Dallas and its surrounding cities have plenty of green spaces that are great for spreading out a blanket or setting up shop at a picnic table in the shade, and there’s no better time to have a picnic than the beginning of summer. Most tables and pavilions at these locations are first-come, first served, but you can also reserve or rent them at many places. Check individual websites for specific information.
Here’s a list of 5 perfect picnic spots — and details on what makes them perfect.
You have to love the Dallas Arboretum. With more than 66 acres of manicured gardens, walkways and more photo-op spots than one can count, it’s a great place to spend the day. While there are several dining options on site, you can also picnic anywhere on the grounds (except in the restaurant areas), and you can bring any food, snacks or drinks you like (wine and cheese are always good choices). Picnic tables are scattered throughout the gardens and many are shaded. Stretch out on the great lawn and relax while the kids explore and burn off some more energy. Packing a big lunch? Rent a wagon for $10 at the information booth near the main public entry to tow the load.
8525 Garland Road, Dallas. $15 adults, $12 for people 65 and older, $10 children 3-12, free for kids 2 and younger. An additional $3 for entry into children’s garden. dallasarboretum.org.
Although there are countless places to throw down a blanket and enjoy a picnic at White Rock Lake, this one’s a favorite. While the Stone Tables picnic area, with its pavilion and tables, is more popular, the nearby Dixon Bay (also called Sunset Bay) sits right on the shore. Lay out your spread and go fishing off the pier or watch the kids feed the ducks or play at the two nearby playgrounds. There are plenty of trails to walk or bike after you’re finished.
830 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas. Free. whiterockdallas.org/visit/in-the-park.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
Plano is known for its family-friendliness, so it logically follows that there are more than a dozen great picnic spots — looking at you, Chisholm Trail and Haggard Park. But the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve can keep you outdoors and busy for a long time with its trails, playground, pavilion and (thankfully!) bathrooms. You can pick any spot to cop a squat, from the observation tower to alongside a stream or just under a bit of shade from the tall trees along the trail. Walk your lunch off on the 3-mile paved recreational trail, and once the ground is dry, bring your bikes for unpaved trails specifically for cyclists (they’re currently closed due to spring rains; check the website for updates). Pro tip: The chiggers’ll getcha. Bring plenty of bug spray (and sunscreen) and use it often.
6701 W. Parker Road, Plano. Free. planoparks.org.
Frisco Commons Park
The complex is home to three types of picnic areas (and that’s not even counting the possibility of spreading a blanket out on the grass). Each has a distinctly different flavor, too: There’s a set of covered tables in the playground complex, which includes Hope Park, the sprawling playground for kids of all ages that’s designed to help include children with special needs. The splash park, a good-sized spot for youngsters to play among water jets and squirting features, has shaded tables attached. Those first two options are first-come, first-served. The third, a set of pavilions with views overlooking the park’s wide open spaces, bike trail and pond, can be reserved (but if one is not reserved, you can just show up).
8000 McKinney Road, Frisco. Free. friscofun.org.
Klyde Warren Park
There are tons of free activities every day of the year at this 5.2-acre deck park that sits atop the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. You can spend time on the walking trails, at the dog park, playground and games area (life-size chess, anyone?), then plop down on a park bench or lay out a blanket on the lawn to eat. The park makes a great stop if you’re just in downtown Dallas for the day; remember it when you take the kids to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science or Dallas Museum of Art, both of which are nearby. Feel like picking up your picnic food on the run? Visit between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when food trucks stand alongside the park. Check the park’s website to see which ones will be there, but some regular trucks are Ruthie's for grilled cheese and What's Da Scoop? for old-fashioned ice cream.
2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas. Free. klydewarrenpark.com.
Ann Pinson contributed to this story.