People & Places

  • Best Nature Preserve

    The Trail at the Woods

    For some reason, the city of Allen has this weird idea that suburban people like trees, rivers, parks and walking trails. Rather than letting developers tear down any tree in their path in the name of one more knockoff subdivision with no personality or soul, the city of Allen has carved out large chunks of natural Texas land and reserved… More >>
  • Best Cool Off

    Allen Spray Park

    This blessedly wet and weird summer aside, there is no season in North Texas more brutal, more unrelenting than June, July and August, especially if you've got kids. Hopefully, you have a pool, or at least access to one, but if not, head over to the Allen Spray Park. Even if you live south of LBJ, it's worth the drive.… More >>
  • Best Playground

    Don Rodenbaugh Natatorium

    It would be tough for any city to build a public swimming pool better than this one. Among other features, it has 7,000 square feet of leisure water (which includes a "lazy river," water slides and a playground right in the middle of the pool) and a 25-yard by 25-meter competition pool. The pool sits in a spot that also… More >>
  • Best Bet

    Lone Star Park

    Anyone who thinks horse racing is a dying sport ought to head out to Lone Star Park. Despite record rainfall this year, the park enjoyed one of its best years in attendance in the decade since it opened. Surprisingly, at least to anyone who has been to a horse track on the East Coast, Lone Star has a great family… More >>
  • Best Dance Club

    The Party

    Some people like a sense of place when it comes to night spots. There's a certain comfort in crossing the same threshold weekend after weekend, but even Studio 54 got tired after awhile. When it comes to something as subject to the whim of trends as a dance club, sometimes it's better to have a little breathing room. So we… More >>
  • Best Friendly Strangers

    Lota's Goat

    Sometimes we don't want to go where everybody knows our name. Sometimes, we need to lay low after a nasty fight with the sig other or escape the bona fide parking nightmares that are Dallas' various entertainment districts. Those times, Lota's Goat is just what the functional alcoholic ordered. If it's a warm side-hug, a cold brew and a sympathetic… More >>
  • Best Eavesdropping

    Fine Nails

    Fine Nails is the snooping sociologist's dream. The salon attracts Swiss Avenue socialites, couples out for a his-and-hers pedi, nail-obsessed women with 2-inch claws and everyone in between. Want to know where Susie Perfect with the pink manicure met her cheating boyfriend? Just wait for a spell in the one-room salon, and chances are, she'll tell someone—either her nail technician… More >>
  • Best Boot-Scooting

    Hoots - CLOSED

    Ah, the intoxicating scent of a true honky-tonk: smoky, boot-scuffed wood infused with years of spilled Bud Light and a hearty pinch of tobacco. Big-name places such as Billy Bob's and Cowboys purport to provide visitors with a high-quality honky-tonk experience, and they do a fine job, but they just don't have that sweet honky-tonk smell. Not, at least, the… More >>
  • Best Hot Co-Eds Swallowing Creamy Whiteness

    Tasti-D-Lite - CLOSED

    If the frozen treats at Tasti-D-Lite weren't so damned tasty—and, supposedly, better for you than regular ice cream—we'd feel even dirtier enjoying them. Imported from the Northeast, where Tasti-D-Lite's special blend of frozen yogurt attracts customers even on the coldest of winter days, the Dallas franchise of Tasti-D-Lite, located near the SMU campus, is the perfect setting for soft-core visions… More >>
  • Best Public Humiliation

    McCarty's Tavern Comedy Open Mike Night - CLOSED

    Most Tuesday night McCarty's patrons go there to drink. They don't want to be badgered by someone with a microphone telling lame jokes about their crappy lives, their cat's wacky antics or their mother-in-law's bad habits. But anywhere between 10 and 20 aspiring comedians show up every Tuesday to do just that, regardless. Anyone with a serious sense of schadenfreude… More >>
  • Best BYOB

    Secret Headquarters - CLOSED

    There may be better places to see a show in North Texas, but for communal atmosphere, it's hard to beat Secret Headquarters, the DIY, blink-and-you'd-miss-it lair of musicians, artists and eccentrics just off the Denton square. Located in the old Art Prostitute space, SHQ is the definition of laid back, with no real stage (unless you count a rug and… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Head

