Visiting Dealey Plaza & the grassy knoll

Postcards of JFK & Jackie Kennedy Air Force One

Postcards from the Sixth Floor Museum: JFK and Jackie alight from Air Force One on 22 Nov 1963

Dallas’s role in the national tragedy of JFK’s shooting was something we learned a lot about while I was growing up in Texas. The city had a reputation of being a cold, money-oriented metropolis, miles away from the hippie vibe of Austin or the international oil reputation of Houston. We spent an entire section in my university American history course on Dallas, the city’s collective guilt about the shooting and conspiracy theories .

Then for the most part, the city’s particular role in the tragedy faded for me.

That is, until a few years ago, when we visited Dallas with the children and went to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, downtown Dallas. My English husband was the driving force behind the visit. Now I would recommend it to anyone visiting the city.

The museum in the former book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was positioned as the President drove by in the open-top convertible. You can stand feet away from where he supposedly sat (the area is glassed off, with a tableau of cardboard boxes and old books) and look down on the route the Presidential calvacade took.

We’ve all seen the picture, the famous Zapruder film. You may have watched Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. What’s striking is that the site looks astonishingly identical to the old clips and photos, accessible and set within the downtown office district. There are white crosses painted on the road marking where the first and second bullets hit. You can drive right over them in your car. Will Self visited Dealey Plaza and describes it as a cramped, workaday urban space. I would describe it more an unexceptional, if you didn’t know its history. There’s a roomy parking lot next to the Museum entrance. There’s a small urban park. There is the grassy knoll topped by a fence — you can go and stand on it.

2nd Fatal Shooting -  JFK

Photo by Cordey, via Flickr Creative Commons licence


JFK 006

Photo by Renee V, via Flickr Creative Commons license

If the children had been older I would have loved to linger more at the museum. It is appropriate for children although younger ones less engaged with politics will want to scoot through more quickly. It paints a picture of the time period, the world events that occurred before the shooting, the event itself and what unspooled afterward.

I had been worried I would feel like a leering thrill-seeker. Instead it refreshed my memory on the time period and made it more real.

The city is commemorating the anniversary of Kennedy’s death, soem say acknowleding and coming to terms with its role more than it has in the past. the Sixth Floor Museum is an important part of that process.

Sadly, our pictures of our visit were lost when a laptop was stolen.

Want to read more?

What does the Zapruder film really tell us?

A 6-minute documentary about the Zapruder film

I’m a journalist and blogger. Previously I was The Times’s online lifestyle editor and Alpha Mummy blogger. Now I’m co-founder of BritMums and BritMums Live! – our annual blogging conference that draws hundreds. Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Google Profile+



  1. November 23, 2013 / 3:53 pm

    Wow – what a fascinating place to visit. I’m intrigued by the whole JFK thing and you’re so right to take the kids with you. It’s so easy to hide them away from reality sometimes. Great post x

    • November 26, 2013 / 10:01 am

      Hi Katy

      Thanks! I’m a bit embarrassed that it came down to my husband to suggest it rather than me. I think this kind of travel around historical events is something we need to reinforce over and over, always trying to find the fun in it rather than “here’s another war battleground zzzzzzzz”.

  2. November 24, 2013 / 9:46 pm

    That does look fascinating. History is so real and easy to explain when you take children to the exact spot events occured. H x

    • November 26, 2013 / 10:02 am

      Hi Hayley, it is a bit bizarre — because of the painted crosses on the road you can say, He was shot right HERE and right HERE.

  3. November 25, 2013 / 10:47 am

    I would LOVE to do that tour – so interesting…..Lx

    • November 26, 2013 / 10:09 am

      It WAS a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Time to schedule a trip to Texas?

  4. November 26, 2013 / 10:32 am

    This is really interesting. I didn’t know about the reputations of Dallas, Houston or Austin as I’ve not been to Texas. It’s fascinating going to places which you feel you know through history – what was the atmosphere like inside? We went to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam recently and it was very moving to be in the place where she and the others hid from the Nazis until they were betrayed. It was full of people being quiet and it felt like a shrine.

  5. November 27, 2013 / 8:08 am

    Fascinating place, Jen. My son would find this particularly interesting as he is studying American politics for A level – hoping to do politics at Uni next year.
    It’s important to look beyond typically touristy attractions when travelling. We took our boy to Normandy many years ago, looked at cemeteries and trenches and took time to contemplate. The images have stayed with me.

  6. December 3, 2013 / 11:34 am

    I’m going to visit, as soon as I get to Dallas.

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