Top 12 Free Things to Do in Dallas

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As one of Texas’s top getaway destinations, Dallas dazzles visitors with its glittering skyline views, vibrant arts scene, and southern hospitality. While some attractions like pro sports games, museums and concerts come with hefty admission prices, you can still experience much of what makes Dallas a world-class city without emptying your wallet.

ActivityDescription
Marvel at Dallas Skyline ViewsEnjoy panoramic views from places like Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
Stroll through Dallas Arboretum Botanical GardensAccess to seasonal exhibits may require a fee, but the main garden areas are free.
Peruse the Shops of Bishop Arts DistrictExplore unique boutiques and art galleries in this vibrant area.
See Public Art Collections Around DowntownDiscover outdoor art installations throughout the downtown area.
Walk Across the Margaret Hunt Hill BridgeExperience stunning views and architecture on this iconic bridge.
See Wildlife at the Dallas ZooChildren under 12 enter free, offering family-friendly fun.
Watch the Crow Collection of Asian Art Light ShowA free nightly light show illuminating the museum’s façade with Asian art-inspired images.
Explore the Reagan Memorial and Four Corners DistrictVisit the memorial and enjoy the architectural and historical aspects of the area.
Wander through the Dallas Farmers MarketSample and purchase local produce and artisan products.
Tour the JFK Memorial and Sixth Floor MuseumThe JFK Memorial is free to visit, offering a place for reflection.
See the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights MuseumThe museum’s exterior and certain elements are viewable without an entry fee.
Watch the Amazing Matrix at AT&T Discovery DistrictAn immersive light show experience in one of Dallas’s newest attractions.

From scenic parks and gardens to self-guided public art walks, farmers markets to captivating light shows, here are 12 of the best free things to take advantage of around Dallas during your next urban adventure.

Marvel at Dallas Skyline Views

Name and Location: The Dallas skyline offers iconic city views spanning from the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to Reunion Tower and beyond downtown. Popular spots to see its skyscrapers include Klyde Warren Park, the Dallas Museum of Art, or hotels like the Joule.

History and Significance: The Dallas skyline arose in the 1970s/80s amid an oil boom bringing attention from its bold architecture and size. Today it continues growing with modern towers and bridges mixing global influences with Dallas roots.

What to Expect: Views capture historic buildings like the Hotel Adolphus or modern icons like the landmark Reunion Tower building with its spherical top glowing nightly. The skyline vista stretches along the Trinity River and Turtle Creek reflecting dynamic local growth.

Visitor Information: Observation decks at Reunion Tower or downtown restaurants like Wolfgang Puck offer skyline views. Pedestrian bridges like Margaret Hunt Hill or Ron Kirk connect downtown neighborhoods with postcard panoramas day and night.

One of the simplest yet most awe-inspiring free activities in Dallas is admiring the glistening downtown skyline, especially at night when glittering high-rises illuminate against the sky. For superlative views, head to Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge overlooking the Trinity River where you can walk or bike across while snapping photos of the mammoth Bank of America Plaza and Reunion Tower. Panoramic postcard-worthy city vistas can be enjoyed from the Katy Trail overlooking Uptown or the Founders Plaza observation deck too.

Stroll through Dallas Arboretum Botanical Gardens

Name and Location: The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are situated on 66 acres along White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road in East Dallas.

History and Significance: Originally a private estate built in 1939 named Rancho Encinal, the arboretum opened in 1984 to provide public green space protecting trees and expanding botanical gardens, fountains and exhibits year-round showcasing over 2,000 different plant species.

What to Expect: Visitors traverse elaborate themed gardens filled with vibrant flowers imported from around the world. Spring sees over 500,000 bulbs bloom. The site also features picnic grounds, a children’s adventure area, seasonal festivals, dining spaces and more amid stunning pastoral scenery.

Visitor Information: The arboretum is open daily 9AM–5PM with seasonal variations. Entry fees apply. Onsite parking charges per vehicle. Public transportation, bike share and ride shares can also access the grounds. Peak seasons are spring and the winter holidays.

