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Fort Worth It!

From art and gardens to cowboys and a rocking nightlife—the Texas city has it all for springtime visitors.

It’s the 16th largest city in the United States, but you may not realize its magnitude when you visit. And that, say its residents, is what makes Fort Worth, Texas, so great.

“Fort Worth has such a calming and friendly way about it. You can never meet a stranger; we tend to call this place ‘the smallest biggest city’ in the country. Everyone seems to know everyone,” says Claire Lawhon Pearce, a resident of Fort Worth.

But even if you don’t know anyone, there’s plenty to see and do in the city.

“It’s a small-town feel in a lot of ways, but Fort Worth has the amenities of a big city. ...Our mix of food, culture, sports, music, shopping and bars is diverse and fun,” says Natalie Boenker, who has lived in Fort Worth for nearly three decades. This “mix” of possibilities is especially great in the spring.

“Fort Worth in the spring is beautiful, assuming it hasn’t gotten too hot, or too wet. ... It’s nice to see the flowers bloom and sit outside for a patio beer down on 7th Street or Magnolia [Avenue], or venture out to the beautiful Botanic Garden and Japanese Garden,” says Pearce. “Spring is also fun for a [Texas Christian University] Horned Frogs baseball game in their newly updated stadium as well as a great night at the new Coyote Drive-In theater, where you’ll have a one-of-a-kind view of the Fort Worth skyline.”

The Fort Worth Botanic Garden, a group of 23 specialty gardens, is the oldest of its kind in Texas. It is home to more than 2,500 species of native and exotic plants. The Japanese Garden, built in 1973, features koi-filled pools, dramatic waterfalls, Japanese architecture and plants that “create a serene environment for strolling,” says Sarah Covington, public relations manager for the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city also boasts of a thriving art district, with five internationally recognized art museums. Boenker recommends a springtime picnic on the lawn of the Kimbell Art Museum, followed by a trip inside the building, which was designed by renowned architect Louis Kahn and is often referred to as one of the most significant works of architecture of the 20th century. Among the permanent pieces in the museum is Michelangelo’s first known painting, “The Torment of Saint Anthony.” Other featured artists include El Greco, Cézanne, Picasso, Rembrandt and Matisse.

While the outdoors and the museums of Fort Worth are wonderful, no trip to the city is complete without a true taste of the Old West. Visitors can venture to the famed Stockyards National Historic District for rodeos, Western saloons, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Fort Worth Herd twice-daily cattle drive, during which real cowboys drive Texas longhorns. The area is also home to the Stockyards Station shops and restaurants, which operate in the old sheep and hog barns, and the Livestock Exchange Building, once called the “Wall Street of the West.”

Visitors have many options to enjoy an evening in Fort Worth. They can go upscale in the Magnolia Avenue neighborhood, where choices include Ellerbe Fine Foods, a farm-to-table restaurant that’s “excellent,” says Boenker, or Nonna Tata for “the most authentic Italian food in the city.” There are Chinese and American cuisine and boutique ice cream options too, according to Boenker, along with a bar called The Usual, which has “big time mixologists on staff.” Boenker and Pearce recommend the 7th Street corridor as well which, they both say, has a “booming” nightlife, including live music.

Or, visitors can go authentic Texan with a trip to Billy Bob’s Texas, considered the world’s largest honky-tonk—a nightclub featuring country music. It was built in 1910 as a cattle barn for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. For over 30 years, Billy Bob’s Texas has been the Fort Worth destination for Western-style entertainment. It has arcades and casinos, line dancing lessons, professional bull riding demonstrations and music concerts. Country stars Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait and Robert Earl Keen as well as celebrities like Ray Charles and Bob Hope have all performed here. It also hosts rock ’n’ roll and pop music artists.

Fort Worth is adjacent to Dallas, Texas, and the cities share an airport that acts as a hub for travel throughout the world. While having a car in the city is the easiest option for getting around, visitors can also rent bikes to travel between Fort Worth’s attractions, which increase every year.

“New things are always popping up,” says Boenker. “But finding favorite and old standbys is easy too!”

Carrie Loewenthal Massey is a New York City-based freelance writer.