Twenty years ago, old-timers will tell you, Frisco was dirt roads and corn fields. Now it's rapidly becoming like the rest of Dallas. There remains one patch of dirt amidst all this urban sprawl where one can pet a donkey, ride a horse or simply smell the aroma of fresh manure. It's the Frisco Horse Park. It's right off Highway 121, across the street from 7-Eleven, down a rutted dirt road, through a field of dying dandelions, beyond a chipped white fence. The clapboard office, rumor has it, was once a whorehouse. Now it's where you pay $35 to ride a horse for an hour. Better yet, pay $5 to put your kiddo on a pony for 10 minutes. But you better hurry, because before you know it, it will all be gone.
Cedar Hill State Park
If you like the outdoors, you should probably move to a place where they don't allow every river to get all sullied up with beer cans and Funyons bags. But if you can't move, there are a number of woodsy options that are surprisingly close. Perhaps the best place to go camping is Cedar Hill State Park. This "urban nature preserve" includes 355 campsites, most of them fairly wooded. Each site has water, electricity, a fire ring, a lantern pole and a picnic table, and all are within walking distance of restrooms with hot showers. If you're not a sissy, there are 30 more campsites with no amenities whatsoever. Besides camping, there are more than 15 miles of mountain biking trails, a preserved 19th-century farm and the Joe Pool Reservoir, where you can swim, ride jet skis or just chill out on a house boat.
Onstage he burns with the sexy intensity of a young Marlon Brando (head shaved Colonel Kurtz-style), the subtle passion of Ed Harris and sometimes the borderline serial killer rage of Kevin Spacey at his scariest. Standing still, Clay Yocum, 29, is the most interesting actor on any stage and the best young thesp to come this way in years. In his local debut in WingSpan's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, he gave a performance so raw and sexual it made the audience feel like voyeurs. Next he played the racist rube with a killer fastball in WaterTower's hit run of Take Me Out. Recently he won the plum role of Biff Loman in Classical Acting's Death of a Salesman. In real life, the University of Oklahoma grad is a gentle sort. He started acting as a child, moving with his mom to L.A. for a year when he was 11 to make casting rounds. Now he works with troubled students at a Flower Mound middle school by day and thrills audiences at night. "I'm humbled and overwhelmed with the opportunities I've had in the last year," says Yocum. Sounds like a great start to an acceptance speech.
Heritage Farmstead Museum
Who knew that vast herds of tongue-wagging, snot-nosed, dust-covered cattle once passed through the Big D on their way to Kansas, where they would be carved into rump roasts and rib eyes? Well, most everybody, but it's easy to forget, because other than the Dallas Cowboys and Western Warehouse, you'd never guess Dallas was once a cow town. Thank the Lord for the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano for preserving a bit of the Old West and reminding us that for all its romance, the era kinda sucked. Check out the sheep, the one-room school house, the rusting tractors, the herb garden and the chicken coop. And then get in your car, blast the A/C and thank God that you were born 150 years later.
It's impossible to listen to Gary Floyd sing without smiling. Just can't happen. Long one of Dallas' favorite singer-songwriters, Gary has set hearts aflutter at local nightclubs and piano bars for years with his laid-back charm and velvety voice. He has released five splendid CDs featuring original tracks, cover songs and Christmas music. A favorite is 2004's Unbound, which lays down track after track of terrific tunes, especially the haunting title song. Accompanying himself on piano and armed with baby blues and a killer smile, Floyd sings with a catch in his voice that will catch you right in the heart. No longer content simply to sit behind a piano, Floyd gracefully made the transition from singer to star by appearing in Contemporary Theatre of Dallas' production of Pump Boys and Dinettes. Subsequent turns in King David (Lyric Stage) and Aida (Uptown Players), followed by this summer's triumph singing his head off and taking it all off in the demanding leading role in The Full Monty (Theatre Three), have solidified Floyd's status as Dallas' hottest musical theater star.
