Texas Scottish Rite Hospital

It's true you can't just waltz, a passel of pikers in tow, onto this specially designed park at the Dallas hospital for children with severe orthopedic problems. But if you call ahead and make a reservation, this place can provide all ages of childish folk hours of safe and athletic fun. The play area's surface is covered with a soft, spongy material so you have less worry about scratched knees or broken bones.

Swiss Avenue is poised at the center of a whole bunch of socio-economic bubbling and brewing, rich and poor living pretty much cheek-by-jowl, separated only by the alleys and the cars they drive. The magic of Swiss in the evening is that nobody drives a car: Everybody walks, or, more properly, promenades. Especially on summer evenings when the temperature drops--as if it ever drops--people pour out of all manner of dwellings, low and tall, to push their babies, pull their dogs, walk with lovers or stroll alone with their thoughts, up and down this gracious old divided boulevard. It's worth driving to; lots of people do. If more aerobic pursuits are on your mind, this section of Swiss is almost exactly one mile long, making it the ideal length for an up-and-back morning run, when the sprinklers are sweeping across the majestic lawns and the gardening crews are getting to work. Using the sidewalk, you see, is the only thing non-residents can really do here. And what a sidewalk it is. Wide enough for people and dogs to coexist. Flat enough, because in this precinct, people even repave their sidewalks when they begin to buckle. In other words, they foot the bill, you provide the feet.

One-stop shopping for the softball nut with slow-pitch league games and tournaments-men's, women's, and co-ed--never ending. They're closed just two weeks out of the year, during the Christmas and New Year season, much to the chagrin of the die-hards. There are four lighted fields, a full-service concession stand that no heart doctor would go near, ample seating, and a pro shop that offers everything from balls, caps, bats, and gloves to sportswear and name-brand medication for those blisters and pulled muscles suffered by the middle-age crazies. A family affair, the clientele includes mom, pop, and the kids most nights and weekends. And, hey, if you haven't caught on with a team, bring along your glove. Some team is always short-handed and desperate for someone to play right field in that 10 p.m. game.

The Dubliner

This is the anti-meat market bar on Greenville Avenue. The black-and-tans are excellent, as are the deli sandwiches. What else can we say? Do you want dumb jokes about Blarney Stones and Lucky Charms? Forget it, we're not into that kind of exploitation. This is a great casual watering hole where you can concentrate on what Irish pubs are all about: drinking until the road rises up to meet you at 2 o'clock in the morning. OK, so we're weak.

Lizard Lounge
Red Jacket has made strides in the past few months, bringing in quality DJs and electronics artists (Carl Cox and BT, among others), but Lizard Lounge is still, by far, the best dance club Dallas has to offer, a simmering pit of break-beats and--at times--bare chests. It's seedy, sure, but in a way that's not out of line with what you'd expect from a top-notch discotheque. After all, what more do you want from a dance club than attractive members of the opposite sex, often clad in leather or vinyl (meow!), and the kind of music that makes you get sweaty, which Lizard Lounge has in spades, courtesy of DJs Angry John, Virus, and Merritt, among others. Bottom line: When you come home from a night out dancing, you want a beat in your head and phone numbers on your hand. You'll get all that and more at Lizard Lounge.

This is a tough category because Dallas establishments that cater to gay men tend to niche-market their clientele. If your taste runs toward pretty boys, then bars that cater to the roughneck crowd won't do for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a real man's man, then guys wearing too much mousse and too much cologne won't hold your interest. Segregation is a problem, so this year, our vote goes to the bar that's the closest to being inclusive to all. The Crew's Inn somehow holds the most popular Tuesday-night gatherings of any bar in town. The guys who show up range from a variety of male archetypes, from boys who look like GQ cover models to those who look like they just posed for mug shots. Somehow this mix works. The atmosphere is congenial, and the drink specials are good by most standards. If you can't please some of the people all of the time, at least you can please yourself on Tuesday nights.

It was a long, hot summer. Those clever souls who wanted to save on air conditioning either: A) drove to the coast, B) found a nice body of water where they could kick it, or C) stripped down to their boxers in one of our many public buildings. (OK, we wanted to do that, but didn't have the nerve.) If you're bashful like us and don't feel like a long drive out of the city, White Rock is Dallas' best substitute for a trip to the country. People fish, boat, jump in, skate, barbecue, socialize, and enjoy trees and grass. At sunset, the park has its own atmosphere, far enough from the city to be considered an escape, yet close enough to watch the sunset reflect off downtown skyscrapers. It's also a good high school make-out spot--just keep those boxers on.

The Green Room

This category could also be called the best place to get hit with Foley's Red Apple Sale-style elbow throws and NHL checks by people trying either to get to or escape from Trees. Other Deep Ellum restaurants have valet stands, yet there's nary a snarl in sidewalk traffic. But the Green Room's valet stand turns the walkway into the pedestrian version of the Tollway at rush hour. Stepping off the curb to avoid the hold-up isn't an option, either: People are just as eager to pull up to the valet area as they are to stand around and jabber for hours.

Walk into White Rock Skate on a Sunday afternoon, and you're back in late middle school, circa 1982. The owner is frantically running about, wearing tight designer pants, making sure his teenage workers are smiling properly. The place is disco-esque, and the roller games--limbo, boy-girl races, the freakin' hokey-pokey--still go on. Most of the kids now bring their own in-line skates, but we still prefer to put on the rink's four-wheel wobblers, impress the gals by skating backward, and even maybe get lucky and make out during a slow skate. Of course, since we're well past 30 and married 10 years, that's usually frowned upon.

This bar gets the nod via popular word of mouth from many women in our fair town. Unlike other queer emporiums, Buddies plays a larger variety of music. It also has a bigger selection of patron types, from the butch to the femme to those marvelous individual combinations that mark most of the rest of humanity. Its biggest sell, as one enthusiastic young woman claimed, is that it's the best place in town for a woman-lovin' woman to get picked up by another WLW. And isn't this what makes the world go 'round?

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