The Greater Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. As such, it’s not surprising that there are many free things to do in Dallas. From diving into the city’s vibrant art scene to catching one of Texas’ beautiful sunsets, Dallas has it all – and yes, everything on this list is free!
In Dallas, you’ll find free museums, parks, trails, lakes — and even a giant eyeball!
Ready to get started? Here are 29 amazing free things to do in Dallas that you and your group will adore.
In downtown Dallas, art, history, and culture enthusiasts will lose themselves in a collection of the city’s best museums. The Dallas Arts District houses world-class institutions, such as the Dallas Museum of Art and the magnificent African American Museum. Many of these remarkable museums are free for visitors.
DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART
The Dallas Museum of Art hosts one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of artwork. Part of what makes the Dallas Museum of Art shine against its brethren are the 24,000 works of art contained within. The artifacts date as far back as the 3 BCE — a.k.a. the period of Carthage, Rome, and the Punic Wars.
Additionally, the Dallas Museum of Art’s diverse array of artifacts places the institution high on the list of “must-see” art museums in the U.S.
Its collection ranges from an African-carved wooden Senufo rhythm pounder to bronze sculptures from the Mughal Empire of India. You can practically tour the art and culture of the globe while strolling through the DMA.
The DMA offers family-friendly activities throughout the year to introduce children to the arts – most events are 100% free to attend. There’s also an inexpensive cafe onsite in case you get hungry.
THE ANN & GABRIEL BARBIER-MUELLER MUSEUM
Nestled in the park-like space of the Harwood District, the Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum houses one of the world’s most unique collections of Japanese artifacts. You may know it by its other name: The Samurai Collection.
As the nickname indicates, the Samurai Collection contains one of the world’s largest collections of Samurai armor. If that doesn’t steal your breath away, this fact will – it’s the only museum of its kind in the United States. And yes, it’s free to visit.
Among the artifacts at the Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum are intricate hachi helmets, magnificent chainmail, and examples of the famed Samurai swords – katanas and wakizashi.
The Samurai Collection offers family-specific visits on Wednesdays and free “Iron Kid” events on the first Saturday of the month, where kids can learn about different aspects of Samurai armor and culture.
CROW COLLECTION OF ASIAN ART
A short five-minute drive from the Samurai Collection down Olive Street will bring you to another exemplary collection of Asian art collections. The Crow Collection of Asian Art has a more diverse collection than The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, spanning artwork and artifacts from Thailand to Cambodia to the Philippines.
Its gorgeous sculpture garden is perhaps the most unique and enchanting part of the Crow Collection. The garden is a serene courtyard featuring vibrant trees, carefully tended landscaping, Qin Feng’s marble-and-glass temple lions, Jain temple columns, and the quiet trickle of glittering fountains.
Inside the Crow Collection, you’ll find stunning displays of Chinese Jade, Buddhist sculptures, and other Asiatic artwork. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits throughout the year on topics related to the artifacts and cultures reflected in the museum.
AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM
Since 1977, the African American Museum in Dallas has sought to preserve and share artifacts and artwork from African American culture. Its collection rivals museums across the country, and is one of the largest collections of African American folk art in the United States.
Artists featured in the African American Museum span the prolific artwork of Romare Bearden to the work of quilter, painter, and former plantation worker Clementine Hunter. Artwork at the African American Museum dives into the rich history of African Americans and their integral part in our country’s history.
Admission to the museum is free for groups of less than ten people.
MUSEUM OF GEOMETRIC AND MADI ART
You won’t find a more exciting or unique museum in Dallas than the Museum of Geometric and Madí Art. This particular museum specializes in shapes and the abstract art movement of Madí, which originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Artwork at the Museum of Geometric and Madí Art is vibrant, playful, and colorful, which are trademarks of the Madí movement. The collection features artists from around the world, spanning Russia, South America, and the United States. You’ll find your mind and eyes dazzled by the seemingly impossible shapes and abstract designs depicted in the artwork at the museum.
THE MEADOWS MUSEUM OF ART
If you want to visit Spain without leaving Texas, try visiting the Meadows Museum of Art. Located on the Southern Methodist University campus, the museum offers complimentary visits on Thursdays after 5 p.m. If you plan to visit at a different time, it’s only $12 for adults and $4 for students any other time (and kids under 12 are free).
But back to visiting Spain. The Meadows Museum of Art features the most extensive collection of Spanish outwork outside of Spain – earning it the nickname “Prado on the Prairie,” in reference to the Museo Nacional del Prado, Spain’s national art museum in Madrid.
