Image: Trinity Hall
Tony Gutierrez  /  AP
Corn beef cabbage soup and lamb chops are some of the menu items featured at Trinity Hall, an Irish bar in Mockingbird Station, an outdoor shopping development filled with restaurants, shops and a movie theater.
updated 8/13/2009 4:24:33 PM ET 2009-08-13T20:24:33

In a city that hangs its hat on big money, a flashy skyline and well-heeled locals, a visit on the cheap might seem unlikely. But residents know that it doesn't take a trust fund to have a good time here. For starters, sit down to a plate of cheap tacos and start people-watching.

Dallasites take their shopping seriously, so spending some time wandering the city's malls and shopping areas is a must. But if tempting yourself with shiny new things doesn't appeal, there are plenty of other options like visiting museums, the John F. Kennedy Memorial or the Katy Trail.

Getting around: Visitors should rent a car while in Dallas, a city more known for eight-lane interstates than for being pedestrian-friendly. A public transportation system with buses and light rail, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, offers $3 all-day passes, but check first to see how close it goes to your destination.

McKinney Avenue Transit Authority, runs a free trolley through Dallas' trendy Uptown area, lined with restaurants and bars. The trolley takes riders from near the Dallas Museum of Art to West Village, a development filled with restaurants, shops and a movie theater.

Famous places: With its catchy opening tune, the television series "Dallas," about a wealthy Texas oil family, brought the city international attention in the late '70s and 1980s. Drive about 40 minutes north of downtown and tour the Ewings' fictional home, Southfork Ranch, for $9.50.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was shot while riding through Dallas in a motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963. Evidence showed that shots came from the sixth floor of the museum building, a former warehouse known as the Texas School Book Depository. Depository worker Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the assassination the day Kennedy was killed, but was shot to death two days later by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

Admission to the museum, is $13.50 for adults, but the Dealey Plaza district is a National Historic Landmark and you can join other tourists checking out the area around the museum for free. Sites include a nearby memorial to Kennedy as well as the infamous "grassy knoll," a spot from which some witnesses thought gunfire emanated.

For an old-school shopping experience, go to downtown to Neiman Marcus' flagship store.

Want to check out the new $1.15 billion stadium where the Dallas Cowboys will be playing this fall, but don't want to buy a game ticket? Take a tour of the retractable-roof stadium in nearby Arlington, for $15 for adults.

Entertainment: Laid-back bars line Greenville Avenue starting just south of Mockingbird Lane. For a little boot-scootin', Gilley's Dallas, offers a chance to try out your two-step and hear some live music. Cover is $8 on Fridays and ranges from $10-$15 on Saturdays. Free dance lessons are offered Saturdays, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.

Trinity Hall, an Irish bar, serves everything from beer to wine to whiskey and also has live music. It's located in Mockingbird Station, an outdoor shopping development filled with restaurants, shops and a movie theater not far from Southern Methodist University.

Image: Trinity Hall
Tony Gutierrez  /  AP
Jed Marum performs at Trinity Hall in Dallas.
Aside from lots of shopping, Galleria Dallas has an indoor ice skating rink for those looking to cool off a bit. Admission is $8, skate rental is $3.

A stroll east of Dallas' museum district offers a glimpse of the city's new performing arts district, which will open in October. The $354 million Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, a venue for music, opera, theater and dance, has added striking new buildings and outdoor areas to downtown.

To get a little exercise and a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, go hiking or biking just northeast of downtown at White Rock Lake. Or bike, jog or Rollerblade down the Katy Trail, which runs from just south of Southern Methodist University to downtown.

Shopping and eating: For those thinking that shopping and sticking to a budget don't mesh, window-shopping is always free and in this economy, you never know when you'll run into a really good sale. Besides, NorthPark Center, a sleek mall featuring stores ranging from the Gap to Barneys New York, also provides a little culture as works from artists including Andy Warhol are displayed throughout. And on Saturday mornings, the mall offers a free yoga session in its landscaped garden.

