Fort Worth is a fascinating city of contrasts. It is widely known as the city of cowboys and culture, and rightly so. It has a buzzy modern downtown area, a rich arts and live music scene and the historic stockyards; the last still standing in the US, where you can step back in time and experience the great cowboy culture of the Old West. After spending some time exploring the other diverse districts of Fort Worth I was excited to be spending the weekend in the historic stockyards. After checking in to the Stockyards Hotel and throwing on my cowboy boots I headed down the cobbled street to the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, just a five minute walk from the hotel. Real cowboys, locals and visitors alike flock to the rodeo every weekend; you will feel out of place if you aren’t wearing a cowboy hat or boots! The stockyards have retained their Old West authenticity and truly feel as if you have stepped back in time.
There is no better way to immerse yourself in true Texan culture than by attending a rodeo. Rodeo is the official sport of Texas and they are a BIG deal. Rodeo started as a way for working cowboys to show off their skills and is now a fully-fledged career path for many. Contestants often compete in over 100 rodeos a year, need to be well funded and spend the majority of the year on the road travelling the rodeo circuit. The Fort Worth Rodeo is held at Cowtown Coliseum in the heart of the historic stockyards and is the world’s only year-round rodeo where you can come face to face with real cowboys every Friday and Saturday night from 8pm. The atmosphere was electric as I arrived and took my seat and what followed was two hours of thrills and pure entertainment, including bull riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping and bronc riding.
I love that they are continuing to keep their cowboy culture alive, attending a rodeo is a great family weekend tradition that everyone can enjoy. These cowboys and cowgirls are incredibly highly skilled if a little crazy! In American Bull Riding the rider must stay on the bull for eight full seconds and they must only hold on with one hand, it is incredibly risky and has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sport”. After all the action of the rodeo you should head to nearby Billy Bob’s, claimed to be the world’s largest honky tonk, and enjoy some authentic country music. You will get asked for ID (regardless of your age), which very much pleased my mum who was travelling with me!
During any visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards make sure to catch one of the twice daily cattle drives of the Longhorn cattle down Exchange Avenue at 11:30am or 4pm. This always draws a crowd! Genuine Texan cowhands drive the cattle down East Exchange Avenue in front of the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange Building then back to the holding pens. Spend some time exploring the rest of what the stockyards area has to offer, have a cowboy hat made to measure, go for a drink in the White Elephant Saloon and order tableside guacamole in one of the many fantastic steakhouses.
Fort Worth really is packed with cowboys and culture and has cleverly and carefully preserved its historic stockyards whilst also becoming a modern city, it is a must see on any trip to Texas!