Allen Public Library
If you want to convince your kids that reading is cool, bring them here. Opened in 2005, this sleek $11.6 million library is 54,000 square feet of books, computer labs and auditorium. The "Teenscape" room is identified by a light blue neon sign, and at the entrance to the children's library there's a fully stocked aquarium. The best feature? It has a 250,000-book capacity and also partners with the Plano Public Library System. If Allen doesn't have the book on their shelves, they can get it for you. Best of all, you don't have to be a resident of Allen to use this library. Call it the open-book policy.
Dallas-based blogger-mom Tina Chen Craig and her best friend Kelly Tsou Cook love handbags. Crave them. Obsess about them. On their site, they write as the connoisseurs of the perfect posh purses. The new python Devi Kroell Carlyle clutch at Barney's? They declare it "delicious" even at $1,100. The $600 ruched Kooba tote? A "cheap thrill." But thumbs down for the Paul Smith Violet, which the Bag Snobbers say looks like a "melted rainbow sherbet ice cream cone." These trend-spotters, who've already spun off five other fashion blogs, including TotSnob.com, are filling their pockets with earnings from their pocketbook critiques, thanks to advertising from big-name designers and retailers. They're now invited to major runway shows, and they create fashion industry buzz that's been noted in French and Japanese Vogue, the Times of London and on the E! channel. Fashion editors everywhere now count on the Bag Snobs for the final word on what to tuck under those skinny arms each season.
While the white-bread DJs come and go, or sometimes stay, and harangue our ears with a diluted version of Howard Stern's shtick or faux-independent rock, Hedkrack keeps it real. A Bronx native, the northerner crossed the Mason-Dixon line to bring DFW a much-needed taste of hip-hop. His show on 97.9 is good, yes, but what lifts Hedkrack above the fray is his talent, community involvement and participation in the music scene. That and, you know, his crazy dreads.
What does Lone Star, which just switched formats this past year, have going for it? 1) They brought back famed local DJ Redbeard (isn't it gray by now?). 2) They have no freakin' commercials or, at least, "traditional" commercials. Instead they rely on "charter sponsors" like AT&T, Coors and Southwest Airlines. 3) Willie Nelson is the voice of the station. 4) They play the best damn outlaw country/rock/beer-swillin'/rehabbin' music in the state. Local boys Old 97's and Stevie Ray Vaughan butt up against pre-"Legs" ZZ top and the James Gang.
Normally, we wouldn't suggest taking public transportation in Dallas. We love the environment and all, but let's face it, unless you have a few hours to spare or you're traveling to the zoo, the Angelika or the American Airlines Center, Big D is way too spread out for the system to work efficiently without some more rail lines (which are on the way). But parking at places like Eatzi's, Lincoln Park, the West Village and Mockingbird Station makes us want to give up driving. What is this—Britain? Why do they paint "compact" parking spots for Mini Coopers when everyone's driving Hummers, Tahoes and F-250s? And if that's you who put all the dings in our doors, just remember: Car karma is a bitch. And next time, we're hopping the train.
Why not walk a few miles, raise funds for a worthy organization and have a blast doing it? That's exactly what participants in this annual event say. Now in its 17th year, LifeWalk is the largest fund-raising event for Aids Arms Inc., whose purpose is to assist individuals in accessing the health care, resources and support necessary to successfully manage the challenges of living with HIV/AIDS. Corporations, civic, religious and neighborhood groups and individuals participate in the 5K Fun Run/Walk with funds pledged by teams and individuals (this year on October 14 at Lee Park). Walk the walk, then stick around for the afternoon festival with food, libations, live entertainment, vendors and information booths. This event provides a family- and pet-friendly atmosphere and attracts a multidimensional crowd supportive of community diversity. One hundred percent of the money raised from LifeWalk goes directly to programs supporting HIV-affected individuals and families.
Oh, sure, with its sprawling, asphalt-surrounded strip-mall kinda thing going on, Firewater may provide an apt analogy for the geography of our fair burg, and it ain't gonna win any architectural awards, but the place is friendly and roomy, the beer cheap and cold. The interior has no special qualities other than that it reminds one of the interior of a ship—long galleys and strange twists amidst a generally open interior—but it's Firewater's outdoor stage that really makes it worth a slightly heavy cover charge. Outside is a wooden deck, flanked on one side with a three-headed mini-Bellagio fountain and on the other by a long bar. The deck is fronted by the stage, which holds your usual cast of characters (everyone from KISS cover bands to DOMA winners Mad Mexicans to hard rockers Max Cady), and we defy any club in town to put together a better sound system. Even outside, amidst the soft, maddening, staticky noise of the fountains, your band is gonna sound good. Damn good.
WinStar Casino
Feeling down on yourself? Need a night out with the crew to blow off some steam? Kill two birds with one stone with a trip to Winstar, the gambling mecca located just across the border in Oklahoma on I-35. Sure, if you're looking for table games, you'll find Winstar somewhat lacking, but if it's video slots and people-watching you desire, look no further. Holiday nights are especially productive since the casino is packed with big hair and bigger dreams—on our last all-night trip we easily lost $100, but then we spotted a woman cradling a baby in the parking lot, patiently waiting in an F-250 as Daddy tried to win some diaper money inside. After that we didn't feel that bad anymore.
Theatergoers who know his work smile when they see B.J. Cleveland's name in the program. Something about his moonfaced mug just glows, and when he's really on, he could light up a five-state area. Now in his 25th season as artistic director at Theatre Arlington, Cleveland has acted in 362 roles (by his count) since he started in showbiz at age 6. He's averaged no fewer than six shows a year since and doesn't plan to slow down. Last season's highlight was his romp as Mad King Ludwig in Uptown Players' Valhalla. This season he'll be directing Studs Terkel's Working at TA and then acting in Moonlight and Magnolias. He's played The Music Man and George M! and giggled like a goose in a white wig as Mozart in Amadeus. Happy to play the sad clown, Cleveland is the area's funniest character actor. All those comparisons to Nathan Lane don't even bother him anymore. "Physically I would covet being synonymous with Brad Pitt," he says. "But there's lots of life left for character actors. Take that, Zac Efron!"
Sure, to get there you have to drive an hour and a half through the corrugated tin and abandoned bass boat architecture of un-beautiful Upper East Texas. But you need to think of a search for pretty country near Dallas sort of the same way you might think of escape from Alacatraz. It's not supposed to be easy. When you get to Mineola, keep going a few miles east out of town and then head north on any halfway decent-looking road. You will find yourself in a land of rolling hills, tall pines and glittering lakes. It could be Wisconsin, if you took away the ticks and water moccasins. Well, and the people. It's very pretty country, and it's way less than a plane ride away from Dallas. Bet you didn't know that was possible, eh?

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