Escape city life surrounded by lush gardens filled with vibrant floral landscapes at the stunning 66-acre Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Only the special seasonal exhibits carry a fee; otherwise exploring the grounds filled with over 20 diverse themed gardens is completely free.

Delight in nature’s beauty wandering through fiery autumn foliage, sprawling azalea bushes, tranquil water features and toward breathtaking backdrops like the Dallas skyline shimmering beyond White Rock Lake. Trying to spot the near 5,000 types of plants and small wildlife makes meandering along the garden trails even more enjoyable.

Peruse the Shops of Bishop Arts District

Name and Location: The Bishop Arts District spans a walkable six block area along Bishop Ave in northwest Dallas.

History and Significance: Near the Dallas Zoo and Love Field, the small Bishop Arts area fell into disrepair before its revitalization as a lively neighborhood shopping and dining district with a nostalgic small town community vibe thanks to grassroots efforts begun in the early 1990s.

What to Expect: Visitors peruse an eclectic blend of over 60 local boutiques, art galleries, jewelers and unique stores ranging from vintage clothes to custom cowboy boots amid a backdrop of murals, public art installations and charming Southern architecture connected by shaded sidewalks.

Visitor Information: Area shops and eateries open daily from 10AM–midnight. Free parking garages lie at each end with metered street parking, although ride shares or biking work better for bar hopping laid-back exploration.

Get your retail therapy fix browsing the trendy boutiques, galleries and eateries filling the Bishop Arts District while admiring street art murals splashed down quaint streets. This former warehouse district from the 1920s transformed over recent decades into Dallas’s coolest shopping enclave oozing artistic charm. Funky stores carry goods spanning urban farmer’s market wares, oddities and antiques to aromatherapy products and holistic pet supplies not found elsewhere locally. Don’t miss having an artisanal coffee or homemade empanada from one of the Argentinian cafes either!

See Public Art Collections Around Downtown

Name and Location: Downtown Dallas neighborhoods house extensive public art collections, sculpture gardens and creative street murals/installations. Notable areas include the Dallas Arts District, Main Street, Deep Ellum, and West End district.

History and Significance: Efforts to infuse downtown Dallas with public urban artscapes took shape in the 1970s via organizations like Downtown Dallas Inc. Today the growing collection aims to inspire community dialog and beautification.

What to Expect: Sculptures like Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE letters, The Dallas Piece reflecting the city skyline or Cloud Gate mirror sculptures offer whimsical photo opportunities. Guided art tours and seasonal installations create an evolving landscape to discover downtown.

Visitor Information: Open access spots like Main Street Garden Park or Dallas City Hall Plaza display art year-round. Dallas Arts District venues and galleries showcase further works with admission fees varying. Downtown offers walkability, transit access plus bike and scooter shares ideal to connect these creative pockets.

Beyond impressive museums like the Dallas Museum of Art and Crow Collection of Asian Art showcasing fine art indoors, Dallas also boasts wonderful outdoor public artworks to spontaneously encounter across downtown for free while sightseeing by foot. Some standout pieces not to miss include Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture in front of the Dallas City Hall, the Mustangs at Las Colinas equine statues amid office tower reflections, and the Pegasus neon sign crowning the Magnolia Oil Company Building.

Walk Across the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Name and Location: The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge carries Woodall Rodgers Freeway across the Trinity River connecting downtown Dallas and West Dallas neighborhoods via a striking 400-foot arched design evoking an enormous stringed instrument.

History and Significance: Opened in 2013 and named after a notable Dallas philanthropist, the bridge’s unique single arch aimed to serve both practical transit and aesthetic purposes as a monumental new Gateway welcoming visitors and residents into downtown Dallas in dramatic fashion.

What to Expect: Pedestrians accessing the bridge’s sidewalks through spiraling ramp entrance towers are treated to panoramic skyline views from the apex of the graceful White concrete arch stretching overhead as Dallas’ urban mix of old and new passed underfoot make this a sightseeing standout.

