It's no longer a question what body part you'd like pierced--the best piercers in Dallas can do them all. The real question--well, wait, there are actually two questions that separate the best from the rest. How clean is the piercing parlor? And how helpful are they with customers? The first question, that's easy to answer. They all pretty much are. If they weren't, they wouldn't be in business long. But in the helpful department, one stands out: Ritual Body. The staff boasts of having the largest body jewelry selection in the pierce-o-plex. And after your piercing, not only does Ritual's staff piercer trade you a free T-shirt for a coupon, he or she tells you about all the soreness you can expect in the coming weeks and how to care for it. And if you forget, Ritual's Web site gives you detailed lists of what to do and when. Plus, Ritual does tattoos and henna body painting. It's one-stop shopping at this piercing shop--and that's the point.

Readers' Pick
Obscurities Tattoo/Piercing 4000-B Cedar Springs Road 214-559-3706
Don't be put off by Rob Vilarreal's obsession with pompadours and lambchops. Sure, he prefers to put a little hepcat into your hairstyle, but he can handle just about any cut you can dream up, from high-and-tight to low-and-loose (OK, you come up with the opposite to high-and-tight). His tonsorial talents do come to the fore when retro is the order of the day, however, as one might expect from the amount of '50s memorabilia crammed into his tiny shop across from Fair Park. In fact, there's only room for one customer throne, so you might want to make an appointment if you don't want to wait behind Rob's legions of loyal customers.

Readers' Pick
SportClips Haircuts Multiple locations
Everybody knows tanning contributes to skin cancer, premature aging and a host of other dermatological issues. But everybody also knows that looking tanned means looking good. So how are image-conscious Dallasites supposed to resist the temptation when there's a tanning salon on every freakin' corner? Answer: They don't. And the best fake-bake chain (and the place where "the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders tan") is Palm Beach Tan. The various locations make tanning easy, and they offer a wide range of lotions and potions to revive your skin after you've spent 20 minutes (or 20 years) damaging it. For the non-UV-ray-lovers, Palm Beach also has Mystic Tan, a spray-on tan that is totally safe and will fool even the most eagle-eyed tanning expert. If you're gonna tan your hide, then PBT is A-OK.
To win this category, a shop has to cover several problem gift receivers. The frilly grandmother. The distant aunt. The whimsical uncle. The new sister-in-law. The tinkering dad. And of course, Mom. In previous years, maybe you've resorted to goofy gifts, giving tchotchkes that barely graze their interests. This year, Urban Flowers & Gift Market can help you give loved ones something they'll like. In addition to a variety of breathtaking flowers and modern, unusual vases, the shop carries Elizabeth Beck stemware (wrapped with wire and colorful stones), Creature Comfort gourmet pet treats, The Thymes bath goodies, Votivo candles, Phat Tran silk purses, Love Testers (glass/liquid experiments), newsprint vases (our favorite, of course) and a ton of pieces by local artists. Their jewelry is fun and funky and ranges from around $5 to $75. We bet you'll even find a little something you'll keep for yourself. And you should be rewarded--especially for buying distant Aunt Audra those funny chattering teeth last year. Who knew she wore dentures! The horror!

Readers' Pick
Mark & Larry's Stuff 2614 Elm St. 214-747-8833
Imagine a garage sale where the only things being peddled are top-notch kiddie clothes--the kind you hate to part with, even though Baby Junior hasn't been able to fit into his onesie for three years. Then imagine if that garage sale took place in an auditorium and was filled not only with one family's stuff, but the toss-outs of a few hundred families needing the room and the scratch. That's precisely what this twice-yearly children's consignment sale is: a place where mommies from all over the city come to buy and sell what Divine Consign's Web site touts as "the highest quality gently worn children's and maternity clothing, toys, books, games, videos, baby equipment (strollers, car seats, etc.) and baby and children's furniture." In other words, anything and everything you need and didn't know you needed, times 100. Divine Consign holds two sales: a fall-winter event in September and another spring-summer sale in April. We've taken stuff there, but still walked out down a few dollars. Leave it to the missus to find that Little People airport the kid never knew he needed and now can't live without. As a bonus, if you bring stuff to sell (and it gets approved, because, after all, it has to be of high quality), you get first pickin' of the stuff other people are parting with.

