Best Kids Attraction 2004 | Dallas World Aquarium | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Dallas World Aquarium is a genuine tourist attraction, but not in a tacky way. It justifiably draws visitors for its re-creation of a rain forest environment and its dazzling array of aquariums, including a shark exhibit you can walk through via a glass-walled tunnel. It's more about spectacle than education, though the learning is there if you want it. The aquarium features many things you won't see anywhere else in the area, such as the "Leafy seadragons," a relative of the seahorse from southern Australia that looks like a rippling, fluttering oak leaf. There's also an outdoor penguin exhibit, a sea otter pool and salmon-pink flamingos. Kids will love the narrow, twisting fake-rock passageways that lead from one display to another--you really feel like you're in another world--and the educational function of the aquarium is never obtrusive.

Hank Vaughn

A dive, by definition, is what it is. That's not much to go on, but Louie's fits the description. From the outside, the place is singularly uninviting: a gray blotch among other nondescript buildings. Parking--good luck. Pull up alongside a curb in the iffy neighborhood or block the sidewalk across the street. Louie's permits no outside light into the place, and the lamps barely illuminate anything beyond the table. No big deal: not much to look at but hodgepodge decorations stuck haphazardly on the walls. Pitchers of iced tea sit open on the bar, absorbing all kinds of incidental flavor. The place, however, draws a solid crowd. They churn out great pizza--arguably the best (if not for Fireside Pies) in the city. Even better, the bartenders shake up an outstanding martini, surprising for a dive. The crowd ranges from neighborhood folks to upscale people dressing down for the evening. Besides, no one said a dive had to be a miserable, salmonella-inducing experience. Louie's is just a good place to hang out for a while before contemplating that dangerous walk back to the car.

Best Place to Go for a Romantic Rendezvous

Hotel ZaZa

Before we go any further, you should be aware that a stay at Hotel ZaZa is not cheap. Rooms range from $245 to $295. Suites start at $350 and end at a price where your credit card company gives you a courtesy call just to make sure someone hasn't stolen your Visa. But money's no object when romance is involved, right? OK, don't answer that. Just know that should you check your sense of fiscal responsibility at the door when you check in, you and yours will be treated to a glamorous weekend on L.A.'s Sunset Boulevard. Sure, sure, you'll still technically be in Dallas (snugly nestled in Uptown, to be exact), but as soon as you hand your keys to the valet, you'll never know the difference. The cuisine is top-notch, thanks to chef Stephan Pyles' Mediterranean-inflected Dragonfly. The rooms are luxurious yet lived-in, like you're house-sitting for a well-to-do friend. The staff become your own personal assistants during your stay, ready and willing to do whatever, whenever. The Urban Oasis (aka the pool) even makes Dallas summers bearable. For an added touch of El Lay, there's a better than good chance that you'll see a star or two. (Ozzy Osbourne, Christina Aguilera and Jamie Foxx have all stayed there, and that's just off the top of our head.) It's a great way to get away without getting away, if you know what we mean. The perfect place for romance. And exorbitant credit card charges.

Readers' Pick

White Rock Lake

You've done the warm-up. You've done the workout. Now it's time for the cool-down. And Down, once again, is your best bet. After a night of drinking/dining/dodging bullets in Dallas, you've grown weary. You've watched various Barbies hook up with various Kens. You've spilled various drinks on various designer jeans. And you've rubbed elbows till they're damn near raw. So now make your way over to Down, where you can sit, relax and actually enjoy your drink--instead of cradling it in your hands in fear of sloshing out what you paid too much for in the first place. The nightlife can be brutal, but Down can pick you up.

We work hard here at the Dallas Observer. We're constantly working. It's work, work, work. Yup, that's us. That's the service we provide to you, dear reader. The problem is--at least for the singles among our number--that doesn't leave us much time to get out there and meet people. Which, in turn, means that our chances of procreating are decidedly less than the rest of the population. Some might say that's because the majority of the people who work here are losers who seldom shower, but that would be unfair. (The losers part, anyway.) Ah, but there's hope for us yet. No matter how pathetic we are, even we can still get a date through It's Just Lunch. Tell them what kind of time you have and what kind of person you're looking to meet, and they'll hook you up. But some advice: Shower first. It helps, believe it or not.

