|This is why Fort Worth is nicknamed "Cowtown"|
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Heck no. That's why I spent the end of the year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area reconnecting with my old university and high school buddies. As a way to squeeze in some sightseeing, I suggested we do our catching up while strolling through the Forth Worth Stockyards. And to be honest, my kids don't do well sitting in a restaurant for hours and hours while mamma chats with her friends. Gotta keep them moving.
Some people have a stereotypical image of Texas where cattle walk through the streets while cowboys ride horses beside them. This is the place to go if you want to reinforce that picture.
|The Fort Worth Herd Longhorn Cattle Drive|
Definitely watch the Cattle DriveTwice a day, cowboys guide the Fort Worth Longhorn Herd on a cattle drive down the main thoroughfare. Hubby kept asking if this was the Running of the Bulls. Thank goodness it isn't because those horns have a mighty far reach. I wouldn't want even one of those guys coming after me. Actually, the cattle seemed rather well behaved and didn't need much redirection from the cowboys. There aren't that many of them, so it's all over in a few minutes unlike the olden days when huge herds would thunder past kicking up dust along the way.
|The Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame has exhibits spotlighting rodeo champs and other famous Texans like Nolan Ryan|
A Short History of CowtownRanchers don't get rich raising cattle. They get rich selling cattle. And the place where they would sell it was at the stockyards.
Forth Worth was nicknamed "Cowtown" soon after the Civil War when it was a the last major town where drovers could stop and restock supplies on their way herding cattle from South Texas northwards to the Chisholm Trail in Indian Territory. In 1876, the Texas & Pacific Railway arrived in Fort Worth, and within the next few years, cattle pens, stockyards and meat packing plants opened nearby. For decades, this was one of the biggest stockyards in America. Business started dwindling in the 1950s when ranchers turned to more convenient livestock auctions closer to home and switched to transporting the cattle via truck instead of rail. In 1976, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the focus of business turned to tourism.
|Visitors can view the longhorn steer between cattle drives in the pens behind the Livestock Exchange Building|
Wall Street of the WestThe Livestock Exchange Building, nicknamed the "Wall Street of the West," was built in 1902 to house the offices of all the businesses related to selling cattle and other livestock as well as the railroad and telegraph offices. Today, it's the home of the Stockyards Museum, although there are still some livestock auction companies operating in the building. The Fort Worth Longhorn Herd calls the pens behind the building their home, and a walkway above the cattle pens lets visitors observe the herd without accidentally stepping in any cowpies or run the risk of being pierced by a horn.
|At the Stockyards Stables, you can ride a stagecoach, carriage, or a plain ole horse|
Keep the Kids A-MazedThe kids favorite part of our excursion to the Stockyards was the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, a Texas-size human maze. Entry tickets are timestamped when each person enters the more than 5,400 feet of frequently changed wooden pathways that look remarkably like tight versions of the cattlepens down the street. My friend and I headed up to the observation platform to attempt to keep our eyes on the our kids as they raced around. Inside the maze are four stamps that people must collect before exiting. My teen son's winning methodical strategy of walking fast and always taking every right turn had him out at just over 4 minutes. The slower members of our group took about 22 minutes.
|He's only kind of lost in the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze|
There's a petting zoo next to it which we didn't have a chance to try as it was getting dark. However, we did have time to stop and watch the contestants on the mechanical bull. Everyone from little kids to adults were trying it out. It wasn't nearly as wild as I expected. I had pictured John Travolta-style in Urban Cowboy.
Time for ShoppingAs night began to fall, we decided to explore some shops. While there are plenty of choices up and down East Exchange Avenue, we opted for Stockyards Station across the street from the maze. It's a stop on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad and is filled with stores and restaurants. It's mostly touristy shops, but we did find what my kids called the "serious" section that had some supplies only real cattlemen would need like horse liniment. Of course, we couldn't resist trying out some of the leather saddles. There is also a candy store filled with barrels of bulk candy.
|Yee haw! Time to saddle up.|
Dinner at Joe T. Garcia'sWhen it was finally dinner time, my friend suggested Joe T. Garcia's, a long time Fort Worth institution which first opened in 1935 that serves traditional Tex-Mex fare. Even though the queue was so long that it extended out the door, our party of nine people was surprisingly seated almost immediately in a room that seemed to be reserved exclusively for large groups. Later, I found out that the restaurant has a capacity of 1000 diners. We dug into our chips and salsa, and I ordered a frozen margarita. The all-day menu was so simple it didn't require a printed sheet. Beef fajitas, chicken fajitas, or the family-style dinner with cheese nachos, cheese enchiladas, crispy beef tacos, rice, beans and guacamole.
After dinner, I considered dragging everyone over to Billy Bob's Texas, a honky tonk that doesn't mind too much if you bring your kids as long as you keep them in arm's reach. But it was late, and everyone was ready to start settling down for the night. (I also thought about ditching the family and heading to the honky tonk myself but decided against it.)
IF YOU GO:
- The Cattle Drive takes place daily along East Exchange Avenue at 11:30AM and 4PM, weather permitting. The best places to watch the herd go by are in front of the Stockyard Station, Stockyard Visitors Center and the lawn of the Livestock Exchange Building.
- View the Fort Worth Herd between cattle drives in their pens behind the Livestock Exchange Building
- Drovers available before and after cattle drives for questions and photo ops.
- Photo sitting on top of a longhorn: $5
- Cost to watch the cattle drive: FREE
- The historic Stockyards Hotel
- Hyatt Place Hotel has standard rooms with two double beds and a fold-out couch that comfortably accommodated our 5-person family. Free breakfast and convenient parking
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