For all its recent accolades and accomplishments, Dallas is still very much a city in transition. The last 10 years have given way to some of the biggest transformations “Big D” has ever seen, with new attractions and improvements being added every day. While other cities have their Central Parks and Millennium Parks, Dallas is also quickly evolving into a mecca of culture, entertainment and beauty that rivals those great cities. Nowhere is that more evident than right in the heart of downtown, between Pearl and St. Paul streets, in Dallas’ newest gathering spot, Klyde Warren Park.
Already lovingly referred to as the “centerpiece” of the city, Klyde Warren Park is a 5.2-acre urban green space that sprawls across the eight-lane recesses of Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The vision behind the park was to create a central location where visitors of all ages and backgrounds could come to enjoy the myriad activities and events that the city has to offer, from yoga and seminars on healthy living to outdoor concerts and exclusive film screenings. The park serves as both a literal and thematic bridge between the fast-paced professionalism and upscale leanings of Uptown and the colorful, artistic draws of the Dallas Arts District.
Plans for building a commons that would span Woodall Rodgers may have begun gestating as far back as 1960, when Mayor J. Erik Jonsonn first hatched plans for the recessed freeway. City planners were initially skeptical, but the idea gained traction in 2002, when John Zogg floated the idea once again for a major transformation in the heart of downtown. Designed by renowned architect Jim Burnett, Klyde Warren Park is now a vibrant and stunning example of where Dallas culture is headed. Much like the city itself, the park’s design and build reflect the countless traditions and beautiful diversity that give Dallas its unique flavor and feel.
Anticipation and expectations for the park were high, but no one foresaw just how ready Dallas was for a park like this. Opening weekend in October 2012 drew more than 40,000 eager visitors, with today weekend days drawing crowds of anywhere from 4,000-5,000 per day. In less than a year, the park has evolved into a central hub where newcomers and locals alike can meet, unwind and take in the sights.
Energetic park guests can work out at lunch, after work or on weekends, using the many paths, rolling greenery and assorted exercise classes that fill the grounds, while parents can peruse the park and partake in events like the Stroller Boot Camps while the little tykes play with the life-sized blocks and toys on the Imagination Playground.
Eager imbibers can find refreshment from one of the trendy food trucks that set up regularly next to the park, or at the two gourmet restaurants that reside onsite. Relish, an upscale take-away kiosk, serves up gourmet burgers, Parmesan truffle fries, beignets and other goodies during the day. Savor draws much acclaim for its modern, glass-walled design, scrumptiously shareable sandwiches, fresh seafood, top-tier vegan cuisine and innovative pub fare. Tantalizing wines and cocktail creations, like the hot buttered rum, complement a craft beer wall. Those with a more contemporary palette can opt for Lark on the Park, an urban eatery directed by chefs Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley that features rotating seasonal cuisine with international influences. The Swiss chard and caramelized onion tarts or steak frites are worth the trip all by themselves.
For those looking to make a complete afternoon or evening of it, the park often offers robust nighttime events like theatrical performances, a concert series featuring beloved local favorites, simulcasts from the Dallas Opera at the nearby Winspear Opera House and even a full-size piano that is free to visitors wishing to tickle the ivories. Of course, one of Klyde Warren Park’s main attractions is the Kelly and Norman Green Skating Rink, a seasonal attraction that uses a synthetic surface called Super-Glide that simulates real ice and provides all-weather skating for willing visitors. The rink is open seven days a week on select fall dates and frequently offers specials and discounts for the family, including free skate rentals for children under 6.
Klyde Warren Park is proving to be a shining new example of Dallas’ current renaissance. It’s both a carefully crafted oasis in the heart of downtown and a fully functional gathering spot for socializing, de-stressing or weekend fun with family and friends. Gone are the outdated visions of cowboy hats and corporate takeovers, and in its place is a city bustling with cultural diversity and a refreshing appreciation for the rich histories that lie in every corner and neighborhood—or even atop a freeway.