Valley House Gallery

Head east on Spring Valley Road between Preston and Hillcrest, but not too fast. Drive quickly and you'll miss one of the most amazing outdoor art displays in Dallas. There on the right, turn into Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden, park your car and walk along a pebble path that allows you to look and linger on the lush grounds of the home of Kevin and Cheryl Vogel. Currently situated among the reeds, vines, flowers, trees and ponds on their 4.5-acre wooded estate are abstract metal sculptures as well as sculptures of people in various states of repose and play, works by Charles Umlauf, Mike Cunningham, Charles Williams, Nat Newlean, David Hayes and Frederich Sotebier. And there is no such thing as a trespasser at the Vogels' garden—not Monday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and not if you stay away from the Vogels' private residence, which is also on the grounds. These works of art set among the garden are available for public viewing, free of charge. Of course, if you want to take home any of these sculptures, or any works of art inside the gallery, which is also nestled onto the grounds, that will cost you.

Museum of Nature & Science

In 2006, the Dallas Museum of Natural History, the Science Place and the Dallas Children's Museum merged, forming the Museum of Nature and Science, the sort of place you could get lost in for days. For the kiddos, you can't beat the new Children's Museum. Check out the Little Urban Farm, where kids can play farmer for a day—milking a cow, gathering eggs or driving a tractor. At the Fire Department section of the museum they can practice being an EMT or a firefighter while dressing up in child-sized gear. This is one merger that really made sense.

Trinity Hall is easily one of the most welcoming bars in Dallas, thanks largely to its progressive, non-smoking environment. (Guess what, naysayer, you know where else you can't smoke in pubs? That's right, Ireland.) This pub boasts a handsomely designed interior in a choice piece of Mockingbird Station real estate, not to mention its tasty menu and incredible whiskey selection. Sunday nights the bar hosts the decidedly old-school Sunday Night Pub Quiz, complete with pencils, paper and a real life, flesh-and-blood dude calling out questions. Generic, piped-in satellite trivia this isn't. And since most of the questions aren't multiple choice, it's not exactly easy either. The drinking part's a breeze though.
Pocket Sandwich Theatre

Not a first date, unless you're the type who thinks a burlesque re-enactment of a Battlestar Galactica scene is the kind of first impression you want to make. But if you're not in the mood to impress and don't mind slumming it a bit, Pocket Sandwich Theater is, if nothing else, fun. They specialize in what they call "popcorn-throwing" comedies, stuff like Attack of the Killer Mutant Leeches, in which audience participation (especially the throwing of popcorn) is encouraged. The food isn't great, but drinks are cheap, and hey, where else can you see a woman strip down to a G-string and re-enact the Napoleon Dynamite dance?

In most towns, the nerds who like to dress up in medieval battle gear and wage "war" are relegated to some far corner of the playground. Not so in Waxahachie. In this town just 35 minutes south on Interstate 35E, the Renaissance-loving dorks aren't just celebrated; every April and May they take over the town. That's just one reason to check out this town of 20,000. Another reason is the Webb Gallery, a 10,000-square foot space off the main square that revels in the weirdness of folk and "naïve" art, from carnival banners to disturbing Masonic masks. Collectors come from around the country to see what new stuff the Webbs have found. The town's also full of gingerbread-style architecture. Back in the 1980s major motion pictures, including Places in the Heart, loved this place. We know it has a special place in our heart.

Dallas Zoo

When the Dallas Zoo's 39-year-old elephant KeKe died in May, the media spotlight shined on KeKe's cage mate Jenny, who either needed a new home or a new buddy. Zoo officials decided to send Jenny to the Africam Safari Park, a drive-through zoo in Mexico. A group called Concerned Citizens for Jenny, along with council member Angela Hunt and even actress Lily Tomlin, demanded that Jenny instead be sent to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where she would have more space to roam. Eventually, the zoo and Park and Recreation Department chose an option that no one was fighting for: Keep Jenny in Dallas by bringing in another elephant and building a $40 million Africa Savannah exhibit. We're not sure where Jenny's future should be spent, though anywhere but Dallas is best given the knuckleheads making the decisions in this city.

Café Brazil

It's 2:30 in the a.m. on a weekend, half-past last call, and you're closing down some bar on Lower Greenville or in Deep Ellum or on the Southside—it doesn't matter. All are within designated driving distance of Café Brazil on North Central Expressway, assuming your designatee knows the way. If the two-hour wait isn't sobering enough, pour yourself a cup of coffee or three from the seven varieties that are offered at the self-serve coffee bar. The aromas and roasts will wake the drunk right out of you. And it's breakfast anytime, with omelets fluffy and fat with veggies and other treats, which are also good for grounding. If the French toast, which rivals the best in town, is too sweet for the bourbon and Coke you've been gulping all night, try the BLT or the grilled cheese or whatever lunch item suits you. And when you've had your fill, make sure that you can drive, because it's your ass that will be toast if you pick up a DWI.

Barcadia

Why so serious, Dallas nightlife? We already work all day, pay bills, eat salads and do all that other grown-up stuff; our "fun" shouldn't be limited to trendy bars with long lines, dress codes and drinks we can't pronounce (or afford). Inner child, meet Barcadia. With '50s pinup girls on the walls, The Cure playing in the background and an entire wall of '80s arcade games for a quarter a play, it's a refuge for Denton kids who graduate and move to the big city, ex-brat packers feeling nostalgic or anyone who's bored with the scene. Here you can still get your pretty people on the patio along with drink specials every night, super-friendly bartenders and skeeball. Yes, skeeball. And you don't have to wear heels or pay a cover.

Cedar Ridge Preserve

Yes, it's sort of far. It's 20 minutes outside of Dallas. But you need it, because you're sick of sucking tailpipes and the never-ending tangle of freeways that is Dallas proper. You need to breathe deeply, to take some dirt in your hands, to see some blue sky. At an elevation of 755 feet, they like to say that the Cedar Ridge Preserve is a slice of the Hill Country in Dallas. The preserve, which spans 633 acres, features 10 miles of hiking trails, a native plant nursery and butterfly gardens. Really want to get your hands dirty? Come out in June and July when volunteers hack the weeds around the Cattail Pond.

Dallas Heritage Village

By looking to the past every so often we can avoid taking the present, and certainly the future, for granted. Try a stroll through the "living history" at Dallas Heritage Village. Costumed interpreters invite visitors to help with farm chores (you gotta love a good sheep shear), hear stories of North Texas during the mid-19th century and early 20th, and even learn about pottery, self-sustaining households of yore and traditional Judaism. The village says, "The light from the past can illuminate the future." And we couldn't agree more. After all, seeing a detached kitchen only makes us appreciate the fantasy cooking haven we have planned for our dream house. And who doesn't need a reminder that running water ain't too shabby?

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