Looking to spend a day in Ft. Worth without spending a lot of cash? Here are a three places that have no entry fees and only minimal (if any) cost for parking:
1. Ft. Worth Stockyards: This National Historic District boasts quaint brick streets and classic Western-style storefronts that make for a fun stroll, though the highlight of this stop is the small, staged cattle drive that happens twice a day. Watch the cowboys herd their charges down the road and follow them back to the corral, where you can walk a long catwalk to admire them from above. There’s also a Visitor’s Center to poke around and a pretty neat little local history museum where, for a modest fee, you can view everything from cowboy accoutrements to a cursed wedding dress to a lightbulb that’s been working for 100 years, all in two jam-packed rooms. (The kids enjoyed doing the scavenger hunt that they offered!) If you don’t mind spending a bit more money, there are restaurants and shops for you to peruse. While parking in the huge, on-site lot costs a few dollars, there’s some street parking on the hill overlooking the paid parking where you can snag a free spot.
2. Ft. Worth Water Gardens: You’ll have to shell out a few quarters for street parking if you want to visit the Water Gardens, but it’s worth a stop. This park is separated into different regions, and the kids had a blast exploring them all. There’s a quiet, sunken pool area with water trickling down the walls and trees all around, a mountain-like area made of big concrete blocks, a sunken waterfall area where you can climb down on giant stepping stones, and a secluded area with a quiet pool full of small fountains. The one drawback here is that there’s little shade and the entire park is paved; it was warm on the spring day when we went, but I’d imagine that it’s miserable in the heat of summer.
3. Bureau of Engraving and Printing: If you’ve ever wondered how our nation’s paper money gets made, this is one of two places (the other being DC) where you can see it happening. Both the parking and the tour here are free. The tour begins with a video, after which you are given headsets and prompted to follow the numbered pathway while listening to a guide explain what you’re seeing. My 7-year-old found it unbearably boring, since there’s not much action (just machines making repetitive motions and people sitting around supervising). The attached museum had some interesting exhibits, however–especially upstairs, where they had stories about crazy money-recovery scenarios they’ve faced. Overall, though, this tour is best for older kids and adults. (No photos are allowed here, so you’ll just have to trust that we saw it.)