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Free Outdoor Attractions In Dallas - Dragon & Robert E Lee Parks
65 Degrees and yet it's only January
Looking for a quick, new, fun and unique Dallas excursion this weekend? If the weather is a balmy 65 degrees - and a welcome break in between the most recent 30 degree weather that had hits D town in the winter - plan a trip outdoors. This past weekend I wanted to be outside and I began my search for a new destination rather late in the day. With a limited budget and a desperate need to relax, I searched around and accidentally happened upon a place called Dragon Park in Dallas.
It is located less than 3 miles from downtown Dallas and nestled amongst the tree lined streets in Oak Lawn, that's where I discovered a small park that's home to some mythical creatures....
Beware Dragons Live Here....
The only clue
It's a mystery
When I accidentally happened upon Dragon Park was absolutely intrigued by this place. Why would someone create a park where dragons, goblins and lions live? There is a large wire arch in it's center and even a frog fanning himself with a water lily. This small space is a beautiful enclave of peace on a city corner and yet I have been entirely unable to find out who the architect of this magical place is and why they created it. The only informative sign at the destination is in the form of a stone slab that informs the visitor of it's creation in 2009.
2 Hour Parking
How do I get there?
It's entrance is on Cedar Springs Road and Hood in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas. Less than 3 miles from downtown it can easily be reached by car. I've decided to use the McKinney Ave trolley Barn on Oak Grove as a point of reference for your journey. With that as your starting point, you can either drive the half mile which should only take a couple of minutes, or park at the McKinney Ave Trolley Barn itself and walk the half mile heading North on Oak Grove Ave. Heading towards Bowen Street, turn left on Bowen street and continue on until it becomes Cedar Springs Rd. Walking there should only take around 10 minutes and the park can be located on the left side of the street. If you do decide to drive and you find a space near the park, beware not only of the dragons at your final destination, but of the 2 hour parking limit posted on the side street.
Where is it?
Gardens and dragons
Once there, the park is a great cornucopia of various different statues to see, ambience to drink in and benches to sit and relax on. It's a great place to visit with friends, meditate, take a date and even allow kids to make up stories about magical lands and mythical creatures. It really allows a person's imagination to flourish. Lions hide behind bushes, a dragon roars in the corner and a thoughtful lady sits amongst the endless array of spectacles that surround her. I only lament I visited during winter as I can only imagine that in the spring with the foliage in full flourish it becomes even more magical. Many large rocks nestle amongst the statues with moss and greenery sprouting forth from their crevices adding a natural oddity to already unusual surroundings. An angel plays a trumpet, a Griffin roars in the corner and the various different trees, flowers and shrubs hide other creatures from view.
The dragons have been captured, so now what?
After finding such a fantastic space nestled in the such urban surroundings, I was curious as to what else the area had to offer and therefore checked a map. A quick check revealed that a short trip around the corner would provide another destination - Robert E Lee Park - otherwise known as Lee Park. So the journey began anew...
Heard of the land where Dragons live?
Visited Dragon Park?
It's this easy - How to get to Lee Park
Just exit the park on Hood Street and keep walking until you reach the end of the Street. Simply turn right on N Hall Street and you'll see the vast green space that awaits you across the way.
Take a Quick Walk
The Life of Robert E Lee
Robert E Lee & Arlington Hall
So, just a quick stroll around the corner and this wonderful unique green space can be discovered. Named after the American soldier who commanded the army of Northern Virginia for a brief time during the American civil war, Robert E Lee has forever been memorialized in statue at the front of the park which was unveiled by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1936. Behind him stands the beautifully designed Arlington Hall which is described to be a part replica of the Custis-Lee house/ Arlington house which he resided in, in Arlington Virginia.
In regards to the original Arlington house:
"Lee's prewar family home, the Custis-Lee mansion, was seized by Union forces during the war and turned into Arlington National Cemetery. The family was compensated in 1883."
In fact during the civil war, it was decided that the grounds of the original mansion in Virginia be used as the site for the now Arlington national cemetery. It seems as if this was a deliberate decision to make sure that Lee would never be able to return to his home.
The original still stands in Virginia and "..beginning in 2007, Arlington House and its outbuildings and gardens underwent a five-year, $6 million refurbishment."
However, the Dallas replica was built in 1939 after the unveiling and is currently one of the two replicas in the United States.The other is in Atlanta located on 1140 University Drive NE, and now houses the Ben H. Zimmeerman Religious School and the Canterbury School.
(facts and quotes courtesy of wikipedia)
Just across the street...
Lee Park & the Katy Trail
I'm always amazed by what interesting places I find by accident on my last minute excursions in Dallas and Lee Park is no exception. I was aware of it's existence as I had heard that it hosts many various events throughout the year. The Lee Park & Arlington Conservancy has organized everything from neighborhood picnics, Derby parties and even auctions. During the winter months there are even movie nights on the lawn and in December they light up Lee park to mark the oncoming holiday season. In the Summer you could even catch burgers and beer on the lawn. The variety is endless and always imaginative.
In addition to all of these fantastic happenings, Lee Park also extends out across the street on Turtle Creek boulevard where it becomes a home to the ducks that swim through the creek and a never ending lawn that provides many other amenities. You can sit on a bench and feed the ducks, or picnic on it's lawns. There are even croquet lawns and many trails around the creek that help make your morning run all the more pleasant with it's scenic surroundings. It seems to be a very fond destination for canine companions and their owners. However I think one of the most clever discoveries I came across - at the extension of the park across the street from Arlington Hall - is the new pedestrian ramp that now comes down from the Katy trail above to make Lee park a welcome and interesting detour from the actual trail itself. It officially opened in October 2014 and provides easy access to the 14.8-acre Park.
Ways to Visit
Things to Do...
@ Dragon Park
@ Lee Park
in 10 minutes
Take cool pictures
Feed the Ducks
in 30 minutes
Meditate and relax
Take Fido for walk
in 60 minutes
Meet a friend and talk
Play Croquet with a friend
with all the time in the world
Visit Lee Park around the corner
Have a picnic
So here ends our brief yet creative journey through Dallas for one impulsive afternoon. D town never ceases to amaze me as it appears to be home to many strange and wonderful nooks - from dragons to war heroes - and all of these can be explored and enjoyed at no cost to the visitor. Next time you visit be sure to catch some of these more unique spaces in this wonderful city, areas that simply add to the detailed and wonderful landscape that is Dallas.