Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

So you've had an argument with your significant other. For example: It's the anniversary of the first time she ever called you her "little sugar pants" or whatever, and she wanted to have a nice candlelight dinner to mark the occasion. You, on the other hand, came home drunker than an American Eagle pilot about three hours after she put the food in the fridge and cried herself to sleep. You're in a fix, my friend. So pack a picnic basket and head to the Arboretum's lushly landscaped setup on White Rock Lake, and don't forget to bring an extra helping of Jesus-Christ-I-can't-believe-I'm-such-a-moron-and-you-probably-never-should've-married-me-but-I'll-try-to-be-better. All will be forgotten. Probably never forgiven, but that's the best we can do.

Medieval Times

You've already got the dodgy ponytail and questionable facial hair required for enlistment in Medieval Times' Renaissance army, and Mars Music isn't hiring. And you need the extra scratch to move out of Mom's basement. Bonus: You get to call the ladies "wenches." Or, you could always work the merch booth for ASKA. Your call.

Blue Mesa Grill

You know, there's really no such thing as a bad happy hour. Any working stiff who knows the agony of counting down the seconds till that 5 o'clock whistle blows can tell you that. A drink special's a drink special, right? But some happy hours are better than others, and one is the best. Happy hour at Blue Mesa Grill in the Lincoln Park Shopping Center goes above and beyond the typical happy-hour offerings. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, bar patrons can partake of complimentary quesadillas as well as chips and salsa. And besides the usual tortilla chips many restaurants offer, Blue Mesa's signature sweet potato chips are also available--and with two kinds of salsa, too. But don't forget the drink specials. After working up a thirst at the quesadilla bar, mosey on over to that other bar and take advantage of reduced prices on bottled beer and margaritas from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Blue Mesa's house margarita is a tasty blue concoction that could wash away any workplace blues.

The Cockpit
Oh, what's that you say? Dude, it's a pilots' hangout? What up? That's like naming a bar that caters to road construction crews The Manhole.

Clarification: The Cockpit is not a gay bar. We repeat: The Cockpit, a neighborhood bar on Marsh Lane, is not a gay bar. Our writer was cracking a joke about The Cockpit's name when he selected it as critic's choice for Best Gay Bar in the September 26 Best of Dallas issue. Apparently, not everyone got the joke. We apologize to all--employees, proprietors, and patrons--for any unpleasant consequences we may have caused.

We could have picked some country road where the traffic is slow and the scenery is beautiful. But this is Dallas and, well, call us sentimental, but nothing warms our hearts like progress. We had this same feeling when Central Expressway was under construction, and we have it again, watching the new merger of Central and LBJ crawl out of the starting blocks, trotting toward a finish line that will undoubtedly get farther away as the years go by. (Check www.dallashighfive.org for updates.) We longingly gaze at the concrete columns (because that's pretty much all you can do around there, given the stop-and-stop traffic situation), dreaming of the day when it's complete.

Best Short Road Trip to a Small Town that Isn't Really Anymore

McKinney

When we were a kid, last month, used to be a drive up Central Expressway to McKinney lasted a week; 75 was one lane north and south, and it wasn't so long ago. Now it takes 20 minutes, without much traffic, to head up to this Collin County town that's growing every day without losing much of its charm. In fact, it still looks like it did when Joe Camp shot his first Benji up there--giant old homes with rustic front porches, a town square anchored by an old courthouse. That it's slowly been populated by big-city folk in search of small-town charm hasn't harmed McKinney; they came not to speed up the city but to slow themselves down. So they opened quaint restaurants (from cheap diners to gourmet eateries), charming antique stores, homey clothing boutiques, inviting used bookstores and beckoning bed-and-breakfasts. It's a place Doc Hollywood would love, a town where it's Groundhog Day every day, and in the fall and winter we can be found here celebrating "A Dickens Christmas" (the weekend after Thanksgiving, locals dress up in Victorian garb to welcome visitors in the holiday spirit) or drinking hot cocoa in the old county jail that's now a hot dining destination. We hate gentrification as much as the next guy who can't afford it, but at least the yuppies live on the other side of Central, in El Dorado--ya know, where the Starbucks went in.

The space that once held Baby Routh now houses two sister restaurants, Arcodoro and Pomodoro, joined at the hip to form a faux Sardinian village. The patio is especially appealing in good weather and provides a kind of village square where the young cool people, usually from the Arcodoro side, may mingle with old rich people, who tend to hang on the tighter, tonier Pomodoro side. It's just one big Euro-bar community, brought together by great Italian food and credit cards.

Ship's Lounge

Because they have all that a good bar needs: a pool table, a jukebox worth your quarters and cheap beer. Because it's much more comfortable than sitting on the tailgate of your truck, and the cops come by far less often. Because it feels like home within five minutes, and you never wanna leave after 10. Because you'd buy this place if you had the money. Because just talking about Ship's is making us thirsty.

What they do is called "volkssport," taken from the long-standing German tradition of doing leisurely 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) walks through interesting and attractive venues. This is a family affair, not a competition, despite the fact all finishers receive custom-designed medals or patches for their efforts. The idea is to make the walk at your own pace, even stopping to picnic if you choose. Such events are scheduled year-round in the Dallas area and throughout the state. For a fee of just $12, you can join the group--but there's no rule that says you have to be a card-carrying member to participate in their events. You can even bring the dog along if you've got a leash.

Need a little illegal excitement that doesn't involve sex? This street is an ever-popular location for the city's mostly younger crowd to gather and ruin the tires and expensive souped-up engines they bought by waiting tables. On a typical summer night, you need only to show up at about 10 p.m. and wait around. Soon, the parking lots of nearby businesses will fill with youths who are either planning to watch the illegal drag races or those who will actually take part. Take a spot near the entrance of the road, sit on your hood and wait. It takes only about five minutes from the time the first racers arrive until the place is crowded with cars and people and the air is filled with the noise of screaming tires and exhaust smoke. Take care, though; it will only be going on for a little while before the Arlington police arrive and bust anybody they can catch.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of