29 Fun and Frugal Things to Do in Dallas, TX [Local Guide]

 

Are you ready for an awesome list full of suggestions from where to eat, what to see, to the best places to go for some Texas-style fun? These recommendations are either low cost or even better, FREE! Whether you live in Dallas, you’re in town for the weekend or visiting on an extended vacation, these ideas are sure to inspire you.

Most of these ideas are free. But if you’re going to spend money on any single experience in Dallas, I highly recommend the famous Sixth Floor Museum. It’s super fascinating and you’ll be obsessed with the JFK assassination details for weeks after. The best way to get into the Sixth Floor Museum is either a one-off pass purchased in advance from Groupon or bundled with a great deal from CityPASS, which also includes the new Presidential Library, Perot Museum, and more. See details at the bottom of this post.

Getting to Dallas

Flying into Dallas couldn’t be easier. Two airports serve the Dallas area. Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) and Love Field (DAL).

DFW is located about 20 miles outside of Dallas and is one of the busiest airlines in the world. It’s also the hub of American Airlines, so finding a convenient flight is rarely an issue. Getting an Uber to downtown Dallas will take about 20 mins (traffic permitting) and cost you about $35. Public transportation is also an option, the DART will get you into downtown in about an hour and will only set you back $3. You can pick that up from Terminal A. Here’s more info about DART.  

Love Field is only six miles outside of downtown Dallas and is heavily serviced by Southwest airlines–which means lots of discount domestic flights. An Uber from Love Field to downtown will be about $15. You can also grab the DART into downtown for $3 but first, you’ll have to ride the free Love Link bus to the DART station. 

Check out Travelocity and Cheap O Air for some great deals to Dallas. 

Getting Around Dallas

Did you know that there are over 7 million people living in the Dallas metroplex? It’s safe to say that this is a BIG city. You’ll need a car while you’re here. While there is some public transportation, you won’t want to rely on it solely to get you everywhere you’re going to want to go.

There are a couple train lines if you’re going to be in the select areas they travel. The Trinity Railroad Express (TRE) runs between Fort Worth to Dallas (DFW Airport is a stop!), and there is the DART which runs from downtown Dallas up Interstate 75 to the suburb of Plano. Prices for each are very reasonable (under $10) and the rides themselves are fun and allow you to take in the local scenery.

If you’re not comfortable driving around, or just want to keep your car at the hotel, consider taking an Uber or Lyft between attractions. An added bonus of this is that you’ll save money by not paying for parking at each location you visit.

ZipCar is another option that gives you flexibility. It offers rental cars by the hour or day, with gas and insurance included, for one low price. Rates start at just $9 per hour.

Downtown Attractions

Dallas

See the historic Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll (Free). Located in the West End district of downtown Dallas, this is the location of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. From there you can head over to the highly recommended Sixth Floor Museum ($18), which includes a view from Oswald’s supposed shooting location.

Another must see in the downtown area is Klyde Warren Park (Free). While at the park you can take part in four to five activities every day, making any time a fun time to visit the park! Some of the activities include a FREE games area, food trucks from 11a – 4p, walking trails, a dog park, children’s playground, and a performance pavilion.

The Reunion Tower GeO-Deck offers incredible views of Dallas from its observation deck. Admission is included with the Dallas CityPASS or you can buy tickets starting at $17 for adults and $8 for children ages 4 to 12. While you’re there, enjoy a snack at the Cloud Nine Cafe or fine dining at Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. Cloud Nine rotates during lunch and Five Sixty rotates nightly beginning at 5p.

If you’re looking to do some sightseeing downtown, the best and most fun way to go about it is to take a spin on the M Line Vintage Trolley (Free). This nostalgic streetcar will take you from the downtown Dallas Arts District to trendy shops and restaurants in Uptown, to a stop at Klyde Warren Park. Hop on and off as much as you’d like. M-Line service operates seven days a week. Trolley is free, donations greatly appreciated. Track the trolley and donate at: www.mata.org.

Fort Worth

Fort Worth Stock Yards (Free). Watch the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, held every day at 11:30a and 4:00p. But wait! There is lots more to do while you’re there. Shop for some real Texas cowboy gear or a Texas-sized souvenir while strolling through the downtown square. From there head to Joe T. Garcia’s to sit on their gorgeous patio and chow down on some of the best TexMex you’ll ever have.