    Lee Harvey's

    Back when Lee Harvey's first opened, we loved the yard but couldn't stand the bathroom situation. With only a one-holer for both sexes, our beer-laden bladders just couldn't take it—that is until someone hipped us to the bar's side trough, where men are men and the lines are nonexistent. The trough also affords chances for some primo pee-talk, most of… More >>
  • Best State Fair Phoenix

    The Texas Skyway

    It's been nearly 28 years since the 1979 incident that put the State Fair's Swiss Sky Ride out of action, killing one and injuring 17. Before that, the ride had been one of the Fair's top attractions, shuttling passengers back and forth across the Midway and providing a bird's-eye view of the neon-lit festivities. This year the fair will reopen… More >>
  • Best Happy Hour

    Grapevine

    With $2 drinks and all-night happy hour on Tuesday, the gay (in all senses of the word) bar at the Grapevine is a great place to get drunk after work, in part because nobody in there looks like they ever work. We're not sure what exactly the patrons at the Grapevine do for a living, but on any given night,… More >>
  • Best View of Downtown and the Trinity

    Sylvan Avenue through the Trinity floodplain

    Want to show someone the Trinity River, up close and personal? Just take them over the bridge on Sylvan Avenue, where the river flows leisurely mere feet below the road (or sometimes a few feet above the road, as it did in July), the Dallas skyline looming clear and unobstructed before you. There's even a place to pull over so… More >>
  • Best Day Trip From Farmers Branch

    Jefferson Boulevard

    OK, we know you Farmers Branch people are scared—what with the "invasion" and all—but seriously, Oak Cliff has changed a lot since the last time you heard about it. Completely gentrified. Totally bland, McMansions all around. Sure, you might see a (gasp) Mexican or two, but we can assure you, they all speak perfect English and listen to Clay Aiken.… More >>
  • Best Rock Bottom

    Winstar

    Feeling down on yourself? Need a night out with the crew to blow off some steam? Kill two birds with one stone with a trip to Winstar, the gambling mecca located just across the border in Oklahoma on I-35. Sure, if you're looking for table games, you'll find Winstar somewhat lacking, but if it's video slots and people-watching you desire,… More >>
  • Best Getaway From Dallas

    Ouachita National Forest

    Granted, Texas has some beautiful scenery, but sometimes we just want to see some honest-to-goodness forest and mountains. And so we head to southeastern Oklahoma, to the edge of the Ouachita National Forest. The terrain is beautiful, with mountain lakes and rivers and thousands of conifers (though you may need a four-wheel-drive in some areas). For camping, head to Beavers… More >>
  • Best Bar

    Meridian Room

    We want it all from our bar. We like a bar with a nice blend of drunks and fashionable folk so we can have something to laugh at and ogle while we take in our Boddingtons (which they have on tap, thanks) or Stella or vodka whatevers. We love a comfortable bar stool. We love the option of ordering really,… More >>
  • Best Afternoon Stroll

    NorthPark Center

    This is Dallas, and we're a material bunch. Frankly, with the right attitude, there's no shame in that. Take for instance the need for a little air-conditioned walking space. NorthPark Center is the finest of the mall walks. Covered parking is nearly always available, and thanks to recent mall additions, walkers get a perfect lap. Natural light beams in through… More >>
  • Best Dive Bar

    Lakewood Landing

    Some would say "dive bar" is an insult, but for us, Best Dive Bar is an enormous compliment. It means this place we're as comfortable in as our own living room. It's a place we respect for its attitude and its people. There's no pretense in a dive bar. No bullshit. And that's what the Lakewood Landing is about. (The… More >>
  • Best Place to Improvise

    Ad-Libs - CLOSED

    Ella Wheeler Wilcox's quote began, "Laugh, and the world laughs with you." At Ad-Libs, it would be more appropriate to say, "Laugh, and it's probably because you suggested a topic, the cast took it and ran and turned out something sidesplitting that no one was expecting." Such is the magic of improvisational comedy. So often, we flip channels and hit… More >>
  • Best Example of Texas in a Nutshell