Lining the museum’s exhibits are breathtaking displays of Baroque paintings, Renaissance pieces by El Greco, works by Goya, Pablo Picasso, Dali, and more. Every step will lead you through the culture and beauty of Spanish artwork.
KLYDE WARREN PARK
Explore over five acres of a lush landscape while taking in the iconic views of Downtown Dallas’ skyline at Klyde Warren Park. The park is a popular stop for food trucks, yoga lovers, frisbee teams, and families.
Klyde Warren Park features a ton of free activities, including its shady dog park (perfect for Fido and friends), free fitness classes, like yoga and tai chi, and the sweeping Great Lawn that has room for all of your favorite outdoor activities. In addition, a dedicated Children’s Park recently expanded to an 18,000 sq. foot area. The park features a climbing wall, water features for cooling off on a summer day, and plenty of other play equipment.
Be sure to check out the Klyde Warren Park calendar for free events throughout the year. On select Saturdays, the park hosts movie nights, in addition to all the free fitness classes offered by day. A visit to this park is one of the best things to do in Dallas.
Discover the rich ranching history of the Dallas area at Pioneer Plaza. The centerpiece of this quiet park is the massive iron sculpture of a cattle drive, complete with cowboys and horses driving along the herd.
Pioneer Plaza is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic without the hustle and bustle of some of Dallas’ busier parks. The plaza has a pond and fountain to add a unique ambiance to your next picnic. Make sure to bring your camera – it’s a great photo op if you’re there around sunrise or sunset.
RIDE THE MCKINNEY AVENUE TROLLEY
The McKinney Avenue Trolley is a piece of Dallas’ past. The iconic trolley first ran in 1989 as an homage to the street car services of the past. Today, the trolley continues to run as a non-profit, providing public transportation while commemorating a part of Dallas’ history.
Riding the McKinney Avenue Trolley will take you through the best of Downtown Dallas all the way to Uptown. It’s the perfect free transportation to most of the museums I mentioned earlier.
Note, the trolley provides free fare, but asks riders to “name their price” by donating cash or coin in the fare box or visiting their website. So, if you have some spare change, the trolley folks sure appreciate it.
The city of Dallas has over a 150 years of history to explore, with many neighborhoods holding unique histories of their own. Deep Ellum is one such neighborhood that has existed in Dallas since 1873.
Deep Ellum began as one of Dallas’s first commercial districts of African Americans and European immigrants. Initially, the neighborhood carried the name “Deep Elm,” but its early residents pronounced the name “Ellum,” and it has since stuck. Over the years, Deep Ellum has grown to accommodate many of Dallas’ historical landmarks, including one of Henry Ford’s first automobile plants, The Palace Blacksmith Shop, and The Grand Temple of the Knights of Pythias.
Today, Deep Ellum is a thriving entertainment district. Walking its streets is totally free and provides a fantastic walk through Dallas’ history while exploring its present-day culture. The area has hundreds of murals lining the alleys and walls, art galleries, and the Latino Cultural Center – which is usually free to visit, but occasionally has an admission fee for special events.
BIKE WHITE ROCK LAKE
While Dallas is a sprawling metropolis, the city does strive to create green spaces for residents to reconnect with nature. One such place is White Rock Lake, a 1,015-acre city lake located near Downtown Dallas.
Though man-made — White Rock Lake is a reservoir — the lake offers a serene beauty for its visitors to enjoy. The lake features a tree-lined, 9.33-mile-long trail for biking, running, and hiking that is very popular with Dallas residents. There’s also a dog park, kayak rental service, and picnic areas around the lake.
While visiting White Rock Lake, you can also take in the galleries, concerts, and festivals at the Bath House Cultural Center. The Center used to be the boat house for rowing teams, but has since converted to a multi-purpose arts center. In addition, the White Rock Lake Museum and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden are near the lake.
JOHN F. KENNEDY MEMORIAL
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy lost his life at the hands of an assassin. Two days after his death, Dallas County Judge Lew Sterrett proposed a memorial to honor the president.
That proposal eventually came into being as the John F. Kennedy Memorial. The memorial is a “cenotaph,” or open tomb, designed by architect and friend of the Kennedy family, Phillip Johnson. The monument rises 30 feet high, glittering brilliantly in the sun. The memorial is always quiet, a place of reflection and remembrance, just as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wanted.
