Thursday, April 25, 2013
Top 5 attractions you’ll want to see at the Bush Presidential Center
It opens to the public May 1.
DALLAS Although I wasn’t able to get into the George W. Bush Presidential Center ahead of its May 1 opening, I’ve seen enough to get my mouth watering with anticipation. The center, a majestic Georgian-style red brick and limestone building set amid a 15-acre prairie- inspired park at Southern Methodist University, comprises several distinct entities: a foundation, museum, library, institute, the Cafe 43 restaurant, and a book and gift shop.
For most nonscholarly visitors, primary destinations will be the 14,000-square-foot museum; the restaurant, run by Dallas-based Culinaire and featuring a seasonal menu; and the store, run by Barnes & Noble, sporting some 250 mostly American-made items. There, you’ll find a carefully curated selection of books and souvenirs both traditional (“W” coffee mug) and wacky (yes! a George W. Bush bobblehead! so we know the ex-prez has a sense of humor about himself). Fun note: We hear that Laura Bush, a lifelong book lover and literacy advocate in addition to being Mrs. George W., was instrumental in picking out books for the store.
The museum, rather than putting artifacts in linear fashion, organizes instead around four themes: opportunity, freedom, compassion, and responsibility.
1. Freedom Hall: This signature architectural element of the center features a 20-foot-tall, 360-degree high-definition video wall. The entrance to the exhibit galleries sports a floor of Tunisian stone. A 50-by-50-foot tower rises above the center and will be lighted at night. Some of the estimated 40,000 gifts — about 90 percent from the U.S. and the rest from abroad — that the White House received during the Bush presidency will be displayed outside the permanent exhibit hall, including jewelry, cultural artifacts from various countries and more. The ones we most want to see: Moroccan gold-plated silver stirrups, decorated with emeralds and rubies and worth an estimated $15,000.
2. Oval Office and Texas Rose Garden: You can tour a full-size replica of the Oval Office as it looked during Bush’s term of office, with a view onto the Texas Rose Garden (the center’s version of the White House Rose Garden) just outside. Get your picture taken at a copy of the president’s Resolute desk or standing on a sunburst rug designed by Laura Bush. The office even has the same orientation to the sun as the original Oval Office, although the view you’ll see is downtown Dallas rather than the White House lawn.
3. Sept 11 artifacts: This section of the permanent exhibit looks at the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, which deeply influenced the Bush term in office. Included is what Alan Lowe, Bush library director, calls “perhaps our most iconic artifact” — the megaphone that Bush used to address workers at Ground Zero in Manhattan just three days after the attacks on the World Trade Center. You’ll also see two warped pieces of the WTC buildings.
4. Bush attire & memorabilia: Among the Bush family clothing that will be on display are handcrafted cowboy boots given by cobbler Rocky Carroll to Bush during his presidency. Carroll has constructed boots for every president since Gerald Ford. Also, there’s a gorgeous light-blue, gold-trimmed Oscar de la Renta gown custom-made for the first lady to wear during the May 2007 state dinner with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. Baseball fans will also enjoy Bush’s collection of baseballs signed by players, celebrities and political figures. The “Living in the White House” section of the permanent exhibit even features statues of the Bushes’ beloved Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley.
5. Wildflower Meadow: The meadow, part of the center’s 15-acre urban park — which also will include 6 acres of native prairie-plant “communities” that can thrive without irrigation — promises to be a lovely spot to get pictures with the kids amid the vibrant foliage, with the stately Bush Center in the background. Butterflies, birds and other local critters will no doubt stake out the spot for upscale city nests and such. “Oh, your nest is at Klyde Warren Park? We’re just down Central at the Bush — let’s tweet about getting together for grubs!”
Note: Details have a way of changing before major openings such as this one, so check the website or call before visiting for the latest information. 214-200-4300 or 855-577-4300. bushcenter.org.
Location: 2943 SMU Blvd., just west of Central Expressway off Mockingbird Lane, Dallas.
Hours: Museum and store will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Cafe 43, which opens May 3, will serve lunch Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations accepted at 214-200-4302. There’s also a quick-service cafe that will open on May 1. The entire center is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Admission: Free admission to Cafe 43 and store. Museum and Texas Rose Garden admission is $16 for adults, $13 for senior citizens and non-SMU college students (free for SMU students, faculty and staff), $14 for ages 13-17, $10 for retired military and ages 5-12, free for active military and ages 4 and under. Discounts available for groups of 20 or more. Online ticket reservations for specific times are available at bushcenter.org/plan-your-visit/visit-museum.
Parking: Parking costs $7 per car at the center, payable by credit card only on exiting. Parking is also available at various SMU parking garages; see website for more information. There’s a free shuttle to the museum from DART’s Mockingbird Station, just across Central Expressway.
Photography: Cameras are allowed, but no flash photography.
Security: Visitors must pass through a metal detector to visit the museum or archives. You can dine in the restaurant and visit the store without going through security.
SOURCES: Staff including Joy Tipping, Tom Benning, Melissa Repko and Leslie Brenner; and the George W. Bush Presidential Center
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