The Stockyards Museum. Learn the history of the stockyards and explore the exhibits, collections, and artifacts. The museum is open from 10a to 5p every day (closed on Sundays). Admission is only $2 for adults and kids are free.

Sundance Square and the Fort Worth Water Gardens (Free). Walk around downtown Fort Worth, do some window shopping and people watching, then stroll to the Water Gardens to cool off in the architectural marvel. Don’t feel like walking all the way or going it alone? Take the historic Segway tour.

Sports and Recreation in Dallas

If you like sports, Dallas has you covered. Teams representing every major professional sports’ league call Dallas home.

Spend some time at the ole ballpark. Head over to Globe Life Park in Arlington, home to the Texas Rangers (tickets as low as $11) or to Dr. Pepper Stadium in Frisco, which is the home of the RoughRiders minor league baseball team ($9). That’s right! Baseball is still affordable here. How about that, Yankee fans!

Professional football games can be pricey, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. But you can still explore the house that Jerry built with five different AT&T Stadium tour options starting at $22 for adults and $17 for children.

Dallas also offers NBA action with the Dallas Mavericks and NHL hockey from the Dallas Stars. Both teams offer tickets around $20 per person and sometimes lower on the resale market, depending on how the teams are performing. You can often save money by buying tickets at the last minute as resellers lower prices. Also, check out Premium Seats for tickets to events and VIP experiences.

Soccer is also gaining a following in Dallas with FC Dallas. Join other fútbol fans watching the action on the pitch with tickets as low as $14 each.

Catch the horse races at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. You’ll see thoroughbred and quarter horse racing from plenty of inexpensive seating options. General admission tickets start at just $3. Children are welcome, but you must be at least 21 to bet on the races.

Topgolf in The Colony ($27/hour for up to 6 people before noon and Tuesdays are half price.) Think of it as golf meets bowling meets skee ball. This is perfect for families or groups of friends. It’s fun for everyone and requires no prior golfing skills.

Laugh out loud at the Dallas Comedy House. It is one of the city’s best venues for improv, sketch comedy, and stand-up. Most performances are less than $10 each and the improv and open mic nights on Tuesdays have no cover charge. It is first-come, first-served, so arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Listen to My Dallas Favorites

I recently joined the podcast, We Travel There to discuss some of my Dallas favorites:

Dallas Outdoors

The City of Grapevine is home to some of the Metroplex’s best outdoor attractions. There’s Lake Grapevine ($5/vehicle), Grapevine Vintage Railroad (tickets start at $10), and did someone say wineries? That’s right! Grapevine has plenty to choose from and tastings are very affordable (most are $5 – $10). Bonus! When you’re ready for a break from the great outdoors you can pop in some for shopping at the nearby Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall and Bass Pro Shops.

Cedar Ridge Preserve (Free, $3 donations requested). This trail system covers 600 acres of natural beauty, rolling hills, dense forest, and diverse wildlife. There are 9 miles of unpaved trails to discover. The trails can be hilly, so come prepared for a bit of a workout with walking shoes, sunscreen, and extra water.

Little Elm Sandy Beach (Free). We may not have an ocean, but we do have a beach! Pack your beach bag and sunscreen. This awesome beachfront park will keep you busy in the summer months. There’s swimming, sand volleyball, hiking trails, picnic spots and a playground for the kiddos!

White Rock Lake near Dallas (Free). This scenic park will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors with nine miles of running, biking, and walking trails and some awesome fishing. This 1,015-acre city lake is only 5 miles northeast of downtown Dallas, making it super close to the city.

Richard Green Linear Park in Arlington (Free). Located near Cowboys Stadium, spend time in the outdoors with great views. Walk along the nature trail and view the art installations. Beat the heat with plenty of shade throughout the park.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano (Free). This is the perfect get-away for a quick dose of the outdoors right in the middle of the city. Get out there and enjoy the lush trails, playground, and picnic pavilion.

River Legacy Park in Arlington (Free). Located along the banks of the Trinity River, River Legacy Park is full of outdoor entertainment. There’s hiking & biking trails, picnic areas, a canoe launch and even a hands-on science center!

