accuracy and current information.