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A New View of Dallas

Written by , published May 17, 2013

I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Dallas, where I visited several new attractions, including the Perot Museum of Art and Science, the brand-new George W. Bush Presidential Library, and the new Klyde Warren Park, a 5.2-acre downtown green space built—somehow…amazingly—over the recessed Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets in the Arts District. I also enjoyed a sneak-peek tour of the observation deck of the 560-foot-tall Reunion Tower, which has been closed since 2007 and will reopen after a major renovation this fall. When the observation deck reopens, it’ll have high-powered telescopes, a 50-foot-long digital panel presenting Dallas history and geography, and a new bar and café. The view from up there is terrific, and it’s a great place to gain perspective on all the new things going on in Dallas.  I can’t wait to revisit in the fall.

The Perot is a stunner: Designed by architect Thom Mayne, who won a Pritzker Prize in 2005 and is known for “layered architecture” that breaks the rules of traditional form, the building includes a glass-enclosed elevator on the building’s freeway side. Angles of stone and glass, a landscaped roofscape with rock shards and drought-resistant plants, and 11 exhibit halls make the Perot interesting for kids and adults alike. My favorite exhibit: Artist Daniel Rozin’s “Wooden Mirror,” an assemblage of wooden tiles that move when YOU move in front of it. The piece, according to the placard next to the display, uses a microprocessor with a camera to interpret an onlooker’s image in pixels, then tiny motors lift each tile to catch light—mirroring what the camera sees. Fascinating, fun, and I love the comforting “whpp-whpp-whpp” sound that the piece makes when people dance in front of it.

We also took a trip to the Bush Presidential Library, which opened to the public earlier this month. Workers are still putting finishing touches on the building itself, and I took a moment to watch an engraver wield a hammer and chisel to imprint the names of donors on an outside wall. No matter your political leanings, the exhibits here are fascinating, especially the halls dedicated to the terror events of September 11, 2001 and the infamous “hanging chad” drama that kept the country in presidential limbo in 2000.  I will say that the famous “Decisions Point Theater,” which has been lampooned recently in Doonesbury and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, presented a more-balanced view of events than I’d expected; I certainly got a taste for how the President and his policymakers must weigh the advice of many different experts during a crisis. See for yourself when you visit.

After a picnic at the Klyde Warren Park, where food trucks offer items such as burgers, gourmet hot dogs, and Vietnamese rice bowls, we visited Fair Park, which opened its midway and many of its rides for a pre-State Fair season dubbed “Summer Adventures in Fair Park.” Along with a few other daredevils in the crowd, I rode the rollercoaster and the hilariously scary-kitschy lost mine train ride, rearranged my internal organs on the dragon-boat ride, then took in the view from the famous, 212-foot-tall  Texas Star Ferris wheel (the largest Ferris wheel in North America).

Yes, I have a new view of Dallas.

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