Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

The trick here is that the Cool Thursdays evening concerts at the Arboretum aren't supposed to be free. It's 10 bucks a head plus seven more for parking for these pop concerts, April through July, none in August, then a fall series throughout September and October. But you can hear them all without paying a nickel and also enjoy a very eclectic scene simply by paddling or sailing your small craft to the foot of the Arboretum, just off E. Lawther Drive near the Garland Road entrance to White Rock Lake. Call the Arboretum at 214-515-6518 for concert information or look on their Web page at dallasarboretum.org/concerts.html. If you do speak to them, ask about all their prices and then be sure to say the Dallas Observer told you it would be free if you came in your kayak.

Dallas Meditation Center

The first interfaith meditation center in North Texas also turns out to be a superbly silent place for prayer, meditation, reflection and just...being. At last, one spot on the planet where no one's cell phone goes off. Brother Chi-Sing, the center's young and cheerful lead instructor, teaches classes in various forms of meditation (Buddhist-based and not) and hosts several weekly groups that offer mind-quieting focus practice via chanting, singing and breathing. The center also has classes in yoga, qigong, Christian meditation and other paths to mindful living. Participation in all activities is by donation.

Fallout Lounge
Fallout Lounge and Lizard Lounge
The Bone
The Bone and Trees
Bryan Street Tavern

One of the most beautiful things about being human is our ability to communicate with language and build beautiful, inspiring things. But what's the fun of creation without its far more satisfying opposite, destruction? Truly, the makers of childhood favorite Jenga knew this—build it up and watch it topple, over and over again. But the kiddie Jenga-smiths weren't allowed to supersize the blocks and give you beer and cigarettes to consume during play. The Bryan Street Tavern, however, encourages patrons to construct massive, teetering towers while hopped up on alcohol and nicotine in the bar's lovely and spacious back yard. And before you say it, yeah, we know Barcadia offers a similar game. But if you don't want to be chewed out for accidentally spilling beer on some jerk's $130 T-shirt because your tower took a tumble, we suggest sticking with Bryan Street.

Pearl

There's something perfect about the marriage of the blues and a well-stocked drinking establishment. On one side of the room, people express their anguish on guitars and other folk-based instruments. On the other side, patrons drink their woes away. Thing about Pearl At Commerce, though—everyone seems to be having a good time, and their burgeoning music scene is a reflection of that. The concert calendar features a nightly rotation of the area's top blues performers as well as national touring artists. While you can still get well-oiled on strong cocktails, the overall feeling here is happiness, which is somewhat at odds with the idea of the blues, but the folks at Pearl like it that way.

The Libertine Bar

One of our favorite bars in the world, the Libertine has racked up awards for everything from Best Bar, Period to Best Bar Food (twice) to the very esoteric Best Place To Take The Marquis De Sade. And while it still richly deserves all of those accolades and more, we've got to spread the love. So this year, we salute the Libertine's happy hour. A flat dollar off beer, wine and liquor from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays makes it a bit easier to justify that Satan Red Belgian ale or shot of scotch. Or if you're feeling like a flapper girl, already reasonably priced classic cocktails like the Pimm's Cup are half off. Which leaves you that much more scratch to buy your buddy the Marquis de Sade a hanger steak sandwich.

Renfield's Corner

It used to be that if you wanted to hear music in Uptown, your choices were a DJ's selection of club house or a guy with an acoustic guitar playing "American Pie." Now, thanks to the booking of Chelsea Callahan, you can hear live, original music in the least likely of neighborhoods. Better yet, the Wednesday night shows—which have included Doug Burr, RTB2, Glen Farris and other local favorites—are free. The only thing that could make it better would be if they happened more than once a week.

House of Blues
House of Blues
The Balcony Club
courtesy Lorena Davey
The Balcony Club

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