BELO GARDEN PARK
One of Dallas’ newer parks, Belo Garden Park, provides a relaxing space in the city’s heart where you can enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass while watching clouds float along the sky. Belo Garden Park is smaller than many of Dallas’ mega-parks, with only 1.7 acres of space, but its fantastic fountain rivals that of its bigger neighboring parks.
The park itself offers an escape from urban business. It’s lined by more than 100 trees and 10,000 ornamental grasses. You can enjoy an afternoon picnicking near the fountain – though I always like reading a book on one of the picnic chairs in the shady grove.
MARGARET HUNT HILL BRIDGE
The city of Dallas is full of architectural wonders, but one of my favorites is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The bridge rises on the Dallas skyline, a graceful arch designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.
The design of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge reminds me a bit of a harp. Fifty-eight cables span the arch length as if some giant needed a musical instrument in Dallas. At the base of the bridge is Trinity Groves, a vibrant shopping and restaurant hot spot in West Dallas.
DEALEY PLAZA NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK DISTRICT
Many people know Dealey Plaza as “the birthplace of Dallas.” The plaza houses some of the most important buildings in Dallas history, many of which feature classical architectural styles like Romanesque and Gothic Revival. Some of the most notable buildings to explore in the district are the Old Dallas Courthouse and the Texas School Book Depository – the site of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
While visiting the Dealey Plaza, I recommend visiting the “Grassy Knoll.” Before Kennedy’s assassination, the knoll was not particularly interesting to visitors. However, after the assassination, the knoll was suspected to be the place where the shots originated. Though the knoll was not, in fact, Oswald’s vantage point, it remains a point of interest for history buffs visiting the area.
THE GIANT EYEBALL
Okay, it’s a giant eyeball, folks – need I say more? It rises at 30 ft. tall with a bright blue iris that stares out at the Main Street District of Downtown Dallas.
Of course, you probably want to know why there’s a giant eyeball sculpture in Downtown Dallas before you visit it. Well, the eyeball’s designer, Chicago-based artist Tony Tasset, said to the Nasher Sculpture Center that he wanted to make something that “speaks a lot to people.” It certainly managed that. And, The Giant Eyeball also sits on the site of Dallas’ first skyscraper, the Praetorian Building circa 1909.
TRINITY RIVER AUDUBON CENTER
At the Trinity River Audubon Center, you can experience the beauty of nature without traveling too far. The center resides in the Great Trinity Forest in Southeast Dallas.
The 120-acre center is part of the City of Dallas-Trinity River Corridor Project. Visitors to the center can enjoy five miles of walking trails surrounded by birdsong. There is also a butterfly garden and picnic areas at the center.
NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER
I mentioned the Nasher Sculpture Center previously, and now I’m going to explain why you should totally visit this one-of-a-kind art center. I’ll preface this by noting that going inside the center is not always free – tickets cost around $10 for adults most days. However, admission is free on the First Saturdays of the month and every third Friday of the month from 6 p.m. to midnight.
So, why should you visit the Nasher? The center exhibits a remarkable array of sculptures ranging from pre-Colombian artwork to work by Picasso and Matisse. The center also has a lovely sculpture garden with 25 sculptures in a park-like oasis.
DALLAS FARMERS MARKET
Get your fill of window shopping while taking in the vibrant scenes of Downtown Dallas at the Dallas Farmers Market. This market has been serving up fresh produce, crafts, and artisanal wares since 1941!
You have a variety of places to shop at the market. The Market Shops, for example, are open seven days a week and have an array of restaurants and vendors to enjoy. In addition, the Farmers Market @ The Shed is an open-air pavilion hosting vendors on Saturdays and Sundays.
FANTASY LANDING AT KIEST PARK
If you’re visiting Dallas and a local recommends visiting Fantasy Landing with the kids, they’re likely referring to the playground at Kiest Park – though all of Kiest Park is a bit of a fantasy!
The playground at Kiest Park has equipment for kids of all ages, plus restrooms with changing tables for younger children. The park also has tennis and volleyball courts, soccer fields, and a beautiful pond lined by stones and pergolas.
DALLAS HERITAGE VILLAGE – OLD CITY PARK
The Dallas Heritage Village, or Old City Park, is a collection of historic buildings dating back to 1840 and is now run as a museum. It’s also Dallas’ oldest park – hence the name “Old City Park.”
Tours of the Dallas Heritage Village will take you through Victorian homes and buildings, like the Millermore Plantation House. Tours are free, and in the fall, a spooky ghost tour version is available to the public. After walking around the homes, you can swing by Brent Place Restaurant for historic-themed meals or McCall’s Store for a souvenir.
