While the heat of summer lingers far into the fall in Texas, a splash of autumn will be in full bloom by mid-September at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
An army of staff and volunteers spend weeks prepping the garden’s extensive grounds for the annual Autumn at the Arboretum, which will be held from Sept. 17 through Nov. 23. The artfully arranged display of fall flowers and turning leaves along the blue waters of White Rock Lake draws visitors eager to experience a colorful fall wonderland — a rare sight this far south.
However, even the gorgeous flowers and trees pale in comparison to the Arboretum’s homage to the ultimate autumnal symbol: the humble pumpkin.
Pumpkins for days
The Arboretum tops itself every fall by adding more pumpkins to its grand centerpiece, the Pumpkin Village. This year’s village will be constructed from a record high of 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash of all varieties, plus a few truckloads of hay bales and cornstalks. The village is populated with houses crafted from pumpkins, a hay bale maze and a life-size replica of literature’s most famous mode of princess transportation — Cinderella’s carriage.
No pumpkin village is complete without a proper pumpkin patch. The Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch makes for the perfect spot for updating family photos or snapping a quick Instagram selfie among a sea of pumpkins. Visitors can also purchase a pumpkin to take home.
Cool concerts are back
The Arboretum’s series of outdoor lawn performances on Thursday nights returns on Sept. 1 with a ’60s cover group Paisley Craze. The Cool Thursday Concerts line up will also feature several tribute bands, notably a night of Beatles tunes from Dallas’ beloved A Hard Night’s Day on Oct. 20.
Concertgoers are welcome to bring blankets, low-profile lawn chairs and their own food and drink (including alcohol, which isn’t sold on premises), or choose from the menus of local food trucks.
Countdown to the holidays
After the fall extravaganza concludes at Thanksgiving, the garden immediately transitions into Holiday at the Arboretum, featuring the 12 Days of Christmas. The exhibit is inspired by the classic Christmas carol chronicling a sweetheart’s giving of extravagant gifts, from turtle doves and maids a-milking to a cadre of drummers drumming.
Each scene from the song is set up in Victorian-style gazebos in glorious detail, down to the rhinestones bedecking the turtle doves. The glass-encased gazebos offer a 360 degree view of each scene. The displays are spaced along a three-quarter mile stretch of the arboretum that makes for a leisurely walking tour. It’s best to go after dark to experience the gazebos and trees lit up in their full glory.
Looking ahead to the new year, the arboretum in late February will welcomes its most popular attraction — Dallas Blooms — which calls itself the largest floral festival in the Southwest. The garden will be vibrant with color through early April. The delicate pink cherry blossoms and a lush carpet of 500,000 flowers, including multi-colored tulips, yellow daffodils and splashy azaleas are a breath of fresh air after the chill of winter.
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