Free Things to Do in Dallas

10 best free things to do in the Dallas area

Whoever said the best things in life are free must have been talking about Dallas, because the city has tons of things to do that will cost you literally nothing. And we’re not just talking about hanging out in the malls (though that’s fun too).

Did you know that you can soak up some of the area’s most amazing cultural offerings without spending a penny? For example, the Dallas Museum of Art boasts one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation and there’s never an admission charge to get in. Located around the corner is another free gem, the Crow Collection of Asian Art. And we’d be remiss to not mention the gloriously free Kimbell Art Museum, located in Dallas’ sister city, Fort Worth.  

Oh, and that's not all, there's live music and a slew of other fun activities on offer as well. The cost? Absolutely nada. So, put away your credit cards and get ready to explore the 10Best free things to do in and around Big D.   


Ronald Kirk Bridge-Felix H. Lozada, Sr. Gateway
Photo courtesy of Ilene Jacobs

For decades, the Continental Avenue Bridge (now known as the Ronald Kirk Bridge and the Felix H. Lozada, Sr. Gateway) served as a viaduct for vehicles between downtown and West Dallas. These days, the bridge is a pedestrian-only linear oasis spanning 1.2 miles over the Trinity River. It's filled with gardens, water features, playgrounds, a bocce court and even human-sized chess boards. And not only does the park boast sweeping views of downtown Dallas and the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, but it also offers a host of free activities, ranging from fitness classes and children's programs to movie screenings and special events. If you're looking for an ideal skyline photo for your Instagram feed, this is the place.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Ronald Kirk Bridge is one of the best places to view the Downtown Dallas skyline.

Ilene's expert tip: The views from here are especially beautiful at night. The area can be accessed on the Downtown side off of Riverfront and Core Street and on the West Dallas side between Canada Dr and Singleton. Free parking is available in the parking lot located at 109 Continental off of Canada Drive.

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Free Music at Adair's Saloon
Photo courtesy of Adair's Saloon

Sure, the drinks are cheap, and the burgers are legendary, but what lassos most folks into this Deep Ellum dive is its undeniably unpretentious vibe and a weekly roundup of free live music. And it's not just any live music, Adair's brings in the cream of the country music crop when it comes to up-and-coming indie bands and singer-songwriter acts. Even heavy hitters like Jack Ingram, the Dixie Chicks and Miranda Lambert have taken to Adair's tiny stage at one time or another. As if that wasn't enough, Adair's offers an awesome happy hour from 2-8 p.m. Sunday through Friday.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Adair's is the best place to catch free live country music every night of the week.

Ilene's expert tip: Reserve a table by emailing

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Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve
Photo courtesy of Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve

Contrary to common belief, Dallas' topography is not as flat as you think. At least not at this 600-acre paradise located 20 minutes south of downtown. Situated at an elevation of 755 feet, the preserve offers 9 miles of unpaved trails that wind through a lush terrain of native foliage and wildlife. Best of all, there's a wide variety of trails to please any type of outdoorsy adventurer. Be sure to make your way up the Escarpment Trail to get a bird's eye view from the highest point in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Take note that no bikes are allowed, but dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve is one of the city's best places to hike.

Ilene's expert tip: The preserve appreciates a donation of $3 or more which can be made through the donation box on the main trail. COVID-19 safety measures include crowd control and limited access to restroom facilities. Also, note that the Preserve is closed on Mondays.

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Meadows Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Meadows Museum of Art

Located on the Southern Methodist University campus, the Meadows Museum was first established in 1965 to house the collection of Spanish art assembled by Dallas oilman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows. Today, the museum is regarded as having one of the largest and most significant collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, thus earning it the nickname, "the Prado on the Prairie." Among pieces spanning from the 10th to the 21st centuries are works by masters such as Dalí, El Greco, Miró, Picasso, and Velázquez. In addition to the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, the museum also features an assortment of 20th-century sculptures, including Santiago Calatrava's Wave which can be found on display in its outdoor plaza. Although there is a daily admission charge, visitors can access the museum for free after 5 p.m. on Thursdays. As well, children under the age of 12 are always admitted free.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Meadows Museum is truly one of Dallas' hidden art gems.

Ilene's expert tip: Complimentary parking is available in the garage underneath the museum at the corner of Bishop and Schlegel.

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Kimbell Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Visitors and Conventions Bureau

If you thought Fort Worth was only about cowboy culture, you might be surprised to know that it has a world-class arts scene as well. For proof of this, you need to head over to the Cultural District, home to several prized cultural institutions, one of which includes the Louis Kahn and Renzo Piano-designed Kimbell Art Museum. The museum showcases around 350 works of art, ranging from classical antiquities to European masterpieces by artists such as Monet, Picasso and Matisse. Speaking of masterpieces, the Kimbell is where you'll find the only Michelangelo painting (The Torment of Saint Anthony) in the Americas. And of course, one of the best perks about it is that visitors can always access the museum's permanent collections without splashing the cash on an admission fee.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Kimbell offers first-class art for every type of art lover.

