It's not, strictly speaking, a scenic wonderland. But this is North Texas, so you probably already knew that. If you want your nature tamed, try the Dallas Arboretum. L.B. Houston offers a narrow dirt track winding roughly four miles through wooded Trinity River bottomland. What will you see? The backsides of a bunch of trees, the river, brush and the occasional squirrel, turtle or water moccasin. You know, nature. Don't worry about the snakes, though. Just keep your eyes open for the bicyclists, because this trail is popular with what we laughingly call "mountain" bike riders. In North Texas. Snort.
The Old Monk
There are several elements to a good bar. A good bar must have an outdoor sitting area to enjoy the six days of nice weather we have each year. (Check.) Inside, the bar must be dark, for ambience and illicit hookups. (Check.) The waitstaff must be friendly but not fake, knowledgeable but not pushy. (Check.) The beer selection must be ample. (Check.) The clientele must have a median age above 29 but have enough pieces of 21-year-old male and female eye candy to make the view pleasant. (Check.) It must have good food. (Oh, sweet heaven, is that ever a check. The calamari, the fish and chips, the mussels, the cheese board...) And it must have a pub-like, worn-in feel. (Check.) That is the Old Monk. That's why it rules.

Sense
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You have to be on some sort of list to get into the place, which seems like nothing more than an appeal to snobbery in the extreme. Yet the list is not based on the patrons' net worth, on the cars they lease or on more ephemeral measures--such as "cool." Any resourceful person can maneuver his way into the exclusive club by working connections, placing a few calls, befriending the right bartender. By limiting entry to those who really wish to hang out there, Sense ensures a vibe unique to Dallas nightlife. People on the inside mingle and talk and flirt without regard to real-world status. The setting is pleasant, with low-slung leather seating and a pulse that facilitates rather than dominates conversation. As a result, young and old, gold diggers and suburbanites, trend-followers and common folk rub shoulders and even (gasp!) communicate as equals. A good bar makes you feel comfortable, and Sense is just a good bar.

It's a little out of the city, but the 10-year-old wooden playground is as popular as it ever has been, and for good reason. The castle, swings and bridge are probably the biggest attractions for little kids, and the playground has a pavilion, barbecue areas, ball fields, 18 picnic tables, restrooms and a hiking and bike trail. The city will celebrate the park's decade anniversary in October. Because it's one of the city's most popular parks, it's advisable to call to reserve space at the pavilion.
Lakewood Landing
After a nasty deadline, a fight with the guy at the cleaners or a good ol' traffic jam, sometimes we just don't wanna go home. We need time to wind down, catch our breath and have a drink. The Landing is our place. Out of downtown, but close enough should nighttime activities bring us back, it's in a great location, has ample parking and touts a fine menu should imbibing not be the only plan. The staff is fast, friendly and exceptionally welcoming (even late at night and even if business is slow). The jukebox rocks out with Iggy Pop, Hank Williams and everything in between, and that's just the way we like it. The Landing feels like home, but with people-watching options and no telemarketers calling...and pool...and television...and the fine, smile-inducing memory of the greatest bartender to walk the earth, Lucille.

Best Place to Sniff Some Dallas Cheese

Nikita

We love everything about Nikita: the Bond-girl-gone-bad waitresses, the vodka bar-restaurant's chic Eurostyle, the surprisingly good food. But there's nothing we love more about Nikita than les femmes. If you're always hearing about the big, beautiful, rich Dallas girls but never see them, stop by here. Flesh, loud music, pricey liquor--what doesn't this bar have?

We speak from experience, and we know others who can, too. Open the tattered, straining door and enter a world of music...and romance? Yep. To be honest, we don't have enough digits to count the many couples that have met browsing the racks of CD World. Maybe it's the small space that urges one to take notice of a hottie picking up a mutual favorite. Maybe it's the fine selection that automatically validates the taste of anyone who dares enter the land of the music snob. But as music snobs ourselves, we require our significant others to share our musical snobbery, and we value a place that limits the Ronstadt and somehow incites romance. We're serious. It's a hot spot for the young and musical; we just counted 15 CD World-born couples, and we haven't even finished.

Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas
It's not as though Dallas is much to look at, really, no majestic mountains to awe the mind or emerald oceans to stir the emotions, no cozy walk along the Trinity River with freeway traffic zooming by. Not yet anyway. So we romantics have to content ourselves with things more man-made. And the thing that moves our hearts and opens our wallets is a weekend getaway at the Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas. Without even leaving the county, you and that significant someone can while away a sizzling summer day at the hotel's lagoon-style swimming pool, which is built for intimate conversation. A pampering waitstaff keeps the iced towels, ice water and frozen margaritas flowing. For as little as $175 a night, you will also have access to the hotel's well-rigged health club. Massages, golf and other amenities are likely to raise the price, though packages are available. But we are talking about one night, leaving the city without leaving the city, a quiet 24 to 36 hours so you can rediscover why you fell in love in the first place. And for God's sake, don't be foolish enough to take the kids. They'll be fine.
Half Price Books
Go ahead, head to Half Price on a Sunday night. Go to the art/photography section. Peruse the shelves and pick up a book. Flip through it, gaze at the pictures. Ten bucks says that unless the store is inexplicably empty, you'll get hit on. Not into art? Fine. Just head to mystery, true crime or philosophy. The plan is the same; the people and interests have just changed a bit. The accuracy of the description of this phenomenon given to us by an employee truly astounded us. We didn't believe a word, even chalked it up to retail boredom-related hallucinations. Then we went. We stood. We perused and picked up. We flipped and gazed and then...tap, tap. "Hmm, are you a fan of Man Ray, too? I'm Rob."

XPO Lounge's Thursday-night sing-along, hosted by DJ Mr. Rid, is the gold standard for karaoke, bringing in local musicians and locals who just think they are to play human jukebox. DJ Mr. Rid brings an impeccable lineup of songs from which to choose, from karaoke classics (Frank Sinatra, Cheap Trick and such) to rare finds such as Pulp's "This is Hardcore" (which was lovingly laid down by The Falkon's Wanz Dover on a disc capturing the Scaraoke magic, XPO Gold). The songs get better as the night goes on and the liquor goes down. Or maybe we just think they do.

Landmark Magnolia
Is it unprofessional to admit that, on occasion, we've attended press screenings with triple Maker's Marks in hands that should have been holding notebooks and pens? It is? Then we're not admitting anything, only suggesting that if every theater had a well-stocked bar like the Magnolia's, then maybe Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Cold Creek Manor might seem a little more tolerable; if everything's good on weed, then everything's at least OK on hooch. Hey, you can see Matchstick Men anywhere, but nowhere else in town can you see it all drinky, and nowhere else can you take a bathroom and smoke break without having to leave the building. (At Cityplace, we go in the parking lot.) We love the Magnolia for the movies, but we stay for the drinks. Because we have to sober up.

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