30 May 2024

SETAC Goes West: A Local’s Guide to Fort Worth’s Best Attractions

Marlo Jeffries, Texas Christian University

Cowtown. Where the West Begins. The Fort. Funkytown. Panther City. These monikers for Fort Worth acknowledge the city’s cowboy culture, historical significance, music scene and sense of humor. They also provide hints about what the city has to offer. And, now that you’ve submitted your abstract for the SETAC North America 45th Annual Meeting and are starting to make your travel arrangements, it’s time to explore the attractions that make Fort Worth and the surrounding areas worthy of exploration.

For the Art Afficionados

Fort Worth has a vibrant and diverse art scene that is sure to impress! Patrons of the arts can admire numerous public art displays, explore the three major museums in the city’s Cultural District, or even attend art festivals happening just before and after the SETAC meeting.

  • Street Art. Public art installations are sprinkled throughout Funkytown. Located downtown, the “Chisholm Trail Mural,” bright yellow “Tabachin Ribbon” sculpture and “Man with a Briefcase” sculpture are sure to catch your attention. But, the most impressive area for street art is located in the Foundry District, which is home to Inspiration Alley, the largest outdoor art gallery in Texas. This Instagrammable spot features more than 4,000 square feet of murals and is located near Doc’s Records, Maple Branch Craft Brewery and Blackland Distillery.
A black dog in a bandana cocks its head in front of a colorful painted mural
  • Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Dedicated to American art, this museum is most known for its impressive collection of Western art, which includes pieces from Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. Visitors may also discover significant works from notable artists like Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe. In October, the museum will feature a special exhibition that explores popular mythologies regarding the concept of the cowboy as told, in part, through the art of Asian American, Latino and Indigenous peoples. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and admission is free. 
  • Kimbell Art Museum. This world-class museum is known for its absolutely stunning architecture, impressive collection of European masterpieces, and notable pieces from ancient civilizations. Visitors can expect to see works from Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Goya, Monet and Picasso, as well as ancient art from Asia, Mesoamerica and Africa. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and admission to view the permanent collection is free. 
  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Referred to as “The Modern” by locals, this museum is known for its extensive collection of post-WWII art that includes works from Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, KAWS and Kehinde Wiley. Visitors can expect to be stunned by the building itself, which was designed by famous architect Tadao Ando. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays. General admission is $16, with discounts provided for seniors and students. Admissions is always free on Fridays and is half off on Sundays. 
  • Arts Goggle. This art festival began in 2003 as a small neighborhood event, focused on promoting local artists. Since then, it has grown substantially and now spans 20 blocks and features hundreds of artists and performers. The festival continues its focus on local artists, includes interactive art installations, offers food and beverages from food trucks and eateries lining the street, and features live music. This do-not-miss art event is scheduled for Saturday, 19 October, and is free to attend.
  • Art Worth. Located on the lawn at The Shops at Clearfork, this juried art festival features the work of more than 80 visual artists as well as demonstrations from glass blowers, potters and wood turners. This free multi-day event takes place from Friday, 25 October, through Sunday, 27 October.

For the History Buffs

It’s no surprise that cowboy culture is front and center in Cowtown! After the arrival of the railroad in 1876, Fort Worth was transformed into a major cattle shipping center. The tales of cowboys and outlaws that followed can be explored by wandering through the historic Fort Worth Stockyards or the Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum.

  • Fort Worth Stockyards. This historic district, which has undergone extensive updates in recent years, was once a major stop along the Chisholm Trail, a route used to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas. History buffs can learn more about the American West by taking a guided walking tour of the area, exploring the Stockyards Museum located in the historic Livestock Exchange Building, cheering on the Fort Worth Herd as cowhands drive this group of longhorns through the streets, visiting the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, or embarking on a ghost tour. On Fridays and Saturdays, visitors can also watch cowboys ride bulls at the Stockyards Championship Rodeo or at Billy Bob’s. The Stockyards are also home to more than 45 bars and restaurants and 50 shops, many of which specialize in cowboy hats, boots and other Western wear.
  • National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame. Located in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, this museum preserves the stories of female ranchers and farmers, as well as those of the rodeo cowgirls, who helped shape the American West. The hall of fame highlights the contributions of notable women like Temple Grandin, Annie Oakley and Sandra Day O’Connor. The facility is open Tuesdays through Sundays. General admission is $12, with discounts provided for seniors.

