Every morning and afternoon, a herd of Texas longhorns is driven by cowhands in Fort Worth, Texas. That might not surprise anyone, but what do they think when this happens right on East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District of this modern city? Now that grabs people’s attention.
That is just one of the many attractions in this interesting northeast Texas city, part of what they call the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Throughout its history, Fort Worth has been known as the place “where the West begins.” The popular new TV drama “1883” has Fort Worth as the launch point for wagonloads of pioneers traveling to the Oregon Trail and across the American wilderness.
But Fort Worth is not just a cow town stuck in the past. This is where cowboy meets culture. It is a trendy, contemporary city of 875,000 that also proudly embraces its deep Western heritage.
This Texas city can be an appealing option for planners searching for a distinctive meeting destination. Fort Worth will host the next Small Market Meetings Summit May 2-3 at the beautiful Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel and Golf Club at Champions Circle.
“Visit Fort Worth, the local convention and visitors bureau, has been attending various conferences staged by [Summit organizers] the Group Travel Family for a while so when we had the chance to host one, we were excited,” said Stefanie Schafner, national sales manager for this CVB. “We will now be the site for the second-ever Small Market Meetings Summit. It will be at the Champions Circle resort, with its impressive 18-hole golf course that has Big Shot features and many amenities.”
The property has been completely renovated in recent years with freshened guest rooms, new meeting rooms and restaurants, and a lot more. The resort sits directly across the street from the famous Texas Motor Speedway, with its exciting NASCAR and IndyCar races. The track partners well with the hotel, and large or small groups are welcome to enjoy both.
The resort hotel is just 17 miles from the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. A cheap $2.50 will get you aboard TexRail for a fast trip from the airport into the heart of downtown Fort Worth.
Meet and Sleep
The Fort Worth Convention Center is in the city’s downtown district. It has a total of 250,000 square feet of exhibit space, with a 28,000-square-foot ballroom, about 40 breakout rooms and casual gathering spaces. Plans are in the works to expand the center, and an announcement about that is coming soon, said Schafner.
Adjacent to the convention center is the Omni Fort Worth, a hotel with a whopping 614 sleeping rooms and 68,000 square feet of meeting space. Another major hotel in the downtown area is the Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth, with 504 rooms and 57,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. One more major hotel to mention is the Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel Downtown, with 429 sleeping rooms and 22,000 square feet of space in which to meet.
For a change of pace, planners might want to consider using the recently opened Kimpton Harper Hotel. It is an upscale high-rise hotel in a 1921 building in the Sundance Square district, a wonderful place for dining, entertainment and shopping. The large inviting plaza is great for relaxing and people-watching.
The city’s first full-service hotel is a special one. The Hotel Drover is dedicated to the many cowboys who for decades drove cattle across the Plains and into the Fort Worth stockyards. The Hotel Drover is an Autograph Collection property with 200 guest rooms. It is in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.
“In our 1-mile-wide downtown core you have nearly all of the major hotel brands that you would want,” said Schafner. Also, Visit Fort Worth likes to brag that its downtown is a safe, walkable area, so meeting attendees should bring comfortable shoes.
Some planners skip convention centers and hotels for their meetings and instead look for other venues. Dickies Arena has up to 14,000 seats for concerts, basketball, hockey, rodeos and family shows but can also be scaled down for smaller gatherings. Many of the city’s interesting museums rent out spaces for meetings. Another alternative meeting site is the 112-acre Whiskey Ranch, a distillery on a historic golf course at Glen Garden Country Club. Groups can tour the distillery and rent the event barn on the site. This is also where two popular alcoholic drinks are made: TX Whiskey and TX Bourbon.
In addition to the twice-daily cattle drive, the only one of its kind in the world, there are plenty of other Western and historical attractions for visitors to enjoy.
A rodeo is an exciting thing for visitors to see. Cowboys and cowgirls and the bulls and broncs will be in fine form at the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, held at Dickies Arena. Then there is the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo. Riding and roping are just some of the skills on display in this highly competitive sport, held in the historic Cowtown Coliseum.
Old West history lovers might like to stroll through the Stockyards Museum or the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Another exhibit in Fort Worth focuses on a Western movie icon. “John Wayne: An American Experience” gives visitors an intimate look at the life of the movie star known for his many Western films. Photos, videos, film props and costumes are just some of the many items on exhibit there.
Another historic district near downtown Fort Worth is Hell’s Half Acre, which in the late 1800s was a rough and wild sector filled with cowboys, saloons, dance halls, bordellos, gambling houses and gunfights. Part of the original district remains today, and visitors can read a historic marker that lays out the history of this bad-to-the-bone neighborhood.
When it is time for food and drink and a do-si-do on the dance floor, Billy Bob’s Texas, billed as the world’s largest honky-tonk, is an excellent pick. Over the years, some of the greatest country music artists in the world have performed on that stage. Another place to go is the restored Mule Alley, with its legendary horse and mule barns. This beautifully restored district is full of restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and creative workplaces.
Shopping is a great pastime while visiting a new city, and Fort Worth offers great selections of authentic Western wear at shops such as Stockyards Station, Maverick Fine Western Wear and M.L. Leddy’s, to name a few.
Schafner is looking forward to showing off Fort Worth to meeting attendees who want to explore during a meeting’s off-hours.
“We get to share our city,” she said. “We hear a lot about how great Texas is and the various cities here, but when you come to Fort Worth, you feel the personality and the Western flair that we are so good at providing.”
Fort Worth also offers a blend of culture, city sophistication and family fun. Bass Performance Hall is a jewel in the city and an outstanding venue for music, dance and Broadway shows. It is home to four resident companies: the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Texas Ballet Theater, the Fort Worth Opera and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and Cliburn Concerts.
Fort Worth’s museums will expand visitors’ minds and spirits. Just west of downtown is the Cultural District, where museums fill a parklike setting and span the entire history of art, from priceless antiquities to modern pieces.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History provides extraordinary learning experiences for all. Kids have a place of their own to explore at the Fort Worth Children’s Museum.
The Fort Worth Zoo is highly rated and provides people with an entire day of fun. The section called “Texas Wild!” highlights the unique wildlife of Texas and is very much hands-on. The four ape species of the world are featured in the primate area. And folks can say they viewed some of the most endangered reptiles and amphibians on the planet. There is also a petting zoo for milder close-up encounters with animals.
Fort Worth Botanical Gardens is simply beautiful, and peaceful too. It offers 2,500 species of plants and 23 specialty gardens on its grounds. The Japanese Garden has pools filled with koi and beautifully maintained plants and an eye-catching waterfall. The conservatory has tropical foliage, and there is a European-inspired rose garden that looks and smells heavenly. The elevated walkway through a forest has 13 interactive educational stations.
“Fort Worth is a city that will stand out while creating many memories for visitors,” Schafner concluded. “You will feel like you’re a local after you’ve been around town for a while because we are friendly and offer real Southern hospitality.”
To register for the 2022 Small Market Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, May 2-3, go to smmconf.com/summit.