#1. Fort Worth, TX
Horses, wagons and longhorn steers parading through downtown might seem strange, but in Fort Worth, TX, it’s a tradition. The annual All Western Parade, which marks the start of the Stock Show and Rodeo, draws more than 100,000 spectators and demonstrates how this ever-evolving metropolis remains close to its agricultural roots. Few downtowns have achieved the cohesion between cowboy culture and urban sophistication that Fort Worth has.
The number of people living in downtown Fort Worth continues to grow as new developments add residential, office and retail options. City and community leaders support a number of rehabilitation and improvement projects that help bring in more businesses, create a more walkable environment and ease traffic congestion. The Trinity River Vision Project includes a plan to develop 800 acres connecting downtown, the Cultural District and the Stockyards that could eventually double the size of downtown. The downtown area’s central business occupancy rate of 92 percent leads all Texas cities, and its retail vacancy rate fell by 2.6 percent between 2012 and 2013.
A collection of 13 parks provide residents, visitors and downtown workers with spots to soak in some sunshine, eat lunch and unwind. The city’s 35-block entertainment and shopping district, Sundance Square, attracts millions of visitors and national attention for its innovative design. Even the most fickle foodies can find something to sink their teeth into, with more than 80 locally owned restaurants and bars scattered across the downtown area. The 2,056-seat Bass Performance Hall tops the list of performance venues in downtown Fort Worth, which also includes more intimate settings like the Circle Theatre and the city’s longest-running show, Four Day Weekend.