In case you missed the memo sent in the form of a sauna-like climate, summer is here. But we only get to complain about the heat for so long before it's time to change tack and complain about even more heat instead, so let's all agree to buck up and get out there in it. These are the months we get to drink on patios, take bike rides and duck into movie theaters to take advantage of their air conditioning. To make sure you cover all the bases, we dug through the Observer's 2015 Best of Dallas issue and compiled all of the essential activities for the season.
Take a Hike at Lake Grapevine (pictured at top)
The steep terrain around Lake Grapevine is popular with mountain bikers, but its rocky curves make it an equally challenging spot for hikers and joggers (just watch for the cyclists). The trail runs for 10 miles on the north side of the lake (30 miles northwest of Dallas), where you can also find lakefront camping, kayak rentals and other outdoor activities. In our otherwise pancake-flat North Texas landscape, this trail offers some of the best up-and-down hiking in a natural setting.
Have a Drink in the Tree House at the Truck Yard
OK, OK. So maybe there's only one treehouse bar in Dallas, but it's still the best. At this adult playground with a laid-back atmosphere, you can kick back with a beer, a mighty fine cheesesteak and even buy snacks for the squirrels. From this bird's-eye vantage point, the people-watching is especially good. The Truck Yard is packed on weekends, so your timing is going to have to be just right to snag a spot here. They don't take reservations per se, but if you're really determined, you can rent the whole treehouse for 3 hours at $1,500. It'll hold 40 people before the party really crashes. 5624 Sears St., 469-500-0139.
Laugh a Little at Dallas Comedy House
Dallas Comedy House isn't where you go to see a big-name headliner, but that's what makes it good. Head to the relocated Deep Ellum institution if you want to catch Dallas' best up-and-coming stand-up comedians (who might one day become big names) trying out new material and honing their acts. You can take an improv class here, too, and it's the site of the annual Dallas Comedy Festival, which serves as a showcase for hot comics on the way up in the biz. 3025 Main St., 214-741-4448, dallascomedyhouse.com.
Put Some Tunes on the Jukebox at Lakewood Landing
A jukebox — a real, honest-to-goodness one with CDs or records and pages that flip — is most at home in a dive bar. And if any bar in Dallas gets it right, it's Lakewood Landing. Put in $1 and you'll get three songs, but why would you do that when $2 gets you seven? Cue up some Ernest Tubbs to go with ELO, Fleetwood Mac, the Pixies or Big Star, grab a Lone Star and celebrate your impeccable taste in music from the comfort of the patio, because hell yes the music plays outside too. 3100 Grand Ave., 214-421-9867.
Buy Barbecue Fixins at Rudolph's Meat Market
A lot has changed on Elm Street over the past year. The sidewalks are wider, parking your car is a little easier and from landscaping to paint everything has had a serious facelift. Through it all, Rudolph's hasn't changed a bit, which is a very good thing. The butcher shop has been selling paper-wrapped steaks, sausages and other cuts of meat for more than a century, and anyone who has shopped here hopes things stay just as they are for as long as they can. A trip to Rudolph's is a trip back in time — a time when the guy behind the counter could tell you how to roast the top round you just purchased, and your meat was raised sensibly. 2924 Elm St., 214-741-1874, rudolphsmarket.com.
Go For a Stroll on the Continental Bridge
It was around dusk one evening during Dallas' monsoon season last spring, and clumps of people were sprinting off the Continental Avenue bridge, just steps ahead of a wall of fat raindrops. The downpour was expected, but the lure of standing above the swollen Trinity River and watching downtown Dallas enveloped by inky clouds had been too striking to pass up. The bridge, which closed to traffic several years ago and reopened as a pedestrian-only linear park, will never be as popular as Klyde Warren. It's too monotonous, with too much concrete and too little shade to have that type of pull. But it offers majestic views of downtown Dallas and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, a sorely needed pedestrian connection across the Trinity River and a welcome splash of whimsy (Dallas turned a car bridge into a park?!?), all without the danger of being flattened by cars.
