Illustraton by Jonathan Carlson

Illustraton by Jonathan Carlson

Who doesn’t love a free weekend? By that I mean a weekend free of chores, meetings, errands, and to-do-list drudgery. If one could take all that leisure time and invest it in a weekend full of low-cost fun, the payoff would be the ultimate budget traveler’s dream. And when it comes to memorable travel, the unexpected freebie or surprisingly inexpensive indulgence often makes for the best experience. I decided to take a look around my hometown for diversions that are priceless without being pricey. The result is this roundup of 10 Fort Worth activities that don’t require deep pockets—each can be had for no more than $10 per person.

1) Spend Calories

The 40 miles of Trinity Trails are a cost-free way to work off breakfast, meander away an afternoon, or salute the sunset. The trails connect numerous parks and destinations along the Trinity River and its tributaries. With sections of paved and natural surfaces, the trails are popular with joggers, bicyclists, and skaters.

2) Hop the Train

On the east side of the Trinity River on Colonial Parkway, the Forest Park Miniature Railroad has been chugging through Forest Park and Trinity Park since 1959. The five-mile, open-air journey costs $4 for adults and $3.50 for kids. Hours vary seasonally.

3) Animal Instincts

Are jogging trails too timid when your crowd wants to run with the wolves? The next best thing may be getting up close and personal with the animals of the Fort Worth Zoo, where 64 acres of exhibits include an interactive aviary where parakeets and cockatiels zoom in to visit beak-to-nose. Most days, adult tickets for the zoo wouldn’t make our cost cut-off, but there is half-price admission on Wednesdays: $6 for adults and $4.50 for kids.

4) Smell the Roses

Once you’ve fawned over the fauna, move on to stop and smell the flora, including hundreds of roses, at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The 110-acre living museum grows more than 2,500 species of native and exotic plants. Shaded benches invite you to breathe deeply, and sack lunches are allowed. Entrance to the Botanic Garden is free.

5) Take a Hike

Looking for a natural encounter that’s a bit rougher around the edges? Late afternoon is a good time to make the drive to the 3,621-acre Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, just northwest of the city on Lake Worth. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Hike to your heart’s content on more than 20 miles of trails; canoeing is allowed on the river and lake.

6) Brew up a Plan

If the weather isn’t cooperating for outdoor fun, consider one of the Wednesday-evening or Saturday-afternoon tours of Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, the city’s pioneering microbrewery. You can bring your own food, and all ages are welcome; admission is $10 for visitors age 18 and up. The event includes a tour, a pint glass, and up to three beer samples for those of legal age.

7) Museum Marvels

Brain food abounds along Fort Worth’s world-famous museum row, and both The Kimbell Art Museum and Amon Carter Museum of American Art offer free general admission. The neighboring Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth charges $10 for those 13 and over, but is free on the first Sunday of every month and half-price on Wednesdays. All three museums are famous not only for their art collections, but also for their world-renowned architecture.

8) Get Down(town)

An architectural tour that begins with the museums can continue by following Lancaster Avenue downtown to make a stop at the often-overlooked magnificent interior of the main Post Office. Art Deco fans will want to seek out the former Blackstone Hotel, now a Courtyard by Marriott. The spires and terraces of the 23-story, 1929 building make it a local landmark.

9) Show Time

Fort Worth’s downtown is always worth a ramble, but weekend afternoons often offer the bonus of free movie showings at the Fort Worth Central Library. Film buffs flock to see classic films shown the first Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Family-friendly movies are shown at 1 p.m. the second Saturday of each month.

10) Cattle Call

If you still feel like you’re all hat and no cattle, line up curbside on Exchange Avenue in Fort Worth’s historic Stockyards for the daily drives of the city’s Longhorn herd at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. For $6, kids (and adults) can run their boots off at the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze. Wash down the trail dust at Booger Red’s Saloon in the H3 Ranch restaurant. The most popular beverage might be Rahr & Sons’ Buffalo Butt Beer, whose name reflects the mighty beast prominently mounted in the center of the bar. Even if you stop in for a Roy Rogers, it’s a signature way to toast a weekend of happy trails, especially if you’ve come in under budget.

From the March 2014 issue

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