The temperature might be 75 during the first Super Bowl week in Dallas-Fort Worth. It could be 25. Or both.
So while Super Bowl travelers are packing everything from T-shirts to wool overcoats for the area's fickle winter weather, they'll have plenty of indoor/outdoor options for their itineraries. The game takes place Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
High on the list for first-time visitors to the area is the site of John F. Kennedy's assassination in downtown Dallas. Strolling around the grass on both sides of Elm Street, where Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, is free. There's a good chance a conspiracy theorist can point out the infamous "grassy knoll," the spot from which some witnesses say they saw gunfire.
An admission fee will get you in to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, inside the building known as the Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald set up his perch at a corner window.
International visitors love the Southfork Ranch and the white-column home that came to symbolize the runaway TV hit "Dallas" in the 1980s. Sure enough, at least two Super Bowl parties are planned for the site in Parker, about 25 miles north of downtown.
Those who have only seen longhorn cattle on TV can watch the real thing stroll down the red bricks on Exchange Avenue at the Fort Worth Stockyards near downtown in the "city of cowboys and culture," as officials like to call it. Yes, the twice-daily "cattle drive" operates even when it's freezing. But if you'd rather stay warm, Billy Bob's is a couple of blocks over and calls itself the world's biggest honky tonk. For a buck during the day, check out the glittering disco saddle (not ball) over the dance floor and the cement squares that feature the hand prints of the late Johnny Cash and other music — mostly country — stars.
Shopping and more
For visitors who neglect to pack a coat and need one, Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, "I'm sure they can find something at Neiman's or any of our shopping venues."
Aah, shopping. Arguably the No. 1 indoor sport in Dallas. Jones refers to the upscale retail store Neiman Marcus, which originated downtown and is now one of the centerpieces of the swanky NorthPark Center. Among those spotted browsing there recently was AL MVP Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers.
Dallas ended up using the NBA's all-star weekend a year ago as a test run for the Super Bowl. Crowds jammed the Galleria mall in north Dallas the day before 108,713 people, the most ever to watch a basketball game, took in the all-star game at Cowboys Stadium.
The $1.3 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys with the retractable roof is in Arlington, but February is the offseason for tourism in the city halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. One of the area's best-known attractions is Six Flags over Texas, but its 50th anniversary season doesn't start until a month after the Super Bowl.
Still, the stadium is an attraction in its own right. It has surprised officials with its ability to draw visitors for tours, on the order of 40,000 people in some months, said Jay Burress of the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The NFL is planning Super Bowl tours at $40 a pop. Space is limited, so reservations are recommended.
Burress said fans typically take stadium tours the day before Cowboys or college football games, and he expects Super Bowl visitors to do the same. The stadium "promised to be for more than just football games, and it has definitely delivered with other events and tours that are year-round drivers," Burress said.
Some of the other highlights in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
- FAIR PARK: Out-of-town football fans probably recognize the name because of the annual Texas-Oklahoma football game at the Cotton Bowl. But Fair Parkers like to remind people that the area just east of downtown Dallas is a National Historic Landmark with the world's largest collection of 1930s Art Deco exposition buildings. Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed are planning a Super Bowl party at Fair Park. The Cotton Bowl will have entertainment for three consecutive nights, culminating on the eve of the Super Bowl. A Tom Landry exhibit that chronicles the career of the Cowboys' Super Bowl-winning coach has been on display at Fair Park since the fall.
- THE ARTS: Plenty of money has gone into expansion of the Dallas and Fort Worth arts districts in recent years. The Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center are two highlights of the area on the north end of downtown. The latest addition is the Bill Winspear Opera House, fronted by 60-foot glass walls that offer views of the lobby. Fort Worth has everything from prominent art to the rodeo, which always opens in January and gets the rare boost of Super Bowl week falling on its final week. The city landed a coup when ESPN decided to put its show at Sundance Square downtown, not far from the Bass Performance Hall, which hosts the biennial Van Cliburn international piano competition.
- NFL EXPERIENCE: The annual Super Bowl showcase of interactive games for fans will be held Jan. 27-30 and Feb. 2-6 at the Dallas Convention Center. The cost is $25 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Kids 2 and under get in free.
- DEEP ELLUM: This eclectic collection of bars and restaurants just east of downtown Dallas is the heart of the city's music scene and figures to be a major gathering point throughout Super Bowl week.
- DID WE MENTION SHOPPING? Of course we did, but there's more. Grapevine Mills mall, just north of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is a gigantic circle of shopping popular with tourists. It's not far from Main Street in Grapevine, a collection of shops and restaurants with an old-town feel.