    Fuel City

    You probably know by now that Fuel City serves the best tacos in Texas, according to Texas Monthly and every member of the Dallas Observer editorial staff. But we're almost as impressed with the place itself as we are with its famous taco stand. Located between a strip club and a jail, Fuel City is, like Texas, a bizarre, inexplicable… More >>
  • Best Campfire

    Lee Harvey's

    Where else in Dallas can you stand around a campfire—or lounge on a nearby hammock, for that matter—while listening to live music with a bottle in your hand? Standing in the wide, rustic yard in the dark, it's easy to pretend you're in the Texas Hill Country or even back at summer camp, except instead of roasting marshmallows you're nursing… More >>
  • Best Patio

    Iron Cactus

    This downtown rooftop is a must for anyone who enjoys fresh air and quality tequila. As the business day winds down in the summertime, the bar fills and the Herradura starts to flow in time with the large fountain near the stairwell. The place has more than 80 types of Mexican tequila. To sample it, order the tequila flight, three… More >>
  • Best Place to Pretend You're in Vegas

    Grand Lux Café at the Galleria

    As soon as you walk through the enormous double doors, you may as well be at the Venetian in Vegas. In fact, that's where the flagship location is. The restaurant is designed to evoke the opulent Old World cafes of France and Italy, which fits well with the Galleria, which was modeled after a center in Milan. Yet this is… More >>
  • Best Bar You've Never Been To

    Windmill Lounge

    We are so gonna regret this. Look, just keep this little secret between us, OK? There's this great little bar on Maple Avenue that's not called The Grapevine, which we love, but apparently so does everyone else. Sometimes you just need a drink, a friendly face and a quiet, cozy place to sit and ponder your beer bubbles. That's why… More >>
  • Best Dog Park

    White Rock Lake Dog Park

    First, a disclaimer. If you have a small, introspective dog, we do not suggest the White Rock Lake Dog Park, where your little critter will be swarmed by herds of yappy dogs upon arrival. So instead, we suggest taking your pet to the woodsy trails around the old Fish Hatchery adjacent to the White Rock spillway. It's rather peaceful there… More >>
  • Best Live Music Venue

    The Granada Theater

    A music venue is more than four walls and a sound system (even if, as in the case of the House of Blues, it's a mind-blowingly stellar sound system). Three years ago, CD World owner Mike Schoder—he of the perfectly casual blond coif and the laidback surfer's grin—bought the storied Granada Theater, which over the years housed everything from Cowboys… More >>
  • Best Beer Joint

    The Old Monk

    At the Old Monk you can select from 14 beers on draft and nearly 50 bottled beers, including Belgian varieties so strong they could intoxicate Nate Newton. Of course, it's not just the selection of fine brew that makes the Old Monk a Dallas institution; it's the cozy feel of the place, highlighted by dark wood floors, elegant antiques and… More >>
  • Best Cheap Date

    Late Fridays at the Dallas Museum of Art

    It's downtown Dallas at its best. On the third Friday of every month, the Dallas Museum of Art hosts the best party in town, opening its doors and its collection until midnight. Anchored off the glimmering Dallas skyline, the museum is an especially festive place at night, inviting to art lovers and partygoers alike. With tickets only $10, an evening… More >>
  • Best Cement Pond

    Curtis Park Pool

    So what if most of the swimmers at the UP pool have their own swimming pools back at the mansion. This isn't about practicing the dog paddle. It's about navigating certain social circles. Splashing among the skinny MILFs and young nannies, you'll find the scions of some of the wealthiest families in the Park Cities. OK, they're still in swim… More >>
  • Best Place to Shoot a Bride

    Wooden Bridge, Lakeside Park

    Photographers love this verdant spot overlooking Turtle Creek. Magic time for photography on the pretty wooden bridge in Lakeside Park is just before sunset. With the sky lit up with streaks of pink and orange behind the cottonwood trees, a light breeze off the water gently ruffling hair and veil, brides strike portrait poses that will fill family scrapbooks. On… More >>
  • Best Place for a Kids' Party

