For travelers seeking an idealized version of Texas – filled with wagon rides, cowboys and the settings of famous Westerns – Dallas may initially feel like a disappointment. On arriving at Dallas Fort Worth Airport, there is rarely a single Stetson in sight. Driving into the downtown area, it’s clear that the city is decidedly cosmopolitan as expansive highways filled with shiny pick-up trucks replace the dirt roads and horse-drawn carts of fanciful Western dreams.
Dallas is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and the high-rise architecture of downtown is a world away from the Texas made famous in Western movies. Hipster cafés, restaurants and upscale yoga studios are abundant across Dallas, dispersed among pristine residential neighborhoods, indicative of the city’s strong economy.
If you’re looking for an old-timey southern experience in Texas, there are still a few authentic things to eat, see, buy and do, but you’ll have to hunt for them – so here’s our guide to experiencing the best that Dallas and Fort Worth have to offer.
Bob’s Steak & Chop House, Lemmon
For upscale Dallas dining, Bob’s Steak & Chop House is a must-visit institution. The original location in Dallas is formal in a way that’s unique to Texas, and you can still spot some diners in their best black Stetsons and bolo ties. Texas has a proud ranching heritage, which means that the state is famous for producing some of the best steaks in the world. Bob’s Steak & Chop House is a classic steak joint, with meals always accompanied by an iconic, larger-than-life glazed carrot – but, really, it’s the meat that shines at this establishment.
The Fort Worth Stock Yards, Fort Worth
An authentic Texas cowboy experience can be found in nearby Fort Worth, approximately an hour’s drive from downtown Dallas. The Fort Worth Stock Yards are situated in a national historic district, which retains the feel of a Western movie set and even hosts a twice-daily cattle drive. Complete with brick walkways and wooden corrals, this is the place to visit if you’re looking to step back in time. Daily rodeos, horse-and-cart rides, the world’s largest honky-tonk and a choice of BBQ joints make this the Texan experience many tourists are looking for.
Accessibility & Audience:Accessible (Wheelchair), Family Friendly
Services & Activities:Guided Tours, Outlet
Atmosphere:Touristy, Historical Landmark
The Stock Yards Museum, Fort Worth
A visit to the Stock Yards wouldn’t be complete without learning a little about the history of ‘Cowtown’. It’s well worth spending the minimal admission fee (just $2 for adults and free for children) to see the authentic Texan artifacts and exhibitions documenting the area’s journey from ‘Hells Half Acre’, as it was once known, to ‘The Wall Street of the West’.
The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Fort Worth
The Fort Worth Stock Yards are also home to the world’s first indoor rodeo. Hosted daily, the championship rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum is an evening event, featuring bull-riding, bucking bronco, calf-roping and barrel-racing. For foreign visitors, the evening offers a true taste of American patriotism, kicking off with a rendition of the National Anthem and Neil Diamond’s Proud to Be an American. For a family-friendly daytime version of the show, the venue also hosts Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show.
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, Fort Worth
Dallas and Fort Worth are home to some of the best BBQ joints in the USA, but Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que’s epic size and proximity to the Stock Yards make it an easy choice for tourists – especially as casual BBQ dining is an experience that’s hard to find outside the South. Diners choose their meat cuts straight from the BBQ pit and can negotiate prime cuts directly with the pit master. After choosing their meat, visitors move down a canteen-style line to gather sides and sauces, all to be consumed off brown sheets of paper at long bench-style tables.
Billy Bob’s Texas, Fort Worth
Famous for being ‘the world’s largest honky-tonk’, Billy Bob’s Texas is the destination of choice for country music fans – and is certainly big enough to warrant its reputation. Comprised of several bars, a hall of fame, billiards hall, the Honky Tonk Kitchen, bull-riding and even a gift shop, this is so much more than a typical bar. The venue regularly hosts some of the biggest names in country music, as well as line-dancing and other events that deliver a true Texan experience.
Ozona Grill and Bar, Dallas
If you’re looking for a real Texan breakfast, look no further than Ozona Grill and Bar: a weekend favorite for locals, with an extensive and authentic brunch menu. This is traditional Texan breakfast fare, so there’s no avocado toast in sight on a menu packed with Tex-Mex dishes such as migas enchiladas and huevos rancheros, as well as Southern biscuits and gravy or chicken-fried steak and eggs. The extensive build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and sunny patio make this a perfect destination for a boozy brunch with friends.
Nate’s Seafood and Steakhouse, Addison
Nate’s Seafood and Steakhouse may be off the tourist track, but its reputation keeps this local joint busy. The crawfish at this family-owned eatery is so well-known by the locals that they don’t even bother putting it on the menu, so make sure to ask for it – but be warned, it comes in servings so large that it’s a workout just peeling the suckers. The establishment is almost 30 years old and has an air of authenticity about it – cemented by the smell of the cigarettes, which can still be smoked inside.
Beef Jerky Outlet, Fort Worth
A visit to the Beef Jerky Outlet is a must for tourists looking to take home a taste of Texas. Jerky – a form of dried and preserved meat that North American pioneers learned to make from the Native Americans – is synonymous with the Lone Star State, and while Texas is known for its beef, the outlet also offers a range of more exotic options, including turkey and salmon. Tastings are available for those not familiar with the snack, with flavors ranging from smokey or spicy to sweet or peppery.
Wild Bill’s Western, Dallas
If you’re seeking an authentic souvenir from a trip to Texas, then Wild Bill’s Western store is the destination of choice. For more than 50 years this downtown store has sold genuine Western attire, such as cowboy hats, boots and buckles. Located in the touristy West End Historic District of Downtown Dallas, Wild Bill’s Western is an independent family-run business with a rich history in leatherwork. Relax in a Texas longhorn chair and inhale the smell of leather while being fitted for a hat or pair of boots.