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We know Christmas is a long way off, but cut out this tip and save it for later. Christmas is a time for visits from family, and what better way to get them out of the house, ahem, we mean show them that the TV show Dallas was actually a documentary, by taking them on a drive-by tour through Highland Park? The annual tour is, after all, a showstopper, particularly along Beverly Drive, where residents spare no expense in covering every awning, tree and shrub in sight with lights so uniquely hued that even Ralph Lauren would be impressed. "Holy shit," was the response we got from the visitor we took there last year. And he's from New York.
OK. So you're going north on Central Expressway and you need to get onto LBJ. Thanks to the not-so-long-ago completion of 75, the traffic flows pretty well until you get within about a mile of the LBJ interchange. Then bam! You're stuck in stop-and-go traffic, your vision blocked by the enormous back end of a Ford Expedition or some other monstrosity. Well, as much as we hate to give this away, there is an alternative: Move over into that free-moving right lane and get off on Coit Road, which will allow you to bypass the interchange. Instead, you'll wind around a corner and find yourself right back at the entrance ramps for LBJ. From there, you just wait a light and merge back onto LBJ, having skipped over the whole mess.
The city set aside some park land at the northeast corner of the lake. Muenster Milling Co. (pet food) kicked in $25,000 to start a private fund-raising effort. And Texas Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel did the cheerleading. But the basic act here is the dogs. They run, they play, they slurp, they jump. Amazing! This new dog park, the city's first, is the place to go to see how dogs would behave if all the human beings suddenly left the planet.

You're working at doing tech support, making pretty good money, and then the company goes public. All those stock options you've been accruing are now worth a fortune. And then the company is sold to Yahoo!, and the stock is worth even more. On paper, you are now very, very rich. You are Michael J. Fox at the end of The Secret of My Success. You are Bud Fox in Wall Street before morality and legality become concerns. So you blow some of it. OK, you blow a lot of it. You get a new car--maybe a high-end SUV, maybe a BMW, definitely something black and shiny and fast--and you get a house or one of those spacious lofts that overlooks downtown. You get gadgets; you get DVD players, flat-screen TVs, Bose speakers, fancy stereo equipment. You get new furniture, real furniture, and everything on eBay you've ever been outbid on before. You get everything, because now you have money, and well, the Internet is only really starting to pay off, and this is all just the ground floor, the beginning, and you're only going to get richer and richer and richer. And then the dotcom boom turns into a bust, and the millions become thousands, or maybe even less. Maybe you don't have even a job anymore. If you're not one of these people, find someone who is and get to them before the repo men do. Make the classifieds section your bible, because yard sales are becoming outlet malls now. Kick them when they're down, because everyone knows that's the best time.
While all those silly brats in the city waste time tying ribbons on their cats and teaching their dogs not to beg at the table, country kids raise great big shiny pets you can have for dinner. If you make it to the State Fair of Texas (September 28-October 21), be sure to spend some time strolling the animal barns, where the farm and ranch kids baby-sit their sleek heifers, dwarf goats and other incredible edible friends.

Scenario: You've cleaned out your closets and your garage, and in an attempt to sell your junk instead of leaving it at the curb, you hold a yard sale. To advertise said sale, you innocently nail a sign to the telephone pole on the corner. Maybe another sign on another street corner, too. A little while later, a white truck pulls up to your house, only the driver isn't there to buy your old futon or rummage through any of your discarded clothing. No, he or she is there on behalf of the city of Dallas' code enforcement department, and thanks to those signs, you've just contributed about $500 to the city. Congratulations, you're a good citizen. Blame your unintentional good deed on a severely underpublicized law that hit the books in the last year or so, as well as the city government's long-held policy of nickel-and-diming its constituents to death. Put another way, there's a good chance if you hold a yard sale, you're only raising money to help defray the cost of the ticket you will likely receive. The code enforcement department doesn't necessarily like driving around on Saturday mornings, taking Polaroids of illegal signs, then visiting the scofflaws midsale--we've heard stories of hysterical crying jags and angry confrontations--but that is beside the point. Unless you follow the city's rules and regs when it comes to yard sales--no signs allowed, unless they're on your own property, and only two sales a year--you might as well cut out the middleman and write a check to the city.

Except for the distant whine of cars on Interstate 20, filtered through parched hills of mesquite, you'd easily forget you were anywhere near Dallas. Cedar Hill State Park, on the shores of Joe Pool Lake, offers the closest-to-unspoiled scenery you'll find in Dallas County, as well as attractive campsites and picnic areas. Lots of people come here to swim in the summer, but we avoid them and head for the web of hiking trails on the south side of the park. Amid the rolling hills and thickly scented forest and prairie greenery, we imagine we live someplace wild and picturesque, and the illusion holds pretty well until you spot a speeding SUV hauling a pair of Jetskis. Outdoor nuisances aside, you can almost always find a wilderness space to yourself at Cedar Hill State Park. Buy a $50 Conservation Pass and use the park (as well as any other state park) year-round; otherwise, the single-day fee is $10.
When it first came out, it seemed an unnecessary extravagance, something to keep rich North Dallas commuters from having to dig into their pockets, fiddle with their spare change and slow down. But with rush hour more than just a sequel, with the TollTag enabling you to live life in the fast lane by racing through the toll booth at 40 mph, with it providing a cheaper, more convenient (all major credit cards are accepted) way of travel, it's an extravagance worth having.

You all know what SMU stands for, don't you? Southern Money University. Well, even if you weren't one of the fortunate sons whose daddies footed the bill so you could attend this Park Cities institute of higher learning as a full-time student, there's still a place for you on campus. SMU offers you lazy proles out there a chance to make something of yourselves through its continuing education program, which offers nighttime courses at prices even leaf-blowers can afford. Never you mind that there is a course called something like "Art Museums of Paris" and aimed at, we can only assume, Highland Park housewives planning their spring vacations. There is a standard menu of more practical courses to be had, including our favorite, Spanish.

This is the kind of info Fox and Scully live for. Back in 1992 a fascinating and quizzical Dallas lady named Cheyenne Turner established the Eclectic Viewpoint lecture series that is going full steam ahead despite the fact she passed away in '98. Under her direction, lecturing experts in all manner of paranormal, psychic and spiritual fields have come to Dallas to share their thoughts on everything from the '47 Roswell UFO crash to conspiracy theories. There are six lectures on the schedule each year. The admission price for most lectures is in the $20-$25 range. And remember--the truth is out there.

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