For a Texas-sized photo op, or simply a sight of what claims to be the largest bronze monument on earth, head to Pioneer Plaza in the heart of Dallas. Multiple strands of American history come together at this downtown tourist site – the plaza's famous monument commemorates the epic cattle drives that followed the Shawnee Trail across the West, and it borders the Pioneer Cemetery, last resting place of multiple Dallas mayors and numerous participants in the Texas revolution and the American Civil War.
Visiting Pioneer Plaza
The patch of land now occupied by Pioneer Plaza was once a vacant lot, cleared for an ambitious skyscraper project that never got off the ground. Today, it's one of Dallas' most popular photo opportunities, thanks to the creativity of self-trained Texan sculptor, Robert Summers. In 1994 Summers filled the park with figures of 49 bronze longhorn cattle and three cowboys, surging across a stream bed in the shadow of the towers of downtown Dallas. It's certainly worth dropping by while touring the downtown sights.
The monument is a homage to the Texas cattle drives, which moved untold thousands of longhorns across the state to waiting railroad cars in the 19th century. While the Shawnee Trail did pass through Dallas, it was rapidly eclipsed by the much bigger Chisholm Trail through Fort Worth, which became the hub of the Texan cattle trade (visit the city's famous Stockyards to delve deeper into Fort Worth's 'Cowtown' history).
The bronze Dallas herd is executed in almost Terracotta Army levels of detail, right down to the 'd' (for 'Dallas') branding marks. You can wander on to the nearby Pioneer Cemetery, which does indeed include some bona fide American pioneers, alongside many casualties and veterans of America's civil war. Until recently, this was also the site of Dallas' Confederate War Memorial, but the monument was removed following Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
When the cemetery received its first burials in the 1850s, Dallas was a country township of just 1000 people. Some of the souls interred here arrived on stagecoaches and covered wagons before the railroad trundled into town in the 1870s. The Confederate connection may be controversial today, but Dallas was a key battleground in the civil war, with Texans fighting on both sides before the South finally surrendered in 1865. Amongst the civic figures buried here is former mayor John McClannahan Crockett (1816–1877), cousin of Davy Crockett.
Pioneer Plaza and the cemetery are open to all, but parking can be tricky if you just want to hop out and take a few snaps. There are usually some spots on Griffin St and Young St, but otherwise, you'll have to pay to park in a downtown parking lot. On the plus side, you're just a few blocks from Dealey Plaza, the JFK Memorial, and the Sixth Floor Museum.