Fort Worth Texas: Four free and fabulous attractions

Not many towns offer cattle drives as an attraction, but things are just quirkier in Texas – in the best possible sense. Where else could you commune with world class art, stare into the faces of the disciples at the Last Supper, learn about the printing of money, and, of course, watch Texas longhorns amble down the street? All at no cost. Ft Worth is filled with unexpected and free attractions.

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The longhorns in the Fort Worth stockyards ignore me as I attempt to capture their essence – unfortunately their essence appears to be regal unconcern. And contentment. Soon they’ll put on a show for the town’s tourists. Watching the longhorns in a cattle drive down main street is a free and very popular attraction in the Fort Worth area.

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Cattle Drive in the Stockyards in Fort Worth

The Stockyard section of Fort Worth has not strayed far from its roots. Twice a day, every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m, visitors can enjoy their cattle drive. Although it is not quite a Texas stampede, it is a definite homage to Fort Worth history. Even the number of cattle (15) comes from one for each decade the city has existed.

Although not free, there’s also wild west shows and rodeos at Fort Worth Cowtown Coliseum to round out your Texas cowboy experience.

Western Currency Visitor Center

Opened in 2004 and running 24 hours a day for five days a week (seven when necessary), the Western Currency Visitor Center has security that makes the airports look anemic (allow extra time to clear security during high tourist season), but the tours are free and fascinating as visitors are taken through the process of printing our nation’s currency.

The Currency Center offers a tour wand for the blind and visually impaired, and printed information in five languages. No photos are permitted anywhere.

Visitors learn all kinds of fascinating facts such as dollars were once called “Greenbacks” because of the green printing on the back of the bills, and that they use a mechanical jogger to help separate the sheets of bills and paper.

Plus, there’s plenty of interactive exhibits to inform and intrigue visitors of all ages. The full audio tour runs 45 minutes but you’ll need additional time to enjoy the exhibits and the high-definition theater film. One fun thing the kids might enjoy is to find out what they are worth in shredded currency by standing next to the column of destroyed dollars.

Three times a year employees bring plates, engravers bench etc. out into visitor center so people can stop and watch the process from start to finish.

Reservations are not required, and visitors are welcome on a first come, first served basis.

The Public Tour and Visitor Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The last tour walkway entrance is at 4:30 p.m.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Just about every city in the country is home to at least one art museum. But the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth is unique in its admission charges. It has none. It’s free to the public. All the time. Even many of its special events are free.

The Amon Carter Museum contains the personal collection of Amon Carter of works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell and American Art into the 20th century. But it also offers special exhibits and events.

The museum started in 1961, fulfilling Amon Carter’s (1879 - 1955) wish to free art museum, with world-class art. Today the museum houses more than 200,000 objects in the museum of which about 400 are on exhibit at any one time.

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Free tours of the museum are available and once a month they offer a public architecture tour of the Philip Johnson designed building as well. Want more free stuff there? Check their calendar for Special Conversations where artists, curators, art historians offer their personal views on special exhibits. Plus Slow Art tours and even drawing classes.

The paintings stop around the middle of the 20th century when the Modern’s collection begins.

Christian Art Museum

There only four places in the world where visitors can find the life-like and life-size depiction of Da Vinci's Last Supper sculpted in wax. And one of them is in the Christian Art Museum in Fort Worth.

Created in the 1950s by the Stuberghs, a mother-daughter team of wax sculptors both named Katherine. They were actually quite famous sculptors who created wax figures of many movie actors/actresses. But they also created five Last Supper depictions. This particular sculpture languished in a shopping center for several years, before it was brought to Fort Worth in 1956 through the generosity of oilman-philanthropist William Fleming. The museum started in 2004 and opened in their new building in 2009.

Henry Alvarez, who was trained by Katherine Marie (the daughter) said in an news report that the Fort Worth figures were the second of five Last Suppers created by the Stuberghs. One is on display at the Santa Cruz Memorial but is available for viewing only by appointment. Another is said to be in a wax museum in Lourdes France and another in Gatlinburg Tennessee at Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens. One of these remarkable depictions was said to have been in Rapid City where it was destroyed by a fire.

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Neala McCarten

All photos by the author

Published: March 27, 2015

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