Teach the Kids about Wildlife at the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo
Fun for adults, too, but definitely designed with the little people in mind, the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo has things like "The Underzone," with a crawl-through tunnel that takes curious tykes up close to dwarf mongooses (small ferret-like, snake-killing mammals), hornbills (wild-looking parrot-sorta birds) and naked mole rats (you just have to crawl through the tunnel and see them). The Children's Zoo has an interactive aviary, pony rides, a stream and lots of keen stuff to do. Fifteen bucks for adults, $12 for seniors and kids under 13, kids under 2 free. 650 S. RL Thornton Freeway, 469-554-7500, dallaszoo.com.
See a Play at the Festival of Independent Theatres
The four-week summer round-up of one-hour shows by small local companies has bounced back in a big way. Producing presenter David Meglino chose eight diverse productions filled with energetic talent eager to introduce audiences to fresh pieces of live theater. Top draws were The In-Laws' dreamlike new mini-musical Decline of Ballooning, DGDG's all-male dances-with-text Show about Men and WingSpan's lovely Shoe Confessions. Sold-out houses and big crowds at the after-show cabarets mean FIT has a following that'll keep it flying for years to come. 521 E. Lawther Drive, 214-670-8749, dallasculture.org/bathHouseCultureCenter.
Work on Your Bowling Score at Bowlounge
Bowlounge was borne of an old bowling center in East Texas. But some dandy folks bought it, took it apart, shipped it to the Dallas Design District and put it back together as a super-groovy vintage bowling alley. With 12 regulation-length maple-and-pine lanes, Brunswick pin-setters and vintage automatic scoring, it's retro cool and shabby chic. It's got good, cheap drinks, Twisted Root burgers, fried pickles and fried Moon Pies, too, along with 40 beers on tap, old video games, new pool tables and other nifty accoutrements. Whether you're knocking 'em down or knocking 'em back, it's so fun here, you won't want to split. 167 Turtle Creek Blvd, No. 103, 214-741-7737, bowlounge.com.
Snack on a Rice Krispie Ice Cream Treat from Carnival Barker's
Aaron Barker's burgeoning Dallas institution, Carnival Barkers, opened its first standalone joint near the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. It's a good thing, too, as even the slightest doubt about the availability of Barker's most delicious creation, the Rice Krispies treats ice-cream sandwich, featuring vanilla ice cream jammed between two Rice Krispies squares, would've been utterly snap, crackle and no. 345 W. Jefferson Blvd., 972-603-8225
Escape the Heat with a Movie at Texas Theatre
To some, the Texas Theatre is best remembered as the place where Lee Harvey Oswald tried to hide out after assassinating President Kennedy. But since its revitalization a few years ago, and thanks to creative and thoughtful programming, the landmark with a dark history is enjoying a second life as a key player in Oak Cliff's cultural renaissance. Occasionally it shows a big hit, but more often it's the place to catch a documentary or cult classic that's not showing on the big screen anywhere else. The theater frequently pairs its movie screenings with burlesque shows, stand-up comedy and performances from Dallas' coolest local bands behind the screen. The retro vibe of the building and its orange velvet couches add to the air of swank. It's the only movie theater bar that people visit even when there's nothing playing. There's also a gallery space upstairs, The Safe Room, where emerging artists show work. 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., 214-948-1546, thetexastheatre.com.
Let Fido Roam at Meadows Foundation Dog Park
The Meadows Foundation Dog Park, also nicknamed the Swiss Avenue dog park, is tucked among stately houses, some a century old. Clean, lush and green, with grass that dogs love to roll around in, the park is quiet and the regulars (both canine and human) use it as an outdoor gathering spot to socialize or casually catch up on neighborhood news. Surrounded by a cute white fence, and with some benches for dog owners to use, this little park is a swell place to take Scruffy off his leash for a romp. The walk home down a low-traffic, tree-lined boulevard is its own reward for man and beast. 3003 Swiss Ave., 214-826-9431.
Have a Fancy Picnic in Dragon Park
There's a narrow window of time in North Texas when it's not too hot or too cold for a picnic, so if you're going to do it, do it right. This is why we like to leave it to the experts at Scardello. Their "monger picnic service" includes a consultation with their cheesemongers to pair cheeses and accompaniments, and $25 will get you a choice of two quarter-pound cheeses, a half baguette and an accompaniment of a jam, chutney or pesto. If you like, they can also help you select wine and craft beers to complement your cheese. (Biodegradable utensils, cups, etc. included.) The perfect picnic needs the perfect setting, so you'll want to abscond with your goodies to nearby Dragon Park, a tucked-away statue garden that some find as magical as a "mini-Narnia." Scardello, 3511 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-219-1300, scardellocheese.com; Dragon Park, 3520 Cedar Springs Road.
