Take a breath of fresh air in one of these outdoor spaces where you can—literally—get lost inside.
The Chairy Orchard
It was once a vacant lot, skipped over by the residential development of a Denton neighborhood. Until two Denton women—friends and neighbors Judy Smith and Anne Pearson, who have lived on either side of it for more than 30 years—decided to do something about it. According to their Facebook page, one day, they painted some chairs red, and nailed them all to a tree near the creek—and they had built their first Chairy Tree, just for the joy of it. Though it started as a simple joke between two friends, today the Chairy Orchard is a full-fledged garden, full of every kind of chair imaginable. Desk chairs and rocking horses, patio chairs and baby chairs, broken chairs and rusted chairs: though their original goal was to accumulate 100 chairs, now they have more than 200, and it’s a local legend with a cult-like following. It’s probably the most Denton thing to ever happen.
The original Chairy Tree has a sibling standing next to it now. A Chairy Arch, constructed of slender wire and wood chairs, bends its belly against the sky. Child-sized chairs are nailed at regular intervals along the back fence. A black bedframe sits in the grass, resplendent with wildflowers. There’s a yellow kitchen chair and a stool painted to look like Pikachu, at least one white wicker loveseat, and one big blue chair with a built-in wine glass holder, which was contributed by a local artist. Unfortunately, they have also created The Cemechairy, where the truly broken down seats find eternal rest.
It’s free to visit and priceless to stay.
1426 Churchill Dr., Denton
The Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney
Fun fact: since 1998, McKinney has been itching to become the Crape Myrtle destination of North Texas. The Crape Myrtle Trails Foundation was created in 1998 to make McKinney, “The place you go to see crape myrtles.” In that time, they’ve planted thousands of crape myrtles within McKinney city limits, many of them on Eldorado Parkway from Highway 5 to Ridge Road, and established the World Collection Park.
The World Collection Park is a little over seven acres of paved walkways that twist and loop with, studded with benches and picnic tables in the shade. There, visitors can find every known variety of the American Crape Myrtle, blooming in May and June. There’s no other collection like it in the world.
6452 Collin McKinney Pkwy., McKinney
Celestial Park, found deep within an Addison neighborhood, is a lush, green oasis that offers running trails and hiking. Flowers bloom in the grass when the weather is warm. But the best of Celestial Park are the steps, engraved with poetry and celestial quotes, that lead up to a human sundial. Visitors climb the stairs and stand in the middle of the sundial, and their shadow cast forms the hour hand. Then, they retreat to the park benches for quiet contemplation. It may be the single best place in the metroplex for meditation, a picnic, or to have grand epiphanies about the meaning of life.
5501 Celestial Rd., Addison
Farmers Branch Historical Park
There are few pieces of historical North Texas left untouched by time. One of them is Farmers Branch Historical Park, a 27-acre living museum that covers more than 175 years of Texas life and culture. Since 1981, the park has grown, offering tours and educational programs, as well as special events and activities. Every Saturday, they play vintage baseball games in 1860s dress, playing by vintage rules and customs. (The team is called the Mustangs.)
Guests tour the grounds from corner to corner. They come for the perfumed antique rose garden that blooms in front of the park’s 1885 Queen Anne Victorian Cottage, and to imagine life in the 1840s log cabin that stands on the grounds. There’s also a general store, a 1900s school, and 1890s church: everything that a tiny town requires, all preserved to their best. Staff in historical dress tell guests everything they could ever want to know about their original functions and purposes.
2540 Farmers Branch Ln., Farmers Branch
Originally published in the January 2020 Hidden Collin Issue of Local Profile under the title “Get Lost”