Whether you’re a history buff or a conspiracy theorist, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has fascinated Americans for decades. During a presidential motorcade on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald (allegedly) fired the shot that killed JFK as he rode through Dallas’s Dealey Plaza. The ensuing controversy surrounding the shooter’s identity and motive, as well as the political repercussions, have made the tragedy one of the most widely recognized and debated in US history. Although JFK wasn’t a native Texan, by looking at the vast number of tributes, memorials, and museums in Dallas, you’d think he was. Dallas might have been where the former president was tragically killed, but the city is certainly doing its part to preserve Kennedy’s memory. To learn everything about the JFK assassination right where it happened, here are seven sites in Dallas you need to visit.
These spots were all recommended by travelstoke® user Alicia Butler. travelstoke® is a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Any JFK-themed tour of Dallas needs to include Dealey Plaza — the site of the president’s assassination. The plaza is a city park in the West End district and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 in commemoration of the tragic incident that occurred there. When JFK’s car slowed down to make a turn here, Oswald seized the opportunity to fire the fatal bullet. A white “X” on the pavement of Elm Street marks the exact spot where Kennedy was shot.
Where: West End, Dallas, TX 75202
The Grassy Knoll
No site associated with the JFK assassination is as famous as the Grassy Knoll, and it might have had nothing to do with the assassination at all. Located right across from Dealey Plaza, the Grassy Knoll serves as a focal point for conspiracy theorists who believe it was from this grassy area that a second mysterious gunman shot the president. The little hill rose to national prominence when Albert Merriman Smith of United Press International, who had been riding in the press pool car, sent a dispatch from the scene after the shooting that said, “Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president’s car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed.”
Where: West End, Dallas, TX 75202
Hilton Fort Worth
This is the hotel where Kennedy stayed the night before his death. Prior to the assassination, Kennedy had breakfast in the ornate Crystal Ballroom and delivered a speech to 2,000 visitors. While some might find it morbid to stay in the same hotel as the doomed president, real history enthusiasts will enjoy the site’s historic significance. At the end of each promenade on the second floor, old photographs are displayed depicting the former president’s time at the hotel and in Dallas just before his death. Opened in 1921, the hotel was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. There’s also a bronze memorial statue of Kennedy outside the hotel. Real JFK fanatics with deep pockets can shell out $2,500 to stay in the massive JFK Suite, which isn’t even where the president stayed; the decor was inspired by Jackie Kennedy’s interior renovation of the White House during her stint as First Lady.
Where: 815 Main St, Fort Worth, TX 76102
This memorial erected in honor of JFK might not be among the country’s most recognized monuments, but it’s certainly an integral part of Dallas’s history. Dedicated in 1970, the JFK Memorial, located a block from Dealey Plaza between Main and Commerce streets, resembles an open tomb. It’s 30-feet high, 50-feet wide, and is supported by eight columns each of which end in a light fixture. The design is meant to symbolize JFK’s freedom of spirit. The memorial is open seven days a week, and tickets are $18 for adults.
Where: 646 Main St, Dallas, TX 75202
Ruth Paine House Museum
A 20-minute drive from Dallas will bring you to a little-known site connected to the Kennedy assassination. The Ruth Paine House Museum in Irving was where Lee Harvey Oswald spent the night before the assassination. Oswald’s family had been lodging there temporarily, and he used the garage to conceal the rifle he used to shoot the president. In the wake of the incident, law enforcement descended on the residence of Ruth Paine, the unwitting housewife and proprietor. Now the house has been converted into a museum, educating visitors about the assassination through dramatic vignettes, with actors portraying Ruth Paine, Lee Harvey Oswald, and his wife. Tours run Tuesday through Saturday, and reservations can be made on the museum’s website.
Where: 801 W Irving Blvd, Irving, TX 75060
The Sixth Floor Museum
If museums are your thing, this is the definitive Dallas museum dedicated to the JFK assassination. At the Sixth Floor Museum, you’ll learn more about the former president, the timeline of his assassination, and the associated controversies than you can handle. From historic photographs, films, and memorabilia to official government reports of the investigation, this museum has it all. For those who can’t physically make it to the museum, there’s even a museum webcam that gives a live view from the sniper spot. If you couldn’t guess from its name, the museum is located on the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration building, the exact spot from which Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have assassinated the president. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and tickets are $18 for adults.
Where: 411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202
Food Tours of America Dallas
This is Dallas’s only walking tour of the JFK experience, and since it involves food, you really shouldn’t miss it. After a 45-minute stroll through the Grassy Knoll and Dealey Plaza, your guide will bring you on a restaurant tour through Dallas’s West Village. It includes a series of food tastings punctuated by casual walks and even rail rides related to the JFK assassination. While JFK might not have personally eaten at the restaurants offered on the tour, learning about a presidential assassination and processing conspiracy theories are much more palatable with some delicious food in front of you. The tour is only offered on Fridays at 9:30 AM, lasts approximately four hours, and costs $72 per person. Visit the official website for more details, or to book a tour.
Where: Old Red Museum, 100 South Houston Street, Dallas, TX 75202