When drovers headed cattle north up the Chisholm Trail in the late 19th century, Fort Worth was the last stop for supplies before crossing the Red River and entering Native American territories. Between 1866 and 1890, more than 4 million head of cattle were trailed through Fort Worth, giving the city its Cowtown nickname.
Today, the Fort Worth Stockyards, a National Historic District, honors this Western heritage with daily cattle drives, plenty of honky-tonks, and a new self-guided Stars of the Stockyards tour, which showcases where Western (and some non-Western) movies and TV shows such as 1883; Walker, Texas Ranger; and Pure Country were filmed. Visitors can find QR codes around the Stockyards, which directs them to a map of the walkable tour.
Below are my favorite things I discovered while navigating the Stars of the Stockyards tour.
Known for their fried onion burgers, Hookers Grill was recently transformed into a gambling den for 1883, the prequel to the hit TV show Yellowstone. The show’s creator, Texas native Taylor Sheridan, and his team rebuilt the two-story outdoor deck at Hookers, and today it’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the work done by the production team. Stop in for a burger and fries and see the building’s exterior, designed to take you back to the late 1800s.
White Elephant Saloon
An essential stop on Exchange Avenue, the White Elephant is known as the place where Fort Worth’s last gunfight took place between a city marshal named Longhair Jim Courtright and White Elephant owner Luke Short. It’s said the White Elephant is still haunted by Longhair Jim, one of the most corrupt lawmen in the city. In modern times, the Saloon was featured in 1883 as Pearl’s Dance Hall, where Billy Bob Thornton portrays Sheriff Courtright. The Saloon was also transformed into the CD Bar for the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger.
STAY IN STYLE
If you’re planning on an extended stay in Fort Worth, hang your hat at Hotel Drover, a luxury hotel that is part of Fort Worth’s renaissance. The hotel’s 200 rooms feature rustic charm with a modern spin. The lobby bar offers craft cocktails and a cozy fireplace, and the on-site restaurant, 97 West, kicks Texas cuisine up a notch with options such as antelope with goat cheese grits and redfish with adobo butter. Out front of the hotel, don’t miss the bronze star honoring Texas Rangers past and present, a part of the Texas Trail of Fame.
The Stockyards Hotel
While not as well known for cinematic lore, the Stockyards Hotel is still a site to see, as it’s where the bank-robbing couple Bonnie and Clyde were known to stay when passing through town. You can even stay in the same room where they stayed during their 1933 Fort Worth visit, with a great view of the Stockyards included. You’ll also see memorabilia, including a poem that Bonnie penned for Clyde.
Just up the street from the White Elephant is the Cowtown Coliseum, where the world’s first indoor rodeo occurred in 1918 and the home of the world’s only year-round rodeo. Famous folks who’ve graced these walls include Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Presidents Carter and Roosevelt, and Bob Wills, aka the “King of Western Swing.” The Coliseum was featured in the final rodeo scene in Pure Country, starring George Strait, and in the film Tough Enough, where Dennis Quaid’s character fought in an amateur boxing match.