Planespotting (Free). Let out your inner AVGeek and watch the planes take off and land from Dallas Love Field and DFW Airport. Bachman Lake (Love Field) and Founders Plaza (DFW) are excellent spots for planespotting and enjoying all of the amenities at each park.

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Animal Life in Dallas

If you’re looking to spend some time at an aquarium, we have got some options for you! Take your pick, and let’s get to exploring the Sea.

Fort Worth Zoo ($14 adults/$10 kids). Get up close and personal at the FW Zoo, which is home to more than 500 species of animals and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits. Perfect for kids! Toddlers 2 and under are free, and Wednesdays you get half-price admission.

Note: This guide is meant to give a high-level overview. The information may vary from time to time. Check back frequently as things are always changing in the area. For more information on the DFW area, check out Guide Live and their ‘Things to Do’.

Dallas Area Outdoor Gardens and Learning

Fair Park’s Discovery Gardens in Dallas ($10 Adults / $5 Kids). Fair Park has a variety of museums, but the kids will enjoy the Discovery Gardens and the Butterfly House/Insectarium.

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens (Free). features seasonal displays of plants and flowers native to North Texas.

Southfork Ranch in Dallas (Free to drive around. Tour $15 adults/$9 kids, children 5 and under are free). No visit to Dallas is complete without visiting the legendary Southfork Ranch. You’ll see where the TV show “Dallas” was filmed and experience life on the ranch.

Log Cabin Village ($5.50 for adults/$5 for kids /ages 3 and under free). Come hang out at the outdoor living history museum consisting of 7 log cabin houses, a blacksmith shop, and one-room school dating back to the 1800s while costumed historical interpreters help you to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of 19th-century Texas! Log Cabin Village is located across the street from the FW Zoo, so plan to spend a day in this area.

Thanks-Giving Square (Free). This park and chapel are located in the heart of Downtown Dallas. The park features cascading fountains and a meditation garden. All faiths and religions are welcome at the chapel in a “public space dedicated to gratitude.” Once inside, you’ll be amazed by Norman Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” painting and the dramatic “Glory Window” stained glass skylight by Gabriel Loire.

Trinity River Audobon Center (Free on select days). The center is the gateway to the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest. Experience the diverse plant and wildlife as you go for a hike and search for birds and other animals. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Entrance is free from 9a to 4p on the third Thursday of each month.

If you live near Dallas or visit frequently, join the Kids Club. It is a partnership between Audubon Texas, Dallas Zoo, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and Crow Collection of Asian Art. Membership is $150 per year and your family is invited to exclusive events several times each year. On the day of each event, your family is invited to stay the day at the venue for no charge.

Amusement Parks Near Dallas

Sandy Lake Amusement Park in Carrollton ($2/person, tickets only 50¢ each). Take a trip back in time. This old-school style amusement park is full of options for family fun. Try the paddle boats, miniature golf, and carnival style rides. Bring your own lunch to eat at the picnic grounds and save your money for the quarter arcade.

Hawaiian Falls Waterpark in The Colony (Tickets are $32 for adults and $24 for kids, but check for coupons before you buy). If you’re visiting in the heat of the summer you’ll want to cool off on the slides, lazy river and in the wave pool. If you have little ones, they’ll love the interactive water playground! Save some money by packing a cooler and eating under the picnic pavilion.

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. While always entertaining, is not always cheap (tickets start at $85 for adults). Bring a Coke marked with a local coupon, you could save up to $20! Make a full day of it and bring your own food.

Museums in Dallas

Dallas Museum of Art (Free). Located in the Arts District of downtown Dallas, DMA is one of the America’s largest art museums. Think art is just for adults? Think again! If you’ve got kids in tow, they’ll find plenty to do exploring the DMA kid’s club.

C.R. Smith Museum (Adults $9, children are $6). Explore the history of American Airlines and get a behind-the-scenes look at the airline’s operations. Then climb aboard a retired 1940 Douglas DC-3 airplane to take a step into history. The museum was named to CNN Travel’s list of the world’s best airline museums of 2019.

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (Tickets are $16 for adults and between $10 and $14 for kids depending on age, kids 4 and under are free). Submerge yourself in some American history as you explore the Presidency of George W. Bush. You’ll even get a chance to step inside an exact replica of the Oval Office!

