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How the West was won

Lying on my bed in the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, I can hear the distinctive sound of a train whistle somewhere in the distance. It evokes thoughts of the steam trains that brought pioneers to this part of Texas and on to new frontiers in the west. It was the era of the horse, the gun and the cowboy.


Fortunately, there are still places where this part of America’s history is still celebrated and preserved.


Just outside this vibrant and developing modern city is the Fort Worth Stockyards, where cowboys and cowgirls still roam the streets, there’s a cattle drive twice a day down the main street and the heady aroma of straw, beast and dung hangs in the air.



The buildings are old and authentic, the stores all sell western gear and there’s a rodeo on Friday and Saturday night. You can also try line-dancing at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk, which is so big it has its own bull-riding arena.


I met a direct descendant of famed gambler and Wyatt Earp amigo Doc Holliday during my visit and as I listened to his stories, found myself transported back to a world where life was cheap and often ugly.


Yet all of this is no faux culture show just for tourists: this is a way of keeping an important and integral part of America’s history alive and I just loved it.



While the Stockyards are all about Fort Worth’s past, the future is developing right in front of the city’s boot-scootin’ eyes.


The multi-million dollar redevelopment of Sundance Square has rejuvenated the heart of the city, offering a plethora of restaurants, shops and entertainment.


When we visited, kids were splashing in and out of specially-designed water spouts and the whole area was buzzing with vitality and happy faces, a far cry from the days when it was called ‘Hells Half Acre’ and was a haunt for notorious outlaws like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.



They also take their culture pretty seriously around these here parts, too, hence the marketing slogan currently being used to promote Fort Worth: ‘City of Cowboys and Culture’. The latter part of the equation comes from the arts district, where an impressive collection of impressive collections are housed.  


The Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are all located here, providing a cultural nirvana for lovers of painting, sculpture and the like. Gourmands also have reason to visit the Modern Art Museum as it houses the Cafe Modern, one of the best places to chow down in Fort Worth, although there are many fine restaurants to choose from, including Ellerbe Fine Foods and Reata (check out the view from the roof).


Fort Worth was an intriguing and absorbing mix of the old and the new, offering something for everybody and a lot in between. The people are universally friendly and with ambitious plans for the city’s future, there’s no doubt y’all should mosey on down and check it out. 


Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 8 October 2014

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