Best Hands-on Kids Experience 2004 | The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Little kids like to touch stuff. The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park lets them do that every Saturday at noon. It isn't to be confused with the much more expensive, privately operated Dallas World Aquarium in the West End. That's a fine place for many other reasons (see Best Kids Attraction), but you can't touch. You just look. At the Dallas Aquarium, however, staff members let you touch, hold or gently prod sea urchins, hermit crabs, starfish and other creatures, which are housed in a kid-level tank on the north end of the building. From slippery to prickly to slimy, kids can't get enough of the amazing array of textures. And here's something else you'll like: Parking is free, and admission is only $3 for adults, $1.50 for children.

For the past couple of years, The Ginger Man has dominated this category. And, granted, the place serves a smorgasbord of beers, but this year we were looking for something a little different, a bar with a little more character. And after much research, we found it in Stan's Blue Note, a Lower Greenville joint that has character (and characters) out the wazoo. For example, all beers are served in 16-ounce Mason jars. C'mon, how cool is that? And for those who can swill beer like a champ, there are T-shirts for completing all the brews: one for the 100 or so bottled beers and one for draft beers, of which there are about 50 varieties, with a few ciders thrown in, too. Stan's also serves lunch and has two front patios, which are prime spots for the annual St. Patrick's Day shenanigans that take place on Lower Greenville.

Readers' Pick

The Ginger Man

2718 Ball St.


On a ballot from one of our worldly and learned readers last year, the answer in this category was "shoulder." We laughed about it then and still did until recently. Then we licked our way to the Tootsie Roll center of this particular Tootsie Pop: This wasn't necessarily a joke. Someone has probably actually had one--or maybe even both--of their shoulders pierced. Which led to the larger question of "Where would you go if you wanted to do that?" As it turned out, the answer was relatively simple. You'd go to Obscurities, the same place you'd go if you wanted anything pierced. The colorful and capable staff, including piercers Allen Falkner and Tasha Halverson, will hook you up no matter what you're willing to get hooked up. And since it's a tattoo parlor as well, it's one-stop shopping. That's always a good thing.

Readers' Pick

Tigger's Tattoos

2602 Main St.


Forget them fancy import beers, son. Tonight, you're drinkin' a Lone Star. Want a little history? It's all over these walls. That messy graffiti, been here long's I can recall. Back in the day, we'd write our college emblems up on these walls. Heck, Lois Adair over there gave us the Marks-a-lots to use. She's a fine one, Lois, been runnin' this place for 40 years now. 'Course, they moved since it opened in 1963, and now it's famous, seein' as how Don Henley used Adair's to shoot part of that video about JFK dyin', and Pat Green shot that other video, and hell, I can't tell ya the scores of musicians done recorded themselves at Adair's. See, son, Dallas ain't all about Uptown and fancy cars and real estate. Sometimes, it's about good times with real down-home folk, music that feels like home, a little Patsy Cline on the jukebox. Just about any night is a good night at Adair's, son. Now pass me a bottle of that old skull popper. Daddy's gotta dance.

Readers' Pick

W.W. Fairfields

147 N. Plano Road, Richardson


Flummoxed by whether to call Minc a gay bar or a post-gay hive of hipsterdom, we've given up all attempts to pigeonhole the place. There is often a saucy drag queen at the door, it's true, but Minc has become the most refreshing bar in Dallas to be gay without shouting out your queerness, that creeping feeling of politicization we often experience while on Cedar Springs (when all we want is to hang out). The gay boys tend to self-segregate in Minc's spacious back yard, where there's plenty of room for neck-craning cruising. But sprinkled amidst them, and throughout the rest of this large watering hole, are young straight cosmopolitan couples or friends who seem right at home. Impromptu dance circles often form in front of the DJ booth, and there's room--though not more quiet--in the bar's front area for those who want to try to converse. Minc welcomes whoever ends up there; it's a self-selecting democracy of hip.

Readers' Pick

JR's Bar & Grill

3923 Cedar Springs Road


Look, we're advocates of making out anywhere. Movie theaters? Fine. Bathroom stalls? Whatever. As long as it is the pure and simple make-out, we're all for it. (Anything more is kind of, y'know, slutty.) But there is no finer place to make out than downtown Dallas on a breezy fall night, face flushed with a few glasses of wine. First of all, no one will care, because it's downtown, and people are selling crack and beating up tourists somewhere close by. Second, because the whole place is kind of dangerous (see reason one), which gives us an illicit thrill we haven't felt since high school. Third, it has a cinematic appeal--more Woody Allen than John Hughes' manicured suburban parks (which we preferred when we were 16, along with the back seat of Chevy Novas). A revitalized downtown is good for everyone in this city. Let the suits take care of the business side. We'll bring the love.

Our favorite bar in college was a saloon-type joint furnished with wooden tables that had been defaced by years of carving and writing. Who loves whom, who graduates when and who thinks who or what "RULES!!!" were common announcements on the ad hoc message boards. We loved that place. And we love Adair's because it reminds us of it. On one particular evening at Adair's, after many pitchers o' Miller Lite, nostalgia got the better of us, and we asked our waitress to bring us a Sharpie. Can't remember what we wrote on the wooden booth that reminded us of home, but we do remember that the Sharpie ended up in our purse. So, Adair's, we owe you a Sharpie--and an apology. We're pretty sure, though, that in our stupor of hops, barley and sentiment we royally overtipped. We hope that covers us for the petty theft and for any words we may have misspelled with said Sharpie.

Lofts in Plano? Strange but true. Eastside Village offers apartment living above street-level retail shops in the middle of "historic" downtown Plano. The nearby DART station makes zipping to work in downtown Dallas or Mockingbird Station for a movie at the Angelika a breeze. Residents can walk to nearby restaurants, bars, a small farmers market and antique stores, and the ArtCentre of Plano and two theaters are within strolling distance. The apartments range in size from efficiencies with 466 square feet, lofts with 700 square feet to two-bedrooms with 1,300 square feet finished in urban style, with high ceilings, hardwood floors and interior brick walls. Our favorite amenity isn't found in too many urban settings: a courtyard filled with hammocks. Still, the idea that you don't need a car to live in Plano is revolutionary.

We're way too young to remember when there were no vibrators, only "massagers," and no condoms, just "prophylactics." We suppose that it's just a nitpicky matter of terminology, but a visit to Condom Sense's antique massager and prophylactic display reminds us of a more discreet time. Before Trojan Twisted Pleasure Condoms, men carried Sheik Rubber Prophylactics. Before the Rabbit Pearl, women relied on Dr. Macaura's Blood Circulator or the Handy Hannah massager to "relax tired muscles." The collection also includes items distributed to servicemen, such as booklets on the dangers of unprotected sex, matchbooks with the reminder "V.D. can be prevented" and the Dough Boy Prophylactic Kit. One of our favorites is the 1930s-era Texide Rubber Sheaths--the box depicts helpful natives tapping rubber trees (thanks, guys!). We doubt you'll find anyone to custom-make your rubbers nowadays, but while you're sneaking a peek at the old stuff, you can discreetly pick up some, uh, modern protection.

Overheard from a conversation between two women standing at the bar on a Tuesday evening: "I'm just gonna have one drink. I don't have the breasts to hang out here."

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