On Friday, Dallas's main public square (and a National Historic Landmark), Dealey Plaza, will host an estimated 5,000 people for an official ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, complete with a reading of JFK's speeches by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, a live music performance, and a military airshow. Though free and open to the public, ticketing for the event is now closed, meaning only those who reserved a space ahead of time will be admitted into the Plaza itself.
But that's no matter, as the city offers a host of other ways to pay tribute to the 35th President of the United States, many of them totally free:
At the top of visitors' list should be the acclaimed Sixth Floor Museum ($16 admission), a reliquary of over 40,000 objects relating to the assassination, housed in the building where Oswald fired his three fateful shots. Here, you can browse exhibits that have included everything from a profile of Jack Ruby (who gunned down Oswald) to silent home movies of JFK himself. Right now, a collection of more than 400 photographs, plus documentary footage and artifacts, provide a timeline of the political climate of the 1960s.
Since September 21, more than 30,000 locally-produced artworks – focused around the single theme of "love" – have been installed in banks, hotels, churches, hospitals, and community centers all over Dallas. Known as the Dallas Love Project, the crowd-sourced installation features hand-written quotes about love, juxtaposed with sketches of JFK's face, watercolors, and collages. Because the works are dispersed throughout the entire city (a directory is available here), visitors can benefit from exploring new parts of Dallas while also interacting with this striking public art project.
At the distinguished Amon Carter Museum of Art (free admission), a current exhibition titled "Hotel Texas" will re-assemble the artworks that were installed in the Kennedys' hotel suite when they arrived in Fort Worth in 1963. Show up to browse paintings by Thomas Eakins, Lyonel Feininger, Marsden Hartley, and Franz Kline (plus a sculpture by Picasso), just as JFK and Jackie would have seen them. And on Sunday afternoons from noon to 5 p.m., an audio loop of archived JFK recordings, titled Listening Hard – Remembering JFK on Record by Alan Govenar will play in the museum's first-floor auditorium.
A free public exhibit focusing on the life and passing of JFK has been installed in the Bank Tower, about two miles south of Dealey Plaza. Curated by the building's owner, a self-proclaimed "life-long fan" of JFK, "John F. Kennedy: A Community Remembers" features a mix of artworks, photographs, and historical artifacts, including the original marquee letters displayed on the iconic Texas Theater.
And speaking of which, it is the Texas Theatre, a southwest Dallas landmark dating back to 1931, which holds particular interest for JFK history buffs. It was here, on November 22, 1963, in the third row from the back, that 15 Dallas police officers apprehended Lee Harvey Oswald, who sought refuge in the theater right after assassinating JFK. Though it remained closed for a number of years, today the Texas Theatre has flourished as an important cultural site and lively social center – everything from indie flicks to documentaries are screened, and a cocktail bar offers patrons a place to sit and discuss the films they've just viewed.