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.  

How about free booze and food? If you time it right, you can score free guacamole, chips and mini-margaritas on any evening at the swanky Ritz-Carlton, Dallas hotel.

Oh, and that's not all, there are live music, stand-up comedy 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.   


Guacamologist Experience at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas
Photo courtesy of Ritz-Carlton-Dallas

Normally anything associated with the Ritz isn't going to be free, however, the hotel's Guacamologist Experience is a fantastic exception to the rule. Just show up in the hotel lobby any evening at 6 p.m.— and you can score guacamole and chips, freshly made by a professionally trained guacamologist. Oh, and there's booze too, including selections from the hotel's tequila vault as well as a mini version of Dean Fearing's signature margaritas. All of it is free for the taking, regardless if you're a hotel guest or not. Oh, and you can bring the kids along too.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Guacamologist Experience at the Uptown Ritz is a great way top off the day after wandering around the Dallas Arts District.

Ilene's expert tip: Score $7 select craft cocktails and discounted appetizers during happy hour, weekdays from 4-7 p.m., in the Rattlesnake Bar.

Read more about Guacamologist Experience at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas →

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 weekly roundup of 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. Oh, and did we mention that all the shows are free? As if that wasn't enough, Adair's offers awesome drink specials every day too.

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: Adair's offers happy hour from 2-8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and all day on Sundays and Mondays.

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Dallas Comedy House
Photo courtesy of Dallas Comedy House

Dallas Comedy House is undoubtedly the city's go-to venue for the best improv, sketch comedy and stand-up. And for good reason. DCH hosts quality line-ups five nights a week, featuring mostly talent from its own top-notch comedy school. It's also easy on the budget, with gigs coming in at less than $10 for a ticket. Even more wallet-friendly are the improv and open mic shows on offer every Tuesday evening for free. Add in a full bar, tasty snack food and nightly happy hours, and you're set for a terrific, yet affordable evening out on the town. Get there early, though—the room's likely to become packed and it's first come, first served.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Dallas Comedy House offers the best free improv in Dallas.

Ilene's expert tip: DCH offers happy hour specials on drinks and snacks twice a day, from 7-9 p.m. and from 11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Check the calendar for more free shows on offer.

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Trinity River Audubon Center
Photo courtesy of Sean Fitzgerald

You've heard the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Well, before this 120-acre nature preserve and environmental education center opened in 2008, the area was home to the largest illegal dumping site in the state. Nowadays, the center (located ten miles south of downtown) serves as a gateway to the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban bottomland hardwood forest in North America. The area is home to a variety of wildlife and over sixty species of birds which can be viewed along five miles of hiking trails that meander through forests, blackland prairies and thriving wetlands. In addition to hiking trails and picnic areas, there is a butterfly garden and a discovery garden for children, as well as a state-of-the-art visitor's center filled with hands-on exhibits. While there is normally an admission fee ($6 adults; $3 children), you can visit for free on the third Thursday of each month from 9 am-4 pm.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Trinity River Audubon Center is a beautiful place to experience nature.

Ilene's expert tip: Dallas recently changed the name of the street. If Great Trinity Forest Way does not show up on maps or GPS, so be sure to use 6500 S. Loop 12.

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Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau

You may know where the buck stops, but if you're wondering where it starts, then head over to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility (AKA the Money Factory), located on the northern edge of Fort Worth. It is the only place in the world, other than Washington, D.C., where U.S. currency is printed. In addition to two floors of interactive displays and exhibits, the BEP provides visitors a behind-the-scenes look (via an enclosed walkway lined with large windows) at millions of dollars in the making before it's all shipped off to the Federal Reserve. The 45-minute tours are free and offered from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—Tuesday through Friday.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The BEP is one of two places in the world where you can see millions of U.S. dollars being made before your eyes.

Ilene's expert tip: The last tour leaves at 4:30. Note that all electronics (cell phones, cameras, iPods) must be left in the car before being allowed to board the shuttle to the facility.

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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 the beauty isn't just found on the inside, the building itself is pretty awe-inspiring too. 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 Sundays.

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The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection
Photo courtesy of The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection

Talk about hidden gems. Tucked away above the Saint Ann Restaurant lies one of the largest and most complete assemblages of samurai armor in the world. The museum houses several hundred pieces of samurai art dating from the 10th through the 19th centuries, all of which have been amassed by the Barbier-Mueller family over the past 25 years. Expect to find weapons galore as well as suits of armor, horse armor, helmets, masks and even artifacts from other cultures. Keep an eye out for special exhibitions, lectures and family day events too. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and is always free to the public.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to samurai art.

Ilene's expert tip: Free parking is available in the lost across the street at Harwood and Moody, just remember to have your ticket validated before leaving the museum.

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Crow Museum of Asian Art
Photo courtesy of Visit Dallas

This stunning museum in Dallas' Arts District contains a carefully curated collection of over 600 masterworks hailing from Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia. Most of the pieces come from the private collection of local real estate developer 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 one of the most exquisite jade collections in the U.S. and a suit of Samurai armor from the Edo period, one of the museum's most valued acquisitions to date. Additional works by artists Liu Yonggang, Wang Shugang and Qin Feng can be found in the museum's gorgeous sculpture garden. 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: Check out the website's calendar for a listing of monthly events and festivals.

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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 is just one of the examples of what makes Dallas' downtown area so dynamic. The park was opened in 2012 for the purpose of encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic to the area as well as to be a central gathering place for locals and visitors to enjoy. Today, the resplendent space is flush with year-round programs, including fitness sessions, dance lessons, lawn games, children's entertainment, musical performances and even film screenings. In case you work up an appetite after all the activities, you can tempt your taste buds at the park's chic gastro-pub, Savor, or from a variety of food trucks stationed along the side.

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-- encompass 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: The museum stays open until 11 p.m. on the third Friday of the month (excluding December). Note that you need to purchase a ticket for the late night program.

Read more about Dallas Museum of Art →


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