Best Comeback 2019 | Jaylon Smith | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Keith Allison
Jaylon Smith

In 2017, Jaylon Smith was back, but he wasn't back. Playing in his first games since having his college career ended by a horrific left knee injury — seriously, the video is not for the faint of heart — Smith lacked the lateral movement to compete in the NFL, leading many to question his future. The Notre Dame product changed everybody's mind in 2018, combining with Leighton Vander Esch to form one of the league's most dynamic young linebacking duos. Smith is a great story who's on his way to becoming a great player.

According to the University of North Texas' media guide, Mean Green quarterback Mason Fine is 5 feet, 11 inches. That's being generous. However tall Fine is — we'd guess 5-9 — he is, headed into his senior season, the most important player to the North Texas football program since Mean Joe Greene, having led the Denton school to back-to-back nine-win seasons. Whether he's able to lead UNT to its first-ever Conference USA championship, Fine has turned a long-term laughingstock into a football contender.

Kathy Tran

Flywheel Sports offerers classes ranging from 30 to 90 minutes. Upper-body exercises are incorporated for a full-body workout, and all classes are set to music. Not for the faint of heart, Flywheel is a favorite among those best motivated by a little friendly competition. Compete with classmates to see your name climb the TorqBoard at the front of the room. You can also view performance stats via Flywheel's app and website. Shoes, towels and lockers are complimentary. Single classes start at $28; unlimited packages start at $195 a month. Their Oak Lawn studio has closed, but Plano pedals on.

The timing was not ideal: The September day Texas oilman and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens died, administrators of the downtown YMCA to which he gave his name and lots of money inadvertently announced plans to sell the building. It was an awkward coincidence, but the downtown Y sits on valuable land in the heart of the city. Its managers had been contemplating a sale and move for about a year, thanks partly to the growing number of apartment buildings and offices offering their own workout rooms, according to news reports. So, the Y's plans to look at relocating make sense, but we doubt many of those workout rooms offer a full sauna and steamroom, a gigantic swimming pool, floors of equipment and trainers to help members get in shape. The Observer's editor learned to swim at the downtown Y, and staff is frequently somewhat grateful he hasn't drowned. Does your dinky "fitness center" have that? Does it have old guys who lose all sense of modesty when they enter a gym? The sight of naked old dudes imparts a valuable, Ozymandias-like life lesson to young men: This is your future; flesh is frail; be humble and polite. The downtown Y is a great community gathering and learning place; membership fees are reasonable and services are broad. Here's hoping it's replaced with something equally awesome. In the meantime ...

Kathy Tran
Sunstone Yoga

While Sunstone FIT has grown to offer a wider variety of fitness classes — hence a rebranding from Sunstone Yoga years back — yoga is still the studio's bread and butter. Sunstone offers eight yoga series with options including classes in hot or warm rooms. Hot Yoga (originally called Fire) is Sunstone's signature series. The class takes place in a carefully controlled room with a temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and -60% humidity and is based on a series of sequenced yoga postures, which can be adapted based on flexibility and fitness level. Single classes are $30; unlimited monthly memberships start at $99.

For those looking to flex on and around others, Vital Fitness' "Glow with the Flow" event is as good as it gets. Located in front of Downtown's iconic eyeball statue and hosted by the Joule hotel, yoga enthusiasts ranging from novice all the way to experts came together in a celebration of physical fitness and mental wellness. Guests were asked to wear as much white clothing as possible to assist in their own personal "glow." Blacklights were aimed at the group stretching and posing on the lawn, which gave everyone a subtle but elegant fluorescence — and highlighted their striking poses. This event was surely not the Joule's, nor Vital Fitness' last "Glow with the Flow" event, and anyone interested should keep their eyes open for when it returns.

Tucked into one of North Texas' rare forested areas, North Shore Trail runs a 10-mile course along the north side of Grapevine Lake, between Rockledge Park in Grapevine and Twin Coves Park in Flower Mound. Although it's also popular with hikers and joggers looking to find a bit of nature in the middle of the city, the trail is a real treat for mountain bikers. The steep, rugged terrain offers more climbs and dives than cyclists can typically find in this part of the world, with picturesque views of the lake scattered in between.

For those who live in downtown or Deep Ellum, arrival of a long-promised bowling alley on the west side of Deep Ellum was taking forever. Finally, we have it, and we're still thankful Punch Bowl Social is here. While the food is OK, this is a destination for gaming and for bowling — it puts other places to shame with its bowling lanes, and it's a welcome addition to the developing neighborhood.

Kathy Tran
Cedar Ridge

Twenty minutes from downtown, Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve will make you feel like you're in a whole different part of the state. With rolling terrain dotted with native trees, the 600-acre preserve looks more like a piece of the Hill Country than North Texas. The park's nine miles of trails lead hikers through woods and grassland, past wildflowers and butterfly gardens. Most of the trails are less than a half-mile long, perfect for short strolls. Those looking for longer hikes can try the 1.9-mile Cedar Brake Trail or the mile-long Cattail Pond Trail.

Luke's locker is a sporting goods store by athletes and for athletes. The benefit of the employees being seasoned athletes sounds like a gimmick until one of them finds you the best pair of running shoes you've ever worn. Even if that isn't your experience, you'll still find knowledgeable sales associates with the common goal of taking you to the next level. If you add the Luke's Locker event schedule to the equation (found online and in the store), the institution you thought just sold sports attire becomes a gym of sorts. In short, Texans looking to get serious about recreational athletics will find much to love about Luke's Locker.

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