See also: Dallas' Five Best Historical Museums
Everyone works differently, so determining the best places in Dallas to study or work is far from an exact science. Some people need ambient sound to stay focused; others require a bucolic retreat to best absorb knowledge. When you hit the wall and the point where working at home or in the dorm just doesn't work -- or you need to avoid the spots on campus where your ex inevitably pops up [everywhere] -- here are some suggestions throughout the city offering some basic deadline-time pre-reqs.
1. Become a Coffee Shop Cliche (The Pearl Cup, pictured above) In ten years, you'll still be coming to coffee shops to work on that screenplay, so better start the habit now. Dallas has a bevy of independent shops in a variety of neighborhoods, so finding one that is close to home and easy to access is key. City of Ate put together a handy top five list (note that Mercantile recently shuttered). Most offer free Wi-Fi, couches and pastries, but a few have more extensive menus for more substantive brain-food. While The Pearl Cup slings and excellent espresso (and light bites), finding a table and power outlet can be a real challenge, but the sunny windows keep the store bright and you awake. On the other hand, Mokah in Deep Ellum fosters a low-key atmosphere, but can also be a little dim for reading. That said, the adjacent art gallery makes for a stimulating break. Most coffeehouses in the city close on the earlier side, so restaurants like Café Brazil and Buzzbrews - both with free Wi-Fi, bottomless coffee and numerous locations -- are good options for all-nighters.
2. Don't Spend a Dime at a Dallas Public Library The biggest draw of studying or working at a library: you don't have to buy anything. The Dallas Public Library system has 29 locations throughout the city, most of which are open five or six times per week. A number of them are open until 8 p.m., but never later, and be sure to check their erratic schedules ahead of time. If you need a private room for group study or a meeting, DPL can hook you up with advance notice. Every branch location has free Wi-Fi and, with a library card, you can also access public computers. Interspersed throughout neighborhoods, many are within walking distance of quick bites, like the Oak Lawn branch, for example, next door to Kroger on Cedar Springs, or the Lakewood branch, next door to Cock and Bull and about a ten minute walk from Whole Foods.
3. Go Offline Outside Sometimes you need to cut the electronic umbilical cord and intentionally hunt a spot that doesn't boast free Wi-Fi. And with cooler weather upon us, one of the city's public parks is a good choice for a bit of meditative study time. Bring a blanket, but don't get too comfortable or you won't get anything done. The Arboretum also offers a bucolic atmosphere, but at $10 for parking, $15 for admission (and no student discount), it's too pricy for a study session. The Nasher, on the other hand, offers an inspirational environment, and nearby museum café. It's free to members and $5 with a valid student ID.
4. Raise the Bar, Intellectually Hemingway allegedly said, "Write drunk, edit sober," and reading at a bar makes you mysterious and romantic. Or a drunk, who knows. But a few Dallas bars offer easy-going atmospheres, free Wi-Fi and late-night hours that can be ideal when you have a case of cabin fever -- though we recommend weeknights or Sunday evenings for the most conducive atmosphere. The Dubliner on Greenville Ave. has free Wi-Fi, but it's dark, so not ideal if you need to crack a book, though it is typically quiet early in the week. The upstairs lounge and beer garden at The Ginger Man also have free Wi-Fi, and a "snacks" menu - we recommend the jumbo soft pretzel, handmade potato chips or mixed nuts, for some Omega-3 action.
5. Stakeout at an Indie Bookstore Dallas is not known for a host of great indie bookstores, but it's hard to hate one like the flagship Half Price Books on Northwest Highway. Bright and expansive, HPB has tables with generally easy access to power outlets, as well as free Wi-Fi. The attached coffee shop, Black Forest Coffee is a good place for a special treat - baked goods from Henk's. HPB on Northwest Highway also has a free community room available for educational non-profits, but groups smaller than 20 are allowed to use it (please let the staff know).