    Ridgewood/Belcher Recreation Center

    Ridgewood Splash Park is one of the few public places in Dallas (besides your garden hose) to cool off for free. True, you can't practice your backstroke, but you also don't have to worry about your kids wandering off and drowning, or teenagers doing annoying cannonballs onto your head. Though the park is obviously geared toward kiddos, we saw several… More >>
  • Best Ghost

    Frank Lloyd Wright's head

    The Dallas Theater Center will move out of the cantilevered layer-cake building on Turtle Creek when the new Wyly arts complex downtown is finished in 2009. But we're wondering if the ghost of the building's legendary architect will make the move too. Since the theater opened nearly 48 years ago, it's been part of its colorful lore that the ghost… More >>
  • Best Rock Bar

    Firewater Bar & Grill

    Oh, sure, with its sprawling, asphalt-surrounded strip-mall kinda thing going on, Firewater may provide an apt analogy for the geography of our fair burg, and it ain't gonna win any architectural awards, but the place is friendly and roomy, the beer cheap and cold. The interior has no special qualities other than that it reminds one of the interior of… More >>
  • Best Jazz Club

    Brooklyn, A Jazz Cafe

    With its exposed brick walls, copper-topped bar and tasteful tables, Brooklyn is exactly what a jazz club should be (except it's not smoky; smoking is only allowed on the patio). This is the kind of spot to which you amble without even knowing who's on the bill. You just walk in, order your glass of wine or your Dewar's and… More >>
  • Best Honky-Tonk

    The Round Up Saloon

    The Round-Up embodies two things that are hallmarks of Dallas: gay guys and cowboys. This place was gay cowboy before gay Ang Lee got his grubby little hands on the subculture. With its seven rooms, each devoted to a different type of C&W, and each corner offering a different type of cowpoke—be he gay, straight, male or female, the Round… More >>
  • Best Cold Beer

    Gezellig

    Let's get this straight—this is not a category for best beer joint or best place to get a cheap brew or best place to scope some SMU co-ed you have no chance with. This is best cold beer in town. And it goes to Gezellig, because every single one of the dark, slightly upscale spot's draught brewskis is run through… More >>
  • Best Lap Dance

    The Clubhouse

    Owned in part by the surviving members of Pantera, with an airy interior whose dimensions rival that of the main cave at Carlsbad Caverns, and providing patrons with free drinks on Monday nights, the Clubhouse is a place where dirty dreams come true in the least seedy way possible. It's, as they say, a classy joint, boasting an enormous stage… More >>
  • Best Sound Guy

    Bobcat

    When Bobcat transitioned a few months ago from his longtime spot behind the board at Club Dada to the one just down the street at Darkside, he left a trail of legend and, even more important, genius ability behind him. This is a man who reportedly romanced Julie Napol of Concrete Blonde, a man who constantly is courted by touring… More >>
  • Best Unexpected Spot to Hear a DJ

    Murray Street Coffee Shop

    As we write this, we know some colleague is hunched over a laptop somewhere, pounding out words of deathless prose about the Best Coffee Shop in Dallas. We can only hope Murray Street Coffee has been chosen, but if it hasn't, the lovely little spot at Main and Murray streets needs at least a little cred for its mellow Wednesday… More >>
  • Best Blues Club

    The Goat

    Even though it's not as part and parcel of Dixie as, say, Mobile, Alabama, Dallas is still a pretty Southern town. It is, as well, a music town, though you'd never know it judging from the dearth of national coverage. And, let's not forget the bloodline of blues legacy that runs through Deep Ellum—with all the Blind Lemon Jefferson and… More >>
  • Best Gay Bar

    Hidden Door

    There's nothing particularly subtle about the Hidden Door, starting with its name and continuing the moment you walk inside to a room of aging gay men kissing and joking like long-lost soul mates. The Hidden Bar is a gay bar in both senses of the word: On a Sunday afternoon when an overflow crowd spills out into the patio, it… More >>
  • Best Place to Take the Marquis de Sade