Ilene's expert tip: Located within a stone's throw from the Kimbell is the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which is also always free as well as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which offers free admission on Fridays.

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Dallas Contemporary
Photo courtesy of Kevin Todora

Established in 1978, DC evolved from hosting annual exhibitions of artwork created by its members to include exhibitions featuring the entire spectrum of contemporary art by emerging and established local and international artists. Expect to find around eight rotating exhibitions a year housed in a sprawling 37,000 square foot industrial building. Currently on view is Liu Xiaodong's "Borders," which explores the reality of the US-Mexico border crisis through a series of paintings, diary entries and videos. Additional exhibitions include "Birds" the first North American exhibition of legendary fashion photographer Paolo Roversi as well as a major solo exhibition by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, and Ariel René Jackson's new video entitled "Doubt & Imagination." Admission to the museum is always free, just note that capacity is limited, so make sure to book your visit online before you go.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Dallas Contemporary is a terrific place for all ages.

Ilene's expert tip: Free public tours are led on the last Saturday of every month at 1 p.m. by a DC educator, curator, or guest speaker. Keep an eye out for stroller and storytime tours, held at 10 a.m. one Wednesday per month.

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Fair Park
Photo courtesy of City of Dallas

Built in 1886, Fair Park is home to the State Fair of Texas, one of the longest-running fairs in the nation that is held for three weeks in the fall. But what many visitors may not realize is that the 277-acre complex also houses one of the nation's largest collections of Art Deco art and structures, many of which were erected for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The crowning jewel is The Hall of State, a stunning, limestone-clad building that contains an array of murals, statues and artifacts pertaining to the history of Texas. In addition to architectural eye-candy, the park features the African American Museum (free admission), and the Texas Discovery Gardens, which is open free to the public on Wednesdays.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Aside from the State Fair of Texas, Fair Park is a must for architecture enthusiasts.

Ilene's expert tip: In addition to the State Fair, the park also hosts a variety of events and festivals, check the calendar on the website for more information. Parking is free to the general public on non-event days.

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Crow Museum of Asian Art
Photo courtesy of Visit Dallas

Formally known as the Crow Collection of Asian Art, this stunning museum in Dallas' Arts District features over 1,000 masterworks, hailing from Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia, many of which have been assembled from the private collection of local real estate mogul Trammel Crow and his wife Margaret. Here, visitors can explore a series of galleries showcasing art objects, paintings, scrolls and large architectural pieces, some of which dates to the 10th century. The museum also hosts special exhibitions featuring art from renowned collectors, other museums and private institutions throughout the world. Highlights include a collection of Chinese jade objects and a suit of Samurai armor from the Edo period. Best of all, admission to the museum is always free.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Crow Collection is one of the few U.S. museums to focus solely on Asian art.

Ilene's expert tip: Visitors can park in the Trammell Crow Center parking garage for $1 per 15 minutes on weekdays and a $5 flat rate on weekends. There is also metered parking nearby. The free McKinney Avenue Trolley runs through the area as well.

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Klyde Warren Park
Photo courtesy of Klyde Warren Park

When it comes to free attractions, parks are always a good bet. But Klyde Warren Park isn't your typical run-of-the-mill park. Perched atop a sunken freeway, this nationally acclaimed 5-acre oasis boasts everything from a butterfly garden to special areas allocated for kids, for dogs and for playing games. As if that weren't enough to keep everyone busy, the park also plays host to myriad year-round programs, ranging from daily fitness sessions to children's entertainment, musical performances and even film screenings. Did we mention this is a great place for a selfie with a backdrop of the Dallas skyline?

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: With a plethora of activities offered throughout the week, Klyde Warren Park is tops when it comes to free outdoor entertainment.

Ilene's expert tip: Park for free in the West Village off McKinney Ave and hop on the free trolley to get to the park.

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Dallas Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

The sprawling 370,000-square-foot Dallas Museum of Art, designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, offers one of the largest and most impressive art collections in the nation. Its permanent holdings, dating back from the third millennium BC to the present day, encompasses over 23,000 works of paintings, sculptures, jewelry and artifacts from all over the world. Here, you'll find masterpieces from heavy hitters such as Pollock, Rothko, Monet, Rodin and Picasso to name a few. Beyond the galleries, the museum houses a children's creative zone, a sculpture garden and a cafe featuring a window of Dale Chihuly's glass flowers. And with the exception of certain exhibitions and events, general admission to the museum is always free.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The DMA boasts world-class art and offers a slew of activities for every age to enjoy.

Ilene's expert tip: Note that DMA now requires a timed ticket secured in advance in order to maintain a limited capacity.

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Meet Ilene Jacobs

As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene