Dallas is home to many green spaces, but few are as well-known across the country — or adored by city residents — as the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
Sitting on 60-plus acres adjacent to the shores of East Dallas’ White Rock Lake, the Dallas Arboretum is a beloved landmark that boasts impressive grounds, charming seasonal festivals and outstanding public programming. Although significantly younger than many of the nation’s other botanic gardens, the Arboretum has quickly become a significant contributor to the city’s distinctive culture.
The origins of the Dallas Arboretum can be traced back to 1974. That year, the Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Society (DABS) incorporated as a nonprofit organization, adopting bylaws and electing officers. However, the gardens we know today didn’t come together until 1982, when the city of Dallas and DABS signed a formal contract creating the designated space by merging two large properties: the 44-acre DeGolyer Estate and the 22-acre Alex Camp House. The former had been the Dallas home of Everette Lee DeGolyer, one of the nation’s most prominent oilmen, while the latter is a shining example of both a Spanish Colonial-style mansion and the design work of John Staub, one of Texas most notable architects. In 1984, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden officially opened to the public.
In the 34 years since, the Arboretum has cultivated a total of 19 different gardens for visitors to enjoy. Among these is the ever-popular and world-renowned Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, which was completed in 2013. Designed to help children connect with nature, this 8-acre space houses 150 individual kid-friendly activities, such as the 32-foot-tall Walk in the Clouds exhibit and the hands-on, geology-based Earth Cycles exhibit.
The Trial Gardens is another remarkable space. Unveiled in 2003, this headline-making garden aims to evaluate how different plants fare in the diverse North Central Texas climate, which includes exceptionally hot summers and mild winters marked by sudden dips in temperature. Each year, between 3,000 and 5,000 plants are trialed from over 150 plant breeding companies. Results are then released to commercial plant producers, retailers and home gardeners.
Other impressive Arboretum features include the 6.5-acre Margaret Elisabeth Jonsson Color Garden, which is home to more than 2,000 varieties of azaleas in the springtime, and the widely acclaimed 1.8-acre Woman’s Garden, which includes a dramatic reflecting pool and sunken rose garden.
Aside from the gardens themselves, the Arboretum is also home to a long list of seasonal programs and events. These include:
- Holiday at the Arboretum, which currently features an outdoor exhibit based on the carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”;
- Autumn at the Arboretum, home to the Pumpkin Village;
- and Dallas Blooms, a springtime tulip festival featuring over 500,000 brilliantly colored bulbs.
All are much-anticipated annual events that draw visitors from all 50 states and even other countries.
Beyond these seasonal celebrations, the Arboretum also hosts:
- an annual Food and Wine Festival, showcasing the best chefs in the DFW Metroplex;
- a new Quinceañera Fashion Show honoring Hispanic Heritage Month;
- and the Cool Thursdays outdoor concert series, which showcases different tribute bands on the Martin Rutchik Concert Stage and Lawn.
On any given visit to the Arboretum, you can also experience cooking classes, high tea services and both formal and informal dining. Lastly, the Arboretum often serves as a multifunctional venue, hosting private and corporate events, weddings and birthday parties, as well as regularly providing educational resources to schoolchildren, including field trip programs and yearly summer camps.
The list of offerings at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden may be abundant, but what is your favorite feature of the grounds? Share your experiences with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Iconic Park series highlights the parks, trails and public spaces unique to Dallas. Although Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy’ mission is to build the four priority parks in Downtown, we recognize the value in promoting the success of all parks and green space across the city.