The hit TV show Dallas, which became a worldwide phenomenon in the late 1970s and early 1980s, spawned an equally popular spectacle when tours opened at the show’s filming location, the mythical Southfork Ranch (in the nearby community of Parker, 972/442-7800, www.southforkranch.com , daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $9.50 adults, $8 senior citizens, $7 children ages 5–12).
In the spring of 1980, Dallas was on everyone’s mind. And the question on everyone’s lips was “Who shot J. R.?” The country was captivated by the mysterious intruder who fired shots at bullish oil magnate J. R. Ewing. With more than a dozen potential candidates, speculation ran rampant — people even placed Vegas bets on the outcome.
Decades later, most Americans don’t remember or even care who pulled the trigger (incidentally, it was Kristin, J. R.’s recent romantic interest), but anyone who watched TV in the early 1980s likely recalls tuning in on Friday nights to keep up with the Ewing clan’s latest dramatic adventures.
The Texas mystique played a big role in the show’s success, serving as an intriguing backdrop along with the stereotypical big oil, big money, and everything’s-bigger-in-Texas sensibilities. The Ewing family’s home base was Southfork Ranch, a fittingly sprawling kingdom that, along with the cowboy posturing, came to represent Texas excess to viewers across the globe.
The show itself, which aired from 1978 until 1991, is considered one of TV’s most significant prime-time dramas, launching countless other series dedicated to shady business dealings, romantic trysts, dysfunctional families, thrilling season finale cliffhangers, and incredibly poofy hair.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that hordes of fans descend on Southfork annually to tour the famous Ewing Mansion and view memorabilia such as the gun that shot J. R., Lucy’s wedding dress, and Jock Ewing’s Lincoln Continental. From U.S. 75 north, take exit 30 and drive east on FM 2514/Parker Road for six miles, turn right on FM 2551 (Hogge Road) and look for the sign on the left.