When newbies first step onto Texas soil (or asphalt), some of them crave a complete immersion in all things cowboy. And we're happy to oblige. You can search for signs of the Old West in Dallas, but hey, Fort Worth ain't called Cowtown for nothin'. You'll find all you need. And you'll find much of it in the Stockyards national historic district, home to a former livestock market.
Stay: If you're looking for Old West ambience, nothing beats the Stockyards Hotel (109 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth; 817-625-6427), a 103-year-old resting spot. It's chock-full of history: The hotel has been home away from home to famous folks such as Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi and even the notorious Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. They famously scouted a bank from Room 305, which offered a good view of Main Street and Exchange Avenue. (Rooms start at $189 a night; some weekday discounts available.)
Nosh and drink: For full-on cowboy kitsch, Booger Red's Saloon (109 E Exchange St.; 817-624-1246) is a must for its saddle bar stools. Be sure to try a Buffalo Butt Beer, "named for the aft end of the mighty beast prominently mounted" in the center of Booger Red's. Or if you need some real country music, grab a Shiner and sit a spell at the White Elephant Saloon (106 E. Exchange Ave., Fort Worth; 817-624-8273), where you can hear live music seven nights a week. Grab a Dirty Love burger at celeb chef Tim Love's Love Shack (it comes with a fried quail egg and some Love sauce).
Shop: The entire Stockyards is a Western wonderland, and then some. You'll find everything from antiques ( Cross-Eyed Moose, Bum Steer) to general-store tchotchkes to all the Western wear you can shake a spur at. For upscale Western wear, make sure you hit Leddy's and the delightful Maverick's Western Wear. (Confession: We have a soft spot for Maverick's because it has a bar inside.) And under one big roof, you'll find a collection of shops known as the Stockyards Station. Itching to get outside the Stockyards? Don't miss the adorable Retro Cowboy in downtown Fort Worth's Sundance Square (there's also another Leddy's just down the street). But if you're not on a Leddy's budget, the best place to get a hat and boots is Cavender's, which has locations all over DFW.
Dine: In a word: Moo. Be prepared for a veritable stampede of great beef, from the steak and game of Tim Love's Lonesome Dove (2406 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817-740-8810) in the Stockyards and downtown Fort Worth eateries like Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse (812 Main St.; 817-877-3999) and Reata (310 Houston St.; 817-336-1009) -- you can't go wrong with Reata's tenderloin tamales.
Nightlife: There are several country bars in town, but a don't-miss-it stop is Billy Bob's Texas (2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth; 817-624-7117), the world's largest honky-tonk. Of course there are the musical performances -- mostly country acts like Pat Green and Reckless Kelly (Dec. 11, Dec. 17), but the occasional Cheap Trick (Dec. 3) sneaks in. Billy Bob's is also a town unto itself, from its 24 stocked bar stations to its famed wall of clay handprints of country royalty to the mirrored disco saddle. You just have to see it to believe it.
Attractions: Twice a day (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.), there's an honest-to-goodness cattle drive through the Stockyards; there's also Stockyards Championship Rodeo, and the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze. Music fan? Be sure to browse through the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Two-step out of the Stockyards for a little culture: the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth's Cultural District is renowned for its collection of Remingtons and Russells; there's also the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (1720 Gendy St.; 817-336-4475), and, in downtown Fort Worth, you'll find the Sid Richardson Museum (309 Main St.; 817-332-6554), dedicated to Western art. If you are a hard-core fan of the TV series Dallas, you can tour the real South Fork Ranch (3700 Hogge Road, Parker; 800-989-7800), about a 75-minute drive northeast of Fort Worth.
Go for it: Ride an actual horse. Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced rider, Benbrook Stables has you covered. The lovely 70-acre property just southwest of Fort Worth offers trail rides daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but requires reservations. So get along, little dogie, and call 'em: 817-249-1001.