Best Place for a Walk in August 2004 | Dallas Arboretum Fern Dell | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

On the shore of White Rock Lake, the Dallas Arboretum is one of those city treasures that many residents still don't know about. Those who do often visit the arboretum only around Easter when the azaleas--with 2,400 varieties--are in glorious bloom, or in the fall for the magnificent mums. But on those days when the thermometer hits 95 degrees, take a picnic and head for the Palmer Fern Dell in the Jonsson Color Garden. The misters that keep the moisture-loving ferns and pond plants thriving also make the temperature plummet more than 20 degrees. Or maybe it just feels like it. Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day). Adults $7, seniors $6, children 3 to 12 $4. Parking $4.

OK, so honestly, if you attend an Art of Exotic Dancing workshop, taught by the spunky Clarissa Pierro, you are one of the fully clothed exotic dancers. Oh, and you're a woman. Pierro teaches the workshops at various gyms and studios around Dallas, and for a mere $79, women can unleash their sensuality and learn to feel good in their own bodies--no matter what shape or size. The environment is completely supportive (even if the idea is a little intimidating at first) as students learn seductive walking, hip rolls and some floor work to impress their partners or just learn for the hell of it. The experience is invigorating and fun...and better for the self-esteem than any support group we know of.

Here's the best wedding advice you'll ever get: Spend your wedding night in Dallas. Regardless of the fabulous honeymoon you have planned, stay here for your wedding night. After a long hard day of getting married, the last thing you need is to rush around, change clothes, pack or repack, rush to the airport, cram yourselves into cramped seats, try to sleep, etc. It's much nicer to enjoy your reception, dance more, drink more and spend more time in your lovely outfits with your lovely friends and family. Then, have the limo driver drop you downtown at the Fairmont, where you'll make such a smashing entrance, even strangers will applaud. Seriously. The Fairmont's a beautiful, traditional hotel with consistently excellent service. Every guest room has a perfect city skyline view, is very comfortably furnished and soundproof. The Fairmont offers a "Romance Package" where you can choose a deluxe room ($249) or a suite ($299) and get champagne and chocolates in your room and a continental breakfast in bed.

Want to exercise while wearing a large straw hat? Like to watch the sun set while working out? You don't have to attend Harvard to crew. Check out the new recreational rowing club, White Rock Boathouse Inc., which has restored the 1930s boathouse and provides rowing shells--three singles, one double and a racing shell--for the use of members. "Most people don't know how to scull, so we give lessons," says Ginger Twichell. She and club member Sam Leake charge $50 for private lessons, $75 for lessons for two. The shells have sliding seats, so the rowing motion gives an all-body workout. "It's very rhythmic," Twichell says. "You can get in a Zen-like state. It's very quiet out there, and you see the lake from a whole different angle." Membership is $300 per year, which gives you access to the boats and expertise of the members; go to to download an application. "You just reserve a boat, show up and take off," Twichell says.

The rumor's been that the reason Hailey's is the swankest, nicest, classiest rock-and-roll club north of the Gypsy Tea Room is that it was never supposed to be a haven for indie rockers. Instead, it was designed for jazz and blues artists, and the disposable income-ready fans attracted by that "more adult" music. But the youth market was more profitable, so a switch was made, and the hipsters paying the cover got to benefit from the fancy digs. It's a great story. But it's just not true. Owner Eric Hill wanted a club like no other, meaning no barn wood and neon signs, but rock was always part of the equation, along with the blues and jazz (the University of North Texas' award-winning jazz school is minutes away). There's a little jazz sprinkled in on occasion, but the calendar's usually booked with buzzworthy rock bands, dance nights and even Hipsters Balls because, despite the smoove façade, Hailey's has always been ready to rock.

The jukebox is filled with classic country, '70s rock and a few blues brothers; Christmas lights line the area above the bar, and a stream of water trickles from one section of a leaky ceiling tile. KC's II, in all its glory, is a badass little barroom on Northwest Highway that serves up Bud in the bottle and anything else as strong as you want it. KC's patrons are the epitome of the Common Man--no frills, no fuss. They're friends, too--or maybe just friendly--and they fully comprehend the concept of "come as you are." And we like that. We also like the dirty joke we heard the last time we were there.

Customers and tenants alike complain about the tough parking situation at Mockingbird Station. Folks anxiously cruise the shops during peak hours, holding up the line of cars for minutes at a time while they wait for some 17-year-old to quit fumbling with her keys, get in her damned Audi and make her precious space available. It's not that there aren't enough parking spaces--there's underground parking on the east side of the shops and plenty of covered and adjacent spots to the north. But it just seems so far. Smart MS shoppers, though, know the secret. Go the service road on northbound Central Expressway, take it about 50 yards or so, then enter the near-secret covered lot that allows you to exit between Silver Moon and Virgin Megastore. When you're done, bam, you whip out onto the service road, no parking hassle at all. And parking is important to us, because we're old and cranky.

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.


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