Driving through Highland Park can be a blissful experience. Something about passing by the well-manicured lawns, unbelievable houses, and beautiful women jogging behind blonde Gerber babies in strollers always takes our mind off of our car's busted air conditioner—for a moment. Tucked away in the middle of it all sits one of the area's most beautiful gardens: Lakeside Park. A wide canal meanders through perfectly landscaped grounds until it reaches a peaceful waterfall underneath a wooden bridge. Droves of lily pads cover the water's surface, and long leafy branches provide shade for several park benches. Kids love the park's giant teddy-bear statues, and for adults, it's the perfect location for a romantic picnic or just a leisurely evening stroll.

Barnes & Noble

We tried to kindle up some way of choosing between Dallas' two national chain giants, but truth be told, deciding between them is like trying to pick your favorite leaf in the Amazonian forest. Similar discounts, similar in-store readings, similar selection of new titles. You got your coffee, your fairly limited selection of books on CDs. Oh, if only there were a way to reach up into the air and effortlessly retrieve a decision between the two, or some magical, electronic piece of wizardry that we could use to calculate which is better. But we're lightweights when it comes to making those sorts of decisions. We're all thumbs. And we're seriously hoping that someone gets our point in time for our next birthday. This too is a hint.

Bows and Arrows

It would be wrong to pigeonhole Bows and Arrows as just a craft haven. It's so much more than that. The multi-use space—owned and operated by visual artists, entrepreneurs and general Renaissance couple Adam and Alicia Rico—is at once full-service floral shop, art gallery, depot for handmade specialty gifts, and yes, a center for classes that range in topic from floral arranging (basic, wedding and more) to fiber arts (felting, batik) to paper works (screen printing, chandeliers, monoprinting and more). All classes are taught by artists (such as Lizzy Wetzel and paper nerds) who may be experts in their own field but don't scoff at even the most inexperienced new student. Plus, classes are so inspiring you'll want to assign your own homework. When was the last time that happened?

On some level, 22-year-old Fort Worth-residing Yasmine Villasana had the right idea when, back in June, rather than slowing down upon approaching the exit toll booths at DFW Airport, she sped up, angled her car toward the between-booth barricades that, in her defense, kind of do look like ramps, and flew right over the tolls. Sure, she suffered minor injuries, saw her car go up in flames and got arrested by police, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't understand her plight. We hate those tolls; it makes no sense that we have to pay just to get into the airport and drop our friends off at their departure gate. So, no, we don't blame her for going all General Lee on the place—we're actually thinking about doing it ourselves next time.

The days are long gone when crowds of kids gathered around a big ramp at Bachman Lake, sporting mullets and neon surf wear, to catch the city's best skateboarding stars in action. That's not entirely a bad thing, but what today's skaters have gained in fashion sense, they've largely lost in tight-knit community vibes that once coursed through Dallas' smaller skate scene. Keeping the old spirit alive, Guapo's a hangout built around old local skate legends, with an eye on "passing along the stoke" to the next generation. It may not look like much from the outside, but this warehouse in the Cedars is home to the best bowl and street-style skating in the city. It's a private club most days, but two or three times a month, open houses let any budding skater roll in and check it out.

Luit and Jamie Huizenga or their employees are always up in the middle of the night making runs to D/FW Airport, because they import flowers directly from the bloemenmarkt, the Amsterdam Flower Market, rather than buying through broker/distributors in the United States. That makes Cebolla the place to go, not only for floral arrangements but for your own fresh robust cut flowers for your own creations. Luit is Dutch and knows the Amsterdam market like the back of his hand. Jamie is a genius designer. Together in an earlier life they created Dr. Delphinium. Their new store on Maple is a sight to behold whether you buy anything or not.

Browsing Penzeys Spices' selection of more than 250 different herbs, spices, seasonings, sprinkles and blends from around the world is enough to make one's head spin. Especially while trying to choose between numerous different peppercorns, chili powders or cinnamon (they stock more than a half-dozen different varieties of each), but, luckily, as you sniff your way around the store, the knowledgeable employees are always ready with suggestions to help you spice up any recipe from tacos, burgers or curries to cakes, cookies or custards. But the best part about Penzeys is that if you don't have time to make a trip to the store, there's always the expedited shipping from the company's online catalog. Penzeys has sold its world-wide array of spices by mail order for more than 20 years now, opening its first storefront in '97. (The Dallas spot opened in 2005.) Our new favorite purchase is the new salt-free Arizona Dreaming, which is an all-purpose blend that lends a "South of the Border" flavor to any dish. Warning though, once you go Penzeys Spices, you never really go back.

Best Way To Stick It To The Man (In Traffic Court)

Gioffredi & Associates

Never pay the fee for a red-light camera ticket. Just ignore it. The city can't prove you were driving the car, and all they'll do is send you warning letters. That's just one bit of free legal advice we—er, someone we know—happened to overhear in the waiting room at the law firm of John Gioffredi. That person we know had a traffic-ticket situation far more complicated than a mere red-light ticket, involving multiple petty offenses with steep fines that had built to a fiscally impossible sum. Yet the very day they walked in, all warrants were lifted and he was able to get his driver's license back after months of nearly pissing his pants every time he saw a cop in the rear-view mirror. To top it off, the cases were all dismissed without having to pay a dime in fines.

Good Records

We're total music geeks, and in our DVD collection you'll find more than a few rock docs on our favorite bands, from the Stones to Wilco to Arcade Fire. The guys at Good Records are exactly the same, only they've decided to invite all of you over every Monday night to watch their music DVDs, eat popcorn and drink beer while lounging on the store's bean bag chairs. So far, their Music Movie Mondays series has presented documentaries, biopics and concert films featuring the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Daniel Johnston, Rush, James Brown, Brian Jonestown Massacre and more. So get out of the house this Monday and commune with your fellow music lovers. It's completely free, after all...unless you walk out with an arm-load of new records, in which case you're still supporting a good cause.

Fair Park

Dallas boasts many fine man-made bodies of water—but only one of them starts dancing when the beef song comes on. Purists will insist it's "Hoe-down," from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" suite, just one of the handful of Texas-themed songs that accompany the dancing water by Fair Park's Hall of State. The new fountains in the 700-foot pool, designed by the folks who did the Bellagio's fountains in Las Vegas, were part of a $12 million renovation that also added two giant statues that replicate original pieces lost after the park's opening in 1936. The fountains only run on special occasions, but when they do, it's like reliving the end of Ocean's Eleven in your own back yard.

The Belmont Hotel

There comes a time in the life of every relationship, be it a marriage or a couple in need of a jump start, when the two just need to get away without really getting away. Maybe the kids are too young to go too far, or Mom's got caretaker fatigue, or date night has gotten mundane. Sure, there is always the Ritz or The W, but then afterward, how can you afford to feed the kids? Not so with the historic Belmont Hotel, which has the vibe of being cool and reasonable at once. It's a different aesthetic from these other fine hotels, more swank than luxurious, more urban then urbane. Take the Art Moderne architecture, the stunning view of downtown Dallas, a swimming pool that hosts a "Dive-In Movie" series, a great bar and patio, and a barbecue joint (Smoke) that dares call itself upscale. To say that it feels as though you have been transported out of the city doesn't do the place or Dallas justice. It just feels good to be there: a nearby adventure for those in need of renewal. Or raw hotel sex.

Best Of Dallas®

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