TORONTO – Ask Jessica Christopherson, Director of Public Relations & Film Marketing for the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, what she likes best about her hometown and she’ll tell you it’s the people. As one of the most welcoming cities she’s ever been to, she tells Travelweek that when people visit, “they always leave making a new friend.” And if that’s not enough to convince travellers to come, perhaps the slew of new attractions and offerings will seal the deal.
Fort Worth, the 16th largest city in the U.S. and the top destination in Texas when combined with neighbouring Dallas, is best known for its authentic cowboy culture and Western heritage. But it’s not all about the Wild, Wild West. As Christopherson is quick to point out, Fort Worth is quickly gaining a reputation for being a family destination with a long list of things to see and do for guests of all ages.
Here’s what’s new for 2016 and beyond:
- Because of rising demand, downtown Fort Worth needs to add more than 1,400 hotel rooms and repurpose its convention centre arena, according to a report by Hunden Strategic Partners. The city has issued an RFQ for a new convention centre and hotel, expected to be built across the street from the convention center and near the light rail station that will connect with DFW International Airport in 2018.
- Plans are in the works for a US$450 million multi-purpose arena and sports facility at the Will Rogers Memorial Center Complex in the Cultural District, just 10 minutes from downtown. The 14,000-seat arena will host the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, concerts, sporting events and more, and is expected to be completed by December 2019.
- A Marriott Autograph Signature Hotel is anticipated for Fort Worth’s historic 1930 art deco Sinclair Building in Sundance Square. The building will convert to a 165-room hotel with a basement restaurant and rooftop bar by late 2016.
- The Trinity River Vision Project, currently underway, will connect many neighbourhoods in the city directly to the river to create an oasis of urban living and recreation. Projects include the revitalization of Gateway Park into one of the largest urban-programmed parks in the nation, the creation of Panther Island, a waterfront neighbourhood with more than 12 miles of canals and walkways, as well as new boat and canoe launches.
- The National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, the only museum of its kind in the world, unveiled the first phase of its extensive renovation last May. A new art gallery features temporary exhibitions while the Grand Rotunda showcases a mobile comprised of 100 moving pieces of still photography and video footage. Second-floor renovations are scheduled for completion in fall 2016.
- In celebration of its 10th Opera Festival and 70th anniversary, the Fort Worth Opera has commissioned the world premiere of ‘JFK: The Opera.’ It recounts President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy’s visit to Fort Worth on the eve of Nov. 21, 1963, a day before he was assassinated. The world premiere will take place on April 23, 2016.
- Near Southside is an emerging district adjacent to downtown and known for its hip vibe and assortment of local, specialty shops. Welcoming over 22 new restaurants and bars in the past year and a half, the district is also home to many distilleries and breweries and hosts multiple events year round.
- Visitors can easily explore Old West culture with the one-ticket Stockyards Adventure Pass. This new, self-guided tour includes a Stockyards Walking Tour with a cowboy guide, a souvenir photo, admission to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and Stockyards Museum, and a screening of the ‘Spirit of the West.’
Air Canada flies direct to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. For more information on travel to Fort Worth, go to FortWorth.com.