Home to a diversity of ecosystems, Texas overflows with national, state and privately owned parks available for us to explore. With the Go Outside series from First Choice Power, we’ll take you all across this great state to visit both well-known public parks and lesser-known spots that are privately owned, but open to the public.
In our last post on where to find the best parks in the Lone Star State, we took you to Houston. This time we head further north and explore the areas surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth.
With everything being bigger in Texas and even more so in Dallas, you can bet that there’s a few diamonds up that way that don’t exist anywhere else in our state. Dinosaur tracks and zen gardens name just a few!
Follow along as we share our favorite places to explore in and outside the DFW Metroplex.
Dallas Arboretum, Dallas
Positioned on the shores of White Rock Lake, the Dallas Arboretum‘s 66 acres includes a complete life science laboratory, as well as a set of Trial Gardens where ground-breaking horticulture research is taking place.
With an emphasis on family-oriented activities and educational programs for children and adults, this is a place to learn, enjoy, and leave inspired.
Within the Arboretum you’ll find a multitude of manicured gardens, such as A Woman’s Garden that features a reflecting pool overlooking White Rock Lake, The Palmer Fern Dell where visitors will enjoy over 90 varieties of ferns, azaleas, camellias and a peaceful brook flanked by mature trees, and the Rory Meyer’s Children’s Adventure Garden, set on 8 acres and including The Texas Skywalk, The Moody Oasis, and a Walk in the Clouds.
Grab the family and pack a picnic for a fun day filled with both education and beauty.
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose
About an hour southwest of Fort Worth is Dinosaur Valley State Park. Here you can walk in the tracks of dinosaurs that left their footprints in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean!
In the bed of the Paluxy River you can see their marks on the landscape, and to help track them, you can download maps on your GPS enabled smart phone that show you where to search.
Sauropod tracks, which are large elephant-like tracks, can be seen, as well as Theropod tracks which are smaller and have a distinct three-toed pattern. These are believed to be made by Acrocanthosaurus.
But beyond dinosaur tracking, the park is a great place for camping, hiking, geocaching or riding your horse! You can also visit their ranger programs where you can check out a Birding Kit for the day that includes binoculars, a reference guide, and a Birds of Dinosaur Valley Checklist.
Be sure and pack your own food as there are very few places to eat near the park. Sunscreen is a must and to avoid the heat of the day, go as early as possible! Wear a hat, too.
Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth
A lush oasis in the city of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden is the oldest of its kind in Texas, and sits on a sprawling 110 acres with 22 specialized gardens.
The Adelaide Polk Fuller Garden is 3.5 acres that includes water features, stone hardscapes, trellises, and seasonal color plantings. The design of this peaceful garden is said to symbolize life’s journey.
The Rain Forest Conservatory is a 10,000 square foot glass greenhouse filled with more than 700 species of plants. Check out kumquats, coffee trees, and chocolate trees among other exotic blooming species.
Other gardens include the Backyard Vegetable Garden, The Rose Garden, and the Cactus Garden to name a handful.
But the highlight for me about the Fort Worth Botanical Garden is the Japanese Garden, built in 1973 on a 7.5 acre plot full of cherry trees, magnolias, bamboo, koi ponds, bridges and Japanese maple.
You feel as though you are stepping out of Texas and into another place in time. Beyond the season of spring, however, you won’t find many flowers blooming, simply because the Japanese Garden practices what is known as Mono no Aware. This translates to bittersweet beauty, meaning that if the garden were in bloom all the time, it would never be special.
You can also check out the Public Tea Ceremony the third Saturday of every month. Go in the spring to experience those cherry blossoms in bloom!
Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Fort Worth
As one of the largest city owned parks in the nation, the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge is home to prairies, wetlands and natural forests that show visitors what the landscape was like before the development of the Dallas and Fort Worth areas.
To preserve this ecosystem the staff promotes best practices to enhance the fauna and flora such as implementing prescribed burns, and carefully managing their herd of bison.
With more than 20 miles of hiking trails, visitors can also have fun canoeing, learning about the wildlife, or partaking in their famous Bison Feeding Hayrides!
Did we miss your favorite DFW outdoor escape? Let us know below!