Get Outside This Summer

Hot weather’s on the horizon — and the best way to enjoy it is to get outside. (Cold beer optional.) Take advantage of North Texas’ best outdoor spaces with fun adventures to suit everyone, from Bear Grylls to the barely experienced. Here are our top picks for outdoor summer fun in DFW.

Sand volleyball courts // courtesy Town of Little Elm
Sand volleyball courts at Little Elm Beach // courtesy Town of Little Elm

Play in the Water

Sandy beaches are within reach even if you live in North Texas — and you can get there with fewer rest stops. Pack an umbrella and hit up Little Elm Beach for a day that feels almost like you got out of town. Little Elm’s expansive sandy beach area is home to one of the largest open swim areas in Texas, and it’s totally free to enter (though parking costs $10 during the summer season). Enjoy swimming, fishing and access to hiking trails, athletic fields and camping facilities. The beach also features a huge playground and 10 championship-quality, lighted sand volleyball courts, which are popular during warm nights. Plus, you can put your feet up at fire pits along the water’s edge. Just make sure to BYO firewood.

Little Elm Beach >


photo courtesy Little Elm
Stand-up paddle board lesson // courtesy Town of Little Elm

Go Paddle Around

Want to try something new? Grab a stand-up paddle board or kayak and get on a local lake. And don’t worry if you don’t know how; many rentals come with lessons. Once the basics are down, try guided sunset and sunrise paddle board tours, glowing night-time tours and even paddle board yoga. Tackle all of those at any of DFW Surf’s three locations in Grapevine, Little Elm Beach and Frisco.

Or take a longer trip down the river with Trinity River Kayak Co. All kayak and canoe trips begin at its Coppell location, where kayaks, fishing equipment and everything needed along the trail can be checked out. Trips vary in length and cover more than 22 miles of trails along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.

DFW Surf > Trinity River Kayak >


Arbor Hills Nature Preserve // photo Jennifer Shertzer
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve // photo Jennifer Shertzer

Hike, Bike or Explore

Texas is home to plenty of wide open prairies, but sometimes it’s still hard to find a quiet place to explore outdoors. Home to more than 200 acres, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve makes solitude a little easier to achieve. Three miles of paved hiking trails lend locals the chance to see several native birds including owls, woodpeckers, egrets and herons. Along the way, hikers encounter native wildlife and vegetation — and maybe a mountain biker or two (who also have their own 2.8 mile off-road bike trail system to enjoy).

If our in-town nature preserve is already checked off your list, don’t worry. For something truly unique, head over to the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney. Visitors to this 289-acre nature preserve can explore five miles of hiking trails through a variety of habitats including ephemeral wetlands, prairies and forests. Features like the butterfly house (open June 1), pioneer village and indoor and outdoor exhibits make the Heard Museum a fun family trip. Visitors will enjoy bird walks, summer family fun nights and the popular night hikes that take guests through a guided tour of sanctuary trails after hours.

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve > Heard Museum >


Go Ape // courtesy Carolyn Tunney

Visit an Adventure Park

If you appreciate nature with a side of adrenaline, an adventure park may be more your speed. These multi-experience complexes let thrill-seekers go all out on heart-racing, extreme adventures… among the peaceful, tranquil backdrop of trees and woods.

Hometown favorite Go Ape helps explorers see nature from a new point of view along 2,500 feet of zip lines leading higher into the forest canopy. Adventurers travel across Tarzan swings and other suspended obstacles while harnessed high above the ground. Experienced zip-liners can put skills to the test at Trinity Forest Adventure Park, too. This seven-acre combination obstacle course and zip line park features more than 20 zip lines from 10 to 75 feet above ground. Self-guided courses let explorers move at their own pace through cargo nets, wobble bridges, tight ropes and other obstacles.

But variety is the spice of life, and sometimes what’s needed is an outdoor obstacle course, zip lines, skeet shooting, paintball and a lot of woods. That makes DFW Adventure Park a great place to spend a day. Located on more than 170 acres of green space and creek-lined woods, this adventure superplex gives visitors access to a 1.5 mile obstacle race, zip lines reaching 35 miles per hour, plus shooting spots like trap, skeet, sporting clays and several varieties of paintball.

Go Ape > Trinity Forest Adventure Park > DFW Adventure Park >


NorthBark Dog Park // courtesy Dallas Parks
NorthBark Dog Park // courtesy Dallas Parks

Take Your Dog on an Adventure

Don’t forget your four-legged friends when looking for fun things to do. Pack up the pup for summer fun, too. Dallas fave NorthBark Dog Park offers everything an outdoor-loving dog could want across more than 22 acres of fenced-in, off-leash doggie park paradise. Pets and people-folk can explore trails, wooded areas, sloping sunny lawns, and — oh yeah — a doggie beach along a huge pond that’s perfect for swimming. Sorry, dogs only. The park offers benches, pavilions and plenty of places to sit, plus a doggie shower for your muddy buddy.

Water dogs will also enjoy White Rock Lake Dog Park. Steps away from hiking, jogging and cycling, this small park gives pups a safe, secure area to enjoy a swim before taking a stroll around Dallas’ largest lake. With plenty of chairs, two-legged folk can enjoy fantastic views of the lake, trail and wildflower areas.

NorthBark Dog Park > White Rock Lake Dog Park >


courtesy Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
courtesy Fossil Rim Wildlife Center

Bonus: Take a Day Trip

Southwest of Fort Worth lies the small city of Glen Rose, a charming little place that at first glance looks just like most small towns across Texas. Worth the drive, Glen Rose offers the unique chance to get up close and personal with cool creatures from both the past and present.

Head to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center for a drive-in zoo experience unlike anything else. More than 1,000 animals call this 1800-acre wildlife preserve home, giving visitors the opportunity to see rhinos, ostriches, cheetahs, gazelles and more as they freely roam along the scenic drive tour. Take your own vehicle or join a guided tour. Visitors enjoy an unforgettable experience exploring the expansive preserve among ranging animals and breathtaking views.

Then check out some former oceanfront property at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Here visitors can experience where dinosaurs once roamed by following their tracks along the Paluxy River. Walk in footprints left by real dinosaurs along the edge of an ancient ocean and search for fossils on more than 20 miles of trails. This National Natural Landmark offers camping and picnic accommodations, access to hiking and mountain biking trails, and lots of opportunities to cool off and fish in the river.

Fossil Rim > Dinosaur Valley State Park >


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