Economy in Action Exhibit

The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank has a free exhibit in its lobby entitled Economy in Action. The exhibit is chocked full of currency facts. For example, did you know that the North Texas Ramblings photo of Dallas Federal Reserve Bankonly paper currency bearing the portrait of a woman was the one dollar silver certificate? Martha Washington graced that now defunct bill. And did you know that without a central bank in the mid-1800s, there were more than 30,000 different types of currency in the United States?

From interesting information on paper currency, you enter the heart of the exhibit and learn more about the Federal Reserve. Dallas Federal Reserve Bank serves the eleventh district encompassing areas of Texas, northern Louisiana and southern New Mexico. It is one of twelve districts which comprise the central bank of the United States, more commonly known as the Federal Reserve. Look at a dollar bill. If there is the letter ‘K’ on the left side in the middle of the bill, then the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas placed that dollar into circulation.

Clever, multimedia displays discuss the inception of a central bank for the United States. You learn the story of how Dallas forefathers chatted up the United States Postmaster during a train trip to lobby for a Reserve Bank location in Texas.

The Economy in Action exhibit also educates on how the Federal Reserve works, monetary policy, and the roll played by each Federal Reserve District. Play the game show to see how much you know about the Federal Reserve. Or take the Bankers Challenge to understand criteria banks use to determine whether you get your mortgage or business loan. There is even a display to see how good you are at spotting counterfeit money.

When you go

The Dallas Federal Reserve is at 2200 North Pearl Street, Dallas. Security precautions at the building are strict. You must present a government-issued, picture id to gain entrance (passport for international visitors). Everyone goes through a metal detector. All firearms and weapons, including pocketknives, are prohibited. The self-guided tour is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Federal Reserve building is located kitty-corner to Klyde Warren Park, a great place for a picnic lunch. Parking is available around the area in paid lots and on neighborhood streets. The visitor parking at the Federal Reserve building is restricted to group tours only.

Dallas Aquariums

Dallas is home of three great aquariums — SeaLife Grapevine, Dallas World Aquarium, and Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. At first blush, three separate aquariums may seem excessive until you realize each offers a completely different marine experience.

SeaLife Grapevine — Best Date Night

SeaLife Grapevine is the newest aquarium attraction to open in the Dallas Metroplex. Owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, SeaLife Grapevine is one of over two North Texas Ramblings SeaLife Grapevinedozen SeaLife attractions world-wide, with most located in Europe. Across from LegoLand, also owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment, SeaLife is situated inside Grapevine Mills Mall.

Despite its limited size, the aquarium entertains visitors with a variety of exhibits and tanks artfully constructed to look bigger than they are. Sea Life is a two-story facility allowing visitors to figuratively walk on water at the shark walk exhibit. Actually, it’s an acrylic floor with sharks and rays swimming in a tank beneath your feet – a novel change to the typical shark tunnel.

In addition to sharks and rays, SeaLife exhibits include coral reefs, touch tanks, jelly fish and sea horses. In fact, SeaLife prides itself on its successful sea horse breeding program. Honoring its location, SeaLife also has an exhibit dedicated to Texas wetlands and fish.

Don’t miss. Fin Facts painted on aquarium walls educate visitors with interesting factoids about the aquarium’s residents. Study well, as quiz stations located throughout the exhibits will check your knowledge. It’s a fun way to learn more about the animals.

Details. SeaLife Grapevine (3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine) is open later than most aquariums. Visitors can see the fish Monday through Saturday until 7:30 p.m., and Sunday until 5:30 p.m. Tickets online begin at $15 for adults and $12 for children. A combined SeaLife/LegoLand ticket is also available.

 The Dallas World Aquarium (DWA) — Best for Out-Of-Town Visitors

Calling the DWA an aquarium is a misnomer. This unique attraction is part aquarium, part zoo and part South American adventure. Housed in a refurbished warehouse in the historic West End, the DWA may be best known for its indoor rain forest exhibit called Orinoco – Secrets of the River. Complete with 40-foot waterfall, visitors begin their journey at the rain forest canopy and travel downward to the “river” below. Birds nest in the tree tops and habitats for other rain forest animals are situated along the walkway. A favorite is the sloth who hangs out near the Jungle Café.

