DALLAS – Dallas is a city that likes to do things big, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to sell the ranch to have a good time here.
With an arts district that has hit its stride in the last several years, a soaring new bridge over the Trinity River and a new park created over a downtown freeway, there are plenty of things to see and do for free in the city known for its glittering skyline, well-heeled locals, and, of course, as the home of television’s scheming oil-rich Ewing family in the long-running series “Dallas.”
Dealey Plaza and Pioneer Plaza
As the city marked the 50th anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the eyes of the world turned to Dealey Plaza, which Kennedy’s motorcade passed through as shots rang out from a sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. Admission to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which tells the story of the president’s life and death, is $16 for adults. But just wandering through the plaza – gazing from the sloping stretch of road that Kennedy’s limousine travelled, and then up to Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper’s perch – is free. A block east is a memorial to Kennedy designed by architect Philip Johnson. The cenotaph, or “open tomb,” is a square, roofless room with 30-foot (9-meter) concrete walls.
Nearby Pioneer Plaza provides a classic Texas photo opportunity with the recreation of a cattle drive featuring bronze steers driven by cowboys on horses.
Dallas Museum of Art and Dallas Arts District Buildings
Take in masterpieces ranging from “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet to “Cathedral” by Jackson Pollock at the Dallas Museum of Art, which revived a free general admission policy a year ago. After surveying collection spanning 5,000 years of history, head to Flora Street to some of the other buildings that make up the Dallas Arts District, the largest in the nation.
While buying tickets to the opera or a play might cost a pretty penny, it won’t cost a thing to take in the buildings designed by architectural luminaries. There’s the I.M. Pei-designed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Renzo Piano-designed Nasher Sculpture Center. A few years ago, two other buildings were added: the Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas-designed Wyly Theatre and the Norman Foster and Spencer de Grey-designed Winspear Opera House. For architecture stretching back in time, the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a Catholic church, was built in 1902 in the High Victorian Gothic style by Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton.
Klyde Warren Park
About a year ago, the city saw the debut of a park created over a roaring highway on the northern edge of downtown. At the 5.2-acre (2-hectare) park, adults and kids can do everything from peruse books, magazines and newspapers set out on shelves to play badminton, pingpong or chess for free. If you build up an appetite with all that activity and can spare a few dollars, a line-up of food trucks can provide nourishment. For a more refined eating experience, the park’s elegant glass-walled restaurant Savor offers dinner entrees for about $25.
Oak Cliff and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
The Oak Cliff neighbourhood, located just southwest of downtown, includes the Bishop Arts District with an array of restaurants and independent shops to browse. The Oak Cliff area also is still home to several sites linked to the assassination of Kennedy, from the rooming house where Oswald lived in the weeks leading up to the assassination to the spot where he shot and killed Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit, to the still-functioning Texas Theatre where he was arrested.
A scenic way to connect to Oak Cliff from downtown is with a drive over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The steel bridge that opened in 2012 links downtown with West Dallas, where there’s a burgeoning redevelopment along Singleton Boulevard. To continue into Oak Cliff, head south.
Dallasites like their shopping. And while a stop by Chanel or Hermes could easily break the bank, spending an afternoon window-shopping won’t cost a thing. At Highland Park Village, a Mediterranean Spanish-style outdoor shopping area that opened in the city’s swanky Highland Park enclave in 1931, visitors can stroll tree-lined sidewalks past stores ranging from Anthropologie and Williams-Sonoma to Harry Winston and Dior. NorthPark Center is an indoor mall that features museum-quality artwork, including works by Andy Warhol. The mall with stores ranging from The Gap to Louis Vuitton surrounds a 1.4-acre (.5 hectare) landscaped outdoor garden where free yoga classes are held. The public library even has a children’s library there. Also, the flagship store for Neiman Marcus, founded here in 1907, is located downtown.