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 inexpensive 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.
''Dallas'' ranch With its catchy opening tune, "Dallas," the television series about a wealthy Texas oil family, brought the city international attention in the late '70s and '80s. Drive about 40 minutes north of downtown and tour the Ewings' fictional home, Southfork Ranch ($9.50, southfork.com).
JFK sites 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. Admission is $13.50 (jfk.org), although 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.
THINGS TO DO
Get active Go hiking or biking just northeast of downtown at White Rock Lake (dallasparks.org). Besides lots of shopping, Galleria Dallas has an indoor ice-skating rink for those looking to cool off ($8 admission, $3 skate rental, galleriadallas.com).
Go out 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 live music ($8-$15 cover, gilleysdallas.com). Trinity Hall is an Irish bar that also has live music. It's in Mockingbird Station, an outdoor shopping development filled with restaurants, shops and a movie theater (trinityhall.tv).
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 (dallasperformingarts.org).
In a city that enjoys sunny skies and warm weather much of the year, Dallasites love outdoor dining. Even if temperatures soar to 100 degrees, 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 for less than $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 (mcrowd.com). Around the corner, Village Burger Bar offers $6 burgers (villageburgerbar.com).
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.
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.
Highland Park Village, nestled among multimillion-dollar homes in the swanky enclave of Highland Park, is an outdoor shopping area known for high-end merchandise - think Chanel and Hermès (hpvillage.com). But it also is a lovely place to stroll on tree-lined sidewalks.
For a funkier shopping experience, head to the Bishop Arts District, which includes Make, featuring items made by local artists and designers (bishopartsdistrict.com).
By car Visitors should rent a car while in Dallas, a city known more 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 (dart.org).
By trolley McKinney Avenue Transit Authority runs a free trolley through Dallas' trendy Uptown area, lined with restaurants and bars (mata.org).
Compared to other big U.S. cities, even some of Dallas' fancier hotels are bargains. The Adolphus Hotel, for instance, has room rates that start at $149 (hoteladolphus.com).
There also are several chains with reasonable rates. La Quinta Inn and Suites Dallas North Central, about seven miles from downtown, has rooms from $79 to $99 and as low as $59 for early booking for the fall (lq.com).