A large, underwater viewing area provides a look at fish that populate the Orinoco and an opportunity to see the DWA’s Antillean Manatees, an endangered species. In addition to the unique South American rain forest experience, DWA has the standard aquarium exhibits of clown fish, sea horses and jelly fish. There are sharks, too. A 40-foot clear tunnel allows visitors to see sharks swim overhead. Other exhibits include penguins, flamingos and even a hallway with nocturnal animals like bats and opossums.

Don’t miss. On weekends the Mayan Performance Troupe performs traditional Mayan dances near the jaguar enclosure in the Mundo Maya exhibit.

Details. DWA (1801 N. Griffin St., Dallas) is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $20.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. There are two restaurants located within DWA and both are worth a visit. The Café Maya affords diners a view of the rainforest and serves Mexican cuisine. Eighteen O One is located on the ground floor (no view) with an Asian inspired menu, and a kid-favorite, fish-shaped pizza.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park — Best for a Birthday Party

No more standing on tiptoes to see the fish for youngsters at the Children’s Aquarium. The aquarium’s recent renovation included installation of viewing windows and exhibits at child-friendly heights.  The aquarium’s touch tank is strategically positioned in the entrance foyer where a docent guides children and parents. Here kids can see the underside of a horseshoe crab or touch a slipper lobster.

The smallest of the three Dallas area aquariums, it is also the most affordable with tickets for adults $8 and children $6. The aquarium’s size is a plus for the littlest marine biologists who can become overwhelmed by crowds at larger aquariums. A newly refurbished party room is an ideal location for children’s birthday celebrations. The aquarium offers weekend party packages, which include an animal interpreter and stingray feeding. For more information contact the aquarium at (469) 554-7549.

Don’t miss. Stingray Bay is a covered, outdoor exhibit that includes a shark tank, and stingray touch tank. Velvety smooth to the touch, the southern stingray seem to enjoy their encounters with humans. For a nominal fee you can feed the rays, too.

Details. The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park (1462 First Avenue, Dallas) is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Money Factory

What would it be like to work surrounded by almost a billion dollars? I found out with a trip to the Money Factory. Located in Fort Worth, the Money Factory (also known as the North Texas Ramblings Money FactoryBureau of Engraving and Printing or BEP) conducts free tours of its facility, one of only two locations that print U.S. currency.

The buck starts here! Imagine printing presses churning out sheets of hundred dollar bills. Or pallets stacked with money bricks, 400 notes to a brick. On any given business day, the Fort Worth BEP produces 36 million notes valued at $526 million.

The tour is conducted from a glassed-in, elevated walkway above the factory floor. Visitors see all three types of printing processes used to make money.

  • The intaglio printing pushes ink into the sheet giving money its three dimensional, textural feel.
  • The off-set press gives higher denomination bills their color.
  • The letter-press printing process serializes the notes.

Between each printing step, currency sheets dry in controlled areas on pallets.

Laundering money. Guides provide fun facts throughout the Money Factory tour. I learned that paper currency is actually a misnomer. U.S. notes are printed on specially designed sheets made of cotton and linen fibers. The fiber blend prevents money from falling apart in a washing machine or tearing when it’s folded too many times. To meet BEP quality assurance standards, currency must be able to withstand six washing machine encounters!

What you won’t see. The Money Factory has just one customer, the Federal Reserve Bank. Security restrictions prevent BEP visitors from viewing the 19,000-square- foot Federal Reserve vault that stores the finished currency prior to its shipment to one of the 12 Federal Reserve banks.

Learn about BEP. A self-guided walk through the visitor center is almost as much fun as the factory tour. Interactive exhibits and displays provide detailed information on all the engraving and printing processes involved in currency production. My favorite exhibit told the story of the Mutilated Currency Division. They refund damaged money, like currency damaged by fire or flood. The most outlandish example of the division’s work involved a man and his money eating cow. The man killed the cash consuming cow and sent the damaged currency (still in the bovine’s stomach) to the Mutilated Currency Division. And yes, he did get his money refunded.

