JFK Tourist Guide
It's been more than a half-century since his death, but John F. Kennedy remains a formidable presence in politics and popular culture. His image is juxtaposed with that of Lincoln, the other great U.S. President felled by a bullet (sorry, Garfield and McKinley). JFK's tragic pop icon peers, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, have their worshippers, but JFK's is an utterly unique story -- of family, politics, war brinksmanship, Hollywood hanky-panky, chronic illness, assassination, and a conspiracy subplot that won't die.
JFK was the youngest-ever elected President (age 43), the first Roman Catholic, and the youngest-ever President to die (age 46). Kennedy's legacy is preserved and distorted in countless ways. Politicians quote his speeches, speculate on his good works cut short, or simply invoke his name.
Movies, TV shows and books dramatize JFK's milestone moments -- the stranded PT boat captain carving a rescue message on a coconut, or the Chief Executive facing down Soviet missiles in Cuba. In time travel fiction, attempting to stop Kennedy's assassination occurs only slightly less often than killing boy Hitler or observing Christ's crucifixion.
Jack Kennedy is not undeserving of this attention, but polarized perspectives about his accomplishments might distract us from our task, which is to report on where you can find great JFK attractions. So we'll stick to that....
The President was killed on November 22, 1963, while riding in his motorcade through Dallas, Texas. All JFK attractions radiate out from its crosshairs of destiny.
Dallas sites relating to the assassination, whether officially marked or not, draw a steady stream of visitors. A JFK tourist can follow the path of the motorcade, the assassin, the assassin's assassin. They can even visit the grave of the bystander who shot the world's most well-known home movie.
History museums display relevant artifacts or a thematic connection and further expand the JFK landscape. Wax museums almost always exhibit a JFK, though they favor recreating Lincoln's theater box moment over a limo in Dealey Plaza. The enduring popularity of Kennedy, however, is no guarantee of a museum's long term success. Particularly painful was the loss of the Conspiracy Museum (2006) and the Tragedy in U.S. History Museum (1998).
In the aftermath of Kennedy's death, the countless speeches and dedications that he had made as President (a mundane and invisible chore shared by all Chief Executives) suddenly became historically important pre-assassination events, worthy of memorials. Civic groups and town councils across the country put up plaques, monuments, and statues to let people know that JFK had been there.
Kennedy's assassination in the early 1960s meant that artistic tributes would reflect this turbulent period. Styles were in flux, public sculptures becoming more intimate and more audacious than the last time America publicly mourned a slain President. Even now, decades later, we're finding folk artists working with kitschy JFK artifacts or crafting their own connections to a singular figure of the 20th century.
Check out our JFK Tourist Guide Map. Note: These are our visit recommendations, but there are thousands of other tributes to this beloved President, including the names of schools, roads, plazas, and buildings, and more monuments, plaques, statues, and bronze heads.
(Special thanks to Kurt Deion for his contributions to this report)