Though you may (rightly) associate Dallas with big hair, glitz and glamour, a cosmopolitan shopping scene, and infamous pop culture contributions like the Cowboys and Dallas (you know, just the hottest, campiest show on TV in the 80’s and 90’s) the city is also a treasure trove of leafy-green nature.
Nationally-known parks like Klyde Warren and White Rock Lake Park are some of the most pleasant outdoor urban spaces in the country, while off-the-beaten-path parks like Lakeside, Griggs, and River Legacy offer just as much natural splendor, without the crowds. If you’re craving some good, old-fashioned nature in the Big D, these are the best parks to visit.
Klyde Warren Park
The crown jewel of Dallas’s urban park scene, Klyde Warren Park is undeniably the city’s best communal gathering space. Built atop the freeway between St. Paul and Pearl streets, this downtown 5.2-acre green space has much to offer its visitors. In addition to providing a much-needed burst of nature to the cityscape, Klyde Warren boasts a wide variety of daily free programming, from yoga classes and outdoor concerts to movies and festivals. Along with a jam-packed calendar of classes and events, the park has areas for croquet, chess, a dog park, a children’s park, and ping-pong; plus, you certainly won’t go hungry, considering there are two restaurants and a rotating selection of gourmet food trucks on the premises.
Trinity Forest Adventure Park
In the mood for some outdoor thrills? Trinity Forest Adventure Park is Texas’s first aerial adventure park—there are over 20 zip lines and 70 other outdoor elements here (including a rock climbing wall and Indiana Jones-style bridges). The ropes course features three different levels of elevation; all the courses are color-coded with varying degrees of difficulty, so you can pick which you’re most comfortable with. Trinity Forest also has tons of amenities for those who’d prefer to stay on the ground, like a pool, fishing ponds, sand volleyball, pedal boats, a petting zoo, and more. This sprawling 7-acre park is the perfect place to take kids (or the young at heart) for the day.
Tucked away on the corner of Hood Street and Cedar Springs Road, Dragon Park is a hidden gem in Dallas’s Oak Lawn neighborhood. It’s quaint, small, and not even many locals know about it. As you walk through the entrance, which is hidden behind a thick clump of trees, you’ll feel like you’re stepping into a picture in a storybook: There are winged gargoyles, animal sculptures, and giant angel statues scattered everywhere, plus a charming gazebo and serene trails snaking around the leafy grounds. Without a doubt, Dragon Park is the ideal spot to curl up with a good book or spend a romantic afternoon with a loved one.
Running adjacent to Turtle Creek in the upscale Highland Park neighborhood, Lakeside Park has over 14 acres of perfectly manicured grounds. It’s an idyllic spot for a leisurely stroll or picnic, as there are several walking paths and benches dotting the park. It’s also nice to sit on the banks of Turtle Creek and take in the natural beauty of the area. Don’t miss the huge, whimsical Teddy Bear statues or the pretty views from the bridge atop the Turtle Creek Dam.
White Rock Lake Park
Situated a few miles east of downtown, the lush White Rock Lake Park is one of the city’s most popular green spaces, for good reason: There’s so much to do here, you’d need a whole weekend to be able to discover it all—in fact, the park is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. White Rock Lake Park features a scenic, 9.33-mile hike-and-bike trail that circles the lake, numerous picnic areas, an Audubon Society-designated bird-watching area and wetlands site, fishing piers, a cultural center, a dog park, and playgrounds; there’s truly a little something for everyone to enjoy here.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
A natural habitat of 600 acres with pristine walking trails, butterfly gardens, wild grasses, native trees, and flower-dotted picnic areas, Cedar Ridge Preserve is simply lovely. Though it’s located just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, the park feels a world away from the city’s chaos and traffic. Bird-watching is a popular activity here; the preserve is home to the rare black-capped Vireo and a wide swath of other wildlife. Many people head to Cedar Ridge to hike, too—the park has 9 miles of walking trails, ranging from easy to difficult. When you need a peaceful respite from city life, Cedar Ridge Preserve is the place to be.
River Legacy Park
Brimming with ecological diversity and woodsy beauty, River Legacy Park is a 1,300-acre natural sanctuary that runs along the Trinity River in North Arlington. The amenities here include a 10-mile mountain bike trail, 8 miles of paved hike-and-bike trails, pavilions (which can be reserved), picnic areas, custom playscapes, scenic river outlooks, and a canoe launch. The park’s natural hardwood forest includes 400 species of wildlife, 193 species of birds, and 28 species of trees. To find out more about the local plant and animal life you'll see on your visit, stop by the River Legacy Living Science Center, which has an array of interactive environmental exhibits, terrariums and aquariums with native animals, and special outdoor programming.
An 8-acre park in Uptown, Griggs Park has newly renovated amenities that include picnic areas, playgrounds, pet areas, and plenty of shaded pathways and patches of grass. The park’s namesake is the incredible Reverend Allen R. Griggs, who was born a slave in Georgia in 1850 and brought to Texas at age 9; he was eventually emancipated and went on to organize a grammar school for ex-slaves. He also founded four black colleges, two seminaries, and the first African American newspaper in Texas. In addition to being a historically important spot, Griggs Park is a quiet yet vibrant green space that reflects the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a world-class arboretum strung along the shores of White Rock Lake, located just minutes from downtown. This 66-acre urban oasis is chock-full of colorful display gardens, spacious stretches of lawn, and thick groves of pecan trees, magnolias, cherry trees, and azaleas: In short, it’s beautiful. Spring and fall are particularly good times to visit the Arboretum—in springtime, Dallas Blooms is the biggest floral festival in the Southwest, and during the annual Autumn at the Arboretum, there are wildly creative displays everywhere using more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds, and squash.