One of the things I love to do is be a tour guide in my own city when visitors drop by. When it comes to living in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas there’s no other way to show off this great city than step into the Wild West and show visitors how this city was built.
For all the locals who are biting their tongue right now wanting to scream, “But, wait there’s more to DFW than Cowboys and Longhorns!” Agreed, there is – there most definitely is. The rivalry between Dallas and Fortworth cities is pretty intense, not unlike the State of Origin bashes in my home of Australia, but for the purpose of this article, I’ve researched some great places to get into the western vibe in both Dallas and FW.
There’s a whole other side of DFW, that is modern, sophisticated and bursting with a burgeoning creative arts and culture scene but I’ll leave that for another article because this article is all about the Wild West.
Here are my top picks of what to check out in DFW, Western Style for the whole family.
1. National Historic Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards are everything you want them to be. The streets are cobblestone, the saloon bars sell Lonestar beer, and the cowboy hats and the handlebar mustaches are the real deal.
This is the No. 1 tourist destination in Texas and welcomes over 8.8 million visitors annually. You really do feel like you’re stepping back in time or onset of a John Wayne movie but once you’re there you’ll realize this town, while made for tourists is buzzing with locals out for a good time too.
Time your visit for either 11:30 or 4 p.m when you’ll see cowboys on horseback herding the longhorn cattle down the main street, then head to one of the many Texas-style lunch spots. Shop for authentic boots and western apparel at M.L. Leddy’s, Maverick Fine Western Wear and Fincher’s White Front Western Wear and see the bulls and broncs versus the Cowboys at the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo.
There’s also tonnes to do for kids with the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, the Stockyards petting zoo or a ride on the Grapevine Heritage Railroad. Personally, my favorite thing to do is take in a concert or line-dance at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk. Icy Lone Star beer sure doesn’t hurt either.
Visit: fortworth.com for more information
2. Step back in time at the Dallas Heritage Village
This is possibly one of the best ways to dive into history and learn about the pioneer western life in Dallas during the 1800-1900’s era. The historical society has transformed and restored original buildings to create a representation of village life when Dallas was first founded, complete with a school, bank, doctors’ office, blacksmith store, and farmstead. They offer a range of children’s programs including barnyard buddies story time for under five-year-olds and blacksmith skill workshops for older teens and adults. A great day out for all the family and parking is free. Check out the whole range of programs on offer or take your time strolling around the grounds and be transported back in time.
Visit: dallasheritagevillage for more information
3. Watch cowboys in action at the Mesquite Rodeo
No family trip to Dallas is complete without experiencing a real professional rodeo, and the Mesquite Rodeo is where all the live action is. We’re not talking cowboys football here – we’re talking about the real cowboys of Dallas. Learn about what it takes to compete in both rough-stock and timed events; check out bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, steer roping, barrel racing and more while your family dines on Texan barbeque food-and take in some laughs with the rodeo clown entertainment.
For information about rodeo season and tickets, visit: mesquiterodeo.
4. Grab a selfie with the cattle drive sculptures at Pioneer Plaza
While you’re in downtown, have some fun taking pictures with the cattle drive sculptures at Pioneer Plaza. Tucked between the skyscrapers and urban development of downtown Dallas, the monument highlights and commemorates the trails that brought the first settlers to Dallas and the first cattle to market. The larger than life bronze sculptures comprise of three cowboys on horses herding 49 longhorn cattle through the largest public open space area of the Dallas central business district. This is a nice quick stop to take a few pics and enjoy the city with a nod to its western past.
See it at: 1428 Young St, Dallas. For more info: visitdallas.com
5. Visit log cabins, view vintage railways and sample a glass of wine at saloon-style bars at Historical Grapevine.
Historical Grapevine is a great town to bring the family to wander the main street and get an authentic taste of where ‘old’ meets ‘new’ in Dallas. The main street features original vintage log cabins restored from the 1900’s, western saloon-style bars, where you can sample the local wines, craft beers, and a variety of restaurants to satisfy even the fussiest of little eaters.
One of the highlights on the main street is The Grapevine Vintage Railroad which travels along the historic Cotton Belt Route between Grapevine and to the Fort Worth Stockyards.
