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.

Follow the stench of sweaty hockey equipment and unshowered men to this Richardson sports spot. Brace yourself as you open the double glass doors to this testosterone palace. Divisions range from mini-mite to more than 30. Imagine, father and son can play hockey together. Youngster says, "Daddy, my bag is too heavy." Father says, "Be a man. Carry your own crap, son."

Trees should be dead now. That's what everyone believed would happen a few years ago, after some longtime employees defected to the Curtain Club. But it seems as if the joke's on all of them, as Trees is stronger than ever, having recently celebrated 10 years in business. After all this time, Trees is still the best place to see the best bands; Guided By Voices, The Flaming Lips, Stereolab, Cheap Trick, ALL, The Go, Olivia Tremor Control, and The Promise Ring have all played there in the last year or so. Don't call it a comeback--they've been here for years.

Lakewood Landing

Poor smokers. Banned from most airline flights. Shunted off to tiny corners of restaurants, left hacking and wheezing on the streets outside office buildings. Soon, they'll qualify for oppressed-minority status. If you're among the downtrodden, you will want to congregate with your own at this favorite Dallas watering hole and perhaps plan a revolution to take back your rightful, wheezing place in society. Nothing has changed too much since Lakewood Landing won our last "Best of Dallas" honors, but our most recent visit sent our clothes to the dry cleaners to get the smoke out. If nicotine is your thing, then this is where you want to swing.

Main Street's cybercaf is just like college computer labs. That is, if you went to school someplace where high-speed Internet-equipped computers were nestled in a coffeehouse among plump, over-stuffed couches, classical wall murals, and other urban loft-style amenities. Also, you don't need to sneak in the hooch inside a Thermos. There's a full bar, and live music is performed on the street-side stage on weekends. Plus, there's an open-mike affair every Wednesday. Main Street also has two rooms for gaming, with garage doors that can be closed for a little peace and quiet.

Dallas Puppet Theater
They are seated. They are entertained. They are, for the most part, quiet. Afterward, they slurp juice and eat cake. Then someone else cleans up the mess. What more could you ask for with a roomful of tykes?

From 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. on weekends, DJs from across the world spin here, and the music jams. The clothing ranges from your average all-black club gear to poseurs wearing overly glossy print shirts to young chicks sucking pacifiers. While a true rave is in a warehouse or out in the desert somewhere and you only know about it by word of mouth, we'll stretch the definition a bit. One offers a consistently good scene, and if it's a true rave you're after, the folks here will hook you up. They do have a bathtub shaped like a heart, and, granted, there's no water, but use your imagination.

Best place to save the world during the spin cycle

Bar of Soap

Doing the laundry is a tedious bore, but why watch the dryer toss around the unmentionables when Pac-Man, pinball, air hockey, golf, and a variety of other quarter-snarfing games lurk just steps away? The bar in the front room is stocked with all the necessities--plenty of quarters, laundry detergent, and dryer sheets, a smorgasbord of booze, and beer both bottled and on-tap. Get the supplies, then save the world from alien invasions or hungry zombies. The towels can rinse and spin on their own without your watchful gaze. Once the world is safe from extraterrestrials or the undead, and Pac-Man's belly is full of pellets and cherries, saddle up to the bar and watch a live band or escape the laundry room humidity on the backyard patio. It beats guarding the washer from apartment complex neighbors coveting your mint-condition '70s KISS T-shirt.

You can have your Dave & Busters, your fine felt tops, your designer cues. Some of us like to play pool, not billiards, and you can only do that at a dive, a place where you might actually get your pink-boy butt whupped if you act a fool. We like a place that is committed to pool, not offering tables as part of its catch-all theme-park approach. A pitcher during happy hour, a few sticks, and a roomful of tables. That's the way we like it, and that's the way Cuckoo's serves it up.

When it comes to putting on a show, the Gypsy Tea Room is the Big Kahuna. It has all of the intangibles: The bar is out of the way, yet close enough so you don't miss anything; the sound is usually perfect; and you can see the stage clearly from just about anywhere in the place, except maybe the bathroom. On top of all that, it's beautiful inside, like a brass-and-wood dancehall from way back. But we haven't even come to what Gypsy does best: music. No matter what kind of music you like, Gypsy does it, and does it better. Steve Earle (who performed at the club's grand opening), Built to Spill, Patti Smith, Macy Gray, Ween, Knife in the Water, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Grandaddy, Luna, Macha, Bright Eyes, Sebadoh, The Jayhawks, 20 Miles, Monte Montgomery, Blackalicious, BR5--49, Wilco--they've all played there at some point. And all the best local groups make regular appearances as well, including Centro-matic, Earl Harvin Trio, Sub Oslo, Pleasant Grove, Mandarin, Stumptone, and The Old 97's, just to name a few. The New Year, the new band from Bedhead's Matt and Bubba Kadane, made its Dallas debut at Gypsy. In the few years it has been in business, Gypsy has only gotten better, and it doesn't appear this trend will end any time soon. As long as it's still in business, every other club in town is playing for second place. Believe that.

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