This story was written with significant contributions from Jocelyn Tatum.
If you’re anything like us, you make hopeful plans to explore your hometown in new ways but don’t actually make it happen often enough. So, with a fine line between‟“I totally agree; I’ve done that a million times” and “Why haven’t I ever thought of that?,” we came up with the Fort Worth Bucket List. We’ve intentionally overlooked some of the obvious (we’re looking at you, Water Gardens) and instead have embraced specificity and some spots off the beaten path. Then there are others that would be blasphemous to leave off – so, yes, Billy Bob’s Texas and the Fort Worth Herd cattle drive made the list. This is Fort Worth, after all. So, here it is. The 40 things every Fort Worthian must do.
Wait in Line at Joe T.’s with a pitcher of margaritas.
Waiting in line at the landmark Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant is a rite of passage for any Fort Worthian. Patrons wait for hours to sit on the seasoned patio and take it slow. Those in the know grab a pitcher of margaritas from the bar, plus a stack of salted cups, before heading to the back of the line. Pre-dinner cocktail hour is complete. joetgarcias.com
Hold your own burger battle.
Houston has fajitas. San Antonio has enchiladas. Austin thinks it has barbecue. If we could name an official cuisine of Fort Worth, it might have to be the burger. Whether you prefer the old school — Kincaid’s, Tommy’s, Fred’s – or the new school — Rodeo Goat, Salsa Fuego, Love Shack – you can’t claim your favorite until you’ve taste-tested them all.
Bike to the top of Gateway Park.
You will have to work for this one, but the views of downtown Fort Worth are worth the effort. Gateway Park is a 1,000-acre park with paved and unpaved trails. This overlook is on the hilly east loop trail system with mostly rough terrain. The trail runs along Interstate 30 through trees and climbs to heights for great views.
Drive an hour to eat at Mary’s Café.
This little Strawn, Texas, café is one of the busiest little small-town cafes around. Patrons rave about the fluffy chicken-fried steak served at the diner that’s a little more than an hour drive from the middle of Fort Worth. Have a trip to West Texas planned? There’s your excuse to stop. 119 Grant Ave., Strawn
Drive through Eskimo Hut for a to-go daiquiri.
Hidden inside a barnlike façade on West Vickery is a full daiquiri bar with an extensive menu. Or you can order a favorite custom frozen adult beverage. There’s no need to exit your vehicle either. Drive into the bar, roll down your window and place an order with a friendly employee. Your cocktail will emerge in a lidded giant Styrofoam cup filled to the brim and wrapped tightly in a plastic bag. Sitting by the pool with friends while sipping on an icy daiquiri to-go is a Fort Worth bucket list must. eskimohut.com
Catch a Summer Movie in Sundance Square.
Bring a chair or blanket to Sundance Square Plaza in the summer for family-friendly movies projected on the big screen. sundancesquare.com
Eat fried chicken at Drew’s Place.
You don’t know fried chicken until you’ve been to Drew’s. This soul food spot in a hole-in-the-wall turned revamped Curzon Avenue spot with a patio regularly ends up on this magazine’s Best Of list, thanks to fried chicken that’s just as crunchy as it is juicy. And a visit isn’t complete without the namesake owner, Drew, who is always greeting customers with a smile. drewssoulfoodfw.com
Make your own patio bike crawl on the Trinity Trails.
Grab your bikes and helmets and hit the patios that belly up to the trails along the Trinity River. Start at Press Café before making your way to Woodshed Smokehouse, Bartaco (the newest spot in WestBend), HG Sply Co., and the Clearfork Food Park.
Have a staycation in Downtown Grapevine.
Downtown Grapevine’s Main Street is lined with charming and historic buildings and an amiable atmosphere. Cozy restaurants, cafes, wineries and breweries — like Mi Dia From Scratch, Farina’s Winery and Grapevine Craft Brewery — line the streets, creating an escape from the big city into the past when downtowns were a walkable, intimate experience. Everything can be experienced on foot from a nearby Airbnb, so spend the night and make this a mini weekend vacation. And these places at Christmastime are as charming as it gets. grapevinetexasusa.com
Yell in the vortex at The Modern.
Just under 68 feet tall, a massive vortex-like statue created by artist Richard Serra juxtaposes the smooth, gray Modern Art Museum’s entrance. Visitors often yell into the statue because this echo chamber changes and throws sound. So next time you’re in the Cultural District, pop in and give it a yell. Interesting fact, Kendal Smith-Lake with the Modern said, “The sound component was not actually part of the original design, just an extra experience.” themodern.org
Take your dog to Wild Acre Brewing Company.
