12 of the best city parks in Dallas

DALLAS, TX, USA-MAY 26, 2018:Water fountain, splash pad at children area in Klyde Warren Park. 5.2-acre public place in downtown Dallas. Surrounded by artificial turf berms, concrete seating, boulders; Shutterstock ID 1100259140; your: meghan o'dea; gl: 65050; netsuite: Online Editorial; full: demand

Dallas isn't usually hailed for its ties to nature (unless you mean the grass on the Dallas Cowboys' home field), but this glittering city on the plains is home to a variety of parks, greenways, urban trails, and even the largest urban bottomland forest on earth. In fact, there are over 400 parks in the city's system, running the gamut from fairgrounds to lakes to jogging trails.

In coming years, Dallas will also be home to the massive 200 acre Harold Simmons Park, which will be centered around the Trinity River and designed to absorb floods as well as provide a place for Dallasites to play  – though that's still under construction. Until then, there's lots to see and do outdoors, from historic plazas and places to meditate to gathering places for yoga and golf to places perfect for a picnic or a photo op. If you're looking for a park in Dallas, Texas, these are our favorites.

Dallas, Texas - USA - March 16, 2019: Sunny Spring day in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. People eating in the foodtrucks.
Sunny Spring day in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. People eating in the foodtrucks. Alamy Stock Photo

1. Klyde Warren Park

It's a little like Dallas' version of New York's High Line – this fun park is perched over where the buried Woodall Rodgers Freeway runs underground. Its 5 acres get packed easily, both with Dallasites looking for a place to let the kids get their wiggles out and with activities ranging from chess and croquet to yoga classes, tai chi, salsa lessons, bootcamp fitness classes, and a bevy of food trucks.

There's a dog park with a fenced space for off-leash play, a children's park, and a stage for performances like Shakespeare in the park. Close to the Dallas Arts District, it's easy to reach Klyde Warren on the M-line streetcar, or walk over from nearby attractions like the Dallas Museum of ArtNasher Sculpture Center, and Crow Collection of Asian Art

2. Trinity Overlook Park

The Trinity Overlook is a pocket park that provides access to the floodway and offers views of the Margaret McDermott and Margaret Hunt Hill Bridges just next to the Commerce Bridge. It offers great views of the Dallas Floodway and shade from the sun thanks to a permanent, architectural sail. It's a good place to cool down after a walk or run on the 4.6 mile Trinity Skyline Trail that runs from the Overlook to Trammell Crow Park. It's also the lovely vantage point for sunrises and sunsets – and on the rare occasions when it really snows, you can sled down the sides of the levee. 

Fair Park Art Deco
2CDJMRX Fair Park Art Deco Alamy Stock Photo

3. Fair Park

Fair Park was originally built for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, and its gorgeous art deco aesthetic reflects its nearly century-old history.  Today, Fair Park is home to seven museums, including the African American Museum, Children's Aquarium, Hall of State, the Discovery Gardens, and Perot Museum of Nature & Science at Fair Park.

Don't miss saying hello to Big Tex, a statue who also happens to be the tallest cowboy on earth. Every half hour, there's a water show set to music at the Esplanade Fountain, while at the Leonhardt Lagoon you can paddle around on a classic swan boat. The Texas Skyway and Texas Star are classic fairground attractions – a gondola ride and ferris wheel respectively, where you can get a bird's eye view of this pretty park. Fair Park is also host to happenings large and small on the Dallas events calendar, from the epic annual State Fair to bike races, sustainability symposia, and even special visiting experiences like the NERF Challenge

Fair Park can be reached on the DART Rail Green Line, the Trinity Railway Express, or the Denton County A-train. There are 14,000 parking spaces in lots around the park suitable not only for cars but also buses and RVs. Bike racks are situated at the Dos Equis Pavilion and at the DART stations. Keep in mind that public transit to Fair Park during a major event like the State Fair can get packed quickly.

Sculpture of a Teddy bear (author J.T. Williams) in Highland Park, Dallas, Texas, USA
D8XT02 Sculpture of a Teddy bear (author J.T. Williams) in Highland Park, Dallas, Texas, USA Alamy Stock Photo

4. Lakeside Park

Every picnic is a teddy bear picnic at Lakeside in the tony Highland Park neighborhood – this whimsical wooded space is filled with statues of enormous teddies that flip the usual size differential you have to your favorite stuffies. It's understandably popular for family portraits and Instagram snaps, but there are also 14 acres laced with walking trails, azaleas and a picturesque bridge across Turtle Creek. If you get really ambitious, the Turtle Creek Greenbelt Trail connects here and will take you nearly two miles, including through nearby Reverchon Park.