Visitor Information: Open daily without restrictions or fees. Sidewalk access via Olive Street in the West End or Continental Ave in Trinity Groves. Photographers flock at sunset while recreational walkers and cyclists populate daytime hours thanks to connections between destinations.

Get your heart pumping and camera ready by walking the architecturally stunning Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge extending across the Trinity River downtown. Opened in 2012, this pedestrian-friendly span named after a legendary local philanthropist provides both practical transit uses and a dazzling work of public art through its 400-foot high arches towering over the river. Whether gazing at the Trinity River waters below or the Dallas skyscrapers in the distance, admiring the bridge’s design while crossing makes for an epic free outing.

See Wildlife at the Dallas Zoo

Name and Location: The Dallas Zoo is a 106-acre park situated within Dallas’ Oak Cliff area at 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway showcasing a variety of exotic animals.

History and Significance: Operating since 1888, the Dallas Zoo is the oldest and largest zoological park in Texas, committed to animal conservation. Key exhibits include the 8-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost, a large gorilla habitat and the Wilds of Africa safari ride tractor tour through a variety of African species in naturalized habitats.

What to Expect: Visitors view over 2,000 animals representing 406 species from Africa, Asia and beyond. Feed giraffes, touch a stingray or spy the herd of elephants while traversing this urban sanctuary by foot or riding the Zoo North Texas TramSystem with live narration. Special events occur year-round.

Visitor Information: Open daily with hours varying by season between 9AM-5PM. Entry fees adults $19, kids $15. Parking charges $10 per vehicle. Access via DART bus or exit Zoo/Marsalis Station on the Red Line south of downtown in Oak Cliff.

While entrance fees apply for adults, children under 12 receive free year-round admission to the exceptional 106-acre Dallas Zoo in Oak Cliff. Home to over 2,000 exotic animals like playful gorillas, regal lions, swinging gibbons and more, families or solo travelers alike appreciate this zoo’s engaging exhibits and wildlife conservation efforts. Interactive attractions like stingray encounters, an aerial tram ride over habitats and feeding the lively lorikeets manage to entertain visitors for hours too. Arrive early since the zoo can get crowded quickly on weekends and holidays.

Watch the Crow Collection of Asian Art Light Show

Name and Location: The Crow Collection of Asian Art is a museum situated in the Dallas Arts District at 2010 Flora St exhibiting East Asian artifacts and installations.

History and Significance: Assembled by businessmen Trammell and Margaret Crow since the 1960s then donated in 1998, this collection represents spiritual and secular fine arts traversing China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia’s history with one of America’s most comprehensive Japanese ceramics displays.

What to Expect: Guests admire intricately carved jades, scrolls, folding screens, sculptures, paintings and modern art surrounded by serene architecture and water features. After dusk, the building’s facade morphs into a colorful LED art installation pulsing in time to music. Inside, varied programs like lectures examine Asian arts.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesdays-Sundays 11AM–5PM (Thursdays until 9PM) with free evening access just to experience the light show Tues-Sat starting at sundown. Metered parking available behind or paid lot access. Free tours each Saturday.

Each evening at dusk, the façade of the Crow Collection of Asian Art downtown transforms into a magical LED light show where images reflecting various Asian art pieces dramatically illuminate the building for 20 minutes accompanied by music. This free nightly event lets audiences marvel at the museum’s architecture and featured artworks in an imaginative, contemporary way from the comfort of benches in Harwood Park across the street. Grab a bubble tea or snack from a nearby food truck to enjoy while being dazzled by this cool light spectacle.

Explore the Reagan Memorial and Four Corners District

Name and Location: The Ronald Reagan Memorial and Four Corners District resides where Ervay, Market, Commerce and Main Streets intersect at 400 S. Houston St in downtown Dallas.

History and Significance: Named to honor Reagan’s centennial in 2011, this commemorative district occupies a historically significant commercial crossroads where Dallas’ 19th century streetcar lines once met near today’s DART Rail nexus, reminding of Dallas’ role in Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign.

