I’m not totally sure what inspired it (probably the fact that anything new or notable has a waiting list of 100+ people deep at the library), but a majority of our road trip from Kansas City to Tempe, AZ (and back) in 2013 was spent listening to this:
I frankly never really gave too much thought to JFK prior to this book, but I found the novel absolutely enthralling. Paul’s interest started to peter out around the 20th hour of listening to this 30 hour and 44 minutes gargantuan, but I was hopelessly addicted. I realize that it is obviously a FICTIONAL recreation of the events, but it jump-started my Wikipedia fueled obsession of reading anything I can about that infamous day and the supposed conspiracy. If you get a chance, this book is seriously worth the read.
So, you can probably imagine my excitement when I realized that the building where the shots were fired from, the Texas School Book Depository, not only still existed, but had actually been made into a museum. The ability to see where it all happened? Yes, please! Dallas immediately made the bucket list.
To say that we planned our entire trip around a museum would be an exaggeration. We had heard a lot about the beer scene too 🙂 But, Saturday morning our first stop was The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. We even skipped breakfast because we woke up late and I wanted to arrive right at opening (sorry, Paul).
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Dallas which was just a short walk to the museum. The sixth floor of the museum gives you an incredible view of the hotel and Reunion Tower, so it is a fitting stay.
The museum allows you to purchase tickets online to save time and I absolutely recommend this. Even at opening, a line was already formed, but we bypassed the ticket line and took the elevator straight up to the 6th floor.
I’d love to bombard you with photos from the museum, but there is actually no photography allowed on the Sixth Floor. And to be honest, there isn’t much to take photos of. The museum consumes the entire 6th floor of the building (where the sniper’s nest is located) and 99% of the content of the museum is from the audio device provided to you with admission or from the signs, literature, photos, and videos mapped out. There actually isn’t a single artifact related to the assassination itself, except for paraphernalia from the time period, a rifle the same model as the one used, and then of course, the sniper’s nest.
I realize this makes the entire museum seem incredibly lame. An audio tour? I can hear you groaning from here… but the museum was actually incredibly well done. I found the information captivating and the audio allows you to enjoy the pictures and literature from a distance so you don’t have to get cozy with that weird couple with matching fanny packs who are also visiting the museum. The audio guide is really easy to use allowing you to fast forward as needed or hear more about what you find interesting (i.e. “press below to hear more information about JFK’s boyhood or press next to continue with the tour”).
The best part however, is the sniper’s nest. You just get done hearing about the shots fired, you view a series of time-lapsed stills, and then you come around the corner facing it. Chills.
The corner and the window making up the sniper’s nest are glassed off and they have textbook boxes arranged just as they were on that day. Once you complete the tour, head up to the 7th floor and there the corner is open giving you basically the same view as you would have from the nest, just one floor up.
In the street, they have 2 Xs painted which indicate the location of the two shots that were fired.
The atmosphere inside the museum is solemn, but it is a good laugh watching people outside sprinting to the Xs and attempting to take pictures of them without getting hit by a car.
All said the tour took about an hour. The place was pretty slammed, but the audio guide allows you to go at your own pace and keeps the museum quiet since everyone is busy listening to their guide. That said, however, I would recommend buying tickets online ahead of time, and arriving first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. I wouldn’t recommend anyone under 13. The museum is really heavy on reading and listening to the audio, so most kids will be bored out of their minds.
The museum is located right next to Dealey Plaza which is a beautiful space when it isn’t 100 degrees. Just watch out for the 70 or so hawkers trying to sell you fake 11/23/63 newspapers.
Need more JFK? We didn’t take any additional tours, but there is a JFK History Tour that I was tempted by that drives you the same route as the motorcade, and to a variety of other sites like Oswald’s boarding house and the site of Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club. This tour seems to be a staple on Groupon, so make sure to check before booking!