    The Libertine Bar

    Are you morally unrestrained? Do you believe in extreme freedom? Can you defy social and religious norms? Above all, might you love gourmet macaroni and cheese? If so, you're probably a libertine, which means you should drink at the Libertine Bar with your libertine friends, ordering copious amounts of delicious Fin du Monde beer. The Lower Greenville outpost, founded by… More >>
  • Best Door Guy

    Beard

    The main gatekeeper of Club Dada goes only by the name of Beard. And, indeed, with his grizzled white-furred chin and Marine Corps insignia-laden jacket, the man resembles Santa Claus, if Santa were to ride a Harley. Also like Santa, Beard is jolly enough, and judicious but fair. If you're nice, he will check your ID, lead you right in… More >>
  • Best Scenic Drive

    Wood County

    Sure, to get there you have to drive an hour and a half through the corrugated tin and abandoned bass boat architecture of un-beautiful Upper East Texas. But you need to think of a search for pretty country near Dallas sort of the same way you might think of escape from Alacatraz. It's not supposed to be easy. When you… More >>
  • Best Halloween

    Swiss Avenue

    The wonderful thing about Halloween on Swiss Avenue is that it's sort of not Halloween. On Swiss the night has evolved into something quite beyond Halloween, a phenomenon particular to the place and time. It's a strange admixture of American Halloween, Mexican Day of the Dead and who knows what else. There could be some Latvian Independence Day going on… More >>
  • Best Tourist Attraction

    Terminal D

    Why not make the best tourist attraction the first tourist attraction by creating an airport terminal as alluring as any strip mall the city has to offer? The distant traveler and welcome-home resident will find among their selections here top-notch eateries (Blue Mesa Taco Tequila Bar, Reata Grill and Cantina Laredo, for starters), sweet distractions (one of the few Ben… More >>
  • Best Hidden Secret in Highland Park

    The Pump House

    Now so long ago, we took a day trip to Highland Park—packed the passport and a sack lunch and everything! And we took the youngster down to Daddy's former fave make-out spot: that bridge over Turtle Creek—you know the one—where every local boy's gone since the dawn of time to show off his sensitive side. On the other side of… More >>
  • Best 28-Minute Drive to Feel Like You're Really Out of Town

    McKinney, Exit 38 off North Central Expressway

    Go figure. The only place we could find those nifty vintage rock-and-roll tees for our kid was at Haute Apple Pie on the square in downtown McKinney, which has gone through quite the transformation since the days when the coolest thing up there was a record store that sold us Get the Knack in 1981. Until recently the world's largest… More >>
  • Best Place to Camp

    Cedar Hill State Park

    You can shut out the hum of Interstate 20 in the distance and pretend you're ensconced in an urban prairie wilderness at Cedar Hill State Park, situated on Joe Pool Lake. Some parts of the 1,800-acre park, such as historic Penn Farm, have swaths of prairie grass like the area's earliest settlers would have found. The biggest attraction here, though,… More >>
  • Best Latin Club

    Escapade 2009

    Dear Ask a Mexican, What is the best Latin club in Dallas? I'd really like to get my salsa on.—Gringa Skin, Latina Heart Dear Gringa, Ay, Gabacha! What makes you think you can pigeonhole what "Latin" means now days? If we were to vote, we could choose that place Blue, downtown, because the block-long line to get in has always… More >>
  • Best Pub

    Tipperary Inn

    We usually feel a little iffy when children show up at a bar. Should we tone down the profanity? (Fuck no.) Did they just hear that lewd joke? (Ask your mama, twerp.) What do you do when the half-pints ask for a pint? ("No, Junior, last time you said you wanted a Black & Tan, I bought you one and… More >>
  • Best Place to Catch a Yankee Game

    The Ballpark at Arlington

    So much for those who root, root, root for the home team. There's a reason why Yankee fans call Arlington the West Bronx. Not only do the New York Yankees almost always win here, they do so in front of adoring fans dressed in Yankee pinstripes. Typically, when the Yankees play the Rangers, there are about twice as many fans… More >>
  • Best Sports Idea