Irving Arts Center (Free events). The museum offers free events throughout the year. On the first Thursday of each month, attend Jumpstart Stories & Art at 10a for creative stories and fun art projects that combine art and children’s books. Come back on the second Sunday of the month for hands-on art days where children and parents co-create projects inspired by current gallery exhibitions, holidays, and the changing seasons.

Meadows Museum (Free on Thursdays after 5p). It is known to have one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain.

Monnig Meteorite Gallery at TCU (Free). Experience pieces of the solar system here on Earth. Meteorites are the oldest materials known, even older than Earth! Enjoy hands-on experiences and create your own terrestrial impact crater. The museum contains more than 3,000 meteorites with about 10% of them on display at any given time.

Nasher Sculpture Center ($10 for adults, students with ID are $5, children under 12 are free). Located in the Dallas Arts District, this museum features more than 300 modern and contemporary sculpture masterpieces. There are interactive exhibits where families can make art and immerse themselves in fun art activities. It offers an indoor gallery, an auditorium, education and research facilities, a cafe, and a gift shop. Admission is free on the first Saturday (10a to 5p) and third Friday (5p to midnight) of every month.

National Videogame Museum in Frisco ($12 adults/$10 kids/ages 3 and under free). A museum about the history of video games? Yes! This new museum has classic video game arcade machines, all different video game consoles in a living room setting, historic computer games and memorabilia. Awesome!

The Crayola Experience in Plano ($15.99 by using code “ptmoney” here). Visitors will be able to name and wrap their own Crayola crayon, star in a coloring page, bring art to 4-D life and so much more! Opening Spring 2018

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Dallas Area Tours

Crow Musem of Asian Art (Free). Explore over 1,000 works of Asian art from Japan, China, India, and Southeast Asia. The museum is designed to promote learning and dialogue about the arts and cultures of Asia from ancient to contemporary times. It is open to the public from Tuesday through Sundays.

Deep Ellum 42 Murals walking tour (Free). This self-guided tour walks you through the heart of Deep Ellum, a popular spot for nightlife, as you explore incredible murals painted by budding artists.

Frontier of Flight Museum ($10 adults/$7 kids/ages 3 and under free). Come see an extensive collection of aviation history artifacts and vehicles. Learn all about the history of aviation and space exploration from the DFW area.

Franconia Brewing Tour in McKinney ($10/ages 21 and up) With a long family history of brewing beer, Dennis Wehrmann came from Nuremberg, Germany to the US to achieve a lifelong dream of opening his own brewery. You’ll learn all about the beer brewing process and get free samples of the local beer varieties.

Skyline 360 Tour (Free). Enjoy this standing 25-minute “tour” that gives a brief overview of the Dallas skyline and its amazing architectural heritage. No registration is necessary. Tours are available at both Klyde Warren Park and Main Street Garden.

US Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Free). Go for a 45-minute guided tour on weekdays and you’ll get a behind the scenes look at this money-printing facility in Fort Worth. See where billions of dollars are printed right here in North Texas! It’s one of only 2 facilities in the US! The other is in Washington DC.

Dallas Restaurants

If there’s one thing we do well in Texas, it’s food. Here in DFW there are endless options for grabbing a tasty bite. You could literally try a different place every day and never run out of choices.

Some local favorite eats:

El Fenix – authentic Tex-Mex at the oldest Mexican restaurant chain in the U.S. Be sure to order the steak fajitas or visit on Wednesdays for the $5.99 enchilada.

Free Play Richardson – a restaurant and bar that has 95+ retro arcade games and pinball machines that are set for free play. Pay $11 per person and play all of the games you want. There is also an extensive food and drink menu to enjoy. Children are ok but must leave by 9p each night.

Guacamologist Experience at the Ritz Carlton (Free) – When you hear the name Ritz Carlton, dollar signs immediately pop into your head. However, the Guacamologist Experience is completely free every evening at 6p in the hotel lobby. You don’t even have to stay at the Ritz to enjoy this tasting, although you may need to book a room after drinking the complimentary tequila tastings and mini-versions of Dean’s Signature Margaritas.

Dallas CityPASS®

If you’re going to be here for a few days, you may want to consider the CityPASS. The pass gets you access to some of the city’s top (more expensive) attractions. If you think you’ll make it to all of them, this is worth the cost ($48 adults / $32 kids).

