They say everything’s bigger in Texas. For that reason, Dallas area residents and visitors alike might have high expectations when it comes to being entertained. While there is much to see and do in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, folks might not be aware of the virtual time machine located just within reach. The Fort Worth Stockyards offers visitors a one-of-a-kind experience that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
So, what is The Fort Worth Stockyards? It’s a national historic district that offers back-in-time glance at the abundant history that made the Dallas/Fort Worth area the bustling metropolis that it is today. Emphasizing the importance of the cattle industry in the development and settlement of the area, The Fort Worth Stockyards showcases the deep historic roots the cowboys of The Old West left in the region. It’s also the only place in the United States that you can still find a (twice)daily cattle drive.
Between the mid 1860s through 1890, over four million heads of cattle were driven through Fort Worth, which became known as ‘Cowtown’. Fort Worth was an important juncture along the Chisholm Trail because it was the last stop on the route for supplies before cattle drivers entered Indian Territory. In 1893, The Fort Worth Stockyards Company was founded and the rest is history. Meat-packing plants and small towns began popping up all around The Stockyards. Because of the enormous economical boom that the area was enjoying around the turn of the century due to the cattle industry, some of the newly incorporated shanty towns that sprang up in the area had property values in the tens of millions of dollars – an amount unheard of at the time. Since its 1976 induction into the National Register of Historic Places, the buildings of The Fort Worth Stockyards have undergone extensive restoration to bring them back to their former Cowtown Glory.
The Fort Worth Stockyards is home to many entertainment, lodging, and dining venues. Within the historic district, you can find Texas-sized entertainment and history on every corner. Billy Bob’s Texas, for example, is said to be the world’s largest honky-tonk. Encompassing a vast three acres, Billy Bob’s Texas has been voted country music’s Club Of The Year eight times. Billy Bob’s Texas is just one several music venues in the district. Perhaps the most famous and widely known attraction of The Fort Worth Stockyards is the Cowtown Coliseum
Twice a day visitors to The Forth Worth Stockyards are treated to a living history display in the form of a real-life cattle drive through the neighboring streets. There are two railroads in The Fort Worth Stockyards that take guests along historic routes in vintage railcars. Most of the buildings in the district have been designated historic landmarks. The Stockyards Museum, located within the Livestock Exchange building hosts a wealth of information, archives, artifacts, photos, and exhibits associated with the history of the area.
Perhaps the most famous and widely known attraction of The Fort Worth Stockyards is the Cowtown Coliseum. The Coliseum was built in 1907 as a livestock exhibition hall and later doubled as a cultural center. The Cowboy Coliseum has made world history for being the first venue for many things related to the rodeo realm, including being home to the world’s first indoor rodeo in 1918. The Cowtown Coliseum isn’t just for cowboys. The Coliseum has hosted a wide range of people of historic and famous significance including Quanah Parker accompanied by thirty six Comanche braves in 1911, Theodore Roosevelt’s address to 5,000 spectators in 1911, and Elvis Presley himself in 1956 for a concert for 7,000. Further, scenes from several movies have been filmed within the walls of Cowtown Coliseum including Tough Enough with Dennis Quaid and Pure Country with George Strait.
If you’re not local to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but are planning to visit The Fort Worth Stockyards, a weekend would probably suffice. Most of the ‘must-see’ attractions are within walking distance of each other, with a variety of shopping outlets and eateries sprinkled along the route. There are a couple of bed and breakfasts in the district along with two major hotels. If you’re looking for authentic lodging to round out your trip, the Stockyards Hotel is worth checking in to – literally. The 1907 structure has seen its share of the rough and tumble Wild West stories and people of historic importance. Some of the hotel’s most notable visitors post-date the cowboy era. Bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde once stayed at the Stockyards Hotel in room 305 – a suite which still bears their name today.
The Texas Travel and Tourism Board uses the motto: “Texas: It’s like a whole other country.” In the case of The Fort Worth Stockyards, truer words were never spoken. For specific information on the venues mentioned in this article or any other venues within the district, log on to The Fort Worth Stockyards website located at www.fortworthstockyards.org .