5. Stevens Park Golf Course and the North Oak Cliff Greenspace

Nestled in a tony corner of Oak Cliff, the Stevens Park Golf Course is one of the city's oldest public courses, founded by Jackie Burke Senior in the 1920s. Despite its PGA pedigree and affluent setting, it's remained popular for its affordable green fees, easy access from downtown, and pretty views. In 2012, the North Oak Cliff Greenspace was added, connecting Stevens Park with the Coombs Creek Trail, as well as several neighborhoods. The NOCG features fitness stations and art installations and plenty of lawn for spreading out with a blanket. Upkeep is sponsored in part through an annual golf tournament on the Stevens Park links.

shutterstock_1584970078.jpg
DALLAS, USA - FEBRUARY, 12, 2006: The longhorn cattle sculpture in Pioneer Plaza, Dallas, TX; Shutterstock ID 1584970078; your: Meghan O'Dea; gl: 65050; netsuite: digital editorial; full: demand Shutterstock / Robert Mullan

6. Pioneer Plaza and Cemetery

Pioneer Plaza is home to a herd of 40 bronze longhorns sculpted to honor the cattle drives that once defined Dallas and Fortworth, and they're a fun sight to see. Nearby is the final resting place of many early Dallas settlers, with gravestones from the 1850s through the 1920s. The Pioneer Cemetery makes for a shady, evocative place amidst the city's roar. You'll find locals walking their dogs amongst the scattered tombstones, which harken back to four cemeteries that originally sat here, including graveyards for members of the Masonic and Odd Fellows Lodges, as well as Dallas' original Jewish cemetery. 

7. White Rock Lake Park

Dallas has a bit of a love-hate relationship with water, which seems to come either too much in the wrong places (like the Trinity River Floodplain) or not enough where and when it's needed, as was the case in the early 20th century when Dallas damed White Rock Creek to create a reservoir. By the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped the city of Dallas turn the shores of the man-made lake into the city's back yard. 

By day there are almost 10 miles of trails for hiking and biking, picnic facilities for rent, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, an Audubon Society bird-watching area, dog park, boat ramps, piers, and a kayak, SUP and canoe rental kiosk. There's a weekend Farmers Market and all sorts of events hosted throughout the year from charity walks and marathons to concerts. The Corinthian Sailing Club and White Rock Boat Club are located here, too – fishing is popular.

After dark, generations of kids have been scared silly by White Rock Lake's own resident ghost story. Legend has it the Lady of the Lake, clad all in white, haunts the shore asking motorists for a ride back home or knocking on nearby residents doors – only to disappear, leaving behind a damp puddle and an eerie chill. 

Grassy Knoll (site of Kennedy assassination), Dealey Plaza Historic District, West End, Dallas, Texas, United States of America
Grassy Knoll (site of Kennedy assassination), Dealey Plaza Historic District, West End, Dallas, Texas, United States of America Alamy Stock Photo

8. Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll

Dealey Plaza was originally built in 1935 to commemorate the original settlement of Dallas, which was centered around this plot. But it's infamous as the site of the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy, and the tangle of conspiracy theories that have made the adjacent Grassy Knoll a synonym for intrigue and paranoia. Grab a blanket and a good book on Texas history or Cold War-era politics and post up on the Grassy Knoll for a place to chill in the midst of the city.

9. Dragon Park

Tucked away in Oaklawn at Cedar Springs and Hood Street, Dragon Park is a curious magnet for photographers full of statues of lions, angels and, yes, dragons. There is a beautiful ironwork gazebo amidst the gravel walkways and ornamental trees. Just keep in mind that this pretty garden is technically private property, so be extra respectful. 

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Dallas, TX, USA May 19 Inspiring Words appear on a mural in Thanks Giving Square in downtown Dallas, Texas. The area was conceived as a spiritual oasis in the heart of a large city; Shutterstock ID 1051712708; your: Meghan O'Dea; gl: 65050; netsuite: Onl Shutterstock / James Kirkikis

10. Thanks-Giving Square

Cue up your favorite Insight Timer flow or mindfullness podcast – this Philip Johnson-designed downtown pocket park is intended as a 'place where people can use gratitude as a basis for dialogue, mutual understanding and healing.' There's a meditation garden, an interdenominational chapel you might recognize from the 2011 film The Tree Of Life, a museum on themes of gratitude, and even a Wall of Praise which features a mosaic take on Norman Rockwell's "Golden Rule" painting.

11. Bark Park Central

Under the US75 overpass in colorful Deep Ellum is Bark Park Central, 1.2 acres of furry fun where dogs can play off-leash and humans can enjoy the shade. Like the rest of the neighborhood, Bark Park is decorated with murals, particularly those with a canine theme. There are dog showers, drinking facilities, and a pet waste station available to keep Fido feeling fresh. You can get a sipper or snack for yourself at nearby Trinity Cider or the pizza joint Cane Rosso, both of which are pet-friendly  – in fact, Cane Rosso's owners also run a pet rescue.

12. Dallas Heritage Village

Dallas Heritage Village is especially fun for families and history buffs  – you can see an Indigenous tipi, a farmhouse that dates back to the Civil War, the Victorian Blum house, a general store, and preserved dwellings where enslaved people once lived. The 38 structures here were rescued from various places around the metroplex, from Plano to the site of the DFW airport, and are grouped in the historic Old City Park to give a sense of life in 19th century Texas. Field trips are common here when school is in session, and kids love the demonstrations of blacksmithing and other frontier skills. Surrounding the old train depots and schoolhouses are rolling acres of park and farmland where you can stretch your legs.

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