Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum
Ever have absolutely nothing to do, and your children are bored to no end, and you can't stomach the thought of standing in line to eat cardboard-tasting pizza and look at another flying plastic ball? Pack the family in the car, clean out the moldy picnic basket and pack it full of finger foods and an old blanket and head over to the beautiful gardens of the Dallas Arboretum. All you'll need to do is kick back, relax, and enjoy the sweet sounds of music played by a live outdoor band. The Arboretum invented the Cool Thursday music series for everyone to enjoy at the beginning of June (it ends August 31st). The Arboretum offers various festivals throughout the year but this Cool Thursday jazz fest is the best for a weekday outing with the family. Don't forget to check out the Celebration of Culture in September and all the other harvest and holiday fests quickly approaching. The fresh air--what Dallas has of it--will do you worlds of good.

Ginger Man

Centrally located just north of downtown, this place looks like it stepped right out of "Hansel and Gretel." The Ginger Man has 70 beers on tap and more than 80 in bottles. And these aren't simply St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Golden's finest. Beers are available from every country imaginable, and then some that haven't been discovered yet. With that many brews available, you may even fine one that goes well with gingerbread.

The kids love it. Pick up the train at the main stop downtown or at Park Lane. You get to go through a tunnel if you opt for the latter. You'll be providing your children with a truly urban experience if you choose this route, a feat not easily accomplished in suburbanized Dallas.

The Cavern

Back when Eleven Hundred Springs was kicking off the week from its stage, Adair's was the place to go on Monday nights. Now that honor goes to The Cavern and DJ Karl, the guy with the rock-and-roll mullet and a kick-ass collection of old punk rock and new wave. The drinks are cheap, the music's great, and every once in a while, a band drops by to play downstairs, like The BellRays' sweaty recent gig there. It's hard to beat--unless you're not a fan of looking like hell at work on Tuesday morning.

Best place to drink icy cold beer during the day

Ship's Lounge

Ship's Lounge

When you really don't want anyone to know you're wasting a couple of hours in the middle of the afternoon not doing anything even remotely likely to enhance your career, this is the place to do it--or so we're told. We're always hard at work creating the sort of free journalism you deserve. Dark and frumpy with nary a chatty bar mate, Ship's is the perfect place to nurture your inner college self with an icy cold one no matter what the time.

You can't help but think about that "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore'" thing when you see the huge black raven spinning atop his pole on the corner. He seems to be watching with an air of disdain and contempt for all earthbound creatures. Guess no one ever told him he was just a sign.

You can usually identify a denizen of North Dallas when he or she asks, sotto voce, "You live in Oak Cliff? Aren't you scared to live there?" Kessler Park, garden oasis from the big, bad streets of Oak Cliff, can surprise even a Dallas native. Beautifully kept $300,000 homes nestle along hilly, tree-lined streets. You can even put your SUV to use by climbing those steep street humps every few feet. But keep it to yourself. We don't want the wrong element sullying pretty Oak Cliff's prettiest neighborhood. Let 'em stay in North Dallas, where they belong.

Bass Pro Shops - Outdoor World

A giant aquarium, a pretend shooting range, boats to climb on, tents to test, giant stuffed catfish pillows, hot dogs, fishing equipment no one even knew existed, a driving and putting range--what more do you need to keep the kids intrigued for a few hours, short of a Pokmon? Hell, if you're really lucky you might just catch an elk-calling contest or a seminar on muzzle-loading techniques, and there are always those fly-tying demos.

Dallas Museum of Art

When most parents head downtown with the tykes in tow for a cultural or educational experience, they plan to visit somewhere obvious like The Science Place, but we think the DMA offers a great alternative. For starters, the price is right: free. But then on weekends in the afternoon, the Junior League of Dallas women (who transplant a little bit of Highland Park inside the museum's high walls) set up an art-project room where children and their parents can try their hand at making mobiles, pictures, or other functional objets d'art. After tackling the construction paper, glue, and markers, the whole family can reward themselves with a trip around the permanent exhibits. Best stop is the sculpture garden, where only the most intrepid toddler will fall in one of the ponds.

Even at its feeblest point, before the recent dredging, White Rock never lost its status as the premier walking and running site in the inner city. Now that the lake has been re-plumbed and is getting all spruced up around the verges, it's an especially upbeat place to start the day with a stroll. And with the addition of bicycle cops around the lake, you won't even have to worry that your morning stroll will become a morning run-for-your-life.

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