If you enjoy history and museums in general, the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum should be on your places to visit in Dallas. The museum features artifacts, achievements, and major events from George Bush’s presidency. There’s even a full-scale replica of the Oval Office.
Give yourself around 90 minutes to explore the exhibits and the rest of the campus. You can also walk around the 15-acre Native Texas Park at no extra charge. Food options are available if you need to make plans for lunch.
About George W. Bush
George W. Bush, also known as Bush 43, grew up in Midland and Houston and is the son of former President George H. W. Bush. He served two terms as President from 2001 to 2009. Bush is praised for his leadership following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A large part of his legacy includes the invasion of Afghanistan and launching the war in Iraq. Before becoming President, Bush served as the Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.
The museum is located on the campus of Southern Methodist University and part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center (aka the Bush Center). It’s right off North Central Expressway and a few miles from downtown Dallas.
After you pass through the security checkpoint and buy your ticket at the admissions desk, you’ll walk into Freedom Hall, a huge foyer spanning three stories tall. One side leads to the museum entrance, while the French doors in front will lead you to the Courtyard Cafe.
The walls are outfitted with 20-foot tall LED screens, forming a 360-degree view of a scenic landscape. After a few minutes, music will begin to play and animated scenes of American life start to appear. There dozens of moving characters, including couples dancing, kids playing, and Americans hard at work. It’s an impressive visual that shows the diversity of our nation and leaves you with a strong sense of pride for our country.
President Bush served 8 years as President, so there’s a lot to cover inside the museum walls. From the events of 9/11 to Bush’s humanitarian efforts in Africa, the displays are both educational and interactive. Below are some of the most popular exhibits you’ll see inside the museum.
9/11 Terrorist Attacks and the War on Terror
The 9/11 exhibit covers the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the response from the President and our country. A piece of steel from the World Trade Center is featured at one end of the exhibit. News footage recorded on 9/11/2001 is broadcasted on the surrounding televisions. The videos clips cover the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
In the adjoining room, there’s a wide-screen video that describes what actions President Bush took in the days following 9/11. Artifacts from 9/11 are displayed on the wall below. There is the megaphone President Bush used to address the first responders at Ground Zero in New York. There’s also an American flag that flew at the White House on the day of the attacks.
The global war on terror was carried in the months that followed. The displays begin with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and then leads into the war in Iraq. Opinions aside, the museum does a great job of explaining the timeline and key events that occurred during these difficult years.
You’ll also learn how the 9/11 attacks changed our government. New laws and programs were launched to strengthen our government’s ability to combat terrorists.
In 2001, the Bush worked with the Justice Department to create the Terrorist Surveillance Program. It gave the National Security Agency the legal authority to track terrorists’ phone calls and emails. At least the ones coming into or out of the United States.
Another huge change was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Before 9/11, twenty-two different federal agencies handled homeland security issues. In 2002, Congress and President Bush combined those agencies to create the DHS to better coordinate their efforts.
The Oval Office
The Oval Office is an exact replica of how it appeared when George W. Bush was President. There are reproductions of the President’s desk, furniture, and paintings. Even the framed photos, books, and statues were located inside the Oval Office from the White House at one point in time.
Visitors have full access to the room, and you’re free to wander at your own leisure. Museum staff will be inside to answer any questions you have about the room’s contents.
Since you’re in the Oval Office, why not be Commander in Chief for the day? Get your picture taken while sitting at the Resolute Desk. Pretend you’re on the phone talking to world leaders or practicing an important speech.
The desk appears exactly how President Bush used it. His phone lists the names of cabinet members on the speed-dial. A strange brown box sits on the desk with only a big red button to push. Don’t worry though, Bush only used this to alert his secretary. It didn’t launch any warheads 😉.
To show how much the room resembles the real-life Oval Office, here’s a picture of President Bush in during a news conference in 2006. The items in the background match up closely to the museum’s replica.
