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Outdoor dining a Southern Nevada park perk

Updated January 8, 2019 - 10:39 pm

Food tastes better outdoors, and plenty of empty picnic tables are just waiting for you and your PB&J sandwich or homemade Dutch oven dinner or curbside pickup pasta and chicken feast.

Enough enjoyable Henderson-area picnic spots are out there for you to make al fresco dining plans for each week of 2019, but that’s a lot of pressure. So how about eating outdoors once a month? I’ll make a few recommendations, but a sensible approach would be starting with a park near your home and extending the adventure from there. The City of Henderson website has a map with 51 green dots marking parks and more than a dozen blue dots for future parks. The map may be found by clicking “Parks and Recreation Facilities” at cityofhenderson.com/gis/printable-maps.

Cornerstone Park (1600 Wigwam Parkway): There are five covered picnic tables that could give you the feel of dining privately under a gazebo at the end of a boat dock. While you won’t be gazing out at Lake Tahoe or South Carolina’s Intracoastal Waterway, you will spot the golds or greens of swaying reeds and count dozens of ducks and geese flying in and out to feed and rest in the 31-acre lake that’s the heart of this gravel-pit-turned-100-acre-park. If those top-choice picnic tables are already taken, the park has plenty more covered picnic tables. Park perks: The sense of being out in nature within the city; spotting birds and rabbits; walking, jogging and biking options along a more than 1-mile paved path circling the no-swim lake; volleyball in the sand; and lighted basketball courts.

Hidden Falls Park (281 W. Horizon Drive): This site has terrific picnic table views of rugged hills that are part of Henderson’s southern edge. It’s a quieter location to take a sandwich and side salad created from a recipe in an old-school cookbook that might otherwise wither in the shadow of recipe websites. My spirits are always lifted after eating lunch in the uncluttered open air of a park like this, and there’s a chipping away of some stress with time spent outdoors. Park perks: Easy access to hiking trails and imaginative playground equipment for little ones.

Equestrian Park (1298 Equestrian Drive): The grass and trees offer coolness and shade even on the hottest summer mornings at this park perched above the Mojave Desert floor. If heading here in the morning, pick up a breakfast burrito or coffee and doughnuts to enjoy on a bench or at a picnic table. If not pressed for time, a 1.8-mile winding paved path allows walkers and bikers to pass through creosote and mesquite. Park perks: Possibility of seeing horses and talking to riders, as well as access to the River Mountains Loop Trail for those with serious biking ambitions.

Acacia Park (50 Casa Del Fuego St.): Typically, this is a busy spot for picnicking and playing, but the park has an inspirational demonstration garden that makes it worthy of being added to your al fresco dining list. In March, April and May, you’ll find blooms in yellow, pink, white, orange and purple. Breathe deeply, especially if close to the grape bubble gum-scented violet blooms of the Texas Mountain Laurel. The garden’s cactuses, trees, bushes and perennial flowers are desert hearty, water-efficient and drought-tolerant, and they are on display for people seeking beauty tips for their landscaping. On many weekday afternoons, soccer and football teams practice here, and younger brothers and sisters play on the slides and monkey bars, so the main park is rarely a quiet zone. But a walk through the demonstration garden is generally peaceful, and some picnic tables are found near the garden and away from the crowds. Park perks: Access to Union Pacific Railroad Trail and irresistible water features for kids during warmer months.

Also worthy of your al fresco dining list are several Henderson parks farther west of U.S. Highway 95. Picnic tables along the shoreline of Lake Mead should be included, as well as Boulder City’s Hemenway Park, where there’s always a Lake Mead view and Bighorn sheep often are spotted from picnic tables. The City of Henderson website lists the amenities of each city park and details how to make reasonably priced reservations for group picnic sites.

Luckily, Henderson provides plenty of park space for those of us needing a nature fix but lacking the time to hit the trail for a half-day. Because meals taste better at picnic tables and being outdoors is good for the spirit, why not have a 2019 goal of eating a meal each month in a local park?

Natalie Burt, a former news reporter at the Review-Journal for 11 years, spends as much of her free time as possible enjoying Southern Nevada’s outdoors. She’s now a teacher and has lived in Henderson for 17 years. Email: nvburt@gmail.com.

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