If you stay here long enough, you’ll start to hear it. “Dallas is great, but,” followed by a lengthy explanation of how we don’t have any nature — where nature means mountains or a beach.
It’s one of the most common refrains around these parts. And it’s true, we don’t have any local geysers. But what we do have are 397 city parks, and many of them are even beautiful and interesting.
Here are 10 under-appreciated outdoor spaces you have to visit before you can claim Dallas ain’t all that.
Boulder Park3200 W. Red Bird Lane
People say Boulder Park reminds them of scenic spots in California or even New Hampshire, but to experience it, you only have to drive a few minutes south. The park has 12 miles of forested trails that are color-coded for difficulty — blue is dog- and family-friendly while red is more ambitious terrain — and they’re popular with both mountain bikers and pedestrians. “The stream is definitely the most beautiful part of the trail, but might require some hands-on vertical climbing to get in and out of,” writes one alltrails.com reviewer. “Whether or not that’s a perk is up to you!” If you decide to check Boulder Park out on foot, just make sure to walk against the current so you see those bikers coming.
Pike Park2800 Harry Hines Blvd.
This 107-year-old park in the Harwood District is all that remains of Little Mexico, the neighborhood that existed where Uptown is today. In the ‘20s, when it was called Summit Park, it was a hub of Mexican culture, hosting concerts, quinceañeras and Mexican Independence Day celebrations. Seven years ago, the city unveiled renovations to the 4-acre park, including the cute little iron gazebo. The mission-style rec center (declared a historical landmark in 2000) is still in bad shape and closed to the public, although $7 million has been pegged to restore it. It’s unclear when that will come through, but regardless, we should all honor this important part of Dallas’ past with a visit.
B.B. Owen Park10700 Walnut Hill Lane
If you’re looking for something cheap and different to do this weekend, this 27-acre park near Walnut Hill and I-635 is home to the only public disc golf course in Dallas. The four-mile course offers targets for novice players (red) and more experienced disc golfers (blue), and some fun trick shots. “There are two really cool shots that require water carries from elevated tee pads,” writes a reviewer on dgcoursereview.com. “There are also several holes that have tight fairways through many trees, and good shots are definitely rewarded here.” Consider wearing tall boots and lots of bug spray in case yours don’t go according to plan.
Pioneer Plaza1428 Young St.
In 1994, the plans for this park and its namesake artwork were a huge source of controversy. Local artists actually sued to prevent them from coming to fruition, taking issue with the subject matter of the giant bronze sculpture — a 19th-century cattle drive — because they felt it misrepresented Dallas’ history. As you might have guessed if you’ve ever driven down Young Street and seen 70 six-foot-tall longhorns, their efforts were for naught. But that’s not to say that Trammell Crow, the developer behind the $9 million project, got his way either. When it went up, he told The New York Times it would come to be known as one of the greatest monuments in the world. It’s no Colosseum, but the sculpture by Glen Rose native Robert Summers is still impressive, and we’re not the only ones who think so. “The amount of time it took to create these sculptures is astounding,” Google reviewer Jonathan Snell writes. “So many well-crafted beasts and cowboys each with their own unique qualities. Great place for photos!”
Harry S. Moss Park7601 Greenville Ave.
This one has an interesting origin story. Harry Moss, a rich Canadian who reinvented himself as a Dallas petroleum company owner, supposedly bought the land after purchasing a bull at the State Fair and realizing he had nowhere to put it. For a short time in the ‘30s, it even housed a horse-racing track. But what makes this park even more intriguing is how it has become a labor of love for the people who live around it. A 2016 Advocate article revealed that vigilante landscapers had taken it upon themselves to mow and maintain its 25 acres of blackland prairie. They felt the grasslands were being neglected by the city, which bought the land many years ago. Not long after the Advocate article was published, the city took notice and reinvested in conservation efforts. Explore Harry S. Moss park for yourself to see why the neighbors call it “the Cathedral.”
Buckner Park4550 Worth St.
Once upon a time, this Old East Dallas park featured a wading pool and free movie screenings all summer. Those amenities are long gone, but $2 million in renovations (unveiled in 2017) have made the 7.5-acre park a place worth spending time again. Some of the changes include vintage signage, new lighting, improved tennis courts, a new playground, a basketball court and a walking path. “It adds so much beauty to the community,” happy neighbor Loretta Marcoux Dunnaway wrote on the Friends of Buckner Park Facebook page.
Cedar Ridge Preserve7171 Mountain Creek Parkway
You’ll feel restored after a day on Cedar Ridge Preserve’s nine miles of heavily wooded and wildflower-filled trails. They’re just a 20-minute drive from Dallas, but the terrain is reminiscent of the Hill Country. “I cannot believe it took us this long to visit Cedar Ridge Preserve, but I’m so glad we did!” one recent TripAdvisor reviewer said. “Truly a gem for nature lovers in Dallas.” That’s a common refrain among visitors, who enjoy the views of Joe Pool Lake and opportunities for bird- and butterfly-watching. If you’re looking for an easy way in, Audubon Dallas offers outdoor appreciation classes on-site.
Lakeland Hills Park2600 St. Francis Ave.
Devoted skaters are disappointed that Dallas only has one public skate park, but we’d wager you didn’t even know it had one. Stop by East Dallas’ Lakeland Hills Park on the weekends to see skateboarders and BMX bike riders practicing tricks on the small course of ramps and rails designed by pro skater Dorian Tucker. It opened in 2007, and regulars already have their sights set on a more ambitious, poured-in concrete park planned for Bachman Lake. But for a while this little, pre-fab neighborhood park was all we had, and it’s worth appreciating.
Griggs Park2200 Hugo St.
It must be that Griggs Park is hiding in plain sight. It’s right on U.S. Highway 75 and has great views of downtown, but it’s mostly frequented by locals walking their dogs. “Love this park for its wide-open grass area and views of the Dallas skyline. This is truly an oasis in a big city,” a recent Yelp reviewer said. “I am surprised it is not more crowded, but perhaps the lack of parking and congestion in the streets around the park are to blame.” If you’re not sufficiently enticed by the prospect of watching the sunset over downtown, Griggs Park also has a half-court basketball court donated by the Mavs Foundation.
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Kiest Park3080 S. Hampton Road
Friends of Oak Cliff has received awards for the restoration of the gardens at Kiest Park, which was dedicated for the late wife of Edwin John Kiest in 1930. At the time Kiest donated the land to the city of Dallas, it was the largest gift of private land ever received. Like Harry Moss, Kiest is a pretty interesting figure. He was a Chicago newspaperman who moved to Dallas and ultimately bought the Dallas Times Herald, going on to found the first city-owned radio station, WRR, and play an important early role in the State Fair, the DSO and the DMA. When you visit this park in Oak Cliff you’ll not only see the manicured gardens, but also a fairly new statue of Oak Cliff native Stevie Ray Vaughan and historic walnut trees whose seeds were gathered at Civil War battlefields.