Maybe that sounds like a give-up to you, the ultimate no-shit statement. (Or perhaps you would have preferred our initial answer: anywhere that leads out of Dallas.) So let us explain. We have a 1-year-old kid who didn't sleep the first, oh, 11 months of his existence, and when he did sleep it was only in his car seat, which meant plenty of days and nights spent rolling through this town looking for something to entertain our eyeballs to keep them open. No matter where we were, we always ended up circling the lake. Always. Didn't matter what time of day or night. And it wasn't just round and round and round till he woke up; that would have gotten old. No, we cruised up the side streets and down the roads to nowhere, through the Lakewood neighborhoods dotted with historic homes and fields that led to horse stables and every other nook and cranny we could find. Spend enough time over there and Dallas starts to look a whole lot prettier, because it looks like another city--one with a view. Even now, when the kiddo's wide awake, the family cruiser will find its way over to Forest Hills or Casa Linda Estates or Lake Highlands just to see what's happening in a neighborhood so much prettier than ours and yours, unless you're lucky enough to live in a Dallas with scenery.

Readers' Pick

White Rock Lake

Frozen drinks generally suffer from two problems: Heavy ice content waters down the alcohol, and men holding one start to question their own sexuality. No problem. Ciudad is an Oak Lawn establishment, and Republic sits in Uptown, where straight men commonly disguise themselves as characters from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Republic offers some astonishing drinks. They use fresh fruit in their purees and mix in premium spirits--Vox Raspberry in the frozen raspberry version and Smirnoff Orange Twist in the mango limeade drink. They also do a unique frozen mojito. For a guy sending drinks to a woman, they're perfect: sweet, but hiding a subtle little punch. If a man settles down with a magenta, pale orange or dull lime-colored slurpee...ah, hell. It's Uptown, and you never know. Ciudad, meanwhile, sells a unique thing called a Pom Pom, consisting of pomegranate and pineapple laced with a hefty dose of tequila. The pineapple adds a touch of sweetness to the more exotic base flavor, and the tequila, oh, the tequila. A few of these will really, mess you up.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Sometimes a restlessness plagues the mind, while the body is content to do absolutely nothing but sit, listen to music, maybe eat, definitely drink. Yeah, and smoking's on the list of vices, too. After the eyes adjust to the dim lights of the Landing, it becomes apparent that being there is like being at home, but better. Come in post-softball or in Prada and feel comfortable in the cushy booths nestled under beer lights. It doesn't matter that there's laundry to be done or mail to be opened. Once inside the Landing, the spell has been cast and all anyone can do is relax, have a drink and enjoy the Etta James, George Jones and Iggy Pop on the juke. See, at home, one might be distracted by productivity and sacrifice some important lounging. At Lakewood Landing, Lucille still calls to us from the frames on the wall, urging us to de-stress and unwind.

OK, we promised a few months ago we'd address this, and now it's time. Anywhere you go these days, you see young straight girls getting their drink on, then grinding each other on the dance floor. On its surface, this seems like a fantastic thing. OK, it is a fantastic thing. It's the good by-product of our society becoming Porn Nation, U.S.A. Casual and accepted bisexuality among women who leave the bar with men. The only problem is, it may be too widespread. One example: When we were at The Green Elephant earlier this year, we saw a dozen or more SMU girls doing this to each other. Turns out they were all straight, and all said they like to put on a show for the guys. But be careful, ladies. If you do it too much, it loses its danger, its sense of daring, its coolness. Of course, it's still hot. Don't get us wrong.

Best Reason to Come to Work Monday With a Wicked Hangover Wearing Sunday Night's Clothes


Most Mondays are a useless blur of team meetings and breakout meetings, with the occasional impromptu meeting to break up the monotony. No one gets any work done. So why not sit there with a churning stomach, a pounding head and the nauseating stench of stale smoke? Besides, you have other things to worry about, such as the name of the person you left asleep back at your apartment or the location of your car. "Naked Sunday" at Nikita forces the dying hours of the weekend to cling for a few more breaths. At 10 p.m. they dim the lights and crank the volume. Crowds pour in, vodka sloshes, soft-core porn appears on two flat-screen monitors and, for a moment, Saturday night returns. Patrons know that Monday lurks at 2 a.m., so they beat it back with the only weapon they have: massive doses of alcohol. Do Naked Sunday right and you won't think about the workweek until after you figure out where you are when the alarm rings Monday morning.

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