Best Place to Commune with Nature 2001 | Dallas Arboretum | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum
The Dallas Arboretum may sound like an obvious and uninventive choice, but the 66 acres offer a variety of different ways to experience nature in a quick tour and without actually roughing it. There's a bamboo forest, mulched trails through trees and wild vines and flowers, a path lined with animal sculptures, the Camp Estate's aromatic herb garden, shaded gazebos with romantic views and a smorgasbord of roses and giant magnolia trees bearing platter-sized flowers that smell almost like lime. The scenery changes each season from spring's renowned azaleas to summer's plants hearty enough to tolerate the Texas sun. This fall offers a typical example: Autumn crocus, fall-blooming azaleas and African marigold are just a small sample of the life blooming in the Jonsson Color Garden. In the Paseo de Flores garden, Firebrush and Mexican bush sage rage among ornamental grasses and tropical bedding plants. Throughout the gardens visitors can inhale the pleasant sights and smells of canna, chrysanthemum and impatiens. Besides the changing plant life, there's the four-toad fountain and A Woman's Garden with its reflecting pools, bronze statues and view overlooking White Rock Lake, all of which was featured in Dr. T & the Women.
Yes, Fort Worth is a long way to go for an afternoon together, but the scenery at the Japanese Gardens is worth the trip. Gentle paths wind through a simply arrayed blend of trees, shrubs, and stones. There are soothing ponds, in which brightly colored koi dart to and fro. There are also rock and meditation gardens, which strip visitors of their daily stress. Conveniently arranged benches provide ample space for smooching.

The Dallas World Aquarium (not to be confused with the Dallas Zoo's crappy aquarium) is one of the few places that is kid-friendly, air-conditioned and has something to offer beyond a mall or movie theater. The aquarium has exotic plants, animals and aquatic life. Kids will get a particularly big kick out of the colony of South American black-footed penguins and the Antillean manatees. Unlike some other aquariums that won't be named, the wildlife in the Dallas World Aquarium appears well cared for with clean fish tanks and other holding areas.
A few months ago, Gypsy Tea Room booked a gig by frat favorites Guster in its ballroom and a smaller, quieter show by singer-songwriter Richard Buckner in its smaller, quieter tea room on the same night. While the two stages were, at the time, separated by a hallway, a curtain and quite a bit of square footage, Guster's more raucous performance kept bleeding into Buckner's set, leading him to become visibly and audibly upset. He made several comments, and most of them made their way into a review of the show the next day in The Dallas Morning News. While Brandt Wood--one of the partners in The Entertainment Collaborative, which operates Gypsy Tea Room and Trees--said that they'd never had a complaint about the two-stage setup before, he acted on Buckner's criticisms immediately. In the next week or so, the club installed a soundproof door between the two sections of the venue, solving the problem simply and quickly. And that attention to detail, performers and customers is why Gypsy Tea Room is the best live music venue in town--not to mention its stellar bookings, including Guided by Voices, Spoon, Travis, Common, Black Eyed Peas, Alejandro Escovedo, The Roots, Mark Eitzel, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Low, and that's just naming a few. You are lucky, Dallas. Trust us.
Unless you're one of those who huddle at home in front of the air conditioner with Oprah at full blast, the truth is there's really no beating the Texas heat. So, you just find a way to enjoy it. No better place to do so than Joe Pool Lake in southern Dallas County. In addition to boating and water skiing, the bass and crappie will be biting. The 1,800 acres of shoreline have everything from overnight campsites to picnic areas, hike and bike trails to sand volleyball courts, a golf driving range and places for bank fishing. And there's the Oasis restaurant where you can get a great burger and a tall, cool one. Might as well be one of the 1.3 million who visit the lake and its adjacent parks annually.
Who in these parts isn't loyally addicted to the Texas-born drink that was invented in a Waco drugstore? If you're as devoted to the soda's sweet taste as you think, you need to make the pilgrimage down Interstate 20 to visit the oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant in the world. Not only has the Dublin Bottling Co. been in business for 110 years, but it is the only place where the original formula is still used. There, the drink is still sweetened with corn syrup, pure cane sugar and nary an additive, and you can load the trunk of the car with a few cases before returning home. You'll also want to visit the museum, get a tour of the plant and toss back a cool one. Seventy miles down the road, it is a trip, nostalgic and worthwhile, into your childhood.

Put the closest weekend to May 23 on your calendar if you're one of those who can't get enough of the Bonnie and Clyde legend. Just across the state line in Gibsland, Louisiana (about a three-hour drive from Dallas), the festival annually features discussions by Barrow Gang historians, a re-enactment of the 1934 ambush that ended the love birds' crime spree, a jambalaya and gumbo supper, cakewalks, live music, arts and crafts displays and a local museum devoted exclusively to Dallas' most infamous criminals.
Technically, and speaking in a grander scheme of things, the best night to be in Deep Ellum is when every single one of those annoying roof decks catches fire, when those hovering meat markets that serve as an unfortunate nexus of silicone, tanning beds, bleached blondes, leather pants, green apple martinis and Young MC fill the sky with the acrid smoke of bad taste gone ablaze. Failing that, Thursday is the night to be in Deep Ellum, with fewer gawking tourists--and as far as we're concerned, that includes anyone north of LBJ--and more good shows. Club Clearview, Liquid Lounge and Curtain Club usually have three-band bills without a single hole in the lineup, and Trees hosts a weekly showcase by B.I.O. (Base Intelligence Organization) that features DJs and electronic music acts and all sorts of experimental fare. One way or another, you'll find something you like, and you won't have to wade through a sea of SUVs and their South Beach-wannabe drivers to do it. Let them have the weekends.

Forty miles east of Dallas, the neon lights outside the old Majestic Theater will go on (nightly except Wednesday), owner Karl Lybrand III will fire up the popcorn machine, then take his place in the ticket booth. The 300 seats inside won't be filled, but there will be anywhere from 15 to 50 faithful patrons forking over $2 for a ticket to see a movie that showed in one of the big city's multiplexes a month earlier. The place is as fun and romantic as first love. One of only 100 single-screen theaters still in business in the United States, it is the oldest family-owned movie house in the country. The senior Lybrand first showed movies to Wills Point patrons in 1907. Doors open nightly at 7 p.m., and the feature will be shown only once. Don't be late, or you'll miss the previews.
If you hang around at The Green Room long enough, there's a good chance you'll see Angie Harmon at some point. Especially now: It's football season, and her husband, Jason Sehorn, is off attempting to play cornerback for the New York Giants, so Harmon, the former Law & Order star, has plenty of free time. And since this is her favorite restaurant in town--something she seems to bring up in virtually every story written about her, most of which are plastered on The Green Room's front window--this is your best bet to "accidentally" run into her. Play it safe and send a martini to her table before you rush over with questions about playing Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael opposite Sam Waterston and Jerry Orbach for two seasons. If you plan on bringing up her stint on Baywatch Nights, however, you'd better keep a tab running.

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