The space is massive with the taproom measuring 5,000 square feet. While air-conditioned, the vast watering hole with 24 beers on tap will roll open its garage doors on a nice day. Even better, dogs are allowed to socialize with you in the landscaped biergarten. wildacrebrewing.com
Eat at Partons Pizza on Cherry Lane.
This dive has served crunchy thin-crust pizza to locals since 1968, celebrating 50 years this year. The atmosphere is nostalgic — think ceilings covered in old-school wallpaper and Tiffany chandeliers. There’s nothing pretentious about Partons — this family-friendly joint welcomes children with its flat-screens tuned to the Disney Channel. Its pizza buffet is the most popular order, and guests may make requests to have their favorite toppings show up. When it gets busy, people are like sharks to blood as soon as a fresh hot pizza arrives. 2813 S. Cherry Lane
Ride the Art Tooth “Art Bus” from the Fort Worth Blackhouse to Gallery Night.
Twice a year the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association hosts spring and fall gallery nights. Tickets through Art Tooth include rides to five galleries, beer, and an afterparty at the Rock Island venue known as Blackhouse. You don’t know new Fort Worth until you’ve been to Blackhouse. fwblackhouse.com
See the Stockyards Championship Rodeo and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show.
No, this is not the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo celebrated every winter for several weeks. This is the year-round Stockyards Championship Rodeo at the historic Cowtown Coliseum on 121 E. Exchange Ave., where locals have watched some of the most skilled cowboys compete at 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday for the last 100 years. The world’s first indoor rodeo took place here in 1918. At the same location, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday “features trick roping, trick riding, trick shooting, cowboy songs and an entertaining look at history.” The likes of Teddy Roosevelt spoke here, and stars like Elvis Presley performed. pawneebillswildwestshow.com
Go to a secret concert.
Back in the 1950s, artists’ fame grew from playing endless small shows around the country. London-based company Sofar Sounds was founded to bring back that intimate experience — think no drunk people spilling beer on you or teens snapping selfies in your way. With venues like Shipping & Receiving and Blackhouse, Fort Worth was made for these shows. Eager participants apply until five days before the show and hear back the day before with a secret location — often an unconventional venue like someone’s living room or a rooftop. The musical acts? Those won’t be revealed until you get there. Past performers like Charley Crockett, Leon Bridges and Luke Wade ensure you can say you knew these up-and-comers before everyone else did. sofarsounds.com/dallas-fort-worth
Host a Cliburn Competition pianist at your home.
It’s a big deal that Fort Worth hosts the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition every four years. Competitor hosts provide transportation, room and board, and emotional support for a competitor for three weeks, while showing them Texas through experiences like shooting skeet; trying the best barbecue, burgers and Mexican food in town; or boating on Eagle Mountain Lake. Steinway provides each host with a piano. Kay Howell with the Cliburn said that often the host and competitor become bonded for life, traveling across the world to visit each other. cliburn.org
Pass Mayor Betsy Price on your bike while cruising the Trinity Trails.
Mayor Price is known for her health initiatives in Fort Worth. In May, the University of North Texas Health Science Center awarded her honorary membership into its Delta Omega Honor Society in Public Health. She is always participating in a marathon or triathlon and is the person behind the Fort Worth Bike Sharing program. If you’re lucky, you just might pass her biking on one of the Trinity Trails. Wave and say hello.
Have the Grilled Cheese of the Month from Bearded Lady.
In May, the “adult” grilled cheese of the month had apricot jam, prosciutto, arugula, brie and Muenster cheese on sourdough bread. All is then grilled in butter. Drop in each month to check out what’s currently on the menu. 1229 7th Ave.
Tour the lesser-known areas of the Kimbell.
There's so much more to this museum than the galleries — venture on a self-led tour to see a sculpture of rock monoliths titled Constellation, by the great twentieth-century sculptor Isamu Noguchi, for the zen-like green space on the south side of the Kimbell’s Louis Kahn-designed building, in honor of the architect. kimbellart.org
Have Black Forest Cake on your birthday.
Except it’s not cake. Swiss Pastry Shop’s signature dish is actually the “uncake.” It’s basically two giant macaroons covered in sweet whipped cream and gourmet chocolate shavings. The result is a light and airy cake that’s become a rite of passage for blowing out another candle, year after year. swisspastryonline.com
Spend a weekend afternoon at the Pequeño Mexico Market on North University Drive.
