There’s nothing like having a visitor from a foreign country to get me busy thinking, what can I show them about Dallas that is truly interesting and unique?
As it turns out the answer to this question is 560 feet in the air: The Reunion Tower, often referred to by locals as, The Ball.
You may have seen it in the opening credits of the television series Dallas. The geodesic dome known as Reunion Tower and the adjacent Hyatt Reunion Hotel became instant icons the day they opened. Reunion Tower was officially opened to the public in 1978. It was part of the fifty-acre Reunion Project, which included the construction of the Reunion Tower, the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion Hotel, Reunion Arena, and renovation of the 1916-vintage Union Station.
Strategically located on the southwest edge of Dallas, the Tower, with it’s ever-changing light show, marks the entrance into downtown. If you’re staying at the Hyatt Regency Reunion hotel, you’ll never be lost!
Since Dallas was built in the middle of a prairie (meaning it’s flat as a pancake), I thought the best way for my visitor to get a bird’s eye view of the area was to take him to Reunion Tower. To be honest, I wanted an excuse to go there myself. The Tower had recently undergone some major renovations. I also wanted to check out Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty restaurant, where you can enjoy drinks, dinner, and a 360-degree view of the city, without leaving your seat (the restaurant is built on a revolving platform).
The original plan for the Reunion Project was a hotel with a revolving restaurant on top. But that idea did not go over with the developers and it was decided that the revolving restaurant should have its own building. The result was the Reunion Tower, which included an observation deck with a 360-degree unobstructed view over the area.
From the Reunion Tower website:
The observation deck was closed for repairs and renovations in the fall of 2007, and it underwent some minor renovations in 2008. Fast forward six years – on October 5, 2013 the re-engineered Geo-Deck (named for architect Buckminster Fuller’s “geodesic sphere,” the tower’s fabled shape) reopened to the public. The new Geo-Deck was completely re-imagined, full of engaging innovations including an interactive digital display named the “Halo,” high powered zoom telescopes, walls and ceilings highlighted with color-changing lights and a floor designed as a stylized map of the city.
It had been a long time since I was at the Reunion Tower, watching Dallas light up as darkness fell upon the city — it’s one of the few places in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (where I have lived most of my life) that I get nostalgic about.
Some of my favorite memories of the Reunion Tower and the Hyatt Hotel are of the beauty trade shows that the Hyatt Reunion Hotel hosted. I did makeup for Guy Kremer, Mahogany, Luis Romero, and many other top international hairdressers. There were always late nights, parties, beautiful hair, wardrobe, and of course, makeup. These guys were the rock stars of the hairdressing world, and the memories of working with them will always be tied to the Hyatt Reunion.
Back to my visitor and 2014! We planned to arrive at the Tower about an hour before sunset, so we could visit the newly remodeled observation deck (now called The Geo-Deck), and then take happy hour in the bar at Five Sixty, while enjoying the best possible view of Dallas. As luck would have it, it was a clear sunny day and we had a spectacular sunset that seemed to last forever.
The revolving feature of the restaurant has stood the test of time – it still feels very modern and has a fun vibe to it. As you might expect from a restaurant bearing the name of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, the food and prices are upscale. If you want to experience the restaurant and the view without breaking the bank, go for happy hour, as we did.
Some fun facts about the Reunion Tower from their website.
- As the tower prepared to open on April 15, 1978, local police officials were asked if the lighted ball would distract motorists. “Probably not,” was the reply. But within an hour and a half of the opening, traffic on highways leading to downtown came to a halt. Police and fire switchboards were overloaded for 15 minutes. Eventually, a police cruiser with a public-address system was dispatched to Stemmons Freeway to admonish drivers to keep moving.
- At 560 feet tall, Reunion Tower is the fifteenth tallest building in Dallas.
- The district was named after “La Reunion,” a local utopian settlement of French, Belgian, and Swiss immigrants founded in the 1850’s and later incorporated into the city of Dallas.
- The floor of Five Sixty rotates at a speed of one revolution per hour. On a clear day you can see Fort Worth, thirty-two miles away.
- There are 259 custom LED light fixtures at the intersections of the aluminum struts that form the dome.
I’ve read many articles about the way most of us live in a city and never really notice or appreciate what’s around us. As many times as I’ve been to the Hyatt Regency Reunion Hotel for video production jobs over the years, for some reason I never visited the Tower. Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with how magical it truly is, I’m adding it to my list of regular haunts in Dallas.
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Tips for Visiting the Tower
Admission to the Geo-Deck is $16.00 per person. The Geo-Deck is located at 470 feet and there are interactive maps and hi-def telescopes for viewing. The view is better for taking photographs than in the restaurant located about at 560 feet. Read more about why the Geo-Deck is worth the price of admission.
Cloud Nine Cafe is open until 5:00 pm and located on the same level as the Geo-deck.
Update: I went back recently to try out the cafe, we both had hamburgers, which were ok. It’s very casual – you walk up, order (from a limited menu), pay, and seat yourself.
If you want to visit Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty you will take a different elevator. There is no cover charge and you can go and have a look around, but don’t plan on staying long if you’re not dining or drinking.
Dress is business casual and we were sent back to change our shoes as they do not allow any athletic looking footwear or flip flops.
For hours and parking information click here.
Our visit to the Geo-Deck was sponsored by The Richards Group, but the opinions expressed here are, as always, my own.