Fun Facts and Famous Landmarks in Dallas

Think you know the Dallas, Texas area? Check out these fun facts that make the Big D distinctive.

By: Carrie Hamblin

Photo By: Kevin Brown / State Fair of Texas®

Photo By: James D. Smith / Dallas Cowboys / VisitDallas

Photo By: VisitDallas

Photo By: Everett Historical / Shutterstock

Photo By: Stokkete / Shutterstock

Photo By: 7-Eleven

Photo By: Division of Cultural and Community Life, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institutuion

Photo By: Stokkete / Shutterstock

Photo By: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Photo By: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Photo By: Lyle A. Waisman/Getty Images

Large and in Charge

Big Tex has been greeting visitors to the State Fair of Texas since 1952 and, at a whopping 55 feet tall, he’s the world’s largest cowboy. But, like many Dallas residents, he’s actually a transplant and he wasn’t always a cowboy. His former vocation was in another Texas town as a promotional Santa Claus. With a little "plaster" surgery and a new wardrobe, Big Tex was born. If you’re curious, those are real Dickies he’s wearing: jeans 434 x 240 (waist x inseam). Lucchese-branded boots a mere size 96. Big Tex got his AARP card in 2002 during a 50th birthday party but he doesn’t seem motivated to hang up his 95-gallon hat anytime soon.

Football Time in Texas

We all know the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys are a big football team, but did you know that the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium is the world’s largest domed structure? How big is it, you ask? Big enough that the entire Statue of Liberty could fit into it—with the domed roof closed. Up the street, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the second-largest airport in the U.S. and the fourth busiest in the world. With its own ZIP code and measuring almost 27 square miles, it could hold the island of Manhattan inside. Note: A favorite Dallas pastime appears to be pointing out which New York attractions could reside within Dallas landmarks.

Wow-Worthy Christmas Tree

During the holidays, the U.S.’s largest indoor Christmas tree can be ogled at Galleria Dallas shopping center. At four stories tall and weighing as much as 10 cars, this tree is substantial. Its 100-pound, 10-foot-high star is rivaled only by Galleria’s neighboring 12-foot-tall handcrafted menorah.

Big D = Big Discoveries

When Jack Kilby got into the game, computers were enormous—taking up entire rooms and using thousands of vacuum tubes, consuming hundreds of kilowatts of power. By 1958, Kilby had gotten his master’s degree in electrical engineering and was obsessed with miniaturizing electronic components. He moved to Dallas for a job with Texas Instruments (TI) because the company would allow him to work on his passion full-time. The payoff was the integrated circuit (aka microchip). Called an "integrated circuit" because it incorporates into one thin chip the traditionally separate components of transistors, resistors and capacitors, the tiny microchip was a monumental innovation, forming the basis for all modern microelectronics. Kilby was a prolific inventor, securing more than 60 patents in his lifetime, including for the thermal printer and personal calculator with TI colleagues. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his work on the integrated circuit—the biggest little invention of his career.

Home of the Liquid Paper

In the 1950s, Dallas bank secretary Bette Nesmith Graham grew increasingly frustrated with the new electric typewriters, which made erasing mistakes nearly impossible. She came up with a solution, literally: a tempura paint product she mixed up in her kitchen blender. It worked marvelously and was immensely popular with her fellow typists. In 1956, she started the Mistake Out Company, bottling and labeling the product in her house with the help of her son, who just happens to be Mike Nesmith of The Monkees fame. When her business took all her attention, the single mom was fired from the bank, but she never wanted to be a secretary anyway. She secured the patent for her rebranded "Liquid Paper" in 1958, built a hugely successful business around it and sold it to Gillette in 1979 for $47.5 million.

Prohibition Repeal Boosts 7-Eleven Appeal

Convenience store 7-Eleven was ostensibly started in 1927 when "Uncle Johnny" Jefferson, an ice house operator in Dallas, decided to add certain household staples to his repertoire, with great reception. Parent syndicate Southland Ice Company said a collective Hmmm and set up a few of these retail establishments, adorning them with totem poles and calling them "Tote’m Stores." The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 enabled the selling of beer, and in 1946 the hugely popular outfits were renamed 7-Eleven, after their hours of operation. The year 1965 is a serious standout in American beverage history—that’s when 7-Eleven introduced both the iconic Slurpee and the first to-go coffee.