  • Perot Museum of Nature and Science
  • Reunion Tower GeO-Deck
  • The Sixth Floor Museum OR Dallas Zoo
  • George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum OR Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Save 40% on the 4 best attractions in Dallas with CityPASS – Shop Now!

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Wow DFW! What a place to be! There’s so much to do for a reasonable cost. These ideas are just the beginning. Check back often as this page gets updated regularly.

A great list of where to eat, what to see, and the best places to go on your next trip to Dallas. All of these ideas are frugal, cheap, and some are even FREE! Whether you're from Dallas, in town for the weekend, or visiting for an extended vacation, these ideas will work for you.

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.

Comments

  1. Not much mention of the Dallas Zoo. What about Honky Tonks in the area?

  2. How was the Heard Museum in McKinney forgotten? That’s not much further than Plano which gets mentioned in this piece.

  3. Lauren brown says

    Great suggestions! Looking forward to finding out more 🙂

  4. How about getting from downtown hotel to Cowboy Stadium.  I understand Jerry
    has made that an expensive proposition!  Anybody have a solution or suggestions.
    Thanks,  Clay

  5. FYI, the Fort Worth Zoo is half price on Wednesdays. Across the street from it is the Log Cabin Village, where they have a collection of cabins that actually belonged to historical figures in Texas history. There are people dressed according to the period and can tell you everything you’d ever want to know about the mementos in the cabin and the people who lived there. They also do various demonstrations, blacksmithing, candlemaking, etc. It’s only about $4.50/adult, $4/kids 4-17, free for kids under 3.

    • Philip Taylor says

      Thanks for the extra info, Annie. I’ve heard good things about that Fort Worth Zoo.

  6. this was awesome, 🙂 thanks.

  7. Irirshredroses9309 says

    On a different note I would like to say thank you to the person who put this website together. I have lived here a long time and know most every thing there is to do, free or not, but this website has actually given a couple of new things I have never found any where else! So thanks again!!

  8. Irirshredroses9309 says

    Well I thought I would add to the list as well as give a few personal opinions. While this might not impress those who do not live here, Dog parks are becoming extremely popular (not to mention it’s free) and they are being built all over the place. One is located near white rock lake and has bike and walking trails. It has a wonderful atmosphere and is a beautiful place just to get away and to stay outdoors.
    Now while these next places are not frugal they belong next to six flags on the list, Hurricane harbor (located across the highway from Six Flags in Arlington), Hawaiian Falls in Garland, and H20 water park. If you are here during the summer months, these water parks are the best way to cool off and have a blast with family and friends. Be forewarned that Hurricane Harbor is the most expensive water park here in the DFW area but it has the most rides and types of pools. If you make the trip to Fort Worth, stop downtown to see the Water Gardens. It is a free water “sculpture” garden in the middle of the downtown area. There are a couple of fountains but the main attraction is the massive “walk in” fountain and a one foot wading pool. Its a fun and free way to stay cool!! One last thing I can think of is the historic railroad in downtown grapevine. They run tours all through the year and one even goes directly to the Fort Worth Stockyards for a day of fun. Keep an eye on the Grapevine website because they do a couple of festivals a year and holiday things for the kids including real Thomas the Tank engine train rides and rides in to a Christmas town to see Santa.
    NOTE: If you want to go see one of the Dallas aquarium’s keep in mind that the two are VERY different. The Dallas aquarium is only 4 dollars because it is just a large room with tanks. It has mostly local fish and an old tortoise. If you are in fair park it is worth seeing but if you want to see other kinds of fish and even some animals the Dallas World Aquarium is the place you want to go. It jumps in price to 17 dollars for an adult but it very impressive with its many tanks and animals. Try not to go on a holiday weekend (like mother’s day weekend) or you will be EXTREMELY crowded.

  9. Ryan @ Smarter Wealth says

    Great…except I live in Australia 🙁

  10. It’s amazing what you can find when you really dig in to see what’s out there! A good list if I ever make the trek down south!

  11. DFW looks like fun. I’d love to visit that part of the country!

  12. Looks like a great place to visit! I’ve never been to Texas, but if I ever go, I’d definitely want to hit up DFW