Readers' Pick
(Best Kids' Clothing Store) Gap Kids Multiple locations
Froggies 5 & 10
We hate getting older, but not for reasons most people think. We're fine with gray hair and, frankly, it appears as though the paunch is unavoidable. What really sucks is how, as the years pile on, it becomes less acceptable to play with toys. So we step into blissful Froggie's, where everybody's a kid. The friendly staff encourages you to push buttons on farm animal noisemakers and give Walter the Farting Dog a squeeze. Froggie's folk really want you to check out science kits, Gnomads, Wonder Woman lunchboxes, Pull My Finger pens, glider kits, toy horses and the other fun stuff on the kid-level shelves. They're happy helping customers pick out gifts like Inventive Travelware luggage tags ("You Don't Look Like My Owner") or Wash Away Your Sins bath products and even provide what's needed to wrap them in. They carry old-timey candy lines like Banana Bikes and Blackjack gum. For the younger bunch, there's Tadpoles, a connected storefront that features children's literature, clothing and toddler toys. Even Fric and Frac, the longtime store cats, help out with selection by lounging in shopping baskets or on the checkout counter. Froggie's proves some toy stores don't just want to make money--they want people to have fun.

Readers' Pick
Toys R Us Multiple locations

Best Kids' Book and Video Store for Cheap Bastards

Dallas Public Library

The stacks are packed at the local library--not only with the obvious kiddie classics, but with popular videos, too, among them everything the Wiggles have ever released. Better still, you can renew online, which means we still have our copy of Wiggle Bay some four months later, and it ain't overdue yet (far as we know). But the books are sort of a bonus (not to mention a given). What we love most are the pretty regular events various branches host for the kiddos, during which a librarian or other special guest will huddle all the young 'uns together and read from a classic work. During one recent visit, our boy was asked to gather 'round for a performance of Where the Wild Things Are, during which the children were invited to read and roar along.
In 2003, Kristen DeRocha developed something no parent (kangaroos excepted) thought was possible. She created a way to securely carry a baby and use both arms for another--or possibly two--tasks. Trial and error at her sewing machine finally produced the first Hotsling, a pouch-like holder for baby using no rings, snaps or fasteners. DeRocha, at the time a teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School, started whipping out Hotslings as fast as people requested them. Hotslings became a full-time gig and eventually DeRocha developed stretch cotton, fleece, reversible and Pool Pouch styles in seven sizes. The company, though based in Little Forest Hills, has expanded to production sites elsewhere in Texas and Kansas. Being all about the little ones, Hotslings donates most scrap fabric to charity and is sweatshop-free. Sizing charts are available on the Hotslings Web site, but local moms and dads (check out the cool masculine fabrics before you go naysaying) try one on for size at Lakewood's Green Living. Once you're "hotslung," DeRocha provides complete instructions on the three different ways to carry one's child: "cradle," "kangaroo" (told you so) and "hip carry." Oh, baby, what a great invention.
As much as it may surprise some of our readers, the Observer is a kid-friendly place. We like 'em and sometimes they even stop by to hang out. Another surprise: We don't mind splurging on them every now and then--as long as the splurge is incredibly adorable. And that is exactly what Claudine Roberts offers with her handmade clothing line mish MOSH. The line is for girls and boys, and Roberts personally designs everything. The business, which she runs from her home, is several years old and has grown over the years, but not so much that she doesn't have time to become friendly with new customers and provide a quick turnaround for baby shower or birthday gifts. You can't buy mish MOSH in stores, so when you stop by to pick up that adorable dress with cute fall colors, make sure you pick up a bunch of Roberts' business cards. Chances are that all of your friends will be asking where you got that absolutely darling little dress.
Whenever the weather's lousy or we're just looking for something fun to do with Junior Boy that doesn't involve a rusty playground, we like to head over to the Learning Express toy store in Snider Plaza, where an hour can turn into an afternoon and you can escape without spending a penny if you play your cards (or trains) right. See, this toy store is staffed by people who actually love kids, which means they let the tykes run loose, play with the toys and they never, ever hover or scold the wee ones. We spent an hour not long ago playing with a device that inflates long balloons and shoots them skyward with a high-pitched whine, the very same sound our little one made every time we let a balloon loose. Fact is, the place ain't that expensive, so if you do have to walk out with something, chances are you'll escape with plenty of change left for a trip down the sidewalk to Dough Monkey, where you can watch from the outside window as they make the very cookies your kids will devour about five seconds later.

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