    Let's get a MLB team for Dallas

    Mayoral candidate Sam Coats first threw out this suggestion in the spring as a way to jumpstart Dallas' kinda sorta revitalizing downtown, and he unwittingly started a lot of chatter on local sports talk shows. While there are all sorts of pragmatic concerns involved, including the unlikely approval of Major League Baseball, Coats' idea is at least more feasible than… More >>
  • Best Brokeback Mountain Relationship

    Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys

    Why is it that no matter what happens to the Cowboys, everyone is still hung up on the team's ex-coach, the legendary Bill Parcells? Neither Cowboys fans nor players ever warmed up to the aging, dyed-blond grump, who did a perfectly average job in his four-year stint here. He improved the team some, though he never broke their epic playoff-win… More >>
  • Best Jon Daniels Signing

    Eric Gagne

    OK, this category is about as competitive as a Shreveport spelling bee, but we do have to give our stumbling young GM a fair amount of props for claiming the former Dodgers great off the scrap heap. Given up for dead after missing nearly two seasons with an assortment of career-threatening injuries, Eric Gagne reclaimed his spot as one of… More >>
  • Best Jukebox

    Ship's Lounge

    Considering all the people who have been thrown out of this joint for cussin' or violating the dress code, they ought to call it Tight Ship's Lounge, 'cause they certainly run one. But dammit if they don't have a magnificent jukebox full of country and R&B classics, with names like Marty Robbins, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bobby "Blue" Bland and the Drifters… More >>
  • Best Place to Spot a Cougar

    Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa

    At the Dragonfly, a poolside bar at Hotel ZaZa, located on the edge of Uptown, cougars roam wild, relentlessly stalking their prey. There, dressed in short skirts, barely longer than a Post-It note, and blouses exposing everything but the nipple, the over-tanned cougar chats idly with her friends until a young male, typically dressed in pleated khakis and a sleeveless… More >>
  • SCENES: Puff 'n' Sexy Stuff

    You couldn't turn on a Top-40 radio station this year without hearing Justin Timberlake's bold declaration: "I'm bringing sexy back." At first, his claim seemed silly. Sexy told us it loved us, and it made us breakfast. But then sexy never called. Actresses lost so much weight that ribs became the new breasts. We were forced to visualize Senator Larry… More >>
  • Best European Vacation

    The Amsterdam Bar

    What's a bar without a TV tuned to this season's local sporting events, a bleating, mooing installation of Big Buck Hunter and overpowering neon lights advertising watered-down domestic light beers? Why, it's a bar with a little European sensibility, of course. The Amsterdam Bar says it right there in the name, but in case there was any doubt, the place… More >>
  • Best Bird-Watching Perch

    White Rock Lake

    Either you already know about this gem or you're wondering who in their right mind would traipse through the cement city of Dallas with binoculars looking for exotic birds. White Rock Lake has numerous places to observe a variety of winged creatures throughout the year, but these are our favorites. There's the beach by the boathouse, which depending on the… More >>
  • Best Outing With the Kids

    State Fair of Texas

    Carousels, the giant Ferris wheel, pie-baking contests, friendly 4H kids in overalls grooming their prize pigs—everywhere you turn at the State Fair of Texas (running this year through October 21), it's a scene from Charlotte's Web. If you haven't been to the fair in a few years, rest assured that it's still chock full of old-fashioned goodness. The junk food's… More >>
  • Best Alternative Club

    Club Dada

    Deep Ellum's Club Dada has been around for 21 years, its venerable chipped brick walls and cozy stage welcoming the most storied of Dallas—and national—musicians. Everyone was all ape-shit about Trees back in the day, but Dada's the one that lasted, and Dada's the one that packs the joint with Hot Hot Heat one night, with Hendrick the next, then… More >>
  • Best Place to Swim in a River

    Dinosaur Valley State Park

    You can swim and step in the fossilized tracks of Acrocanthosaurus, a three-toed, two-legged carnosaur, or Pleurocoelus, a four-legged plant-eating sauropod, at Dinosaur Valley State Park, located near Glen Rose, 90 minutes from downtown Dallas. The fossilized tracks are found beside the Paluxy River, which winds through the park, and quite a few families have discovered that this is a… More >>

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