DALLAS — The temperature might be 75 during Super Bowl week in Arlington, Texas, near Dallas. It could be 25. Or both.
Travelers heading to see the Green Bay Packers meet the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium might be wise to pack everything from shorts to wool socks for the area’s fickle winter weather. As far as activities go, they’ll have plenty of options — indoors and out — to entertain while waiting for the main event, Super Bowl XLV.
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 to the Dallas-Fort Worth area 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.
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 hand prints of the late Johnny Cash and other music — mostly country — stars.
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. The Galleria mall, in north Dallas, is another fine shopping spot, as is Grapevine Mills mall, just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and not far from Main Street in Grapevine, Texas, a collection of shops and restaurants with an old-town feel.
February is the off-season for tourism in Dallas-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, Cowboys Stadium is an attraction in its own right.
The stadium used the National Basketball Association’s all-star weekend a year ago as a test run for football’s Super Bowl. A crowd of 108,713 people, the most ever to watch a basketball game, took in the all-star spectacle at Cowboys Stadium last Valentine’s Day.
The $1.3 billion, retractable-roof facility officially opened in May 2009; the first football game there was an Aug. 21 preseason game that year. The stadium 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 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.
During Super Bowl week, the NFL is planning stadium tours at $40 a pop. Space is limited, so reservations are recommended.
Here are more highlights of Super Bowl week 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.
• 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 during Super Bowl week 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 began this weekend at the Dallas Convention Center. It runs today, then picks up again on Wednesday and runs through Super Bowl Sunday. 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.