Dallas has been forced to grapple with its association to the JFK assassination for decades. And nowhere in the city is this association stronger than the location of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
Today, the building, despite its dark history, is one of the most notable tourist attractions in Dallas.
In this article, I’ll break down everything you’d want to know before visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, including giving you a taste of some of the major highlights in the museum.
What is the Sixth Floor Museum?
The Sixth Floor Museum is a museum located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Oswald was employed and allegedly shot former President John F Kennedy. The museum provides an overview of JFK’s legacy and thoroughly chronicles all of the events related to the assassination.
It is one of the top attractions in Dallas and takes about 1.5 hours to properly visit.
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Where is the Sixth Floor Museum?
The museum is located at: 411 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75202.
When you visit the museum you’ll surely want to check out other sites like the grassy knoll, the “X,” and the JFK Memorial, which are all located right next to the museum or within a block or two.
Personally, I would recommend arriving about 45 minutes to an hour before the museum opens and checking out all of those sites so that you can see them before it gets too crowded.
If you’re interested in a full JFK itinerary that follows the footsteps of JFK during his visit to Fort Worth and Dallas as well as the places where Lee Oswald lived in Dallas, be sure to check out the ultimate guide to JFK assassination sites.
Did you know? The gun used in the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt was purchased on Elm Street only a mile down the road from the Sixth Floor Museum.
How do you access the Sixth Floor Museum?
Normal hours for the Sixth Floor Museum are 10am to 5pm.
The Sixth Floor Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Here are what the prices were as of January 2022:
- Adults $18
- 65 and older: $16
- Youth (6-18): $14
- Under five: Free
I highly recommend that you purchase your tickets online well ahead of your visit because there is limited space and they do fill up.
In terms of how much time you need, give yourself about an hour and a half.
If you need to pay for parking there is a pretty good sized parking lot adjacent to the museum. Parking prices may vary but it cost us $12.
Currently, whenever you enter you will have your tickets scanned and then you’ll have to wait to go up an elevator. The line for the elevator can be a little slow because of social distancing.
Therefore, I would recommend that you start lining up at 9:45am if you can get there before it opens.
That way, you could be one of the first people in and explore the museum with little to no crowds.
Sixth Floor Museum sites to see
There’s a lot to see in this unique museum but it’s not so big that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. In many ways, I’d say it’s the perfect size for a museum of its kind.
But to help narrow things down and to avoid spoiling any surprises, I’ll just focus on eight key sites you want to check out in the museum.
Overview of JFK’s time and legacy
The beginning of the museum will outline the major social events and political climate of the 1960s and will give you an overview of the issues faced by JFK during his presidency.
Through interpretive panels, many photographs, and even original artifacts, you’ll get an overview of his campaign, what the Kennedy White House was like, and what some of his accomplishments were while in office.
Hopefully, you already have of a grasp on JFK as a president (since it helps to understand a lot of the conspiracy theories) but just in case you don’t the first section of the museum should help get you somewhat up to speed.
The sniper’s corner
The museum preserved the eerie window corner where Lee Oswald allegedly shot at the president three times from a half-open window.
They’ve arranged a barricade of cardboard boxes in such a way that the corner looks like it did on November 22, 1963, when law officers first searched the floor and discovered three shells and a rifle.
Although the corner is preserved on the other side of a glass partition, it’s a pretty powerful sight to behold, knowing that someone was perched here decades ago just waiting to take the life of the leader of the free world.
Oswald’s wedding ring
The night before JFK was shot, Lee Oswald was staying the night at Ruth Paine’s house — a house museum you can still visit today.
Before leaving that day he left his wife his wedding ring along with some cash and then headed out with his rifle on the way to the Texas School Book Depository, where he had been employed since October 15, 1963.
Nobody knows exactly why he left the wedding ring as there are a few different explanations. But you can actually see the wedding ring on display at the museum.
The place set
When JFK was shot he was on his way to the Dallas Trade Mart where he was supposed to attend a luncheon.
The place set that was waiting for him at the luncheon is on display, along with some other artifacts like an original luncheon invitation.
It’s one of those rare instances where boring, every day objects like salt and pepper shakers and saucer plates can evoke strong emotions as they transport you back in time and connect you to a tragic event.
It reminded me of seeing a piece of an airline seatbelt in the 9/11 exhibit at the New York State Museum. It was unexpectedly moving.
Assassination related exhibits
As you would probably expect coming to this museum, the entire assassination is well documented in various exhibits.
You’ll see complete timeline breakdowns of the events and really get a full understanding of how everything took place.
They present evidence and analysis of eyewitness testimony, forensic and ballistics, photographic and acoustical evidence, and even touch on some of the conspiracies.
It’s a very comprehensive experience worth taking your time to get through.
As someone who had read a lot of articles and watched plenty of documentaries on this, I was surprised at how many new things I learned.
I think it definitely helps to do a lot of research before you visit, though.
With all of the theories that circulate around this assassination, I’d suggest watching some documentaries and even videos from the Sixth Floor Museum YouTube channel.
It seems like every time I get a grasp on the events I learn something new that turns everything upside down but the museum does provide a solid framework for understanding the events of that day.
One of the interesting exhibits is the FBI model of the shooting.
Initially, I thought this was just a model that the museum put together but then I looked into it and it actually has some really interesting history.
The model was built by the FBI in 1964 to help investigate the Kennedy assassination and was also later used by the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations when they conducted their investigations.
Apparently, there are some very strict conditions for displaying this model with respect to the lighting and presentation and the museum has to work diligently to honor those.
The model is encased in special UV-filtered glass to help preserve it and I think they were doing an excellent job because the model looks pretty well preserved considering it is almost 60 years old.
You’ll also want to take a moment to visit the seventh floor.
One of the interesting things to do is to check out the corner on the seventh floor that is directly above where Lee made his shots.
This will give you a nearly identical view of what he would’ve seen from the sniper’s perch.
In this wide open space, there’s also some artifacts from the building as it existed in the 60s and some interesting visuals that give you a sense of the growth that the Dealey Plaza area has experienced.
You’ll also want to check out the giant photomosaics of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Initially, they look like large photographs but they are actually made up of tiny portraits of the opposite person.
So when you look at John F Kennedy, you’re actually looking at 50,000 tiny photos of Jacqueline Kennedy and vice versa. It’s a beautiful tribute.
You’ll eventually exit through the gift shop where you can find a lot of JFK memorabilia.
It seems like one of the popular souvenirs is the collection of replica old newspapers from the day after the assassination but you can find all sorts of JFK related items, including many different books.
Sixth Floor Museum FAQ
To avoid rushing, it’s recommended to give yourself 1.5 hours at the museum. However, you can experience most of what the museum has to offer in 45 minutes to an hour without having to rush too bad.
The Sixth Floor Museum is about a 25 minute car ride from DFW.
The Sixth Floor Museum opened on President’s Day 1989.
The Sixth Floor Museum is truly a well done venue.
It’s an extremely difficult task to tastefully preserve a building tied to such a tragic event.
But the museum has clearly gone to great lengths to make that happen and tell the story of these events in a way that is comprehensive and still respectful.
I would consider this a must visit attraction when in Dallas especially if you have any interest in the history of the assassination and JFK’s legacy.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.