Dallas is a budget-traveler’s heaven, and it’s not because the average daily cost is only $103 (which is much cheaper than visiting Austin and Houston). In Dallas, you can get around on a free downtown bus or trolley or the budget-friendly DART system, visit free museums or outdoor spaces and eat the best street tacos for less than $2. You don’t have to choose between spending money and having fun in Dallas – find out how:
Once a privately owned reservoir located on over 1,000 acres of land, the lake (and adjacent park) is an amazing place to spend the day. The lake is a popular site for mild water activities, such as kayaking and sailing, and the park has a 10-mile hiking and biking trail, in addition to it being a great site for bird watching. This spot features both a dog park and picnic areas. Book a sailing adventure on a catamaran with The Spirit of Dallas, a non-profit that offers free sailing adventures for those who book online.
The Dallas Museum of Art offers exhibits for people of all ages | Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art
Founded in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art is one of the biggest and most reputable places to see art in the Texan city – and it’s all free (minus the special exhibits). The museum offers its visitors a varied and international range of permanent art collections. The African Art collection focuses on artworks from the Sub-Saharan region, the Contemporary Art collection showcases an impressive selection of paintings and sculptures from contemporary artistic movements such as abstract expressionism and minimalism; and the Pacific Islands Art collection consists of sculptures and textiles made in Indonesian islands. A number of other collections, both permanent and temporary, are on display, demonstrating an impressive grasp on international – and American – art. They also host free literary events and nights with live music.
Most parks are just open green spaces for people to stroll around for fresh air, but not Klyde Warren Park! This public space is located on top of Woodall Rogers Freeway and hosts a hub of activities and events all year long. For the body, enjoy Sunday morning yoga, Wednesday night Zumba, or Saturday afternoon tai chi and boot camp. For your mind, attend a pleasant outdoor meditation or take a guided tour of the city skyline, while learning historical facts about Dallas. For your appetite, there are a variety of food trucks at the park nearly every day, including an ice cream truck! You can also take a free art class or listen to a concert, and if you want a more traditional park experience, you can relax in the sun, play chess, bring your dog to the dog park or participate in a group sport.
Since its opening in 1998, the Crow Collection of Asian Art has strived to create a peaceful and welcoming environment for all who visit the free galleries. Dedicated to the cultures of China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia, the museum contains nearly 4,000 pieces of hand-selected art ranging from rare jewels to paintings and ancient weapons. Tai chi, restorative yoga and mediation classes are offered weekly.
Zenna is a downtown Dallas restaurant that serves Japanese and Thai cuisine. However, they are best known for their daily happy hour specials from 3 p.m.– 7 p.m. that make for an amazing budget meal. As far as drinks go during happy hour, a 12-ounce draft of beer is only $1.00 and all well drinks are $2.50. They offer six sushi rolls, all $3.75 or under, the likes of which include shrimp tempura rolls and yellowtail rolls. There’s also a selection of tapas that range from tulip dumplings for $3.75 to garlic crispy pork ribs for $5.70.
Jimmy’s Food Store is an Italian-specialty shop that’s been serving the Dallas community since 1966. In terms of food, they offer a carryout menu from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, which mostly consists of sandwiches and salads. Most sandwiches are $6.99 like the Jimmy’s Sandwich (meatball or Italian sausage), Philly Roast Pork and Italian Beef. There are some sandwiches that are a bit pricier like the Prosciutto Panini or Tuna Panino which are $7.99.
Mexican food in Dallas is quite affordable, but perhaps none more so than those found at taquerias – taco shops. That can be said of Taqueria El Si Hay, a no-frills taco shop that operates out of a small building in Oak Cliff. There’s no seating at Taqueria El Si Hay, just a walk-up window where you order street tacos. Most items on the menu – street tacos, elotes, jarritos – are under $2, making for a cost-effective and tasty meal.
Wild Wild West Backpacker’s Hostel is the only hostel in Dallas. It’s set in what looks like a renovated house, complete with bunk beds, a lovely backyard and a shared kitchen. There’s plenty of freebies like breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking. Air-conditioning and laundry facilities are also available. There’s mixed and female-only dorms with prices that fall a little less than $40 per night. Keep in mind that the hostel is set about a 20-minute drive from downtown Dallas.
It’s often hard to find affordable hotels close to major attractions in Dallas, so it’s nice to see La Quinta Inn Dallas Uptown fulfilling both aspects. The motel offers recently updated rooms with coffeemakers and flat-screen TVs, with most equipped with mini-fridges and microwaves. There’s a free breakfast, free parking and a pool on-site. It’s just a seven-minute drive to downtown Dallas, Lower Greenville and Uptown from this hotel property.
Located near Love Field, just a 10-minute drive from downtown Dallas, is Sleep Inn Dallas Love Field-Medical District. This budget hotel offers rooms that range from $70 to $90 a night in rooms with modern digs. While free hot breakfast and free Wi-Fi are standard for budget hotels in Dallas, free airport transportation to Dallas Love Field Airport and a exercise room are pretty nice perks.