For more information visit: Grapevine Convention & Visitor Bureau
636 S. Main St, Grapevine, (800) 457 – 6338 or visit: www.visitgrapevinetexasusa.com
6. Go horseback riding on country trails and visit a ranch
For families who want to visit a traditional ranch and go horseback riding with a view, there’s no shortage of options in Dallas. Trail leaders will match you with a horse that meets your level of riding experience and will instruct riders on basic safety and horse riding skills. From the total beginner to the advanced there’s a whole range of options for the entire family to enjoy a fun riding session while taking in the beautiful scenery of the western countryside of Dallas. Three tops picks are:
Window Maker Trail Rides, Broken Bow Ranch and Marshall Creek Ranch.
7. Shop for authentic cowboy boots and apparel
Nothing quite says ‘I’ve visited Dallas’ like wearing an authentic cowboy hat or a pair of cowboy boots. Contrary to what you may think about shopping for boots, it’s not as easy choosing a pair as it might look. With so many choices in regards to style, types of leather and color choice, you’ll want to shop at an establishment which can accommodate all the sizes in your family with a broad range of options and with specialty fitters. Check out Wild Bills Western Store, Pinks Western Wear, or Cavenders for the full western shopping experience that will have you looking western chic in no time.
8. Chow down on the best DFW Texan BBQ
If you think you’ve tasted Texan BBQ outside of Texas, then think again, you haven’t tasted anything till you’ve chomped on mouth-watering brisket, sausage or ribs in Dallas. Every local you’ll talk to has their opinion on what makes the best BBQ place in town.
Regarding overall ambiance, flavor, taste, service and a western-style experience, we’ve rounded up our top five choices sure to be a hit for the whole family.
Lockhart’s – Bishops Art District and Plano
Pecan Lodge – Deep Ellum
Peggy Sues BBQ – Uptown Dallas
Hard Eight – Coppell
Feed Store – Southlake
Coopers – FortWorth Stockyards
9. Laugh the night away at a wild west murder mystery theatre show
Located in the heart of historical Grapevine, this murder mystery show is the only Texan-themed mystery show in Dallas and a great night to experience a few laughs in a family-friendly environment. If you have older kids or teens, this is a fun night out for the whole family to experience the wild west and share a few laughs over dinner. While the content of the show is family-friendly, they advise the performance is not recommended for children under 10 years-of-age. Open weekends, dinner and a 3-course meal with show start from $60.
10. Listen to western live music and food with a patio
Families love space. And patio-type restaurants where kids can sprawl and parents can enjoy a beverage is gold. If you’re looking for somewhere authentically Texan, to listen to authentic western music, in a beer-garden setting, Love and War is a place that celebrates what Texas is all about. The kids will love the open patio setting and parents will love the range of locally sourced food and beers. There’s a cover charge when bands are playing, and while most bands play after 7 pm, some will play in the afternoon making it an entertaining spot for the family.
Another great spot with a popular outdoor patio is The Rustic. Featuring picnic-style tables in a large backyard of sorts, it makes for a relaxing place for mom and dad to enjoy a drink and plenty of space for the kids during the day. By night, this will turn into more of an adult space, but there is a delicious brunch menu on the weekends’ and good music to give the family a taste of the Texan atmosphere.
11. Take country and western dance lessons at Cowboys Red River Dance Hall
This is definitely more for families with older teens, as minimum age is 18 to gain entry, but if you’re a family with older kids in tow, this is a fun way to have a night out in Dallas and experience a Honky Tonk. Come for the free dance lessons on Thursday and Friday nights from 7 pm and stay till the band comes on and livens up the dance floor for everyone to enjoy. Apart from the dance lessons, there’s plenty of fun to be had with a mechanical bull, pool tables and Texas Holdem poker nights.
Additionally, if you have younger kids and want to see line-dancing, children are welcome at Billy Bobs at the Fort Worth Stockyards if they stay with an adult at all times. Entry is only $2 before 6 pm. See No. 1 point for more information on what to do here.
And as always if you’re planning a trip and needs some assistance, or have any questions, shoot me a note HERE.
*All photos provided by the corresponding establishments or taken by Threads & Travel.