BEST SWIM LESSONS 2013 | Fish Factory at Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The toss-'em-in-and-let-'em-figure-it-out method of swimming instruction, while appealingly free, is ineffective for many children. That's why swimming lessons exist, and you'll be hard-pressed to find someplace better at coaxing your young child out of his beloved Thomas the Tank Engine shirt and into swimming proficiency. The classes are small, with three kids per teacher, each of whom demonstrates a level of patience the awe-struck parents can only dream of.

Delonte West was, for a time, the most interesting man in professional basketball. He was the anti-star — a dogged defender, an able ball handler and an often clutch outside shooter who compensated for his lack of physical size and God-given talent by busting his ass during every second of court time he got. He brought depth and experience to the Mavs' bench, and he brought it on the cheap. But he brought something else too. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, West was real. He talked about his struggles with bipolar disorder. During at least one offseason, he worked construction. But it's his sense of humor we'll miss. His Twitter handle, @CharleeRedz13, was a strange and hilarious window into the mind of a man who once told an ESPN reporter at the Dallas Zoo that he'd just given birth to a baby cheetah. His delightful weirdness may also have had a dark side. The Mavs waived his contract following a still dimly understood "outburst" in the locker room. He finished a lackluster season with the Texas Legends. There are rumors that the Knicks and the Grizzlies are looking at him, but there is no chance that he'll ever don a Mavs' uniform again, and that just makes us sad.

You don't have to like gambling to enjoy Dollar Days at Lone Star Park. You don't even have to like horses, really. You just have to be able to enjoy the incredible fact that you can get into a fun and relaxed entertainment venue for a buck. It also helps if you appreciate a bottomless supply of hot dogs and ice-cold beer, which are also $1. After the third or fourth, you won't even notice that it's Miller Lite.

We'll probably never know exactly what happened in July 2012, when Angela Bryant, mother of the Dallas Cowboys' prodigiously talented wide receiver, told DeSoto police that she'd been assaulted by her son and then later recanted. Since then, however, he's given Cowboys fans reason to hope he's turned over a new leaf. He's now gone more than a year, including the entire offseason, without wading into trouble. During the same period, he emerged as a budding superstar. Whether this is the result of a newfound maturity or just extremely attentive handlers isn't terribly important, as long as it keeps him from being stupid.

Those harmless-looking older folks sitting in folding chairs somewhere around the lake? Yeah, all their "free advice" is about Jesus. If you're not careful, they'll try to pray the demons right out of you, and then what will you be left with? Lately they've taken to hanging out near the Porta-Pottys and buttonholing people who just have to pee, which is pretty low.

Courtesy Dallas Arboretum

You thought you knew how to picnic until you visited the Dallas Arboretum. No other swath of greenery boasts more professional picnickers per square foot. Come to think of it, no other spot in Dallas offers this much greenery or natural beauty. No wonder so many people commit an afternoon here, grazing al fresco while sitting on Grandmother's heirloom quilt. You could bring a couple of sandwiches and some sodas from the convenience store, but you will be made to feel very small. Here, the picnic baskets are the size of Volvos and everyone worth their weight brings wine. Sandwiches are for sissies, and spreads look like the buffet tables filled with exceptional food. And why not picnic here? Even on the most crowded days it's not hard to find a space — a small square of greenery where you can sit and relax and ponder finer things.

The welterweight division is perhaps the most talent-stacked division in Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest show in town when it comes to mixed martial arts. And the next challenger to that division's long-time champion, Georges St-Pierre, makes his home here in North Texas, in humble Mansfield. Former NCAA champion wrestler Hendricks packs the strength of a heavyweight into a 5-foot-9-inch, 170-pound frame and throws a deceptively strong left that knocks out iron-chinned men with seemingly no effort. "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks claims he's never gone harder than 80 percent in a pro fight, but promises to push it to 100 for his November 16 title fight against GSP at UFC 167. Will that extra 20 percent be enough to overcome his underdog status? We're certainly not betting against him.

Since it opened a year ago, the new 5.2-acre deck park over the freeway at the north end of downtown has become a lot of things to a lot of people, from quiet refuge to raucous meeting ground, but it has also offered one thing Dallas really didn't have before: a place where everybody gets along. It may be a flyspeck in size next to Grant Park in Chicago or Central Park in New York, but like those other truly great urban parks Klyde Warren is a place of peace and reconciliation, where all of the city's residents can feel welcomed and at ease with each other. Built to connect two sides of a freeway, it binds together much more than that already.

It takes a long time to become Dale Hansen, 30 years in fact. That's how long the bombastic, wisecracking dean of Dallas sportscasters has been doing his shtick at WFAA Channel 8, a career that has produced a million one-liners, like his description of Mark Cuban as Son of Frankenstein: "If he just had a couple of bolts stuck in his neck, you couldn't tell 'em apart." But every once in a while he slips and reveals a mordant serious side beneath that amusing surface, like two years ago when he tongue-lashed his own station for airing a surreptitious ambush video of one of his frequent sparring partners, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, acting the fool in a bar. Who can get away with that? Dale Hansen. That's pretty much the list.

Two boat clubs and ample public launching facilities keep White Rock lake full of sails in fair weather, and the weather is fair enough for sailing for at least a few days in all but the hottest months of the year. Both clubs host regattas, races and training exercises, so on a good weekend day you're likely to see white sails and colorful spinnakers (the big sails that look like hot air balloons) up and down the lake. The best thing is that all of these boats are contained within about one and a half square miles of water, all of it surrounded by park and picnic area, so the sails are never too far away to watch. It makes a romantic background for an outing, and, who knows? One of them might even tip over.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of