Downtown Fort Worth is a vibrant place that’s rich in culture and embraces its western heritage. Looking to explore more of the city? Consider a self-guided walking tour of downtown. Wandering the city’s red-brick paved sidewalks is one of the best free things to do in Fort Worth. This article provides a list of free sites to check out during your visit.
If walking straight through, you could probably see all these attractions in less than an hour. But give yourself more time to immerse yourself in the city’s atmosphere. Walking through downtown will probably take you longer than an hour, depending on how much time you spend at each location.
Free parking is available at certain times of the week. Metered parking in downtown s free all weekend long and after 6 p.m. on weekdays. Sundance Square offers three parking garages. These garages are also free on the weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Fort Worth Water Gardens
The Fort Worth Water Gardens is an architectural marvel that dazzles visitors year-round. Three large water structures are located on 4 acres next to the Fort Worth Convention Center. The largest structure is a vortex-shaped attraction called the Active Pool. Water starts at the top and cascades down over angled terraces. It’s relaxing to hear the gushing sounds of the water as you walk down giant concrete steps to a central pool below.
No swimming is allowed for safety reasons. But to help you stay cool, large elm trees surround the property and provide plenty of shade in the summer. The Water Gardens is open seven days a week. After sunset, lights are turned on to illuminate the water and the pools appear even more spectacular.
One of the darkest days in our nation’s history was on November 22, 1963. On that day, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas while campaigning in Texas. Before arriving in Dallas, Kennedy gave his last public speech to a rain-soaked crowd of thousands in Fort Worth. The following quote was the first words of the President’s speech:
“There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth…”President John F. Kennedy, November 22, 1963
The JFK Tribute marks the spot where the President delivered his uplifting speech. A curved granite wall centers around a life-size bronze statue of Kennedy. The wall includes paneled images and engraved details about his stay in Fort Worth. You’ll find The JFK Tribute located across the street from the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton is where the President and the First Lady stayed the night before his assassination in Dallas.
The Flatiron Building
Some people recognize the Flatiron Building for another famous building it resembles. It was modeled after the Flatiron Building in New York City. When construction completed in 1907, it was the tallest building in North Texas. That’s remarkable considering all the modern skyscrapers in DFW.
There’s a special bond between Fort Worth and New York City. Fort Worth was named after New York native William Jenkins Worth. He was a highly praised general who served during the Mexican-American War. General Worth defended a frontier post that eventually grew into the Fort Worth metroplex we know today. He’s buried outside the Flatiron building on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
So where does the name “flatiron” come from? The top of the building is shaped like a “flatiron” from the early 1900s, similar to a triangle. As cities expanded in the early 1900s, angled streets created oddly-shaped lots in downtown areas. Flatiron buildings were built on these lots as a means to fill up these empty spaces.
Sid Richardson Museum
The Sid Richardson Museum is a high-quality art gallery that showcases works of art from the American West. Most of the collection includes late 19th and early 20th-century oil paintings by artists Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. Works of art depict life on the frontier, including cowboys, pioneers, and Native Americans.
Admission is free, and the museum is located just one block from Sundance Square Plaza. The art is featured in two large rooms. There’s also a classy Texas-themed gift shop. The Sid Richardson Museum is definitely worth stopping by if you enjoy art and history. It’s a small museum and doesn’t take long to tour.
Sundance Square Plaza
Sundance Square is a section of downtown known for its shopping, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The centerpiece of this downtown hub is called Sundance Square Plaza. The Plaza spans an entire city block and is home to concerts, festivals, and other events throughout the year.
On most days, the Plaza is the perfect spot to take and break and enjoy the scenery of downtown. Both locals and tourists come here to relax and enjoy the city atmosphere. It’s both spacious and comfortable. Most of the seating areas are shaded by umbrellas or small trees.
One side of Sundance Square Plaza is covered by dozens of jetted fountains. The fountains turn on during the hot summer afternoons. They are small and not too powerful, so kids (and adults) are welcome to play in the water and cool off. The backdrop of the fountain area is the giant Chisolm Trail mural.
Bass Performance Hall Tours
Bass Performance Hall is recognized for its beautiful facade made of Texas limestone and its two 48-foot angels. Inside the theater, Bass Performance Hall is praised for its stunning acoustics and clear line-of-sight for all 2,000 seats.
The building has been hosting concerts, ballet, and plays since 1998. It’s the home of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Texas Ballet Theater, and other well-known local organizations. If you’re a fan of the theater and other performing arts, free guided tours are available every Saturday morning.
The guided tours give visitors a “behind the scenes” look at different parts of the venue. It’s a great way to learn more about Bass Hall’s history and how the building operates. A tour should also leave a lasting impression on any kids who might be interested in the performing arts. If you’re planning to watch a performance later in the day, free valet parking is available to ticket holders.
Tarrant County Courthouse
It’s hard to miss the huge, red-granite Tarrant County Courthouse. Its granite has a similar color found on the Texas Capitol Building in Austin.
The 4-story structure was completed in 1895 at a cost of $408,840, which is about $13 million in today’s dollars. The high cost enraged the public. So much so, all public officials who approved the construction were voted out of office in the next election.
The building has received many improvement projects over the years, including a $4.5 million restoration of the clock tower in 2012. Inside the historic clock tower, names of the original construction crew from the 1890s are carved into the steel rafters.