Calling All Wild Things

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Calling All Wild ThingsParks & Trails

By Dave Moore

Any region where the sun shines more often than not, and that’s growing by roughly 400 people per day, needs playgrounds and open spaces to blow off steam. Accordingly, the Dallas Region has more than 1,000 parks. But which offer experiences worth missing screen time for (because, let’s face it…)? We surveyed some random experts (us) and found a variety of recreational areas and playgrounds that easily elbow out Minecraft or Fortnite for the attention of kids and adults alike.

In this context, we’re defining “playground” as anyplace that challenges and/or entertains any kid who is old enough to be entertained or challenged. In short, if a park contains no FUN, it did NOT appear on this list. Readers are encouraged to check websites of all these destinations to confirm operating hours.

With no further ado, let’s explore!

DeBusk Park | 1625 Gross Rd, Mesquite, TX 75149

Did someone say “Minecraft”?

Within this park’s 17 acres is a KidsQuest wooden playground, that’s probably the biggest drawing card for smaller kids, who like such things (includes a castle-like structure, bridge, tunnels, swings, etc.). Bigger kids love the biking/walking trails and creek.

“This park has great trails to walk and ride your bikes on,” says one Dallas mom of a Dallas-Fort Worth 7 year old. “My son likes walking down to the creek and looking for tadpoles, and looking for different birds. He wants to go back and ride his bike soon.”

So, there you have it – little kids can pretend to battle/avoid Creepers in a palpable (wooden) castle, while bigger kids can play in a stream, chase tadpoles, and run wild across acres of open greenspace. “Minecraft,” minus dead eyes.

Kid Country Pavilion/Andrew Brown Park East | 260 East Parkway Boulevard

Coppell, TX, 75019

Whether your kid’s into playing pirates, or superheroes, or bad guy/good guy, the Kid Country Pavilion has the rope ladder barriers, monkey bars, slides and climbing opportunities to make time spent there an adventure. (A mock wooden pirate ship at the site seems to encourage swordplay amongst young scallywags.)  A sandbox is also handy for Digging a Hole to China. Did we mention the ENTIRE PLAYGROUND is covered with shade? Yes, it is.

Bigger kids can use Andrew Brown Park’s baseball fields and basketball courts.

Park users also remark upon the park’s trail, which passes by three ponds, at least one of which appears to be crawling with sunfish (for those who like to try their luck at fishing).

Flag Pole Hill Park Playground | 8015 Doran Cir, Dallas, TX 75201

If you’re looking for a park where the playground is THE thing, don’t miss Dallas’ first all-abilities playground on Flapole Hill.

Flag Pole Hill Park Playground includes an elevated, bus-size structure that allows kids to rope climb, slide and skitter across diagonal vinyl surfaces like harried Spider-Men. Less-mobile kids can use a specially-equipped, spring-based teeter-totter, a padded carousel, and various swings, as they work their way up to larger structures, many of which require spider-like abilities and – occasionally – Spider-Sense.

Professional golfer Jordan Spieth teamed up with the City of Dallas and the For the Love of the Lake organization in 2018 to install the playground, which was manufactured by KOMPAN Playgrounds.

Underlying all these structures are highly effective padded surfaces, in case of Spider-Sense failure.

Fritz Park | 312 E. Vilbig St., Irving, TX, 75060

One mark of a great park is its timelessness. Frozen in amber is Fritz Park in Irving, which includes a city-backed petting zoo (the city calls it a “petting farm”), a competition-level, nine-basket flying-disc course and – of course – sprawling greenspace, a bubbling creek, and playgrounds.

The petting zoo is huge hit with pre-elementary-school kids, some of whom have never previously stared directly into goat eyes. Such encounters are essential for humans determining their places in this world, and they are free, thanks to Irving taxpayers.

Just a bit north of the petting farm is a playground and extensive picnic area under a grove of trees, which shades the public from the powerful Texas sun.

Kidd Springs Park | 1003 Cedar Hill Ave, Dallas, TX 75208

“Kidd Springs is a genuine beauty spot… ,” an unknown writer stated in the May 7, 1914, issue of the Dallas Morning News. “It is already a park, and comparatively, only a little money would have to be spent to make it one of the most beautiful parks in the South.”

Eventually, the City of Dallas scraped enough money to buy the park. Kidd Springs has been a gathering place for Oak Cliff neighbors for more than a century. At the centerpiece of Kidd Springs is – not surprisingly – a large lake, which offers fishing, sunbathing turtles, and a host of ducks and geese. (At the turn of the 20th century, people swam in Kidd Springs’ lake in old-timey swimsuits. They don’t anymore.)

The playground at the park is substantial, including rock outcropping for kids who want to develop their bouldering skills. A baseball diamond caps off the all-Americana experience that is Kidd Springs Park.

