It's true that Dallas is a concrete jungle, ruled by Rhino-like SUVs that are just waiting to mow down any pedestrian within steering distance, but there is one place a pedestrian can go to get away from it all. The Owl Hike at the Dallas Nature Center gives city folk a rare chance to hear the hoots and hollers of the great horned owl, the screech owl and the barred owl. On this nighttime trek the winged hunters are the main attraction, but they aren't the only stars. With the help of guides, walkers are taught to rely on their night vision and check out the other creatures that roam the night. Especially spiders, which spin their intricate webs beneath the pale light of the moon. Times of the tour vary by season, so plan before you go.
Lakewood Landing
A Dallas institution passed this year, but that's no reason to avoid partaking at this venerable East Dallas institution. In fact, you should go to pay your tribute to its longtime, beehived waitress queen, Lucille Mathews. For more than 30 years, Lucille brought drinks and more than a few smiles to regulars and first-timers alike, treating most patrons with more care and concern than is found in many families these days. Example: When one customer went on a 12-week diet that did not allow alcohol, Lucille would make a pitcher of tea for him as soon as he entered. She was a woman who loved the energy and smoke and life of a good bar, and the Landing is one of the best bars. Go, lift a glass, toast her image and memory. Then do so again. Lucille would have wanted it that way.
The folks who live down that way would just as soon you didn't know about it, but this is as close to the picturesque Texas Hill Country as you're going to get. You can use Joe Pool Lake as a gateway, then drive into Cedar Hill, where you'll want to visit a real old-timey town square. Take the back roads toward Ovilla and marvel at the tree-canopied lanes that seem a million miles away from the heat and concrete of Big D. If you're in the mood for a nature study walk, stop in at the Dallas Nature Center on Mountain Creek Parkway or take a picnic lunch and fishing pole with you and visit little-known Lorch Park (972-291-8229), cited last year as the Best Scenic Park You've Never Heard Of.
Still the best, if not the only great place in Dallas to turn yourself into a leaping lizard. A combined total of 65 years' tattooing experience makes the staff here one of the most consistent in town, with high marks in both technical skill and artistic flair. You can spend 50 bucks getting a black star tattooed on your butt or you could spend up to $70,000 on a "full body suit." Just remember: no trade-ins or returns.
Though just a few blocks south of Interstate 67, it's called "A Quiet Place" for good reason. Wind along its foot trails, viewing the well-preserved flowers and fauna of the region, and soon you're lost in another world. This is no quick-step hiking place. Unless you're looking for a leisurely walk and literally prepared to stop and smell the flowers, don't bother. Dedicated in 1993, the preserve is open to the public, free, from 6 a.m. to sundown daily.
The Meridian Room
This beautifully restored hangout is one of the best places to buy mixed drinks, or as their ads say, "classic cocktails," in Dallas. Unlike the party-hardy scene in Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville, the Meridian Room is a great place for real camaraderie, not drunken blowouts. The Exposition Park neighborhood near Fair Park is still a fringe-y area best known for Forbidden Books and a Wiccan church (or temple?), but places like the Meridian Room and Hungree's (a nearby sandwich joint) are making the area a draw for those of us not yet into witchcraft.

For the price, this can't be beat. A mere $3 will get you into the Plano city water park, and children six and under are admitted free. This park with slides, fountain-filled train rides, dumping buckets and a zero-depth entry ramp meets all the standards set by its more expensive private cousins. An indoor pool is also available at the same location with 50-meter swimming lanes. The hours at this place vary by season, so be sure to call in advance.
Angelika Film Center Dallas
We can see the screenwriter (or producer, or director) making his pitch to the studio exec: "It's a movie theater, see, where we show nothing but art-house movies. Indies, the kids call 'em. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's a...whaddya call it?...a niche audience. Perfect. Narrowcasting, can ya dig? We'll give 'em L.I.E. and Bully and lots of other movies with bad language and teen sex. And the theater will be a glistening gem, unlike anything Dallas has ever seen. Eight screening rooms, all with stadium seating. And we'll put it near a DART station, a Virgin Megastore, an Urban Outfitters and a buncha other retail and restaurant joints that only Dallasites think of as 'exotica.' Only it's not just a movie theater, see, but a real restaurant where patrons can get grilled chicken sandwiches and prosciutto-wrapped figs and cappuccinos. And in the role of chef, we'll get...oh...Lisa Kelley. You mighta seen her at Parigi. Or maybe Meryl Streep, we'll see. Look, this is a sure-fire hit, man--solid box-office, like Mel and Danny in Lethal Weapon. It's the mismatched couple: movie theater and gourmet food! They'll eat it up."
The town of Coppell doesn't exactly come to mind when thinking about the Disneyland of outdoor play spaces. But nestled within the 148 acres of Andrew Brown Community Park East is a veritable imagination plantation that can soothe the hyperactive souls of children of all ages. At Kid Kountry, they can board a pirate ship or climb up a castle wall; they swing and slide their excess energy away as Mom and Dad stay cool--or at least cooler--under shade trees. During the summer months, the aquatics center is next door, and jogging trails and a small lake add to the bucolic setting. For the security-conscious (and who isn't these days), the playground provides a high fence to separate your li'l darlin' from the outside world. Which should make the outside world a safer place.
The Purple Cow
You know how you know a place is a favorite for kids? When it's a 30-minute ride to get there, and the munchkin goes insane with glee when you mention the possibility you could go there for lunch. The Purple Cow gets just such a reaction. This restaurant, styled after a 1950s soda fountain, is a favorite for parties because the kids can eat purple ice cream and get really loud, and parents can dull their frazzled nerves with spiked milk shakes. The standard American fare is passable for adults, but the kids love it. Earplugs aren't included.

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