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Fort Worth Family Fun

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When you’ve got a kid who’s as obsessed with horses and cowboy culture as mine, it only makes sense to head to Texas. Fort Worth, named the #1 value-friendly destination in the United States by Hotwire.com, was a no-brainer for us. Originally a lawless western outpost, it’s now known as much for its world-class cultural amenities as it is for its daily cattle drive. Here’s a look at Fort Worth family fun.

Fort Worth Family Fun

Stockyards National Historic District

Families curious about the Old West, should mosey over to the Stockyards National Historic District outside of downtown. Preserved buildings serve as backdrop to twice daily cattle drives. Yep, Texas longhorns saunter down the street every day; a reenactment of the cattle drives when this was the last stop before going on to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Fortworth cattle drive

Fortworth cattle drive (Photo credit: Fort Worth Tourism)

Families can explore the old stockyard pens, meet critters at the Fortworth Stockyards petting zoo, and gallop through the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze just like Amazing Race contestants did. There’s also a Cowboy Camp, geared toward grade schoolers where kids can learn more about life in the 1860s. One of the Stockyards' big highlights is the indoor rodeo at Billy Bob's Texas that features bull riding, calf roping, team roping and barrel races. It offers fun activities for the kids (like mutton bustin’), and takes place every Friday and Saturday night.

Culture district Fort Worth

Plan to spend a full afternoon inside the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Fort Worth Family Museums

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History isn’t a snoozer. It’s got all of the cool, interactive exhibits kids love, plus a DinoLab. Diehard dino fans take it outside, excavating fossils with wooden tools and paint brushes, while their parents can happily hang back and watch. The space also includes the Noble Planetarium and the Fort Worth Children’s Museum. There’s a lot here, so make sure you budget enough time.

Naturally, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is a must-see for would-be-cowgirls like my daughter. You’ll want to try out the cool interactive Bronc ride for sure. A short movie filled with lots of rah rah girl power messages was another big hit for my family.

Gharials crocodiles at the Fort Worth Zoo

These are real crocs – not sculptures!

Fort Worth Zoo

Rated one of the top five zoos in the US, there’s so much going on at the Fort Worth Zoo, you could almost call it an amusement park (making it an excellent value destination). In addition to a rock climbing tower and a mini train, little wranglers can romp around an old-fashioned western town, complete with play barn and shooting gallery. As for the animals, be sure to visit the awesome African Savannah exhibit. Kids will also enjoy taking a peek at the cool Gharial crocodile species from India and petting cuddlier creatures at the petting zoo.

A blacksmith at Fort Worth Log Cabin Village (Photo from LogCabinVillage.org)

A blacksmith at Fort Worth Log Cabin Village (Photo from LogCabinVillage.org)

Log Cabin Village

Close by the zoo is Log Cabin Village, a quick diversion filled with well shaded historical buildings and characters like blacksmiths to show kids just how painful life was before iPads. Explore seven cabins, a one-room schoolhouse, a smokehouse, blacksmith shop, and herb garden.

Fort Worth Water Gardens

Spend some sunny hours splashing about at the Fort Worth Water Gardens

Fort Worth Water Gardens

If you make it into downtown Fort Worth, you’ll find a clean and safe center filled with lovely historic buildings. We hopped on Molly the Trolley, a vintage-style free shuttle service to get us to the Fort Worth Water Gardens, an urban park filled with fountains galore. Swimming isn’t permitted in the pools here, but you can still cool off with the spray and dip your toes in. Kids love running through this park and you’ll score major points by bringing a few toy boats to float.

Esperanza's breakfast biscuits, Fort Worth

Esperanza's biscuits melt in your mouth!

Fort Worth Grub

The best spot in Fort Worth for breakfast (or lunch or snacks) has to be Esperanza's. This Mexican bakery and restaurant serves up the best hash browns ever. Choose from Tex-Mex entrees like Chilaquiles and pork skin scrambled eggs. You'll find Mexican biscuits on each table so good you know they must be made with lard.

For lunch hit up Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar B Que for meat sold by the pound and served on butcher paper. Supplement your meal with baked potatoes, corn or mac and cheese, or just tuck into the free pot of beans. Everyone eats at long communal tables dotted with jars of stuffed jalepenos and rolls of paper towel. It’s a large, open space so even if your kids make a raucous, it’s unlikely to be noticed.

For dinner, the H3 Ranch steakhouse inside the Stockyards Hotel has a lively atmosphere with comfy leather seat booths that are ideal for squirmy kids. There’s a kid’s menu with several options under $5, but you’re here for the beef. Corn-fed aged beef to be exact, and grilled over hickory wood, for that smoky flavor.

Stockyards Hotel guest room

A cowboy-kitschy Stockyards Hotel guest room

Where to Hang Yer Hat

The century-old Stockyards Hotel is authentically Old West. My girl loved sussing out the cowboy-kitschy joint, especially peeking inside the room where Bonnie and Clyde once stayed. There’s even an old-fashioned pull chain toilet. After a day of cattle drives and barrel races, we found the beds super comfy.

After our Fort Worth family vacation, I was surprised by how much I adored the Lone Star State, here's why.

Have you ever visited this Texas town? What's your favorite Fort Worth family activity? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Saucy Travel Mama: Thank you to Fort Worth Tourism and Texas Tourism for hosting my stay. As always, my opinions are my own.

All photos by Jody Robbins unless otherwise noted.

About Jody Robbins, The Saucy Travel Mama

After a career in international marketing and a few years spent living the high life as an expat, Jody now resides with her family in Calgary, Canada. Figuring travel writing was a good way to combine her wanderlust and parental duties, she’s spent the past few years working with both print and online media, contributing to the Calgary Herald Travel and Real Life sections and blogging about her adventures at Travels with Baggage (JodyRobbins.com). When not circling the globe with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband, one dog), she can usually be found snowboarding or pretending to enjoy hiking. Find Jody on Twitter at @Jody_Robbins.

Comments

  1. Angus Pryor says:

    Hi Jody

    I agree with you about Fort Worth. We went there with the kids a few years back and had a great time. Those longhorns at stockyards stations certainly stick in my mind. But unfortunately, I never came across an esperanza biscuit – they look great!

    Regards

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