Escapade 2009
The parking lot is big enough for a Six Flags. The cavernous dance hall feels like a gutted Wal-Mart. This is a club so big and so popular that it's easy to get lost here. If you love to dance but feel stupid doing it, this is the perfect place to go. No one will notice. It's tough to single out one place as the best Latin club in town because Latin encompasses so many nationalities and musical styles, from reggaeton to hip-hop to salsa and merengue. But Escapade 2009 has a little bit of something for everyone. Downstairs they play Latin pop and rock as well as hip-hop and reggaeton, from Shakira to Mana to Daddy Yankee. Upstairs is more traditional music, such as salsa or merengue. 2009 is hands down the most popular Latin club in Dallas: It draws anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 people each weekend night.
With so many awards shows becoming drawn-out snoozefests, the night of theater honors called the Column Awards offers a much-needed change of pace. The creation of actor/blogger John Garcia, this zippy event honors excellence throughout the DFW theatrical community. The winners are determined not by stuffy committees but by the subscribers to Garcia's biweekly blog, The Column. With some 8,000 subscribers eligible, this makes it a true "people's choice." And boy, do these people vote. In droves. This awards show is more party than pomp, however, and this year's seventh annual gala managed to present 56 awards and eight splashy musical production numbers in a mere two hours. How? A fast pace and no acceptance speeches. This year's show offered the additional allure of a real celebrity in the person of Broadway and film star Anthony Rapp (star of the stage and film versions of Rent). Gala No. 8 will be held in February or March. Applause to The Column Theatre Awards Gala, too, for donating all the money raised from ticket sales to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.
Easily the best-kept secret in the tony local opera enclave is the annual vocal competition for up-and-coming singers sponsored by The Dallas Opera Guild. Usually held in mid- to late March at Gooch Auditorium at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the competition was founded nearly 20 years ago to aid in the development of young opera singers. The auditions are open to all Texas residents between the ages of 18 and 30, and the awards are funded entirely through contributions garnered by Guild members. An afternoon preliminary round of auditions narrows the field to a top 10 who return in the evening to sing two arias. The level of singing ranges from satisfactory to sublime, and the repertoire represents all eras of operatic literature. A snooty blue-ribbon panel of judges makes the final calls, but one of the most fiercely contested battles is for the People's Choice Award which gives mere mortals the opportunity to participate. First-place winner in 2006 was the elegant Takesha Mesh Kizart, a 2003 UNT grad. But bringing down the house was youngster Steven LaBrie, 18, who sang with polish and panache beyond his years. As if enjoying the artistry of these exciting young singers isn't excuse enough to show up, a champagne and dessert reception is held after the singing is over. This event is free and open to the public. Bravo!
Bend Studio
Be sure to wear clean socks if you're planning to attend the Intimate Evening Concert Series at Bend Studio. The place is a yoga studio by day, and you'll be asked to remove your shoes at the door. That's intimate, for sure, but being that close to the feet of 80-plus strangers is worth it. Shows at Bend are small, smoke-free affairs and an excellent alternative to the loud, crowded venues you would normally have to brave in order to see singer-songwriters such as Trish Murphy and Charlie Sexton. The series is the brainchild of Bend owner and yoga instructor Ally David. And besides being advertised by mostly word-of-mouth in the beginning, the first shows were a success, and now Bend offers a full schedule with weekly events. Way to go, Ally. Color us impressed.
KD Studio doesn't just teach actors how to hit their marks and not bump into the furniture. It's a place to study acting as craft and profession. Seriously. For 26 years, KD Studio has been training professional actors for stage, film and television and is one of the few accredited, degree-granting conservatories outside of New York or Los Angeles. The training is based on the proven philosophy of "learning by doing." Students act and produce short scenes for film and stage. The goal is to learn real skills for the real world. KD's acting workshops are designed for beginning actors, as well as those with performing experience. The programs are intense and hands-on and range in length from weekend-long special workshops to 15-month-long conservatory programs. How do you get to Broadway? Practice, practice, practiceand train, train, train. Students at KD get lessons from the impressive staff that includes veteran actors T.A. Taylor and John Davies in the acting division and longtime pros Michael Serrecchia and Mark Mullono in musical theater. Notable alumni include George Eads of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Julio Cedillo, who co-starred opposite Tommy Lee Jones in the award-winning movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of