Best Continuing Education for Adults 2019 | The Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Did your education terminate after earning a degree? Enter the Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture. In a city known for its business, real estate and technology industries, we need a nursery for the intellectual life that is safe from the rapacious profit motive. With a campus in Uptown, the public can discover truth, beauty and goodness by listening to a dramatic reading of Goethe's Faust; attending a program with music, dance and cuisine based on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights; enrolling in a class on political thought; or joining the spirited conversation at a Friday Night Salon. The Institute reminds us that the humanities are not only crucial for the health of our democracy but for our wisdom too.

Mark Kitaoka

Nowadays, ensembles with a program worth mentioning are hard to come by. It's always the same hundred or so classical pieces: Beethoven 5, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Handel's Messiah, Dvorak's New World Symphony, blah, blah. Often, the worst offenders when it comes to boring programs are large orchestras and opera companies. Dallas Symphony Orchestra, however, has prepared a program with plenty of promise, boasting underplayed works such as Prokofiev's Symphony 6 and the Bruch Violin Concerto; classics like Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 "Italian"; and even new works by Steven Mackey and Salina Fisher. DSO is also bringing in celebrated violinist Joshua Bell, and has arranged for a performance with the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir. A surprisingly wide range of musical adventures await us, so get your tickets now for the rich and resonant Morton H. Meyerson space, where there are no bad seats.

Dallas is home to a number of semi-professional ensembles in which musicians perform at a professional level but not as their primary source of income. One standout is the University of North Texas Baroque Orchestra under recorder player Paul Leenhouts. The orchestra sources some of the most talented young musicians in the United States and provides high-quality performances of Baroque works (think Bach, Handel and Vivaldi) on period instruments, such as the harpsichord and natural trumpet. The realm of "period performance" is not one in which the citizens of Dallas have many options, but the UNT Baroque Orchestra, composed of students, has very reasonable ticket prices, and their performances are consistently laudable.

Barak Epstein
Texas Theatre

Whether it's Amélie on Valentine's Day, obscure music documentaries or the original double feature playing when Lee Harvey Oswald escaped after shooting JFK (as the legend goes, and with the original ticket admission price), Texas Theatre seems intent on a mission to keep Dallas cultured. Sure, the cinema's sound isn't always the best, but its programming is unfailingly stellar, relevant and original. To begin with, the building itself is a historical landmark and a beautifully preserved relic, a space for themed parties and underground music shows taking place behind its movie screen, a frequent participant in various film festivals and a host to visiting art figures from Crispin Glover to Adan Jodorowsky.

Karlo X Ramos
DJ Blake Ward

A favorite in Dallas' nightlife scene, DJ Blake Ward is a master in his craft. Regularly playing sets at spots like Beauty Bar, Midnight Rambler and Alice Dallas, Ward knows how to curate and tailor a mix suitable for any occasion you can book him for. Each of Ward's mixes are carefully produced and arranged, with each track flowing into the next. Ward is a DJ who is genuinely passionate about music, respects the art and knows how to create a sonically pleasing arrangement. His energy is unmatched, as he is able to remain pumped all night, from opening to last call.

Over the decades, everyone from Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy and Ellen DeGeneres has stood in front of the Improv's iconic brick wall. The Addison location has served as a launching pad for many comedians and continues to be the area's top destination to see both up-and-coming and established talent. The club recently stepped up its game with a major face-lift and a revamp of its menu, which features standard bar fare like wings and nachos. And while there's a two-drink minimum — you've been warned — it's a small price to pay to see tomorrow's comedy royalty.

Since taking over the music programming at the "hoity tonk" Uptown venue a few years back, entertainment director Kylee Kimosh has diversified the traditionally country spot with rootsier, soulful acts. From Shakey Graves to Charley Crockett, Kimosh has kept her taste-making fingers on the pulse of the current soundscape by making the bar a destination spot that includes R&B and blues. But it's The Rustic's themed nights that make patrons show up for a night of nostalgic delight. Whether it's up-and-comers like Frankie Leonie doing Dolly Day, Taylor Nicks signing '90s country diva favorites, or popstress Remy Reilly tearing into No Doubt covers, Kimosh manages to showcase new talent while appealing to the audience's sentimentality.

This North Dallas bar has changed immensely in the last decade; long gone are the kitschy decor items and the Chuck Norris urban tales painted on the bathroom walls, and most disappointing, the promised presence of velvet Elvis artwork. Without all the hipster-friendly attractions, the Velvet Elvis has gone from a movie set's idea of a dive bar to a true dive bar that isn't pretending anymore. For starters, there are plenty of loners hanging around, and the crowd is such a Cheers-like selection of random humans that you're likely to never run into anyone you know. So this is the place to come to talk shit about everyone in your life without having to look over your shoulder. The place now looks like a standard bar in any average city, with a foosball table that nobody ever plays and rarely touched billiards. The only things that remain are cheap drinks and a cigarette machine. We're all set.

Even if country music isn't really your thing, The Round-Up is a fun environment where you can dance, grab a couple of drinks and let loose. If you're a little bit rusty on your two-step, there are nights when instructors will give you lessons on their spacious dance floor. Plus, there are karaoke nights when singers are invited to belt out their best notes and even compete for cash. In the mood to be entertained? The Round-Up hosts killer drag shows with curated themes celebrating all types of gender-bending performances. If Lady Gaga is in town, chances are you might catch her at The Round-Up after a show, as they were one of the first bars to book her before her rise to fame.

Doyle Rader
Boilermaker, Grandpa's Glory

Every Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m., patrons pack the narrow walls of Single Wide for Liquid Courage Karaoke with DJ Javier Mendoza. Crowded though it might be, participants and onlookers are fervent in their Sunday Funday passion for a good song sung as well as it can be. The mix of songs is always as diverse as the mix of talent, and you can expect to hear some real pipes and some — well, frankly — really drunk girls doing their best to get through Bloodhound Gang's "Bad Touch." Whether it's the song quality, the mix and spirit of the people or the physical closeness that the Single Wide forces you into, what makes Liquid Courage Sundays unlike any other karaoke residency is just how infectious it is. Spots fill up quick, so be sure to get there and grab a Lone Star right after you wrap up your mimosas. 

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