Best Hiking Trail

In the natural bottomlands and prairies along the Trinity River in Arlington are 8 miles of paved hike and bike trails. The more than 1,000-acre park, much of which is shaded, is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and its wooded areas are natural habitats to hundreds of species of wildlife, including bobcats, armadillos, raccoons, wild boars, snakes and turtles, which can often be spotted along the trail routes. Although not 100 percent complete, River Legacy Trails are part of the vision to link Dallas and Fort Worth via trail, says Michael Debrecht, park operations manager. "We are in the planning stages to extend our eastern portion to [State Highway] 360, where [Fort Worth] and Grand Prairie can then join and extend within their jurisdictions," he says.

Readers' Pick Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve

Early in its first-season run, The Doomsday Podcast got a bit of a shock when ESPN laid off co-host and longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder. What started out as an interesting but straightforward weekly look into the Cowboys added an intriguing layer of pathos as Werder's career was in limbo. For the first time in years, he isn't on ESPN, but he can't work anywhere else because the network continues to pay his contracted salary. He's only allowed to keep doing the podcast, he says, because he got the go-ahead before being laid off. Stir in the fantastic guests Werder and fellow host Matt Mosley have booked, including Dak Prescott, Jaylon Smith and Wade Phillips, and Doomsday has become an appointment download for fans of the Cowboys and pro football in general.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott scored a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Dec. 18. After his two-yard run, Elliott ran through the back of the end zone and headed for the oversized Salvation Army kettle that the team displays during the holiday season. He hopped in, drawing a 15-yard penalty thanks to NFL's humorless anticelebration policy. The Cowboys came out unscathed, however, eventually winning the game 26-20. The real winner, however, was the Salvation Army. In the two days following Elliott's leap, the charity raised more than $800,000.

Best Reason to Drive
to Frisco

Over the last few seasons, FC Dallas, which, despite its name, inexplicably plays in Frisco, has built itself into an Major League Soccer juggernaut. Thanks to homegrown players like budding U.S. Men's National Team star Kellyn Acosta, during the last year, North Texas' professional soccer club has racked up a U.S. Open Cup, MLS Supporters Shield and Champions League semifinal appearance in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. By building from within, starting with a league-best youth system, FC Dallas has achieved sustainable, repeatable success in a league that is built to enforce and ensure parity. While MLS leaves a lot to be desired as a league, FC Dallas is as good a soccer club as exists in the United States.

While Reddit is often maligned, fairly, as the internet's bathroom wall, there are spaces on the sprawling link-sharing site that provide genuine community. One such subreddit is /r/Cowboys. /r/Cowboys is a happy place, full of goofy inside jokes like the deification of Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey and the shared experiences of a fan base that's gone more than 20 years without an NFC Championship game experience. The subreddit's members are often genuinely insightful about the latest tidbit of news out of Frisco, Arlington or Oxnard. Stop by whenever you need a quick look at the Cowboys universe.

Best Disc Golf Course

The painful truth is that Dallas is terrible for disc golf and has earned its reputation for offering few places to play. BB Owen takes the prize for the city's best, beating out the one in Oak Cliff with drainage tunnels crowded with homeless people. Still, the short course is fun to play, and there are no pesky hills to wear you down in the heat. The flat terrain and straight holes are good for beginners and seasoned players who want to calibrate the range of their throws without impediment.

Readers' Pick Oak Cliff Founders Park

If you want luxury, air conditioning, a coffee shop, a concealed-carry class or to rent a machine gun to try out, take your fat wallet up to Frisco Gun Club, the country club of DFW gun ranges. We, however, prefer to do our shooting in the great outdoors, where we're not hammered by the concussion of our neighbors' cannons and, to be honest, we can get a little more privacy. Better still, we like value for our shooting. (If you think golf is an expensive hobby, you haven't priced ammo lately.) For $15 Garland Public Shooting Range will let you shoot all day — you can even come and go during the day on a single pass — and it rents a variety of guns to try for another $15 all day. (You have to buy the range's ammo for its rental guns, but that's SOP at gun ranges, and the prices are reasonable.) Spotting scopes, safety glasses and ear protection can be rented for $2 each. It offers pistol, rifle and skeet stations and is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Yes, that includes Christmas, which is actually a pretty busy day. Hey, if Santa leaves you a sweet Sig under the tree, you don't want to have to wait around to try it out. We're all just kids at heart.

Readers' Pick DFW Gun Range and Training Center

Best Moment
of Honesty

Tanking in pro sports is often like Fight Club. The first rule of doing it is not talking about it. That's what made Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's May comments so refreshing. Cuban admitted that, once the Mavs were out of playoff contention, the team held veteran players out of games in hopes that the team would lose the rest of its games, increasing its odds in the NBA draft lottery. For their troubles — the team went 2-8 in its last 10 games of the 2016-17 season — the Mavericks landed the ninth pick in the draft, securing the rights to dynamic North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith Jr. Coming off a spectacular performance in the NBA Summer League, Smith appears to have been worth Dirk Nowitzki taking a few minutes off down the stretch.

Academy Sports and Outdoors

This is one of our more awkward picks. The fact is, the best sporting goods store is dependent on your sport and how committed you are to it. If you're a serious camper or backpacker, you're going to REI. A cyclist? See you at Richardson Bike Mart or one of the other fine cycling stores in DFW. Training for another marathon? Take those tootsies to Run On! And so it goes. Academy is a big-box generalist in a market filled with niches — not to mention Amazon. Still, for the casual sportsperson who's looking for discounts and a wide selection of goods, those getting ready to try out a new sport or sign their kids up for little league, tailgaters and weekend barbecuers, or those just needing some casual workout togs, the big box has its charms. It has a little bit of everything, tons of locations throughout DFW and the sort of prices one gets by buying in volume, volume, volume.

Readers' Pick Academy Sports + Outdoors

Best Batting Cages

The old-school batting cages at Ellen's in Cedar Hill feature pitch speeds from 45 mph to 85 mph, in addition to both fast- and slow-pitched soft balls. They're cheap as far as batting cages go at $1.50 for 20 pitches and have a comforting, no-frills, low-pressure vibe. You don't feel like you're wasting anybody's time by hacking at slow-pitched meatballs for an hour or two. After taking out your frustrations, be sure to enjoy the complex's miniature golf course, one of the best in DFW.

Readers' Pick Topgolf

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