Certain states have their unspoken rites of passage for anyone calling themselves a resident. In California, you make at least one trek to see the towering redwoods. In Louisiana, you live it up at a Mardi Gras festival. In New York, you sell your car permanently.
In Texas, you go see a rodeo.
There are rodeos throughout the state that have flavors all their own. The affluent enormity of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the grit and athletic dedication of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, and the ultra-local nostalgia of Crider's Rodeo & Dancehall in the hill country are all unique versions of this mainstay of Texan culture.
But in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards, Cowtown Coliseum stands as an unassuming historic monument to the legacy of its true Texas cowboys. It's certainly one of the more historically interesting spots to get your fill of bull riding and calf roping, especially if it's the Stockyards Championship Rodeo.
Read on and find out why it's absolutely worth the day trip trip for your first (or 100th) Texas rodeo experience.
Cowtown's rodeo roots
“Cowtown.” Established in the late 1800s, Fort Worth's throne in the cattle industry was unparalleled for its time, hence earning its famous nickname.
Cattlemen passing through would kick off their boots and knock back a few in the saloons of Hell's Half Acre, before moving their herd on foot to Kansas City further north.
By the end of the 1870s, the long cattle drive through Kansas City had ceased with the boom of established railroads and the building of the stockyards. The population of the town grew to ten times its original 300 residents, and the cattle industry expanded even more with the added efficiency of railroad shipping.
What began as a humble livestock show in the 1890s blossomed into a spectacle, moving indoors to a newly-built arena, then called Northside Coliseum. Built in 1908 for $250,000 ($7.3 million by today’s standards), it was a massive architectural endeavor. The venue’s first "rodeo" occurred in 1918 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since the 1800s, Hell's Half Acre has become Downtown Fort Worth, and Northside Coliseum has rebranded as Cowtown Coliseum, home to the Bull Riding Hall of Fame. The amenities have been upgraded (don’t worry, it’s air-conditioned), but history and tradition still hang in the air. Especially amid the weekly spectacle that rodeo visitors are welcomed with each time they visit the Stockyards at Fort Worth.
The Stockyards at Fort Worth honors its roots of livestock industry as a National Historic District with a daily cattle drive, immersive museums, great restaurants and the world's largest honky tonk.
The coliseum's amenities have been upgraded (don’t worry, it’s air-conditioned), but history and tradition still hang in the air. Especially amid the weekly spectacle that rodeo visitors are welcomed with each time they visit the Stockyards at Fort Worth.
It's rodeo time... all the time.
The Stockyards at Fort Worth, now a registered National Historic District, honors its livestock industry roots with a daily cattle drive, immersive museums, great restaurants, and the world's largest honky tonk.
The world’s only year-round rodeo happens at the Cowtown Coliseum every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 pm. The Stockyards Championship Rodeo promises an all-around authentic Western Cowboy Experience throughout the entirety of the spectacle.
The show features bull riding, tie down roping, team roping, barrel racing, bronc riding and break away roping; all the classic trappings of an authentic rodeo.
Kids can enjoy the calf- and mutton-scrambles and a few funny contests break the action in between the show's events. The rodeo clowns are giddy to spring these on the audience members who are brave enough to volunteer (there was a dance-off when I attended... far scarier to me than any bull- or bronc-riding, I must say).
Guests can duck in or out as they please. Mule Alley, the adjoining shopping district, is ready and open with food options right across from the coliseum for anyone looking for a quick bite. Shake Shack is a solid option, or you can walk just a little further down the street for gems like Union Winery or the welcome sight of Plano's own Biscuit Bar.
(We reviewed the Biscuit Bar in Granite Park. Click here to see what we thought!)
So if your status as a Texan was ever in doubt - whether you've lived here for a decade or just moved last week - grab your jeans and a friend, take a day trip to Fort Worth, and experience more than a rodeo: experience an homage to a not-too-distant era that will keep living long in the heart of Texas.
- Doors open at 6:00 pm, and rodeo competitions start at 7:30 pm
- No outdoor food or beverages are allowed inside the coliseum. But there is a concession area inside!
- Tickets start at $15
- Purchase tickets here!
Cowtown Coliseum | 121 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth, Texas 76164
Official website - cowtowncoliseum.com
Check out these other resources while you're planning your trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards:
The Fort Worth Stockyards - fortworthstockyards.org
Mule Alley - mulealleyfortworth.com
Looking for more day trip and weekend getaway ideas in Texas? Here's a brief list to help you brainstorm!