This Thanksgiving our family had a big time in Dallas on our yearly vacation. We had a blast going to different attractions in the metroplex area including the Fort Worth Stockyards. It offers a peek into the Old West cattle herding way of life.
The Stockyards were once dubbed the Wall Street of the West. Cows would be herded from all over Texas and nearby states to be sold and shipped by train throughout the United States. There were also giant slaughter houses to process the meat and plenty of saloons to keep the cowboys and merchants happy.
The Stockyards Stampede
Something that happens each day at 11:30am and 4pm is the “big” stampede. A herd of longhorns are drove through the street by a group of real life cowboys(as my kids would say). This stampede is slow going as these cows aren’t at all interested in getting to the pins. It’s fun to see and after the stampede you can pay $5 to sit on one of the giant bulls while it just chills out eating out of a bucket. My kids weren’t overly impressed by the stampede. They did enjoy watching the cowboys handle not just the large animals but the crowd of people lining the sidewalk who were not always cognizant of giant cattle with monster horns moseying beside them.
We spent time at two main attractions besides walking the cobblestone street itself. The first place we stopped was the CowTown Cattlemen Maze. They are open most days and at the time of this writing had an internet coupon for half off on Tuesdays!
After getting your punch card be sure to get a time stamp at the window just before you enter the maze. You will also use this punch card to earn a little prize if you get all the punches on your card through the maze. Some of these were easy to find or get to and some weren’t. Two were in the platforms you have to go up to get the punches. My kids liked this part because you can try to strategize the way to get through the maze from the bird’s eyes view.
The maze is setup with walls made out of shoots that cows would be corralled. They were much taller than me and my 6’3” husband even. Somehow my two oldest and husband split from my youngest and me among the corridors. We were hot on their trail the entire maze and somehow passed their team by half a minute. It was so much fun!
After leaving the exit, don’t forget to punch your card with the time stamp machine. My daughter remembered to do this and so far for the day was 2nd or 3rd place in making it through the maze the fasted. They wrote her name and time completed on a card and put it on display on a 1st, 2nd, 3rd daily winner board. She was so proud!
Risky’s BBQ at the Stockyards
By this time, lunch was on our minds (and our empty stomachs). We went right across the street to Risky’s BBQ. It’s a bit of a famous place plus they served BBQ. Mmmmm. Just makes sense to have BBQ at the Stockyards, right? That was a delicious meal! It was also very kid friendly as the food is served on tin trays with a red and white checked paper liner.
In the outside area, tables line the outside of the patio (turned heated room for winter) and the interior was rows of picnic tables and benches pushed together to be able to accommodate 15-20 people per row or many different groups of people per row. I highly recommend this place! The waitstaff was right on point, the food was great, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. Perfect for a family vacation meal.
The Stockyards Museum
Now that our bellies were full, it was time to do a little walking and then go to the Stockyards Museum. A little-known museum tucked into the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange building. This building is still in use today by cattle traders and other businesses. It’s also a great place to stop for a public restroom which was so very clean! HINT: After going in the main entry, walk straight and turn left; it’ll be at the end of this hallway.
The museum is little but is packed full of all sorts of facts and artifacts surrounding the Stockyards. Just sign your name when you go in and also leave a donation if you can. Another hint is the scavenger hunt they offer.
Ask the person at the desk/cash register for a scavenger hunt paper and they happily oblige. Some of the answers are obvious like when did the light bulb at the museum start burning (it’ll surprise you) to who invented a specific rodeo sport. If you get stuck, don’t worry the museum staff is happy to lead you to the area where you can find the answer.
After you have all of the answers, the kids can turn the scavenger hunt form to the desk and pick out a prize. My kids each picked something different – a pin that looks like a cowboy complete with hat, a magnet with the lightbulb on it, and a Stockyards coloring book. It was such a fun time for such a small and inexpensive stop!
The rest of our time at the Stockyards was spent walking up and down the street looking at stores and contemplating what else there was to do. Unfortunately, the “shooting range” and military museum was closed the day we were there and by the time we passed the huge honky tonk with a family friendly restaurant we were worn out for the day! But no worries. That’ll give us something to see next time we go.
If you have kids that love all things Wild West, I highly suggest seeing this place. It’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t break the bank. And where else can you get a picture made with a one ton bull!