Chances are you’ve driven by a thousand times but never stopped in. Vendors come to Pequeño Mexico Market every weekend with fresh fruit, Mexican candy, western boots, plants, you name it. Most of the vendors have had trucks and booths at the market for almost 30 years. 960 N. University Drive
Have Happy Hour on Reata’s Rooftop.
As Fort Worth grows bigger every week, adding more new venues and restaurants, Reata’s rooftop is somewhat forgotten to all but natives. But Reata’s rooftop is a treasure. Happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. on the fourth floor of the building on Houston Street in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. Share the appetizer sampler platter with bacon-wrapped shrimp, calf fries with cream gravy, tenderloin tamales with pecan mash, fried calamari, steak strips, and jalapeño and cheese elk sausage. This “appetizer” is solid enough to make a shared meal, and the views are stunning. reata.net
Drink a Bloody Mary from Chef Point Café.
For $35, you get something that equals two Bloody Marys, an appetizer and a meal, all in one large cup. How does it not tip over? Chef Point is just outside town, northeast of Fort Worth. The Bloody Mary comes with Chef Point’s “Better Than Sex Fried Chicken,” waffle fries, a Nolan Ryan Slider, a grilled jalapeño, grilled shrimp, a piece of bacon and pickled okra. Whew. That’s an experience in a cup. chefpointcafe.org
Spend the night at the Fort Worth Zoo.
You don’t need a child or to be a child to enjoy this unusual experience. A minimum of 15 adults can book an overnight at the Fort Worth Zoo and sleep next door to roaring lions, yawning hippos and cawing exotic birds. The sleepover includes guided tours at night and in the morning before the zoo opens. See behind-the-scenes places that general admission ticket holders cannot access. The zoo provides dinner, nonalcoholic drinks and a continental breakfast. Tickets are $65 a person. fortworthzoo.org
Instagram your FunkyTown Donuts.
As if doughnuts were not already irresistible, FunkyTown Donuts makes them even more so. Options like Maple & Candied Bacon and Banana Cream-filled have this Eighth Avenue spot selling out daily. funkytowndonuts.com
Wait in line at Heim Barbecue on Magnolia Avenue.
This is a thing. People stand, visit with strangers, and people-watch as they smell the goodness from the smoker behind the restaurant. Children meet and play. Dogs bark hello. Don’t worry, this line is not nearly as long as Joe T. Garcia’s … yet. heimbbq.com
Watch live music while you float in a tube on the Trinity River downtown.
The Trinity River Vision Project makes this event possible every summer in Fort Worth at Texas’ only stage on water. The event is coined “Rockin’ the River.” Every Saturday for six weeks, revelers can drink beer while they float to the tune of live music. Even better, admission is free. A fireworks show caps the event. rockintheriverfw.com
Watch The Fort Worth Herd.
Forget the New York Stock Exchange. Fort Worth has the real livestock exchange and the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive. Head to the Love Shack balcony for a bird’s-eye view while 16 Texas longhorns, each representing a decade from Fort Worth’s wild Western story, stroll their way down the brick road. fortworthstockyards.org
Country-Western line dance at Billy Bob’s Texas.
No Fort Worth bucket list would be complete without a nod to Billy Bob’s. Dubbed “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” the country and western bar and dance hall attracts visitors from around the world. It serves as a mingling spot for both tourists and cowboys and cowgirls who flow in after a Stockyards rodeo. billybobstexas.com
Get your name on the list to dine at the Hot Box Biscuit Club.
One of the signature biscuit sandwiches from this pop-up brunch spot graced the cover of our June Best of Fort Worth issue. Put your name on the mailing list for a chance to reserve a seat at one of the pop-ups — currently there’s no rhyme or reason to when they are held, so be ready. June brunches filled up in mere minutes. hotboxbiscuitco.com
Share Tim Love’s Signature Paella with friends at the Woodshed.
Paella’s basic makeup is seafood, meat and poultry, but the Woodshed’s chef de cuisine, Mauricio Mier, describes this dish as uniquely Texan and Woodshed. Instead of chicken, the Woodshed uses Cornish game hen and rabbit-rattlesnake sausage. The seafood is jumbo shrimp and littleneck clams fished out of the Atlantic Ocean for their quality in flavor, due to colder water temps. All of this and some poblano peppers are cooked over an open fire, Woodshed style, and added into a sofrito, which is a stew-like sauce. Mauricio adds guajillo pepper in the sauce to give it that kick diners at the Woodshed pine for. It comes with “camp bread,” also grilled on the same grill as ingredients and completed with garlic aioli. This dish serves four to six people. Plan to get comfortable on river levees at this predominately outdoor restaurant and share this huge Texas-style meal with friends. woodshedsmokehouse.com
Get lost at Lost Oak Winery in Burleson.