Kiest Park | 3080 S Hampton Rd, Dallas, TX 75201

Sports were at the top planners’ minds when they mapped out 263-acre Kiest Park; they incorporated fields for soccer, baseball, and softball, courts for basketball, tennis and sand volleyball. They paved trails through the property for bikers, runners and walkers of all skill levels.

They also incorporated a formal garden located between the ballfields and the tennis courts, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Klyde Warren Park2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy, Dallas, TX 75201

More than 6 million people visited Klyde Warren Park between 2012 and 2018, making it –arguably – the most popular park in Dallas. Hence, we would be remiss in NOT mentioning the Klyde Warren when assembling any list of Dallas’ best playgrounds/parks.

Klyde Warren’s playground engages kids completely: an expansive rope climbing structure lets them risk their lives; foam-covered topography allows them to dash in headlong games of tag; carousels spin children senseless; and built-in water nozzles soak them from their knees down (depending on their height).

This all happens in a park built over a highway through which nearly 200,000 vehicles travel per day.

The rest of Klyde Warren is dominated by open greenspace, walkways, and the Dallas Morning News’ reading and game room (which offers both the daily paper and chess/checkers for public use).

Hope Park | 8000 McKinney Rd, Frisco, TX 75034

“I love this park,” writes one fan on the Hope Park’s Facebook page. “I’m a nanny to different ages of kids from different families. All the kids love it and want to go all the time. Tons of things to do for any child of any age and I love that it’s clean and big but closed off with only one way in or out.”

The park was constructed by local volunteers in 2013, with the intention of allowing children of all abilities to play together. One unusual element at Hope is a roller table, which allows individuals to propel themselves across a bed of rollers with their arms. Another includes an OmniSpinner, in which individuals with limited upper body strength spin in a carousel-like contraption. Hope Park also offers chill-out zones, which are shaded and quieter, for children who are prone to sensory overload.

Hope Park was inspired by a line in a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, which stated “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

Click here for a detailed explainer of the park.

Ronald Kirk Bridge/Trinity Skyline Trail | 1001 Continental St., Dallas, TX 75209

There are pockets of Dallas to discover, smack dab in the middle of the city. Such is the case with the Ronald Kirk Bridge, and the nearby Trinity Skyline Trail.

“Bring the kids and they will have fun amusing themselves at the playground,” writes Yelper Andrea H., of Richardson. “There is a climbing wall structure, standing teeter totter and some climbing steps. All of these fun things are situated on a soft, squishy surface that even I wouldn’t mind falling on.”

Nearby paths connect to the Trinity Skyline Trail, which runs along the Trinity River, for those who bring their own bikes/scooters, or who rent available Bird/Lime/Jump bikes/scooters parked on and near the bridge.

After checking out the bridge and trails, many grab a bite or drink at one of Trinity Groves’ 13 restaurants that are short walk from the bridge.

Burger’s Lake | 1200 Meandering Road, Fort Worth, TX 76114

Only one park on this list charges an entrance fee ($15 per adult, $5 for 6 and under, under 1 is free). So, why include Burger’s Lake?

This park is transformative to those who enter.

The centerpiece of this park – of course – is the spring-fed, crystal-clear lake. Installed into this lake is a variety of swings, slides and docks that allow for all manner of death-defying plunges into the lake’s filtered, ozonated and chlorinated water.

Surrounding the lake are groves of old-growth trees that offer shade even on the hottest of days. More than 300 picnic tables and 185 charcoal grills circle the lake as well. Those who didn’t bring their own food and drinks can use the lake’s concession stand (which recently started serving the Burger Lake burger).

These amenities and the lake combine to create an experience that make it a Fort Worth institution. No dogs and alcohol allowed.

Allan Shivers Park at Scottish Rite Hospital | 2222 Welborn Street, Dallas, TX 75219

This park is popular for its accessibility. Kids of all ability levels will find something to interest or challenge them here. It even offers bridges, platforms, swings and gliders that accommodate wheelchairs.

The playground – which serves as a gateway to the Scottish Rite Hospital in the Oak Lawn neighborhood – underwent a $1.9 million renovation in 2014, yet it still gets rave reviews.

Writes Google reviewer Ciara: “(It’s) the most comfortable I’ve felt letting my active toddler climb and explore. Love the musical features of the park and the soft cushioned ground surface.”

It melds older elements – statues of Mark Twain, a cowboy playing his fiddle, children holding hands – into the contemporary playground equipment.

The park is a popular spot for birthday parties for younger children.

Plugging Back into Open Spaces

If there’s a common thread among these playgrounds is that they’re screen-free. And they offer a tremendous antidote to screentime.