WALK THE KATY TRAIL
The scenic Katy Trail is probably one of the best walking areas in all of Texas. The trail runs along an old railroad line that runs about 3.5 miles.
Today, the trail is a fully-paved path used by over 1.5 million visitors annually. Pets, bicyclists, runners, and walkers are welcome to enjoy the flourishing greenery of the easy trail. Plus, after your long walk or run, you can grab a bite at the Katy Trail Ice House – they have delicious burgers.
RON KIRK PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
The Trinity River provides a lovely background for the City of Dallas. Catching a sunset on the river will leave you breathless, and there’s no better place to view the sunset than the Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge.
The Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge connects Downtown and West Dallas, providing a safe crossing point for pedestrians. The bridge also has a playground, giant chess board, and splash park surrounding it. It’s a great place to take a walk and let the kids burn off some energy!
Thanks-Giving Square is one of Dallas’ most prized parks. Built in 1976, the square is home to a non-denominational chapel and a beautifully landscaped garden. The square is dedicated to celebrating thanksgiving as a root belief in the cultures and religions around the world.
The glittering of the spiral tower and stained glass windows of the chapel is one of the most iconic scenes in Dallas. The square and its garden sit 15-feet below ground level, blocking the quiet park from the sights of urban life. Thus, you’re left standing in a peaceful garden, surrounded by beautiful granite structures referring to scriptures and quotes from the world’s religions.
CEDAR HILL STATE PARK
Next to Cedar Ridge Preserve awaits one of Texas’ natural paradises. Cedar Hill State Park is the place to escape city life and enjoy a day or two of adventure. Known for its lake activities, camping sites, and hiking trails, Cedar Hill State Park has an outdoor activity for everyone.
Free activities at Cedar Hill State Park are abundant. You can swim or boat in the lake, or if you’d rather stick to land, spend the day geocaching along the trails. Another popular site at the park is the Penn Farm Agricultural Center, an old homestead farm that is a testament to the Texas farming way of life from the 1800s.
DALLAS FINE ARTS CHAMBER PLAYERS
Take in the music scene of Dallas with a visit to one of the Dallas Fine Arts Chamber Players‘ free concerts. The Chamber Players host both live music and online events for the public, but most of the concerts take place at the Sammons Center for the Arts.
In addition to free concerts, the Dallas Fine Arts Chamber Players also put on an annual Basically Beethoven Festival. The festival is free to attend and features four free concerts that perform music in a given theme or genre. The festival usually occurs in July, but the other concerts happen throughout the year.
BISHOP ARTS DISTRICT
The Bishop Arts District is another one of Dallas’ historically significant neighborhoods. The district calls itself “Dallas’ most independent neighborhood” because of the number of small, independent businesses residing there.
Strolling through the Bishop Arts District is a treat for the eyes. Window shopping at the boutiques is 100% free, as is admiring the murals and flowers that line the sidewalks. Additionally, several art galleries call the Bishop Arts District Home, many of which are free to stroll through.
FLAGSHIP NEIMAN MARCUS STORE
For over a century, Neiman Marcus has been an upstanding name in the American fashion industry. But, did you know the first store opened in Dallas…and it’s still open?
You can visit the first ever Neiman Marcus Department Store in Downtown Dallas. Of course, window shopping and perusing the items in the store is 100% free – and who doesn’t like taking in a historic building’s architecture while eyeing beautiful scarves and clothing?
THE NORTHPARK ART COLLECTION
Dallas’ top shopping destination is the NorthPark Center, which houses some of the greatest names in fashion and mercantile products (think Versace, Burberry, and J. Crew). But, NorthPark Center also houses a remarkable collection of sculptures and artwork, particularly in its CenterPark green space.
The NorthPark Art Collection features over 50 works from the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Collection. It’s free to walk through the center and take in the awe-inspiring artwork, as well as enjoy the garden space of the shopping center.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TEXAS
- YOUR TEXAS VACATION
- DALLAS WITH KIDS: 27 Things To Do In Dallas With Kids (& The Greater Dallas Area)
- DAY TRIPS FROM DALLAS: 16 Fun Day Trips From Dallas You’re Gonna Love
- THE WOODLANDS: 11 Awesome Things To Do In The Woodlands, Texas
- ARLINGTON: 11 Outstanding Things To Do In Arlington TX
WHERE TO STAY IN DALLAS
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