Only moments from Fort Worth and deep into the North Texas tree belt is Lost Oak Winery. It has everything necessary for an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon — a creek, a pond, huge oak trees, a walking path that winds through the 52 acres, and wine. Lost Oak claims its own wooded nature and bike trail. Grab some award-winning wine from its tasting room and get lost on the grounds with a picnic lunch under a canopy of old oak trees. You’ll feel like you’re much farther than 22 miles away. lostoakwinery.com
Drink a Mai Tai in the funky bar at Japanese Palace.
When you walk in the front door of this Hibachi-style restaurant off of Camp Bowie West, take a right instead of a left. Right puts you in a tropical enclave apart from the roaring flames of the teppanyaki cooking tables Japanese Palace is known for. Order a Mai Tai and take it easy in this quiet, dark and cool tiki-style lounge. 8445 Camp Bowie West Blvd.
See Leon Bridges in his hometown.
Sure it’s fun to see Leon Bridges skyrocket to stardom, taking the stage at places like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Saturday Night Live,” hey, even “Sesame Street.” But there’s something extra special about seeing him in his hometown of Fort Worth — where he still lives when he’s not on tour. He wowed a local audience in June when his international tour kicked off at Music Factory in Irving. But, sometimes you’ll catch him when you least expect it — strolling down Magnolia Avenue or Seventh Street with friends. He’s even been known to hop on stage for surprise shows from time to time.
Drink a Sloe Gin Fizz and relax to jazz music at the Scat Jazz Lounge in Fort Worth.
A neon arrow directs visitors to a basement entrance tucked in an alley just off Sundance Square. Step inside and hear the smooth sounds of live jazz music. Now, order a Sloe Gin Fizz. The drink, rarely found on menus around town, uses sloe gin — gin made with sloes — a type of berry similar to the plum. scatjazzlounge.com
Kayak on the Trinity River.
Floating on any river would be relaxing and scenic, but floating on the Trinity River is ideal as it winds through one of the largest cities in the country located on an unnavigable river. That means no loud motorboats. The Trinity is a scenic path less traveled.
Run the Cowtown Marathon in the freezing cold.
Sure, sunny skies for your marathon run would be ideal, but this annual February event goes on rain or shine, freezing or not freezing. And it’s usually freezing. That’s okay, because it hasn’t stopped the Cowtown Marathon (which includes a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon and Ultra Marathon) from becoming the largest multi-event race in North Texas. The Cowtown Marathon’s executive director, Heidi Swartz, said a path is thoughtfully mapped out by some staff and board members — all runners themselves — so participants explore cultural landmarks and naturescapes while kicking concrete. cowtownmarathon.org
Witness the monarch butterfly great migration south as they pass through North Texas.
Each fall monarch butterflies migrate to central Mexico for the winter. The 2,500-mile path south crosses through Fort Worth in October, where monarchs stop to fuel up for their journey. The result is one of the most beautiful sights of the year. Many residents plant “butterfly gardens” to attract them. Want your own little butterfly garden? In as little as 5 to 10 square feet, you can plant bottlebrush, zinnia flowers, and/or milkweed and wait for them to arrive in the fall.
Buy a pair of boots from M.L. Leddy’s Bootmakers & Saddlery.
Famous actors and musicians, horsemen and kings have all ordered custom boots from M.L. Leddy’s. Several generations later, the grandson to the founder of this company, Wilson Franklin, still manages the store. The options are endless. Choose from kangaroo to cow, to ostrich leather (and more) for your boot in dozens of color options. Pick the shape of the boot’s tip, the height of the boot and whatever whimsical additions to make it your own. The store measures to ensure the boot perfectly fits your calves and feet. But patience and time, my grasshopper — you will need to wait up 12 months to get your handmade boots back. There is a long line of folks waiting.
Walk through the Clearfork Farmers Market on a Saturday morning.
Bustling with vendors and visitors alike, you can find everything from local honey and homemade olive oil to fresh produce from local farms at this charming market. It rests on the bluff of the Trinity River next to Press Café, where many enjoy the “trailhead breakfast” outdoors while sipping coffee. If you have a bike, you can jump on the trail next to your house and ride up into the market. Or plan ahead and take a long walk along the trails before the sun gets too hot. farmersmarket1848.com