Searching for a vacation destination where you can live your cowboy dreams with a modern twist? Look no further than the Fort Worth Stockyards!
Attend a rodeo or other entertaining events, shop the best Western apparel and home wear brands, watch a longhorn cattle drive, learn how to line dance, and stay in luxurious style, all without leaving the Stockyards.
“The Stockyards has this really cool ecosystem of legacy Western heritage and new fresh brands,” shares Kayla Wilke, director of design and development for lifestyle and hospitality with the Stockyard Heritage Development Co. “You can go to the Cowtown Coliseum and watch a rodeo or PBR’s Bulls Night Out, or head down to Billy Bob’s Texas for authentic country music and line dancing.”
It’s the diversity of opportunities that makes people fall in love with the Stockyards charm, but it’s the authentic western traditions that keep people coming back.
“If you are looking to experience a romantic version of the west in a way that only Texas can deliver, the Fort Worth Stockyards contains the grit and charm,” Wilke says. “It’s got history, it’s got authentic bones, but with a spirit that reverberates through the whole Western lifestyle culture and beyond it.”
The Fort Worth Stockyards is built on deep roots, with original buildings dating back over a century. In 2014, the Stockyard Heritage Development group launched a mission to revitalize the area and create an atmosphere that welcomed both Texas natives and travelers from around the world.
“Fort Worth locals love the Stockyards, and they really didn’t want to see it get demolished by neglect,” Wilke explains. “That’s why we initially started on this endeavor. We’ve been adding that local flavor while still focusing on the Western heritage.”
One must-see area for any Stockyards visitor is Mule Alley, a recently restored historic district that was used to house working mules during World War I. Now, brick-paved roads are lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and even a winery where people can enjoy a taste of history with modern flare.
“The development of Mule Alley was very strategic in the merchandising of those historic barns,” reveals Craig Cavileer, managing partner with the Stockyards Heritage Development Co. “We targeted a lot of local restaurants and chefs to come populate that area.”
By relying on local talent to serve up first-class fashion, decadent drinks, and mouth-watering meals, the Stockyards offers a true Texan experience.
“Take legendary retailers like Lucchese, King’s Ranch, and Wrangler, add in a little different element that’s not heavy Western, and you get that nice eclectic mix,” Wilke explains. “It gives that local flavor that tourists love, so adding that component was essential for us.”
There’s fun for every age group, with family-friendly activities like horseback riding and a petting zoo, plus captivating nightlife that will keep the party going after dark.
“We want everyone to come and enjoy the Stockyards,” Cavileer adds. “It used to be a one-time trip to go watch the rodeo or the cattle drive. Now, it’s a destination where people can come multiple times a year or even a week.”
Although the Stockyards now holds many newer elements, the legacy lives on in historic features and timeless traditions.
“We’re still honoring our past while looking ahead to the next phase,” Wilke asserts. “The history has never left; it’s just been enhanced so the next generation is able to enjoy it.”
Luxury Goes West
No trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards is complete without a stay at the luxurious Hotel Drover, recently named the Travel and Leisure Best Hotel for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. You won’t find another hotel that more perfectly combines authentic Western style with modern elements and indulgent comfort throughout the expansive facility.
“It feels a lot different than your typical hotel, because we styled it with more of a residential lens,” Wilke reveals. “We looked at this as a 180,000 square foot custom home. When you’re decorating a house, you buy things you like, bring them all home, and figure out where it’s going to live. That’s the approach we took, with extra attention to detail. We wanted to make sure there’s Western flair, but that everyone can come make their own memories, without feeling like they’re being forced into one lifestyle. It just feels authentic.”
The hotel’s unique aesthetic honors Western heritage while supporting locally owned businesses, too. Designed and developed largely during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hotel Drover integrates elements from many who were feeling the effects of the pandemic firsthand.
“We worked with locals who didn’t have any business or were shut down to populate the Drover,” Wilke says. “We pieced together leather wrapped columns, Pendleton chairs and chaise lounges, a pool that imitates a trough out in a field for farm animals, and crystal chandeliers.”
All those elements embody the blend of Western authenticity and modern couture that is evident in every inch of Hotel Drover, from each of the unique guest rooms to a variety of common areas, 97 West Kitchen and Bar, and breathtaking courtyards perfect for special events or an evening drink. Whether you’re visiting with friends or on a romantic getaway, Hotel Drover’s southern hospitality will make you feel right at home.
More to Come for the Fort Worth Stockyards
Once you make your first visit to the Stockyards, be sure to plan for a return trip. Not only will you want to revisit all your new favorite spots, but there’s even more to come for this historic district in the near future.
“We have 30 acres yet to develop,” Cavileer reveals. “We have a lot of new locations for Western retail, experiential retail, live entertainment, and more. There are all sorts of things planned for the next couple years.”
As part of the Stockyard Heritage Development Co, both Cavileer and Wilke emphasize the importance of honoring the history of the Stockyards as they continue growth efforts. Althought they’re passionate about their development goals, they’re equally dedicated to honoring the history behind every element of the Fort Worth Stockyards in order to bring those stories to the next generation of travelers.
“Our responsibility is to see that the Stockyards continues its legacy, while also revealing it to people other than those that are involved in contestant-based sports,” Wilke says, referencing the professional rodeo athletes who compete in Fort Worth. “The Stockyards creates such a cool, authentic point of view. People leave with a different appreciation of the Western lifestyle and its heritage.”
It’s that Western spirit that draws Fort Worth natives and tourists alike to the Stockyards time and time again. Whether you’ve never worn a cowboy hat or you spend every day in boots, you’ll find a place in the Stockyards that’ll make you want to come back for more.
“I think everyone has this romantic love and appreciation for Western lifestyle,” Wilke concludes. “The Stockyards allows people to experience an authentic place with history, charm, and culture—with a little bit of something for everyone.”
This article about the Fort Worth Stockyards appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Western Life Today. Click here to subscribe!