Historic Fort Worth Stockyards

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Hooves clopping along cobblestone streets. People gathering with excitement to witness a piece of history. Red dirt flying up inside the rodeo arena. Live music belting from the world’s largest honky tonk. Shops bustling with folks looking for both modern and traditional treasures with a Western flair. Restaurants offering everything from old-fashioned barbecue to more elevated cuisine. That’s what is in store for the more than 3 million annual visitors who come to partake in one of the most quintessential Texas cultural, shopping and dining experiences around: The Fort Worth Stockyards.

In less than an hour-and-a-half, Wacoans can make the trip on I-35 W and fill an entire day with cattle drives, historical tours and reenactments, a professional rodeo, restaurants, shopping and more at the Stockyards, a 130-year-old National Historic District that exudes authentic Western culture and heritage.

With a revitalized entertainment district, the Stockyards blends new country with the Old West. From a high end shopping promenade with epic Western storefronts in Mule Alley, transformed from restored 100-year-old horse and mule barns, and elevated accommodations, including the new Hotel Drover, a visit to the Stockyards is a true Western experience. 

Cattle Drive

Start the day by arriving in time to catch the first run of the Fort Worth Herd — the world’s only twice-daily longhorn cattle drive, held every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Fort Worth Stockyards, along East Exchange Avenue and behind the historic Livestock Exchange Building. The only days drives are not held are Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, or during inclement weather when the Fort Worth Herd trail boss determines a drive must be canceled. The Fort Worth Herd steers can be viewed before and after cattle drives in their pens behind the Livestock Exchange Building on East Exchange Avenue or at the Observation Deck just east of the Livestock Exchange Building. Cattle drovers are available before each drive for photo opportunities and questions. Kids can even collect steer trading cards for fun.

March Events & Concerts

The PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Stockyards Showcase runs every Thursday through March 30 at the Cowtown Coliseum. PBR is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, capturing audiences and fans worldwide. Capitalizing on the popularity of bull riding and the growing appeal of cowboy values, PBR has attracted many homegrown and international athletes who aspire to compete in the world’s elite bull riding competition — right in the heart of the Historic Stockyards.

Each event, some of the best bull riders in the world will face off with the sport’s toughest bovine athletes in one of the most exciting live sporting events to watch. The events from January 19-March 30 will award Velocity Tour Global points which are big time stepping stones as riders try to qualify for the 2023 PBR World Finals.

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the Stockyards presents “Cowtown Goes Green” on Saturday, March 18. It’s an entire day of Irish-Western fun, featuring festive food and drink, live music, armadillo races, lawn games, pony rides, Old West Gunfight shows, cloggers and dance troops and a spectacular Irish-Western parade at 4 p.m.

Texas music industry professionals, musicians and fans: The Fort Worth Music Festival & Conference, a new music networking conference for aspiring agents, managers, promoters and emerging local Texas-based artists, will take place March 1-4 across multiple venues at the Stockyards. Events will extend across several venues in the Stockyards, including Tannahill’s Tavern & Music Hall, Tannahill’s Tavern Lounge, White Elephant, Atico Restaurant and Lounge, Love Shack, The Barn at Hotel Drover, just to name a few.
A concert at Billy Bob’s Texas is a bucket list experience for Texans and anyone who wants to rock out under the neon lights with new and classic country artists in the world’s largest honky tonk which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Located at 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Billy Bob’s kicked off its first year with a concert by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers and has hosted the biggest names from country music and classic rock, from Alabama to ZZ Top. Whether you like Willie Nelson, Midland or something in between, there’s usually a concert to fit anyone’s taste.

March concerts at Billy Bob’s Texas include: Treaty Oak Revival, March 3; Mike Ryan, March 4; Giovannie & The Hired Guns, March 10; The Damn Quails, March 11; Cody Canada and The Departed, March 17; Mark Chesnutt with Casey Chestnutt, March 18; Chris Young, March 24-25; Neal McCoy, March 31. For tickets, visit billybobstexas.com.

Classic Good Eats

Tasty food and drink is in great supply at the Fort Worth Stockyards, from burgers and barbecue with beer to Mexican cuisine and margaritas to small plates and craft cocktails. A few classics and restaurants newer to the scene stand out.

For the classic Texas steakhouse experience, Cattlemen’s Ft. Worth Steak House, located at 2458 N Main St., is a must try for lunch or dinner. Order your favorite cut of meat and enjoy it with one of Cattlemen’s classic steak sauces: Cognac Pepper Corn, Béarnaise or Gorgonzola. The 9-ounce “Rose O’ Texas” tenderloin steak is a center cut of beef tenderloin that the restaurant calls “the ultimate in a fine steak.” Pair it with a classic side of horseradish mashed potatoes and spinach or green beans for the full meal deal and you won’t be disappointed. For the hearty eaters, order the 18-ounce Cattlemen’s Bone-In Rib Eye steak, which is said to be for “the Connoisseur of the rib eye,” with a baked potato or steak fries.

Nothing satisfies a craving for Tex Mex quite like Joe T Garcia’s, established in 1934 not far from the Stockyards. Located at 2201 N Commerce St., part of the fun is dining al fresco in the sprawling gardens and patios at the restaurant. When deciding what to order, the only way to go at Joe T.’s is to order the “Family Style Dinner,” which includes two cheese nachos as appetizers, two cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, two beef tacos, guacamole and corn tortillas. A house margarita — nothing fancy — is definitely in order and Joe T’s is just a fun place to gather with friends for lunch or dinner. You’ll want to stay and stay.

Shopping & Staying

Mule Alley, an 180,000 square-foot area of restored historic brick horse and mule barns, is now bustling with shops and, should you decide to make it more than a day trip, a relatively new hotel. Hotel Drover is an Autograph Collection hotel nestled in the heart of the Mule Alley district. With 200 rustic-luxe rooms and suites — featuring cozy guest rooms with oversized soaking tubs and fireplace suites, modern bunkhouse rooms and vintage-inspired retreats. Whether it’s a romantic Western getaway or a weekend with family and friends, you’ll find the perfect accommodations at Hotel Drover.

A trip to the Ft. Worth Stockyards would not be complete without at least trying on a pair of cowboy boots. And for that, the first stop has to be Leddy’s, located at 2455 N Main St. Since the 1920’s M.L. Leddy has been crafting handmade boots and saddles and now, what is a fourth generation business, is still the place to go if you’re looking to buy a custom pair. Friendly staff members are happy to fit you with the cowboy boots of your dreams — and the price tag that goes with them. Or, for those looking for a more affordable pair, check out the Tecovas location, also on Main St., just south of the Stockyards.