Image: Taco Diner
Tony Gutierrez  /  AP
Enjoy a brisket taco meal at Taco Diner, located in the West Village, and is walking distance to several shops, other eateries and a movie theater.
In a city that enjoys sunny skies and warm weather for much of the year, Dallasites love outdoor dining. Even if temperatures soar to 100, patios are packed.

In the West Village development, several restaurants feature a fun patio atmosphere and cheap eats. Taco Diner has plates with four tacos just under $10 while its sister restaurant across the street, Mi Cocina, has Tex-Mex plates with everything from enchiladas to tamales for about the same price. Village Burger Bar around the corner offers $6 burgers. There's plenty of good people-watching to be had throughout West Village, not to mention good dog-watching with adorable pooches trailing behind their owners.

Highland Park Village nestled among multi-million-dollar homes in the swanky enclave of Highland Park, is an outdoor shopping area known for high-end merchandise — think Chanel and Hermes. But it is also a lovely place to stroll on tree-lined sidewalks, grab a coffee at Starbucks or a meal at Mi Cocina, where patrons carrying purses that easily cost $1,000 can be spotted tearing into a plate of $10 enchiladas. The Italian Patrizio Restaurant offers a shady patio with many dishes under $10. Opened in 1931, the Mediterranean Spanish-style shopping area, which also has a small movie theater, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

For a funkier shopping experience, head to the Bishop Arts District, which includes Make, featuring items made by local artists and designers.

Museums: The Dallas Museum of Art, is free the first Tuesday of each month and Thursdays 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; otherwise $10 for adults. The museum is also free the weekend of Aug. 29-30.

The Nasher Sculpture Center is free 10 a.m.-2 p.m. the first Saturday of each month, when the museum also puts on various activities; other times $10 for adults. The Nasher will also have free admission on Sept. 26. On the first Thursday of each month, the center is free 5 p.m.-9 p.m. with free American movie classics at 7 p.m.

The two museums offer a combination ticket for $16. Local metered parking can be hard to find; parking is $10 in the Dallas Museum of Art's lot.

Across the street, the Crow Collection of Asian Art is free.

Southern Methodist University's Meadows Museum, which has a collection of Spanish art, is free on Thursdays after 5 p.m.; otherwise $8 for adults.

Accommodations: Compared to other big U.S. cities, even some of Dallas' fancier hotels are a bargain. The downtown Adolphus Hotel, for instance, founded in 1912 by beer baron Adolphus Busch, features an elegant wood-paneled lobby and has room rates starting at $149.

There are also several chains with reasonable rates. La Quinta Inn and Suites Dallas North Central, for instance, located near NorthPark and about seven miles from downtown, has rooms from $79 to $99 and as low as $59 for early booking for the fall.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Don't mess with Texas

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  1. Howdy

    Big Tex greets over 3 million visitors to the State Fair of Texas each year. The State Fair is held annually at Fair Park, located near downtown Dallas. (Courtesy of Fair Park) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. We'll meet by the riverside

    A project is under way to turn the banks of the Trinity River -- here reflecting the Dallas skyline -- into the nation's largest urban park. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Mad hatters

    An athlete competes in a bull-riding event at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, which runs April through October in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. November 22, 1963

    The view of Dealy Plaza from the Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas School Book Depository. The site, from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy, is dedicated to Kennedy's life and legacy. (Courtesy of the Sixth Floor Museum) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Child of blues and industry

    A center for blues and jazz early in the century, Deep Ellum had become a warehouse district by the 60s and 70s. But the artists returned, and an the area is once again a hotspot for arts and entertainment. (Courtesy of the Deep Ellum Assoc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Cattle call

    Cowboys move a herd of Texas longhorns along the Trinity River Bottoms. Once a major stop along the Preston Cattle Trail, the Dallas area still has a number of working ranches. (Dallas CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Downtown skyline

    An aerial view of downtown Houston. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Ballunar Festival

