When visiting Dallas for college tours, I was able to check another one of my presidential historical sites off of my list. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is the newest presidential library built and is a beautiful addition to the Southern Methodist University campus.
George W. Bush served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001-2009 and joined John Quincy Adams as the second son to follow his father into the presidency. He is a former governor of Texas and businessman in the Dallas area.
His eight years as president are marked by some of the biggest events from American history, including the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the war in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina. The library and museum, part of the National Archives Presidential Libraries system, opened in 2013 on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is open to the public.
Every time I go to a new city, I check to see if there are any presidential sites to visit in my quest to see all of them from my list. While visiting SMU with my son, I was excited to see there was a presidential library right onsite! Since I worked on Capitol Hill during President Bush’s first term, I knew I would have an additional interest in the exhibits.
The lobby is beautiful!
Lining the lobby walls are exhibits with many of the gifts given to President Bush during his years in the White House.
The lobby also had a new exhibit with President Bush’s paintings. He is quite a good artist!
The main exhibits are a combination of Presidential history, Bush family history, and a timeline of American history. For kids, the exhibits have lots of interactive components so they’ll have fun while also learning about history. Also be sure to utilize the docents – they are a treasure trove of knowledge!
I like how quotes from President Bush are used extensively throughout the exhibits.
There are exhibits about the contentious election and legislative victories. Your kids will love exploring the mini school bus!
One of my favorite things in the library is the emphasis on Mrs. Bush’s focus on literacy. There is a wall of children’s books for kids to read and explore.
In the 9/11 section, it’s haunting to see a piece of steel from one of the Twin Towers.
This section was very meaningful to me as I was working on Capitol Hill that day. Seeing the timeline of events from the days before to the day of brought back so many memories and was hard to see at times (see my reflections on 9/11 here).
There are many artifacts and videos to view. You could spend an hour just soaking in all of the sad history in this exhibit.
My favorite exhibit is the replica of the Oval Office. Your kids will love stepping into the famed Oval Office and having their picture made at the desk ($35 fee for picture).
The exhibit about life in the White House is educational and entertaining. Kids will love all of the info on the White House pets!
I loved seeing the ball gowns and entertaining memorabilia.
Kids will like the sports section as well.
There is a good video with the Bush daughters about what it was like growing up in the White House. It’s interesting for kids to learn about kids just like them who grew up in such a historical place!
With older kids, they’ll love the next exhibit, Decision Points. It’s an interactive exhibit where your kids can take in real-time information about the military decisions and decide what they would do.
The last exhibit is about international relations and actions and includes some gifts from different countries.
As you exit the main exhibit hall, step across the lobby to the temporary exhibit space. While I was visiting, the exhibit was called “Liberty and Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House.” It was a hoot to remember some of the funny gaffes and sayings by our nation’s presidents.
The exhibit also has artifacts like Bill Clinton’s saxophone and sunglasses and the podium used by Bush in the 2000 debate.
Before you leave, don’t miss stepping into the courtyard for the statue of President Bush and his father. It’s especially poignant now that President George H.W. Bush has passed away.
Be sure to pick up your Oval Office picture at the main desk before going through the revolving doors into the store (there’s no way to go back in unless you go through security again). The store is full of fun souvenirs and kids will be especially excited to see a whole section of books dedicated to them, chosen by Mrs. Bush, a former librarian, herself.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is a fun place to take your children to learn more about recent history. It can serve as a great conversation starter and a good place for your kids to learn about important American history like 9/11. Be sure to visit on your next trip to Dallas!
- Cost: $26/adult; $24/youth (13-17); $20/child (5-12); free/4 and under
- Recommended: ages 10 and up
- Tour time: 1 hour
- Gift shop located onsite and online
- Transportation: There is a pay parking lot located across the street from the library. The museum is on the DART bus system and is within easy walking distance while on SMU’s campus.
- Dining options: The library has its own restaurant, Cafe 43. The SMU campus also has several restaurants, and there are plenty just across Highway 75, including a Velvet Taco. My son’s favorite place is In-n-Out, a six minute drive away.
- Nearby hotels: We stayed at The Highland, a short five minute drive away. The Beeman Hotel is the closest hotel to the library (walking distance).
- Nearby attractions include: Southern Methodist University, Meadows Museum, Dallas World Aquarium, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science
Books to Read:
All images are Amazon affiliate links.
For more book recommendations about Presidential history, check out my list on Bookshop.org, which supports independent bookstores and creators.