A man in a cowboy hat sits and laughs at a table behind a large platter of nachos

© Todd White Stills and Motion

Fort Worth earned its primary nickname, “Cowtown,” during the glory days of cowboys and cattle drives. But another nickname, “Panther City,” is experiencing a resurgence. One legend holds that during the late 1800s, Fort Worth was so quiet a panther took a nap in the middle of the street. Whether or not it’s true, modern Fort Worth has woken up and is now full of vibrant art, trendsetting food, and boundless energy.

Panther City BBQ

If you’re having trouble deciding whether to eat barbecue or Tex-Mex for lunch, this restaurant has you covered. The owners have merged their Mexican heritage with the flavors of Texas barbecue. Start with the brisket elote, a cup of Mexican street corn topped with chopped brisket. Add in some “Flacos Tacos” with smoked beef smothered inside a cheesy tortilla. Then, finish with a classic barbecue platter that carries a Tex-Mex kick.


Fort Worth Zoo

Founded in 1909, this is the oldest continually operated zoo in Texas, but the exhibits change so often that it feels new with every visit. Walking through is like jumping across continents with every furry, spiny, and crawly creature in the animal kingdom. The new Elephant Springs exhibit gives an amazing perspective on the majestic beasts; visit soon to see 1-year-old Asian elephant Brazos while he’s still a baby. Feed giraffes in the African Savanna section, but watch out for their giant purple tongues.

Near Southside

Covering over a dozen blocks of Magnolia Avenue, this arts and entertainment district features restaurants for every palate nestled among murals from every color palette. Off-the-wall shops include Ephemera Terrariums, where visitors can create their own tiny world of indoor plants and figurines; and 817 Vintage Hype, which sells vintage T-shirts.


Spiral Diner

Vegan food might be the last thing you’d expect in Cowtown, but Spiral Diner serves massive portions that break all stereotypes. The nachos are so filling, with beans and cashew queso, you may struggle to finish them. The double-patty soy and wheat protein burger comes loaded with cheese and special sauce, and the classic diner pancakes are some of the tastiest I’ve had.


Sundance Square

This area of downtown was once just a parking lot. Now, it’s one of the most vibrant public squares in Texas. Visit restaurants and shops that fill 100-year-old buildings and sit below a canopy of string lights as children play in the fountain. Grab a scoop of fresh ice cream from local favorite MELT and listen to live music to celebrate a day well spent.


So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the Fort Worth episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the January 2023 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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