Early counterfeiters. I also learned about the history of money and counterfeiting. Cacao beans were used as currency by the Aztecs. Some would counterfeit the cacao bean by removing its meaty center and replacing it with mud. Today’s counterfeiters are more sophisticated and BEP uses a variety of measures to foil attempts to counterfeit currency including the use of color shifting ink, security strips and more.

The 10 cent note. Surprisingly, the United States didn’t use paper currency until the Civil War. In 1861, the Treasury printed fractional currency in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents to offset coin hoarding. Today, BEP produces $1, $2, $5, $10, $50 and $100 notes. The largest denomination printed was the $100,000 note used only between banks prior to the advent of electronic fund transfers.

When you go. The Money Factory in Fort Worth is located at 9000 Blue Mound Road. Public tours are Tuesday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 8:30 4:30 p.m. All visitors must pass through security. BEP advises people to allow up to a half hour for the security check during its busiest times (spring and summer break). Cell phones, cameras, backpacks and any sort of weapon including pocket knives are strictly forbidden. For more information call the visitor center at (817) 231-4000.

DMA Thursday Jazz

Are you looking for an inexpensive date night? How about DMA Thursday Jazz night?

Mix art and jazz for a cultural smorgasbord Thursday nights at the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 North Harwood). Explore the museum’s diverse collection from ancient North Texas Ramblings DMA Thursday JazzMediterranean artifacts to an extensive decorative arts collection. Stroll through galleries to see paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, Monet, to name just a few artists.  Better yet, impress (or amuse) your date with your artistic ability and participate in the Thursday evening Sketching in the Galleries program.

Done exploring the visual feast offered by the museum? Finish up the evening with a little jazz. The museum atrium becomes a music venue every Thursday evening between 6 – 8 p.m. Enjoy live jazz while sipping a glass of wine from the atrium bar. Hungry? The atrium café offers appetizers and meals for under $10. Admission to the DMA is free. Thursday night program information is available on the DMA website at


National Scouting Museum

Families with elementary-aged children, Scouts, and Norman Rockwell fans will enjoy a trip to the National Scouting Museum just east of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Irving, Texas.  This 50,000 square foot museum houses over 600,000 scouting artifacts from merit badges to Norman Rockwell paintings.

Scouting History. Scouting began in England with Lord Baden-Powell. A British army officer, he developed a training manual for his men that taught self-sufficiency skills – National Scouting Museum North Texas Ramblingsmuch along the lines of today’s Bear Grylls. His army training manual caught on with young English lads and in 1908 he published Scouting for Boys. In 1910, the scouting movement crossed the Atlantic and the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) was formed. Today, about 3 million boys participate in BSA.  The National Scouting Museum chronicles scouting history with videos, artifacts and exhibits.

Hands on Exhibits. Children, even if they are not Cub Scouts, will enjoy Cub Scout Adventure World. A pinewood derby track let’s you race against other museum visitors using derby cars donated by local Cub Scout packs. Another museum hit with the kids is Fort Fun, a laser shooting gallery designed in a Wild West motif.  Visitors receive a shooting gallery token with admission. Additional tokens can be purchased from a dispenser at Fort Fun.

Appealing to today’s youth, the National Scouting Museum interactive exhibits include video game activities, too.  You can race each other in a motorcycle-based game powered by pedaling a bike in the GameBike area, or use your feet at the video dance game.  A pine scented camping area complete with storytelling campfire rounds out the exhibits for children.

Norman Rockwell. How does Norman Rockwell, the famed painter, figure into a scouting museum?  At age 19, Rockwell became the art editor for the BSA magazine, Boys’ Life. The National Scouting Museum houses many of Rockwell’s original paintings used in early Boys’ Life covers. A cell phone audio tour of the gallery is available with a tour introduction by President George H. W. Bush. Works of American Realist painter and Boys’ Life illustrator Joseph Csatari are also on display in the gallery.

When you go. The National Scouting Museum (1329 W Walnut Hill, Irving) is open seven days a week (closed for major holidays).  Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for children 4 – 12-years old, and $5 for scouts. Contact (972) 580-2476 for information on special Scout adventure programs offered at the museum.

Visitors’ Tip: National Scouting Museum admission is free on Sundays and Mondays.