Score Some Cheap Digs at Thrift World
The line between "thrift" and "vintage" stores has become impossibly blurred, but Thrift World is the best kind of old-school thrift shop. It's not a tiny, quaint shop, more like the Wal-Mart of used clothing and home decor, but you'll always walk out of there with some bizarre or unique find that costs less than $6. You'll probably never wear that mustard-and-fuchsia oversized Yves Saint Laurent sweater from the 1980s, but it's Yves Saint Laurent and you need it! You'll want to block out a few hours to really peruse the racks and check out the sales, but once you've memorized the sort-of-complicated tagging system, it's smooth sailing and plenty of good deals on funky, once-expensive stuff. 3046 Forest Lane, 972-481-7800.
Take Your Bike for a Spin on Santa Fe Trail
With apologies to the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association and the fine work they do maintaining more than a dozen off-road bike trails in the area, we're skinny-wheel, city-traveling cyclists here. We prefer our paths to be fast, relatively smooth and reachable by pedaling from our front doors. Santa Fe passes from woods and lake into the heart of Old East Dallas, through barrios and light industrial neighborhoods into Deep Ellum, where you can pick up Main Street straight across downtown. It's a comprehensive slice of the city, with places to stop for beer and chow along the way. (And really, don't pass up a chance to zip down Main Street, especially on weekends. East to west is gently downhill, so you can easily pace traffic and feel like Kevin Bacon in Quicksilver.) friendsofsantafetrail.org.
Go Dancing at R.L's Blues Palace
This should be a two-horse race. Where else in Dallas would you want to BYOB (or technically speaking, BYOL) other than Ships Lounge or R.L.'s Blues Palace? The answer is, "Nowhere, you idiot." Sadly, Ships' recent closure means there can only be one, Highlander-style. R.L.'s is an utterly unique experience in Dallas. The club is only open for a few hours a week, and it's a slice of life that hearkens back to the juke joints and blues clubs of yore. So bring along some liquor, grab a bucket of ice and sit back and enjoy the Hen Dance. 3100 Grand Ave., 214-421-9867.
Let Charles Allen Show You the Trinity River
The Trinity River in Dallas is a much more interesting float than you might guess, but it's also a little less user-friendly than you might expect. The currents are more massive than they may look from the freeway bridges, and at certain times of the year, the river can present sudden obstacles and serious perils. Nobody knows the river more intimately than Charles Allen — where to find its hidden secrets, how to avoid problems and when the most opportune times may be for an expedition by canoe. He can set you up and put you in, or he can go with you, which is the better deal because he really does know and love this deeply misunderstood old river. 615 S. Montclair Ave., 214-941-1757, canoedallas.com.
Mosh at a Punk Show at Three Links
Three Links is punk to the core. Having an owner who's a world-class tattoo artist is a good start, as are the one-of-a-kind, hand-drawn show posters. But everything about this club smacks of a no-bullshit approach that places the emphasis on the music, man. More important, Three Links is a venue that consistently punches above its weight, bringing in punk icons such as Sham 69 and Cheetah Chrome on such a regular basis you'd think they have a non-compete clause with the rest of North Texas. Maybe they do, because even though everyone is welcome, there's no one who can hang. 2704 Elm St., 214-653-8228, threelinksdeepellum.com.
Get Creative at an Arts and Crafts Class at Oil & Cotton
Since opening in 2010, this "creative exchange" in Oak Cliff has become a haven for art makers and crafters. Pick up materials for a new project here, or take affordable hands-on classes with local artists and creatives. Founded by art conservator Shannon Driscoll and piano teacher Kayli House Cusick, Oil & Cotton has become one of the neighborhood's most beloved small businesses. Current classes include lessons in watercolor, macramé, calligraphy, leatherwork, enameling and tapestry weaving. If there's an art to making people more artistic, they've mastered it. 817 W. Davis St., 214-942-0474, oilandcotton.com.