For the Music Lovers

Fort Worth loves live music, so much so that even one of the local grocery stores, Central Market, hosts free live music on the patio every Friday and Saturday evening from March through October. No matter your favorite genre to listen to (or maybe even sing!), Funkytown has something to suit your taste.

  • Live Music at Sundance Square Plaza. Less than a five-minute walk from the Convention Center, Sundance Square Plaza offers an outdoor space featuring a water fountain, seating areas and a stage for live performances. On Thursday through Sunday nights, visitors can grab a bite from one of the nearby restaurants and settle in for an evening of free live music (and perhaps a bit of dancing!).
  • Bass Performance Hall. Located in one of downtown’s most iconic buildings (look for the massive trumpeting angles flanking the building entrance), Bass Hall will host several events between 19–27 October, including the Fort Worth Symphony’s Kings of Soul featuring the music of legends like Marvin Gaye and James Brown, a concert by Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, and a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. Stone carving of an angel blowing a trumpet on Bass Performance Hall exterior
  • Scat Jazz Lounge. This Fort Worth institution, located within walking distance of the Convention Center, features live jazz from Thursdays through Sundays. Jazz fanatics and casual listeners alike can enjoy fantastic cocktails in a cozy lounge environment while grooving to the music.
  • Sarah’s Place. This is the place to be for those who love to karaoke. Each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 9:30 p.m., locals meet up at this divey little spot to stretch their vocal cords and put on a show. Spectators can expect fantastic singing from the regulars, a fun-spirited crowd and endless entertainment.  

For the Naturalists

Despite being located in the fourth largest metroplex in the United States, Fort Worth has plenty to offer for those who prefer to be outdoors. Visitors can cool off at the Fort Worth Water Gardens, bike the Trinity Trails, explore biodiversity at the Fort Worth Zoo, or stop to smell the roses at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

  • Fort Worth Water Gardens. Located just a few steps away from the Fort Worth Convention Center and designed by renowned architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, the Water Gardens are a must see. This urban sanctuary features four gardens – the active pool, quiet pool, aerating pool, and mountain – each of which is characterized by its own unique sounds, lighting and visuals to create different moods. The gardens are open from 6:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. daily and are free to explore.
  • Trinity Trails. This network of more than 100 miles of multi-use trails provides picturesque views of the Trinity River and the Fort Worth skyline. These trails are accessible to walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrians from multiple locations throughout the city, including downtown. To rent a bicycle, look for the red Fort Worth B-cycle rental stations distributed in several locations downtown.
  • The Fort Worth Zoo. Regularly noted for being one of the best zoos in the country, the Fort Worth Zoo is home to more than 540 species of animals and several habitats, including Raptor Canyon, Elephant Springs, African Savanna and the Museum of Living Art. The Zoo is typically open from 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. daily. Admission is $20 (+$5 for parking). Senior discounts are available, and Wednesdays are half off.
Grey crane against lush garden to illustrate the botanical gardens in Ft. Worth

Fort Worth Botanic Garden. This 120-acre campus is the oldest botanic garden in Texas, maintains 23 specialty gardens, and houses a collection of more than 2,500 plant species. Visitors can expect to be marveled by the Japanese Garden, swept away by the beauty of the Rose Garden, and inspired by the Perennial Garden. The garden is typically open from 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. daily, and admission is $12. 


For the Wanderers

While Fort Worth has a ton to offer visitors, it would be remiss to overlook some of the major attractions located within an hour’s drive of the city.

  • The Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza. This historic Dallas site, from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that assassinated President Kennedy, explores the life of JFK with an emphasis on the events surrounding the assassination. The museum is open from Wednesday through Sunday, and admission is $22.
  • State Fair of Texas. Located in Dallas’ Fair Park, this iconic event celebrates Texas culture, agriculture and entertainment. Join Big Tex (a 55-foot-tall cultural icon) for midway rides, parades, livestock shows, cooking competitions, fried food (last year’s Best Taste winners included deep fried pho and bourbon banana caramel sopapillas) and live music. This 24-day long event runs through Sunday, 20 October.  

For a calendar of events and more inspiration and tips about what to do while in Fort Worth, check out the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau website

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