What to Expect: Visitors explore public artworks like the 50-foot Reagan statue and walls etched with his legacy. Fintech and food concepts fill reimagined historic buildings in this pedestrian-friendly zone offering shopping, nightlife venues and public programming connected via the Dallas Pedestrian Network tunnels.

Visitor Information: Outdoor access daily 24 hours. Guided tours offered intermittently. DART Rail lines all converge nearby with transit hub connections. Area paid parking garages also accessible if driving. Walkable from downtown hotels and attractions.

History buffs and architecture fans alike will enjoy exploring the Ronald Reagan Memorial and Four Corners District plaza downtown commemorating the late president for free. Dedicated in 2007 near the American Airlines Centers and Perot Museum buildings, this vibrant public space has informative panels on Reagan’s life and legacy plus a 25-foot tall section of the original Berlin Wall dramatically lined with plaques left by visitors. Also observe the architectural design detailing on surrounding museums and Snapchat-worthy art sculptures like the massive Eye fountain with spectacular views of the Dallas skyline above.

Wander through the Dallas Farmers Market

Name and Location: The Dallas Farmers Market is a 27-acre indoor/outdoor food and shopping complex located southeast of downtown at 1010 S. Pearl Expressway in the Cedars neighborhood.

History and Significance: Opened in 1941 as one of Texas’ largest farmer’s markets, the Dallas Farmers Market operates 5 days a week supplying restaurants and locals fresh produce, meats, cheeses and other artisan food products both indoors and outside sheds as a local shopping tradition hosting events from cooking demos to live music.

What to Expect: Browse stalls of ripe fruit, fragrant flowers or handmade tamales while watching cooks sample regional treats.folk art,eclectic gifts and housewares ranging from cowboy boots to handmade soaps fill permanent market shops in restored 19th-century buildings flanking outdoor sheds and eateries ideal for grabbing an authentic Texas bite.

Visitor Information: Open Thursday 10AM-3PM plus Friday-Sunday 9 AM-6 PM. Some restaurants and stores extend hours into evenings or late-night. Free parking and paid lot access surrounds entrances off Pearl St, Marilla St or Cesar Chavez Blvd enabling easy access.

One of the best free things to do in Dallas for foodies is exploring the sprawling Dallas Farmers Market filled with fresh produce straight from area farms, fragrant flowers, fresh bread, tasty Texan food stalls dishing up tamales and BBQ, plus booths selling locally made goods like wine, salsa and handcrafted candies. The historic market housed in red metal sheds also hosts regular chef demos and live music events beyond the constant hustle-and-bustle of farmers calling out deals on their seasonal harvests every day. Don’t skip the mouthwatering ice cream sandwiches sold at Nammi Food Truck on site either!

Tour the JFK Memorial and Sixth Floor Museum

Name and Location: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza commemorates President John F. Kennedy’s legacy and assassination site at 411 Elm St in downtown Dallas’ West End district.

History and Significance: Opened in 1989 within the former Texas School Book Depository overlooking the assassination site on Elm Street now marked by an ‘X’, this non-profit museum chronicles JFK’s presidency, death and lasting impact on U.S. politics and society through archival films, images and artifacts.

What to Expect: Guests use audio guides while navigating informative exhibits that document Kennedy’s era with images immersing visitors in 1960s America. The museum offers a dignified experience relaying events in Dallas seen from Oswald’s fatal vantage point. Reservations recommended to guarantee entry.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10 AM-6 PM except Thanksgiving/Christmas. Adult tickets $18. Access via light rail or nearby paid parking garages. Café and store on premises. Note solemn atmosphere examining complicated regional history.

While the renowned Sixth Floor Museum housed within the former Texas School Book Depository charges admission, visitors can still pay respects to the fallen president at the JFK Memorial located just steps outside the building beside Dealey Plaza for free. Resembling an open tomb framed by concrete walls, this symbolic empty grave site covered in a granite square has JFK’s name engraved inside a plaque added after assassination that reads “John Fitzgerald Kennedy… A death in the family caused his monument to be built in the hearts of living men.” An eternal flame also flickers next to it when not too windy as visitors reverently view the exact spot where he was shot.