The Birth Place of Frozen Margaritas

Restaurant-owner Mariano Martinez went to his local 7-Eleven one morning in 1971 for a to-go coffee and spotted a kid getting a Slurpee from the machine. Martinez walked away with an idea that would solve his bar’s problem of inconsistent margaritas and end up one of the biggest contributions to modern ice-booze enjoyment. Martinez ran home, modded an old soft-serve ice cream machine and the frozen margarita machine was born. Prior to the invention, bar patrons were subject to the wildly variable talents of bar staff in nailing both the ice consistency and ice-to-drink ratio of their frozen margaritas. Sample the Mariano specialty at one of the few Mariano’s Hacienda locations around Dallas. You can also visit his prototype the next time you’re at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in D.C.

A Cool Place to Stay

The intense Texas heat has been the inspiration for more than one Dallas entrepreneur. Case in point: The luxury downtown Dallas Adolphus Hotel, built in 1912 by Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame, upped its cool factor big-time in 1950 by becoming the first hotel in the world to furnish its guests with central air-conditioning. That’s not the only notable aspect of these swanky digs, patronized by presidents and movie stars. Certain parts of the Adolphus are said to be spectacularly haunted. Come to think of it, maybe you don’t need the air-conditioning: The tingling up your spine might suffice.

Chuck Norris Stomping Ground

Walker, Texas Ranger was a hit 1990s television series that took place in Dallas and featured Chuck Norris kickin’ butts and takin’ names all over the greater Texas region. The long-running show was filmed here, including in a Northwood Hills house owned at the time by Norris and his brother. Did you know that Norris sang the opening theme song "Eyes of the Ranger"? Also, Norris is no longer pretending. In 2010, he was named a real-life (honorary) Texas Ranger by then-Governor Rick Perry.

Other watchables for which Dallas is the backdrop: Robocop (pretending to be Detroit), Born on the Fourth of July and, of course, the hit show Dallas. Okay, later seasons of Dallas were primarily filmed in Hollywood, but also at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, and it’s in spittin’ distance.

Dallas Kids Turned Outlaws

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow—better known as Bonnie and Clyde—may be the most notorious Dallasites ever. They met in 1930, just before Clyde was arrested for burglary and while Bonnie was married to another convict. After Clyde was paroled in 1932, they launched a ruthlessly successful two-year nationwide crime spree of automobile theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder. The pair were eventually killed in an ambush in Louisiana, shot so many times by police that the undertaker and his assistant (a surviving kidnapping victim of the duo’s) had difficulty embalming them. Bonnie and Clyde had no illusions about their fate. Shortly before their death, Bonnie wrote an autobiographical poem that ends, "Some day they’ll go down together; And they’ll bury them side by side, To a few it’ll be grief— To the law a relief— But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde." Unfortunately, she was wrong on one front: They were buried in separate cemeteries in Dallas.

Barney and Friends

Barney the big purple dinosaur was born in a Big D traffic jam in 1987. Local Sheryl Leach wasn’t trying to be annoying; she had a 2-year-old son and was simply lamenting the absence of a show geared entirely toward toddlers. She and some partners created a series of home videos called Barney and the Backyard Gang, starring the sweet and unsophisticated T-Rex who lives in a sing-songy, storytime world. The group managed some grassroots distro into video stores in other states and it all could have ended there, but the 4-year-old daughter of the executive vice president of programming at the Connecticut PBS affiliate swiped the videotape off a Blockbuster shelf. PBS ran the series in 1992 as Barney & Friends but actually had to be convinced through an enthusiastic campaign by parents and local affiliates to continue the show after its original 30 episodes. Despite an epic 13-season run and tons of merchandising side hustles, Barney always enjoyed a mixed reception: loved by kids and loathed by parents. That said, the super-dee-duper eggplant icon probably deserves credit for launching the careers of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, and of course, for entertaining a couple generations of toddlers.