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.

Condom Sense

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."

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

It is a little slice of heaven in our urban hell, isn't it? The Dallas Arboretum with 66 acres of variously manicured green spaces and forest-y wilderness, plus 11 display gardens, which bloom and change with the seasons. The Arboretum is a "let the kids run wild" place, and stay-at-home moms use it liberally for those summer afternoons when the only alternative activity for a houseful of kids is homicide. For more things to do, adjacent White Rock Lake offers practically limitless venues, and under calmer adult supervision, kids can fish, feed the ducks, bike, bird-watch, paddle and sail. There are six great playgrounds and Dallas' first dog park. The Arboretum and White Rock Lake may actually be the best place to abandon your children for short stretches while you regain your parental sanity.

Readers' Pick

White Rock Lake

Guess it depends on the kid, doesn't it? A 9-year-old certainly isn't going to be swinging from a miniature jungle gym or crawling through a Technicolor tunnel--and if he or she is, we're really sorry. So if the kid's older, maybe you oughta think about SpeedZone or Stone Works Climbing Gym or Dave & Buster's. But if you're needing a place to entertain a bunch of really young ones, between the ages of 1 and 4, there's no better place than Gymboree, which you can rent out for a party and not have to worry about the cleanup later. One of their instructors will lead Mommy and Daddy and the young pup through an hour's worth of activities, including everything from a little Hokey Pokey to games beneath the parachute. You can then retire to a smaller room for cupcakes and other goodies, and there's always the goody bag you get on your way out that usually has a coupon for a hefty discount at one of Gymboree's clothing establishments, which comes in handy after your child rips his pants at a Gymboree birthday party.

Readers' Pick

Chuck E. Cheese's

Various locations

At some point, people in this city must come to terms with pretension. It works both ways, you know. Denizens of downscale hangouts such as Duke's or Champps scorn people decked in the latest Michael Kors. Folks slurping drinks at Republic or other Uptown joints refuse to accept guys with shirts tucked in. The infamous membership list at Sense is just another way to define the audience. What makes this place a great bar is the vibe. In many bars, friends enter in pairs or groups and form separate fortresses throughout the room. At Sense, people mingle--as individuals or groups. Suburbanites chat with Uptown types, professionals with students, white with black. Even birthday gatherings with reserved seating invite strangers to join in. The list (if your name's not on the clipboard, entry can be a bit more challenging) generates that vibe: Insiders accept other patrons equally, simply because they entered the room. By setting itself up as a pretentious place, Sense created the least conceited atmosphere. Can't get on the list? 'Bout time you ditched the old tank top and khakis.

On a picturesque little corner in Bishop Arts, with a generous awning over the sidewalk and small round tables inside and out, Nodding Dog is a sophisticated hang-out for Cliffies and their dogs--a place whose every battered folding chair and aging sofa calls out for you to take a load off, sip some java and relax. The name is apt: Watch this place long enough, and you will pick up the pattern. First the dogs begin to nod off. Not too much later, their masters start to droop and snuffle in the midafternoon quiet. Where else can you do that? Fall asleep at a table on Lower Greenville and Avi Adelman will put a picture of you on his Web site! Not so Nodding Dog--the epitome of life on the cooler side of the river.

Lizard Lounge

For thumping beats and bangin' bodies, the Lizard Lounge is the still-reigning king of the Dallas dance scene. For one, some of the country's hottest DJs spin here when they come through town, and house DJs include such Zen masters as DJ Merritt, host of 102.1's legendary Edge Club, and drum 'n' bass maestro DJ Titan. For another, the place is usually packed--the young, the younger and the just barely legal show their moves (and their midriffs) on the humid dance floor. Third, Lizard Lounge is host to both "Neo Gothic Industrial Electro Crash" nights and the Porn Star Ball. Finally, a place to wear our pasties and our black nail polish.

Readers' Pick

W.W. Fairfields

147 N. Plano Road, Richardson

972-231-3844

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