Life in the White House
Life in the White House includes some interesting artifacts from Bush years at 600 Pennsylvania Ave. The display about the state dinners at the White House probably gets the most attention. The evening wear of the President and Mrs. Bush and other items are displayed behind a glass panel.
State dinners were a way for President Bush to strengthen relationships with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. According to the museum, the President hosted over 200 meetings and state dinners for with foreign leaders.
President Bush’s Baseball Collection
President Bush was an avid baseball fan growing up in Midland, Texas. He’s also the former owner of the Texas Rangers in Arlington. At the White House, he started a spring tradition of inviting kids from around the country to play tee-ball on the South Lawn.
Baseballs are on display from Bush’s private collection. These balls are signed by famous big leaguers like Mickey Mantle and George Brett. There’s also a baseball bat signed by 46 members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bush’s Legacy in Africa
Much of George W. Bush’s legacy is attributed to the war on terror after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But one of his biggest achievements was his humanitarian efforts in Africa.
A stuffed lion welcomes visitors inside the Africa Exhibit. The lion was a gift to President Bush in 2008 from the president of Tanzania, as a thank-you for his good-will towards his country.
In 2003, Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs Relief, or PEPFAR, to eradicate the HIV virus in Sub-Saharan Africa. Billions of dollars went to drugs and medical care for millions of patients. It also went to help the millions of orphaned children who lost their parents from AIDS. Years later, PEPFAR with credited with saving over 1 million lives in Africa.
Decision Points Theater
What would you do if you were President? In the Decision Points Theater, you’ll be faced with the same decisions President Bush had to make during the major crises of his presidency. As Commander in Chief, you will hear from your top advisors and decide how to act.
The events range from the Iraq War to Hurricane Katrina. It’s a fun and interactive exhibit and a great way to learn more about the decision-making process of our nation’s highest office.
The Volunteer Tree
I have to confess, this display isn’t actually called the Volunteer Tree. But it didn’t have a name, so “Volunteer Tree” just kind of stuck in my mind.
When you first see this display, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. The structure is oddly shaped and covered with TV screens. Its goal is actually to promote the USA Freedom Corps. It’s an organization set up by President Bush to connect Americans with volunteer opportunities around the world.
The TV screens are actually rotating pictures of museum guests. There are cameras available where you and your family can get your picture taken. It’s a fun thing to do and draw attention to a good cause. Bush felt volunteering made the world a better place and strengthened our nation as a whole.
People across this great nation have heard the universal call to love a neighbor and are using their time and talents to make a difference in the lives of others.President George W. Bush
The Native Texas Park
If you have time, take a stroll through the Native Texas Park. The park totals 15 acres and is located on the southern end of the Presidential Center building. It’s a thriving habitat for native Texas grasses and wildflowers.
With so much lush vegetation, it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of Dallas. The walking paths are wide and well-kept, and it doesn’t take long to tour the entire property. The park is open to the public, you don’t need to buy a ticket to the museum to enter the park.
If you get hungry during your visit, there are two dining options located inside the Bush Center. The Courtyard Café offers casual dining with soups, sandwiches, and breakfast items. It’s located inside the center courtyard area outside of Freedom Hall.
There’s also a full-service restaurant named Café 43 Its menu focuses on organic dishes with locally sourced ingredients. Balcony seating is available that overlooks the Texas prairie landscape that surrounds the building. Reservations are welcomed but not required.
Know Before You Go
After entering the Bush Center, you’ll pass through a security checkpoint with a metal detector. If you carry a small pocketknife or anything sharp, be sure it leave it in the car.
Where to Park
Visitor parking is across the street from the museum on the north side of SMU Boulevard. It’s metered parking with a small hourly fee.
Double-check where your phone navigation system leads you. Some phones have guided visitors to the wrong parking lot behind the museum. These are reserved spaces for museum staff.
|Address:||2943 SMU Boulevard|
Dallas, Texas 75205