See the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

Name and Location: The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is located downtown at 300 N. Houston St. next to the historic Old Red Courthouse.

History and Significance: Opened in 2019 to teach about the Holocaust and advance human rights, this striking copper-colored architectural space uses interviews, films and immersive environments to spotlight and inspire action against global atrocities both historic and ongoing relating to human rights struggles worldwide.

What to Expect: State-of-the-art exhibits relay first-hand testimony from Holocaust survivors while exploring themes like the fragility of democracy, the dangers of indifference, and ultimately how every individual can act to promote human dignity through compassion and understanding here in Dallas and beyond. Expect a sober yet inspiring experience.

Visitor Information: Open 6 days a week, closed Tuesdays. Timed admission tickets $16 online, $21 onsite. Metered street parking or nearby garages available. Access the museum via DART bus or downtown Dallas tunnels linking buildings.

While tickets should be purchased in advance to tour all the moving, informative exhibits inside recounting personal stories of Holocaust survivors and human rights issues around the world, visitors can still view much of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum’s structural design for free from the building’s glass exterior walls downtown. This architectural work of art contains over 55,000 square feet of vertical gardens, fragments of the Berlin Wall, archival photos etched in glass and fragmented texts speaking to healing and hope emerging from mankind’s darkest moments that can be read outside on benches too. Don’t miss seeing this impactful, profoundly designed museum space commemorating both past atrocities and the resilience/courage needed still today to build a just world free from prejudice either day or night.

Watch the Amazing Matrix at AT&T Discovery District

Name and Location: The AT&T Discovery District occupies a campus-like urban tech and entertainment center spanning 75,000 square feet at 308 S. Akard St in Downtown Dallas.

History and Significance: Opened in 2021 as both an innovation hub and public gathering space, the AT&T Discovery District campus contains a one-of-a-kind 5G-powered immersive media wall dubbed “The Matrix” streaming 120 million pixels wrapping an entire building to showcase captivating displays including artists, photographers, musicians and athletes.

What to Expect: Locals and visitors congregate for dynamic daily programming or interactive light sculptures as Dallas’ Connection Park comes alive. The Matrix wall streams ever-changing visuals visible both inside and outside while supporting unique events from e-gaming tournaments to fashion shows in this free high-tech creative zone that feels straight out of the future.

Visitor Information: The AT&T Discovery District operates daily 6AM-midnight. Garage parking access from Live Oak Street. Year-round outdoor access to the Matrix wall is always free. Surrounding restaurants, shops and venues open sporadically.

Lastly, check out one of Dallas’s newest and most captivating free attractions found at the AT&T Discovery District in downtown’s booming East End neighborhood. Here the visually jaw-dropping Matrix portal art piece is coated in thousands of LED lights that put on an incredible choreographed light show each evening where beams flicker and dance in sync to music against towering glass crystals. Locals and tourists of all ages flock to lounge under this sparkling forest of “stars” while enjoying the district’s award-winning architecture design and array of hip shops and eateries too. It’s undoubtedly one the most Instagrammable free things to do for making Dallas memories to last a lifetime.

Final Thoughts

Between expansive gardens, scenic skyline viewpoints, imaginative light shows and eclectic urban enclaves to uncover, memorable experiences await in Dallas that won’t break the bank. Nature lovers soak up vibrant hues wandering through the Dallas Arboretum grounds, while art fans find creative murals splashed down the Bishop Arts District between boutique shopping. History buffs take moments to quietly reflect at JFK Memorial Plaza before being dazzled by dancing LED lights across the street at AT&T Discovery District’s matrix portal.

So next time visiting Texas’s marvelous metropolis, take time to enjoy these top free attractions showing that “Big D” offers plenty of big adventure even on a budget!

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