This time of year, the only exposure most of us want to nature is watching it go by in our car windows. It’s just too damn hot to spend much time outside, especially in the middle of this concrete-crusted city. But if you’re able to drag yourself away from your apartment complex’s crappy pool or (worse) the couch, you can get a little fresh air without worrying that you’ll spontaneously combust after 15 minutes outside.
The key to staying cool in the outdoors in the summer is simple — you’ve got to pick a shady spot and find a breeze. At these seven totally different oases, you’ll find peace and respite in the greenery that is still well and alive, thanks to all that rain we had earlier this year and the late grip of summer heat. Pack a picnic, take some water and spend an afternoon exploring some of Dallas’ most interesting (and cool) outdoor spaces.
Samuell Grand Amphitheatre
Samuell-Grand Park is one of Dallas’ best green spaces, and its crown jewel is the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre. This theatre on a hill, located right next door to Tenison Municipal Golf Course, plays host to Shakespeare In The Park, and does a damn fine job. Find a spot that’s close to the top of the hill when you check out Shakespeare Dallas’ interpretation of Romeo & Juliet — there’s a magical breeze that floats by on even the most stifling evenings.
Trinity River Audubon Center
Hiking might be the farthest thing from your mind this time of year, but it sure beats being stuck inside a sweaty gym with a bunch of other equally sweaty individuals. During the summer, admission to the Trinity River Audubon Center is free, largely because most people in this city are wimps who wither when it gets this hot outside. But not you — you’re going to strap on your hat, find a shade tree, and take in some of the best bird-watching and nature hiking that this city has to offer.
The nearest beach is quite a drive from Dallas, unless you count the mostly sandy shores of Lake Lewisville. For all the talk about this being a trashy party spot — and it certainly can be — there are plenty of spots at Lake Lewisville where you can enjoy a little sunbathing, fishing and swimming in total peace. The beach at Little Elm Park is a favorite of lake regulars, and the drive out north will at least make you feel like you’re getting out of town.
Trinity River Mountain Creek Reserve
We’re not entirely sure what mountain the “Mountain” in Trinity River Mountain Creek Reserve is referring to, but it’s still a pretty gorgeous spot to spend an afternoon. Located in Irving, you can get “expansive views of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River,” which is apparently much better looking than its other, more inferior forks. Covered rest pavilions, canoeing and even horseback riding, if you’ve got a few equine friends, await you at this photogenic and relaxing nature preserve. Even the strictly indoorsy types can appreciate the natural beauty here.
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Nasher Sculpture Garden
Usually, art-viewing means expansive, air conditioned buildings. You’ll have to step outside the refreshingly chilly air at the Dallas Museum of Art, but the Nasher Sculpture Garden can be a peaceful place to chill in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of downtown. If you can’t bear the heat during the day, head to the Nasher on August 21 for ‘Til Midnight, a monthly outdoor series with free music, movies and (of course) art.
In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue
After being rescued from often horrendous situations, big cats at In-Sync Exotics live in the lap of luxury, which includes plenty of delicious shade. As you stroll down a path lined with big, gorgeous tigers and lions, you’ll appreciate all that tree cover, especially if you decide to walk the whole thing. In the evenings, starting at about 6:30 p.m., you can join the cat wranglers for feeding time, which is generally a crowd-pleaser.
Mutts Canine Cantina
Your dog did not get the message that it is too damn hot outside to be sitting at the dog park, unfortunately. Give Fido plenty of exercise in a shaded park while you sip on cocktails and eat burgers at Mutts Canine Cantina in Uptown. This hotspot is often impossibly crowded, but if you catch it on a boring Tuesday afternoon, you can soak up a little bit of sun, enjoy the misters, and finish up all that work you’ve procrastinated using the free Wi-Fi.
Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve
Dallas doesn’t have many hills, and most of them are located in the aptly-named Cedar Hill. At this nature preserve, you’ll get a “taste of the Hill Country,” along with plenty of easy and breezy tree-lined trails for beginners and lazy folks. Birdwatchers stalk this spot for views of the rare black-capped Vireo, so bring your binoculars and cameras if you’re into that sort of thing.