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Daytripper with Chet Garner: Fort Worth

Killing Time in Cowtown
Written by Chet Garner.

Like most Texans, I’m no stranger to Big “D.”  However, until recently, the “FW” of the DFW Metroplex was an uncharted frontier. So I set out to spend the day in Dallas’ rustic “cow”-nterpart—Fort Worth.

10:00 a.m.  I headed straight for the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District to experience the essence of “Cowtown” firsthand. While Fort Worth was always an important stop for cowboys along the famous Chisholm Trail, the emergence of the railroad and the construction of the Stockyards in 1887 elevated the Fort Worth cattle industry to new heights. Nowadays, tourists outnumber cows in the Stockyards, but the preserved brick streets and dusty old buildings make it easy to imagine a time when the cattle business was king. 

I spent my morning wander-ing the wooden stables-turned shops at Stockyards Station, picking out the perfect pearl-snap shirt at Fincher’s White Front Western Wear store, and brushing up on my Western trivia in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

11:25 a.m.  As high noon approached, I squeezed into the crowd gathered in front of the Livestock Exchange Building to get ready for the Fort Worth Herd Cattle Drive, which takes place every day at 11:30 and 4. I anxiously awaited the earth-shaking power of a Longhorn stampede, but as the herd appeared, I quickly realized I was in for a much different show—more of a slow, steady, cud-chewing stroll, which is prob-ably a much more realistic look into the saunter of cows across the prairie.

11:45 a.m.  As expected, the Stockyards’ food options spotlighted beef, glorious beef, in every form and fashion. Deciding it was a bit early for a prime-rib steak, I went to the Love Shack for a “Love Burger” from celebrity chef Tim Love. The burger alone was delicious, but its signature “Love Sauce” elevated it to the realm of the bovine divine.

1:00 p.m.  I detoured from cow culture into high culture at the Fort Worth Cultural District, home to some of the finest art collections in the country. The Russell and Remington paintings of the Great American West at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art were befitting of Cowtown. However, the works of Michelangelo, Monet, and Picasso on display at the Kimbell Art Museum were an unexpected diversion. And the mind-bend-ing architecture and collections at The Modern left me feeling like my head had exploded into another dimension.

4:00 p.m.  The hours of quiet, orderly contemplation left me with more pent-up energy than one Daytripper can handle. I had no choice but to release it all by plunging off a high dive into the fresh waters of Burger’s Lake, a small, family-friendly swimming hole northwest of downtown, complete with sandy beaches, trapeze swings, and waterslides. A couple hours of sunshine had me back to normal.

6:30 p.m.  Craving dinner outdoors, I stopped at Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant and grabbed a seat on its famous patio to indulge in classic Tex-Mex dishes that haven’t changed much since 1935. What has changed, however, is the din-ing area, which has expanded from an original 16 seats to more than 1,000. At dinner, Joe T.’s abandons the menu in favor of two options: (1) a family-style combo plate or (2) beef or chicken fajitas. I opted for a platter of sizzling beef fajitas and never looked back. Every bite confirmed why this restaurant has been around so long.

8:00 p.m.  While I could have relaxed on the patio all night, the Cowtown Coliseum called me back to experience the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, which happens every Friday and Saturday night. I spent the rest of the evening counting to eight seconds and loving every minute of it.

The OLD cattle drives may be history, but cowboys and culture are both alive and well in Cowtown. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

See the full article in the September 2011 issue.

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