From the Old West to Bonnie and Clyde to JFK to innovations in science, the Dallas/Fort Worth area is full of historical significance. History buffs will be able to explore not only Texas history but the history of the United States. Explore real log cabins in a living-history pioneer village, stand where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy or ride a real 1920s passenger train. Here are our suggestions for coolest and most interesting historic sites and attractions.
Bonnie and Clyde Tour and Grave Sites
One of history's most notorious couples hailed from Dallas, where they frequently returned to visit family or seek refuge during their cross-country crime spree.
In the 1930s, the couple gained notoriety for robbing banks, but more frequently they robbed gas stations and small grocery stores. They killed when they were cornered and that led to more than a dozen deaths at their hands. The Dallas Historical Society and Heritage Tours offer tours of of the couples' graves in addition to homes, buildings and other sites frequented by the couple that were key to their story.
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding with his wife in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have shot the president from a perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. The floor has been transformed into a museum honoring Kennedy's legacy, telling the story of his assassination in historical context.
Exhibits include the 1960s with the social movements and political events of the time, the recreated corner window where spent cartridge shells were found 45 minutes after the assassination and memory books where visitors can record their own personal recollections of the event which the museum will retain for its institutional archives.
Log Cabin Village
Real, historic log cabins from around North Texas were moved to this living-history village in Fort Worth and restored in the the 1960s. There are seven cabins, Marine school, smokehouse, herb garden and blacksmith shop, all offering a glimpse of life in Texas in the 19th century.
The cabins are furnished with period artifacts and historical interpreters depict the lifestyle of villagers who would have lived there. The garden is filled with herbs that were typical of those used in Texas—either native or available through trade—between 1840 and 1890, while the smokehouse shows how meat was preserved in the days before refrigeration. The museum store offers replicas and village-made crafts for purchase.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science
This museum offers exciting interactive exhibits for all ages with five floors filled with 3D computer animation, video, and lifelike simulations.
The building and outdoor space are living science lessons themselves, demonstrating engineering, technology and conservation concepts. The Being Human Hall has labs where youth can examine their own cheek cells, test germ killers and use a beam of light to study blood vessels beneath the skin. That's just in one of 11 exhibit halls to explore and then there are the special exhibitions.
When you get hungry, stop for lunch in the cafè which is operated by world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
You'll have to wait a bit to visit this museum, closed for renovation until September 14, but it's well worth the wait. Amon G. Carter, Sr., established the museum that bears his name to house is collection of paintings and sculptures in American art. The permanent collections include illustrated books, paintings, photographs and works on paper and the collection of works by American western artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell is extensive and unparalleled.
Traveling exhibitions have included Helen Frankenthaler's prints, fashion and portrait photographs by Richard Avedon and video installations by multimedia artist David Ellis. Admission to the museum is always free.
Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum
This hall of fame celebrates women of the American West who demonstrated courage and pioneer spirit.
The museum tells the story of the 228 honorees who are artists, writers, entertainers, businesswomen, educators and rodeo cowgirls. They include Sacagawea, Georgia O'Keeffe, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Annie Oakley, Dale Evans and Sandra Day O'Connor. Here you can find Annie Oakley's wedding ring and gun and Dale Evans' saddle and Nudie suits. Read works about and by these remarkable women in the library which contains more than 2,000 books.
Cavanaugh Flight Museum
The Addison Airport is the home of Cavanaugh Flight Museum. The 50,000-square-foot facility boasts a mint-condition P-51 Mustang, a TBM Avenger, an F-104 Starfighter, three Russian MiGs and 35 other planes to explore. Investigate them on your own via informative signs near each aircraft or make an appointment for a guided tour. Most of the aircraft fly in air shows around the country. Want to go airborne? Several of the warbirds are available for rides over North Dallas.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
A 30-minute ride from Fort Worth is the small town of Grapevine, Texas. It's worth the drive, because from there you can board a 1920s Victorian coach and take the Grapevine Vintage Railroad along the Cotton Belt. The trip runs from Grapevine to the Fort Worth Stockyards in turn-of-last-century style.
The railroad offers special events and family-friendly excursions as well. Little riders will enjoy the Day Out With Thomas trip and the North Pole Express, while wine lovers will enjoy the Jazz Wine Train and the Christmas Wine trains.
African American Museum of Dallas
The African American Museum of Dallas has one of the largest collections of African American folk art in the United States, and it is the only museum in the Southwest devoted to the preservation and display of African American artistic, cultural and historical materials.
Some of its pieces date to the 1800s. "Facing the Rising Sun" tells the story of Freedman's Cemetery—circa 1869-1925—and its representation of the North Dallas community through photographs, multimedia presentations and objects. African artifacts include masks, sculptures, gold weights and textiles. There are also exhibits of African American fine art, folk art, African art and magazine archives. The museum is also home to the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.
Dallas Holocaust Museum
The Dallas Holocaust Museum /Center for Education and Tolerance teaches about the history of the Holocaust. The core exhibit focuses on one day—April 19, 1943. On this day, the 20th deportation train from Belgium was attacked by partisans, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began and the Bermuda Conference met. It demonstrated heroism and Jewish resistance.
Other exhibits include the works of two artists, Julie Meetal and Veronique Jonas, whose works illustrate the effects of the Holocaust on their families, and footage of Nazi crimes captured by three filmmakers—John Ford, Samuel Fuller and George Stevens.
Note that the museum will close July 31 at its current location and reopen September 18 at 300 N. Houston St.
Dallas Heritage Village
Most of the artifacts depict daily domestic life, crafts and commerce. For example, there is a display of medical and dental items. Furnishings represent evolving Victorian styles of all income levels, ranging from a Meeks Brothers parlor set to homemade chairs. A temporary exhibit—Millermore Exposed—illustrates how a museum curator might use real artifacts to simulate a fictional couple's home from the the 1860s. Hands-on exhibits include traditional Lincoln Logs and combining fabrics on quilt puzzles.