Friday, January 24, 2014
13 cheap or free things to do in Dallas
Everything listed costs $10 or less.
It’s that most wonderful time of the year — OK, yeah, we’re being a little facetious — when the holiday bills start pouring in, and suddenly $24 for two movie tickets (even if there were anything good opening in January) seems like way too much. That doesn’t mean you should just give up and sulk inside your house, though. I looked around and picked my lucky 13 free or inexpensive (as in, $10 or less) entertainment options, listed on the following pages in no particular order. Now, if you can just make yourself get out of your jammies on the weekend.
1. Movie magic: Ha! Fooled you when we said no good movies open at this time of year, didn’t we? Actually, they do — and although regular ticket prices at the mostly indie Angelika, Magnolia and Inwood theaters rival those at the multiplex, we’ll let you in on our little secret: Sign up online for their newsletters, and you’ll get invitations to free screenings and more. Also, check Guide's weekly Film Events listings for other movie freebies hither and yon.
2. Church charms: If there’s a large church near you, chances are good it has some kind of free or “by donation” arts program that’s open to the public. St. Matthew’s Cathedral Arts, for instance, offers top-notch musical performances, gallery shows and more. On Jan. 26, you can experience choral evensong with the Cathedral Camerata conducted by H. Michie Akin. Check websites at other churches for their outreach programs, as well.
3. Holiday fat? Salsa it off! Every Saturday night at the Medusa club in downtown Dallas, you’re invited to Fiesta Nights, when you can dance the night away with salsa, bachata, merengue, reggaeton, Top 40 dance music, house electro, pop and Spanish rock.
4. Waddle waddle: Everyone gets into the Dallas Zoo for the discounted price of $5 during Penguin Days, through the end of February. With the wildly varying weather we’ve had this season, that might mean bundling up and pretending you’re a polar bear, or sunning yourself in the giraffe pavilion as you feed the gangly ones bites of lettuce (available for purchase).
5. Flower power: This is always my favorite time of year to visit the Dallas Arboretum, on the breezy shores of White Rock Lake. It’s cool, uncongested and serene, and you’ll be surprised at how colorful it is courtesy of the pansies, kale and other winter plantings. Best of all, it’s only $5 per person through the end of January. (Does not include the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which is closed for maintenance.)
6. Artsy folk: Our local depositories of great art offer some of the best unheralded deals in town, year-round. The Dallas Museum of Art and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art offer free general admission, with lots of free gallery talks, art workshops and other events (and they often have fabulous touring exhibits for an extra fee, if you’re feeling flush). The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth also offers free general admission, and on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m., you can see the blockbuster “Age of Picasso and Matisse” exhibit for half-price. Another always-free spot is the Crow Collection of Asian Art, which in addition to spectacular exhibits offers great wellness classes and workshops on tai-chi, yoga and expressing your inner ninja. Check the websites for more information, freebies, inexpensive workshops and more.
7. Cultural in-posts: The Latino, Bath House, South Dallas and Oak Cliff cultural centers, operated by the city of Dallas, mount splendid free exhibits full of works by local artists, and also frequently present theater, dance, music and interactive activities with small or nonexistent fees. Right now, for instance, you can see exhibits such as “The Mechanical Soul: Steampunk Style in Contemporary Art” and “Collaging,” both through Jan. 25, at the Bath House.
8. Coffee and tunes: Opening Bell Coffee is one of our favorite tucked-away spots for great companionship, music and comedy, coffee and desserts. The South Side on Lamar venue features Songwriters in the Round events every Monday for a $5 suggested donation, and free open-mic nights on Tuesdays at 7. Most other shows are only $5-$10, as well. Maybe you’ll spot the next Sarah Jaffe or Stevie Ray Vaughan, and be able to brag that you “knew them when.” In the coming week, check out Tiger Darrow on Jan. 24, René Moffatt on Jan. 26, and Scott Mulvahill and Shaylee Simeone on Jan. 29.
9. In the spotlight: Lots of the local professional and community theaters offer pay-what-you-can shows in previews or on particular nights during a run. For instance, Kitchen Dog Theater’s next show, The [Expletive] With the Hat (Feb. 14-March 15), will have pay-what-you-can deals for the first 25 patrons at Wednesday and Thursday shows. The Dallas Theater Center’s first preview is always pay-what-you-can (the next one is March 7, for The Fortress of Solitude). To stay in the loop, check your favorite theaters’ websites and sign up for their email lists or newsletters.
10. Gallery greatness: Like museums, the dozens of local galleries offer lots of free opportunities to bask in the glory of all kinds of artwork, particularly from local and regional artists who are on the rise. Just about every gallery features artist talks, as well as opening or closing receptions (also free!), with the chance to meet the artists, usually accompanied by drinks and munchies. Best way to stay in the loop, again, is to check your favorite galleries’ websites often. Four terrific shows to check out: “Michael O’Keefe: Sculpture and Drawings” at Valley House, through Feb. 15, with an artist talk Feb. 8 at 11 a.m.; the 21st annual “Scent Bottle Invitational” (gorgeous glass perfume bottles) at Kittrell/Riffkind, Feb. 1-March 1 (opening reception Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.); and “Revisiting Latin America” through Feb. 15 and “New York” through March 29 and at Photographs Do Not Bend. Just getting into the gallery scene? Spend a Saturday wandering the Design District to get an idea of what you like.
11. Feelin' groovy: On Tuesday evenings, enjoy Hookahs & Hip-Hop at Momo’s Italian Restaurant in Dallas. Check your favorite restaurants’ websites for other music events; more and more restaurants are now offering entertainment by which to dine.
12. Belly laughs: It’s “comedy tonight” every Wednesday at 9 at the Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum, as folks with all levels of improv experience hop up onstage and play together. You’ll see students, teachers, staff and first-timers all trying to seduce you into a giggle or a guffaw. On the last Wednesday of each month (next one is Jan. 29), free improv classes are offered from 7 to 8 p.m., so you, too, can try your hand at the comedy game.
13. Useful trivia: Eat, drink and check out your brain function at the free Geeks Who Drink, at several local bars, and the Mucky Duck Bar’s Trivia Wednesdays. In addition to getting to show off your mad trivia skills, you’ll also typically get discounts on drinks and food, and the winning teams often get goodies such as gift cards to go toward the bar tab. There’s typically no cover for trivia events, but expect to pay for food and drink.