Your toes will tap all weekend. That's reason enough to visit the Stockyards district, but there's more. Its cobblestoned artery, Exchange Avenue, has plenty of shops and restaurants to peruse during the day. And after dark, the twang of steel guitars spills from saloons and dance halls, producing an irresistible soundtrack.
Friday--Ease Down Exchange
First order of business: Look like a local. To navigate these waters, you need the right duds, so step inside M.L. Leddy's Boot & Saddlery, which has held a corner of Main and Exchange since 1941. You'll probably spy manager Mark Dunlap creasing a cowboy hat in a small fog of steam. Straw hats start at $35, but Leddy's specializes in custom hats ($125 to $3,500) and boots (starting at $500).
Across the street, Maverick Fine Western Wear features apparel and accessories for both men and women. We really liked the Western and American Indian-made jewelry, from earrings to belt buckles.
Check in after 3 p.m. at the Stockyards Hotel. From reproduction Remingtons to cowhide-covered chairs, the lobby is slathered with Old West decor. Its greatest amenity, however, is its location--you'll find everything in the Stockyards within walking distance. (Rates start at $169;  625-6427 or www.stockyardshotel.com.)
For other lodging options, try a chain hotel. We suggest SpringHill Suites, near the city's Cultural District. (Rates start at $89;  878-2554.)
For dinner, head to Cattlemen's on North Main Street and baptize yourself by fire at the area's best steak house since 1947. The chef mans his charcoal grill in front of the dining room. Try the filet mignon ($17.95) or Heart O'Texas rib eye ($24.95).
Now that you're truly ready to boot scoot, start with the most famous of 'em all, Billy Bob's Texas. At 127,000 square feet, arguably the world's largest honky-tonk, Billy Bob's goes on for days. While a disco saddle spins above the dance floor, lines of locals hop, slide, and spin through the “Boot Scootin' Boogie," “Wishful Thinking," and “Who's Your Daddy?"
Saturday--The Stockyards Standards
Rise for a straightforward flapjack breakfast ($6.25) at Hunter Brothers' H3 Ranch, adjacent to the hotel. Afterward, make your way down to the Livestock Exchange Building around 11:30 a.m. for the daily cattle drive, where real cowboys and cowgirls on horseback lead about a dozen longhorns clip-clopping down Exchange. (Note: The drive is also at 4 p.m.)
Stroll through nearby Stockyards Station, an old hog and sheep marketing center converted into shops and restaurants. Grab a Sliced Beef Brisket Sandwich ($6.95) at Riscky's BBQ. At Ernest Tubb Records find traditional country, Western swing, bluegrass, gospel, and cowboy music. Home to vintage records and hard-to-get CDs, the shop also features live music every Saturday afternoon.
For a break from the cowboy life, make dinner reservations at Michaels ( 877-3413) on West Seventh Street. Contemporary prints by Andy Warhol and local artist Matt Clark line the walls, giving nods to the myriad of museums in the surrounding Cultural District. Order the house specialty--pepper-crusted, pan-seared tenderloin with Ancho chile-bourbon sauce ($32.50) for chef Michael Thomson's take on Texas cuisine.
Snag a table at Pearl's Dancehall & Saloon because when it's hopping, the neon sign-lit dance floor is as crowded as a dictionary. Where Billy Bob's feels clubby and modern, Pearl's focuses mostly on honky-tonk and Western swing. Here, boot-clad couples shuffle counterclockwise ad infinitum, like an endless flotilla.
Sunday--Rest Those Dancing Feet
For an authentic Mexican breakfast, head to Esperanza's. Most diners order the Migas ($7.25), strips of fried corn tortillas scrambled with eggs and a mild red sauce and topped with shredded chicken and white cheese.
If you need to ask forgiveness, George Westby leads Cowboy Church, a casual, nondenominational service starting at noon at Stockyards Station. After this Fort Worth weekend, partners, don't be surprised if your toes keep tapping all the way home.
MUSIC TO YOUR EARS
Here are a couple of our other favorite joints you've gotta check out in the Stockyards.
- White Elephant Saloon: 106 East Exchange Avenue; (817) 624-8273 or www.whiteelephantsaloon.com. Features: Indoor shuffleboard, an outdoor beer garden, and live music every night of the week.
- Longhorn Saloon: 121 West Exchange Avenue; (817) 740-9477 or www.longhornsaloon.net. Features: 1,000-square-foot dance floor, pool tables, and shuffleboard tables.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, 415 Throckmorton, Fort Worth, TX 76102; 1-800-433-5747 or www.fortworth.com.
This article is from the August 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.