Cultural openings galore driving Fort Worth’s growth from Cowtown to cool

Von LISA KLEIN

While Dallas, Houston and Austin have long gotten all of the attention as Texas’s largest and most creative cities, Fort Worth has quietly emerged as the new hot spot in the Lone Star State.

The city has been getting its share of the buzz lately, and for good reason. It has cultivated a particular brand of Western chic that appeals to visitors, longtime locals and relocating luxury homebuyers alike.

“If you haven’t caught up on the latest, let me fill you in: Fort Worth, Texas, has emerged as one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, swiftly earning a reputation as the epitome of urban cool,” said Martha Williams of the Williams Trew division of real estate firm Ebby Halliday.

“What was once a quiet, small town to the west of Dallas – a city synonymous with cowboys and culture – has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past two decades.”

Living legends

Established as an army post nearly 200 years ago, Fort Worth was a major stop for “drovers” on the Chisholm Trail cattle-driving path. Once the railroad came to town in 1876, it became the heart of the Texas livestock industry, earning its nickname of Cowtown.

Its other nickname, Panther City, came from a dig at Fort Worth published in a Dallas newspaper around the same time – the writer joked that the town was so quiet a panther could sleep undisturbed on Main Street.

Not so anymore.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area saw the most gains in population across the country last year, with Fort Worth itself reaching just under one million residents.

The Parkhill and Westover Hills neighborhoods are full of historic homes. Images courtesy of Williams Trew

“Luxury buyers are increasingly drawn to Fort Worth due to its convenient proximity to DFW airport and the broader metroplex,” Ms. Williams said.

“The luxury real estate market in Fort Worth has seen a significant uptick in demand, driven by a scarcity of inventory and the city’s unique appeal.”

Buyers are flocking to historic neighborhoods such as Parkhill, which has homes dating to the 1930s and “exudes charm.” Westover Hills is another affluent community where many families have lived for generations.

Newer homes can be found in areas such as the gated Mira Vista golf course community and Riverhills, which boasts estate-sized lots and a prime location along the Trinity River.

“The allure of Fort Worth lies not only in its expanding cultural scene, but also in its unmatched quality of life – a haven for families seeking affordable housing, top-notch amenities and a sense of community,” Ms. Williams said.

Horsing around

That cultural scene is certainly booming.

Fort Worth saw a record number of tourists in 2022 and has even garnered attention from the likes of Vogue magazine and celebrities such as model Bella Hadid, who has been spotted wearing cowboy hats and riding horses – not to mention dating a rodeo star.

Movie and TV production is in full swing, too – Yellowstone spinoffs 1883 and Lawmen: Bass Reeves, among many others, have been filming scenes in the historic stockyards.

Sundance Square and the stockyards showcase Fort Worth’s history and bright future. Images: Getty Images

“Much credit is owed to the visionary efforts of the Bass family and the development of Sundance Square,” Ms. Williams said. “Through their strategic land acquisition and meticulous planning, they’ve cultivated a dynamic downtown hub – a vibrant amalgamation of residential, commercial and recreational spaces.”

Just beyond lies the bustling Cultural District, where numerous museums and the historic Will Rogers event center have been joined by newcomers such as the Dickies Arena, boutiques, the upscale Crescent Hotel and the buzzy Bowie House.

Opening last December to much fanfare, Bowie House is a hotel with a 200-year-old saloon bar that mingles with modern décor and street art. Owned by Jo Ellard, a National Cutting Horse Association hall of famer, locals flock to the restaurant and bar until closing time.

“Bowie House encapsulates the essence of Fort Worth, and for that, we extend our gratitude to Jo,” Ms. Williams said.

The stockyards are also holding on to their Cowtown essence, holding twice-daily cattle drives down their main thoroughfare and rodeos at the Cowtown Coliseum, home of the world’s first indoor version – all while experiencing a renaissance of their own thanks to the aptly named Hotel Drover and a slew of new shops and restaurants.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, established in 1896, is still going strong too, although it now takes place at the Dickies Arena – part of the Will Rogers complex.

“From the renowned Stock Show in January to the cutting horse shows and other world-class equestrian events held year-round, the complex offers a diverse range of entertainment options for locals and visitors alike,” Ms. Williams said. “A true testament to Fort Worth’s enduring allure and boundless potential.”