    The RE/MAX Ballunar Liftoff Festival is an annual ballooning event near Johnson Space Center involving a weekend of hot air ballooning, arts and crafts, live entertainment, sky-diving exhibitions and food. Aug. 25-27, 2006. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Diana Garden

    Framed by the native bayou woodlands, the Diana Garden at Bayou Bend provides a magnificent vista from the north terrace of the house. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Hermann Park

    Hermann Park, presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, is Houston's most historically significant public green space. The park rests on 401 acres in the heart of the Museum District. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Space Center

    As the official visitors center for Johnson Space Center, this theme park for space fans features actual spacecraft, flight simulators and a guided tram tour of NASA and Mission Control. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Augusta Pines

    Located north of Houston in Spring, Augusta Pines Golf Club hosted the PGA Champions Tour (formerly the Seniors Tour) in 2004 and 2005. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Houston Zoo - Natural Encounters Exhibit

    The Zoo's Natural Encounters exhibit features meerkats, otters, vampire bats and other small mammals. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Museum of Fine Arts

    Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is the largest art museum in the Southwest. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers more than 51,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Galveston Beach

    Just 50 miles south of Houston, Galveston is Texas' most beautiful, entertaining & historic island. Visitors to this splendid tropical paradise are treated to 32 miles of sun-drenched beaches, direct access to four major cruise lines, miles of historic Victorian architecture, countless exciting attractions, 20 square blocks of shopping on Galveston's Historic Downtown Strand and much more.. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Kemah Boardwalk

    Kemah, on Galveston Bay, is a spectacular waterfront destination with themed restaurants, the Boardwalk Inn hotel, amusement rides, dancing fountains, mid-way games and retail shops. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Minute Maid Park

    A jewel in the crown of the majestic downtown Houston skyline, Minute Maid Park has become a welcome home for the Houston Astros and has ushered in a new era of Major League sports in the city. (Greater Houston CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Illuminated Alamo

    San Antonio and the Alamo played a critical role in the Texas Revolution - it is a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The River Walk

    The World Famous San Antonio River Walk offers a variety of attractions and activities including riverboat rides, live music, hotels, museums, art galleries, shopping. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Day of the Dead

    An ancient festivity that has been much transformed through the years, the Day of the Dead was intended in prehispanic Mexico to celebrate children and the dead. The holiday today is a time when Mexican families remember their dead and the continuity of life. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Mission San Jose

    Mission San Jose was founded in 1720 by the famed Father Antonio Margil de Jesús, a prominent Franciscan missionary in early Texas. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio river several miles to the south of the earlier mission, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Mission San Jose is an active parish. Visitors are welcome to attend mass on Sundays. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Witte Museum

    The Witte Museum is San Antonio 's premiere museum featuring scientific and historical exhibits for the whole family. The H-E-B Science Treehouse offers four levels of fun and experimentation with Energy, Air Power, Simple Machines, Eco-Science, Weather, and Sound Waves. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. McNay Art Museum

    Housed in what was the home of the late Marion Koogler McNay, the McNay Art Museum was the first modern art museum in Texas. Founded in 1950, the McNay focuses primarily on 19th- and 20th- century European and American art, and opened to the public four years later. It's collection of prints and drawings is one of the finest in the Southwest. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Little Flower Shrine

    This Roman Catholic Church, is dedicated to Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux of the Child Jesus, and bears her nickname, 'The Little Flower' of Jesus. It is distinguished as one of only a handful of church buildings in North America (and one of only three in the state of Texas) bearing the papal designation of 'basilica' - a treasury of art, master craftsmanship and relics. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Torch of Friendship

    Urban monumental sculptor Sebastian was commissioned by the Association of Mexican Entrepreneurs of San Antonio to create this 50-ton red steel structure. Created in Mexico, it was shipped to San Antonio in six pieces and was presented to the City of San Antonio as a gift from the Association. (San Antonio CVB) Back to slideshow navigation
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