Living in the concrete jungle, or even suburbia, you can't just walk out your back door and find a wealth of options for observing nature. While there are plenty of bugs, trees, and birds to watch in my back yard, sometimes I'd like to inspire my little scientists with more. Here's my list of 60 great places to go in the North Texas area to observe nature. Some are farther away than others, but all have day trip potential from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Zoos & Aquariums:
With amazing animals to observe and beautiful landscaping, zoos are a wonderful place to go for nature inspiration. Consider getting a zoo pass so that you can go and sit and watch one animal for a longer period of time, or over the course of multiple visits.
- Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, TX on Lavon Lake
- Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, TX
- Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, TX
- Children's Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas, TX
- Dallas North Aquarium in Carrollton, TX (actually a superstore for fresh and saltwater fish...but could be a fun place to go and observe!)
- Dallas World Aquarium in Dallas, TX
- Dallas Zoo in Dallas, TX
- Frank Buck Zoo in Gainsville, TX
- Fritz Park Petting Farm in Irving, TX
- Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, TX
- Gentle Zoo in Forney, TX
- Sea Life Aquarium in Grapevine, TX
Wildlife Parks and Nature Preserves:
These parks put you in the center of the action. Whether up close and personal with a giraffe, or sitting still and bird watching, each of these locations inspire curiosity.
- Cedar Ridge Preserve in Dallas, TX - Free admission
- Cherokee Trace Drive Thru Safari in Jacksonville, TX
- Coppell Nature Park in Coppell, TX
- East Texas Gators and Wildlife Parks in Grand Saline, TX
- Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge in Fort Worth, TX
- Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, TX
- Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney, TX
- Hidden Lake RV Ranch in Jacksboro, TX
- Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area in Lewisville, TX (with Kayak tours)!
- Miller Springs Nature Center in Belton, TX
- Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch in Pilot Point, TX
- Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, TX
- Waco Mammoth Site in Waco, TX
Even though these locations are at maximum a couple of hours outside of the metroplex, when you arrive, you feel like you've been transported into a peaceful and serene destination. If you visit outside of peak time, the wildlife will be out and about to observe.
- Atlanta State Park in Atlanta, TX
- Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, TX - this is one of the coolest places I've ever canoed.
- Cedar Hill State Park - Tour an old Texas farm here! (currently closed for flood damage)
- Cleburne State Park in Cleburne, TX
- Cooper Lake State Park - in Cooper, TX features horse trails, but it's bring your own horse
- Daingerfield State Park in Daingerfield, TX
- Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX
- Fairfield Lake State Park in Fairfield, TX
- Fort Parker State Park in Mexia, TX
- Lake Bob Sandlin State Park in Pittsburg, TX
- Lake Grapevine in Grapevine, TX (not a state park, but plenty nature and wildlife to see)
- Lake Mineral Wells State Park - in Mineral Wells, TX Rock climbing available here.
- Lake Tawakoni State Park in Wills Point, TX
- Lake Whitney State Park in Whitney, TX (closed until Aug. 31, 2015 due to flooding)
- Meridian State Park in Meridian, TX
- Possum Kingdom State Park in Caddo, TX - boasts the clearest and bluest waters around. You can also scuba dive and snorkel here.
- Purtis Creek State Park in Eustice, TX
- Ray Roberts State Park in Pilot Point, TX
- Tyler State Park in Tyler, TX
A beautiful garden is like a buffet for the eyes. With so many colors, shapes, sizes, and smells, one could spend hours marveling at the diversity. These locations are also great to visit often as the color offerings are new with each season.
- Bob Jones Nature Center in Southlake, TX - Free admission, some additional features have a fee
- Clark Gardens in Weatherford, TX - Fee
- Dallas Arboretum - Fee
- Farmers Branch Rose Garden - Free admission
- Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens - Free admission
- Grapevine Botanical Gardens - Free admission
- Japanese Gardens at the Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens - Fee
- Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park
- Texas Women's University Gardens - Free admission
- Trinity River Audubon Center - Fee
- Tyler Rose Gardens - Free admission
- East Texas Arboretum in Athens, TX - Free admission
There are so many local parks that have streams or ponds, and offer great nature trails. These free options could be within walking distance from your home. Check your local city parks and recreation page to see a listing of all that they have to offer. Here are some of the best around the DFW metroplex.
- Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, TX
- Bedford Boy's Ranch in Bedford, TX
- Chisholm Park in Hurst, TX
- Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center in Denton, TX
- Colleyville Nature Center in Colleyville, TX - features nine ponds and a fishing pier along with wandering trails connecting the ponds.
- Dayspring Nature Preserve in Allen, TX
- Parr Park in Grapevine, TX
- The Preserve at McCormic Park in Euless, TX - features a historical tree grove
- River Legacy Living Science Center in Arlington TX - Free admission
Where is your favorite place to go to observe and enjoy nature?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.