Best Place to Watch Your Toddler Get Trampled 2014 | Play area on the third floor of the Galleria | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

The play area on the third floor of the Galleria is enclosed, with only one entrance/exit. It's carpeted. And it's full of squishy, rounded-cornered stuff for your kids to climb all over. The whole thing is even lined with a never-ending bench, so every parent has a place to sit. And it's free. You would think it would be the perfect play place. But once you walk through the entrance of this play area, it's every soiled-diapered toddler for himself. This playground is jungle-themed for a reason. Every single one of these kids has been cooped up in a shitty stroller for an hour while Mom shopped for lingerie — they deserve this moment to let loose. Just buckle up, get a seat by the exitrance (that's what you call an entrance/exit, right?) and hold onto your butts. Hope you brought bandages.

On a 106-acre spread in southern Dallas, a particular species congregates every morning for a week at a time during certain parts of the year. That species: the yoga pants mom. The reason for their migration to these parts: Dallas Zoo day camps. During the summer — and again during both winter break and spring break — the Dallas Zoo hosts preschoolers through high schoolers for week-long themed educational camps. And the moms rejoice: They drop their kids off at 9 a.m. in a classroom just inside the gates where the order of the day includes animal encounters, zoo exploration and crafts. Said moms can then go to practice their standing bows, head to lunch with the ladies, clean up and drive to the camp pickup line at 3:30 p.m. And for those of us working for the man instead of flexing for the yogi, childcare is available for an additional fee both before and after camp begins. Wild.

That software you bought last year so you could learn a little conversational Spanish held so much promise, but here you are ... still struggling to figure out how to gender nouns and when to roll your Rs. That's because language acquisition doesn't really work that way. A computer can help you with rote repetition and memorization, but can never take the place of interaction. Full immersion in a foreign language is how you really get the bilingual ball rolling. It's a lot like diving into a pool to learn to swim, with context and social cues as your life preservers. Spanish House is a full-immersion language school founded locally by a pair of teachers. It offers nine graduated levels of group and individual classes so you can aprender Español on the double. Classes are small and informal and teachers are trained educators and native Spanish speakers. Spanish House also offers weekly lessons for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, plus a day care, preschool and elementary school — we know little ones that deftly back-talk in two languages after just a few semesters of Spanish House instruction.

Remember that time you thought you'd pay someone to address your wedding invitations in fancy calligraphy just like you saw on Pinterest and then HOLY MOTHER OF GOD it was, like, Uptown money? There's a reason: That shit's kind of hard. There's a whole science behind it, like the angle you need to hold the pen and the exact place you should place your blotting papers to avoid dreaded smearing. Lauren Essl's Blue Eye Brown Eye (named in honor of her dog's different colored irises) offers calligraphy classes in both Dallas and Fort Worth that show you all those things in about three hours — she cheerfully teaches beginner classes (the basics related to lower-case calligraphy), and the advanced class adds colors and uppercase letters. Basic supplies are included too, all for $165, which is about how much you'd pay for someone to address three of your shower invitations. With Essl's guidance and a little bit of practice, you'll be creating Etsy-worthy décor and stationary in no time.

The only thing better than this Goody Goody's booze selection is the welcoming and knowledgeable staff. Not sure what you're looking for? The Oak Lawn liquor store employees are more than eager to lead customers through the wide-ranging selection of liquor, wine and beer. Goody Goody also boasts some of the lowest prices in town.

All the way up in Carrollton, Lonestar is an incredible place for beer nerds, with regular tastings, and it's one of the most reliable places to pick up the rarest beers around. Owner Sam Ali has an incredible knowledge of his stock and is amazingly friendly, and they lean heavily on the Texas beer scene so you get the best local flavor. While all these big liquor store chains might be developing their big national craft beer ranges, the best place for those hard-to-find Texas bottles is undoubtedly secreted all the way up in the northern 'burbs.

Whether you're looking to adopt a cat, buy a bag of organic cat food or both, Pet Supermarket has got you covered. This pet supply store stocks every type of pet necessity imaginable. There's even a section exclusively for dressing up your fur-baby (what's cuter than a tiny dog in a chiffon tutu?). Don't have a pet? They have bunnies, hamsters, colorful birds, cats, guinea pigs and fish for adoption.

She's dropped the gardening know-how on WFAA's Good Morning, Texas and has a new book (Best Garden Plants for Texas) slated for spring, but for now, it's her free green advice on the web that Dallasites should be following. Leslie Halleck is the self-described plant geek behind Halleck Horticultural. As she explains, she provides technical horticultural consulting and business strategy consulting for industry, but "much of [her] time is spent generating horticultural content for green industry companies so they can better educate their audience." Impressive to be sure, but it's the byproduct that benefits Dallas' brown and wannabe green thumbs most — the free gardening advice Halleck shares on the Halleck Horticultural blog, Facebook page, Pinterest, and Instagram account. From her East Dallas hub, Halleck and crew provide peeks inside the industry as well as more intimate scenes from her own garden. She offers suggestions, like what to do with an overabundance of tomatoes or alternatives to planting tulips in a row; a series called Cocktail Gardening, complete with recipes; portraits of garden critters (including her own pets); a glimpse at urban homesteading; and seasonal planting tips.

If 2014's ice storms were anything to go on, tree pruning and maintenance aren't matters to ignore. Power outages, blocked roads and home repairs caused by fallen trees were big news. That's when homeowners new and old started learning and re-learning the importance of keeping trees trimmed. According to the certified arborists of Preservation Tree, not only does pruning create "aesthetically pleasing" trees, but also ones that are "structurally sound." Reducing the weight of the canopy "reduces incidences of breakage" when windy and icy times put stress on branches. And that's a good thing. But the peace of mind from choosing Preservation comes from the fact that their degreed arborists are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. They don't just saw branches; they get up high, close and personal with limbs, studying them for crowding and disease. With three-story trees and oak wilt no stranger to Dallas, that's major. And they're thorough. Dead tree? Not only can they remove it, they'll make it like a tree so it leaves. There's no pile of stumps waiting for bulk trash day. It's gone to a mulch pile far away. While tree maintenance seems expensive at first consult, that's just it — the first time is the worst. Preservation becomes cost-effective when it achieves its eponymous goal.

Orange alerts and haze and gross. Dallas has seen it all this year. Anything to breathe better and cleaner is welcome, if not passionately celebrated. This falls under passionately celebrated. Oncor and the Arbor Day Foundation, once again, offered two free trees for qualifying homeowners this fall. By just filling out a simple survey — OK, maybe the dragging of the house map lines required a steadier hand than expected — one could apply for and see ideal planting location and potential savings from 8,000 available trees including burr oak, cedar elm, Chinkapin oak, Mexican white oak, pecan and Texas redbud. The decision was difficult with such a nice variety to choose from, but there was no wrong answer (except maybe that redbud). While the potential energy savings was the primary focus of the offer, the secondary improvement to air quality (thanks to HVAC savings and, well, more trees) really is an exiting bonus to come.

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