When Junior Players was founded in 1955, its focus was on presenting traditional children's theater productions performed exclusively by children and teenagers. In 1989, the organization shifted its focus to providing free programming to children and teenagers across North Texas. Junior Players has put on many productions in that time, including their five-year-long series Transformation Project, which dove into issues facing teens today, from gun violence and immigration to bullying and sexual abuse. They fought to stay afloat during the pandemic and now they're dancing harder than ever.

Best Renovation
Danny Fulgencio

After a few ups and downs in the last year, the Children's Aquarium at Fair Park, the oldest in the state, is reopening its doors. Opened in 1936, the aquarium operated at a loss for some time, and when the pandemic struck, plans were announced to shut it down for good. About 135,000 guests visited the aquarium annually before it closed. Thanks to funding from the city and new managers ZoOceanarium, the aquarium is getting a second life.

KUZU is a low-powered FM nonprofit community radio station broadcasting in a limited three-to-five-mile radius at 92.9 FM from a tower in Denton, but the station also streams online to a worldwide listening audience at kuzu.fm. Assuming you love to be exposed to new music and expand your musical tastes, the only complaint one could possibly have about KUZU is that to a new listener the programming may seem scattershot, as the wide variety of weekly, biweekly and monthly programming transitions from host to host and genre to genre, moving from new wave or post punk one hour to polka or honky tonk tracks the next. Once the station's schedule is consulted at kuzu.fm, listeners easily learn when to tune into their favorites of the more than 50 hosts' programs.

Best Place to Smoke Hookah
Patrick Strickland

A longtime staple in downtown Richardson, the Palestinian-owned Jasmine Café is the spot to smoke hookah, whether you prefer to get your tokes in during the day or late at night. With more than 50 flavors ranging from classics like double apple to outliers like sex panther or skittles, you can mix and match to find the exact taste you want. If you get hungry, they have a variety of Mediterranean dishes you can enjoy while you smoke the hours away: hummus, shish kabob, falafel and shawarma, among other delicious bites. If you get tired, you can top your hookah off with a powerful cup of Arabic coffee.

Sharky's Bar & Grill

Open every day from 11:30 a.m. until 1 in the morning, Sharky's is a North Dallas sports bar where you can get hammered and practice your forehand, your backhand and your top spin all at that same time. In between drunken rounds of ping pong, you can chow down on jalapeno poppers, a burger or anything else from their full-service kitchen. (We recommend eating light if you've got a tough match ahead of you.) Even better, the "happy hour" lasts from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., so you're sure to get sloshed while you smack the ball across the table at your opponent.

Best Place to Play Late-Night Bingo
Michael Cote', CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated right off the highway, I-30 Bingo may not get you totally rich, per se, but you still have the chance to win some serious cash at this frills-free little bingo hall. Open Wednesday through Thursday, I-30 pays out $5,000 in cold cash each day. On Thursdays, you might just win yourself a brand new television. On Sundays, you could even win a computer. Plus, it's open late on the weekdays and weekends, so it's the perfect spot for wholesome fun in Dallas after you've wrapped up a night of drinking and general debauchery.

Best Soundcloud Release
Kevin Porier

Some of the best things to come out of music are the things you didn't know you wanted. That's how emerging Dallas musician Cameron McCloud built a following for his group Cure for Paranoia's ambitious second album BAMN (By Any Means Necessary). McCloud, producer Jay Analog and engineer Tomahawk Jones put together the self-effacing, open and catchy eight-track album and first released the EP on Soundcloud as a secret gift for a monetary donation. Songs like "99" and "Dolla Dolla Bill Y'all" take mainstream rap sounds and themes and turn them on their ear to create something complex, heady and funny as hell. The only thing McCloud and his crew take seriously is the production to record and mix awesome songs that aren't so serious. The result produced sounds that are thought-provoking, clever and cool.

Best Collaboration
Michael Briggs

We live in angry times, giving punk another chance to raise its angry fist and maybe a certain finger at authority. Just because Donald Trump is no longer resident doesn't mean stupidity and authoritarianism left with him. The Denton punk group Noogy teamed up with Austin's MDC to produce something appropriate during the downtime we all suddenly had in (what we hope will be) the end of the COVID pandemic with Bye Bye Donny, a raucous FU to everything that made life suck in the last few years. It feels like an echo of the thesis statements of legends like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys. It's also a very personal piece of work for the Denton band. Noogy drummer Nick Helm died in 2020 as his depression and the isolation from not touring overtook him. It's sad but out of it comes something inspiring as the rest of the band picks up Helm's sound and style to make sure they didn't go with him. It's living proof that nothing can kill great punk rock.

Best Experimental Rap
Classic Threadz

Even though we're in the 21st century, we still haven't gotten stuff like flying cars and jetpacks. The upside is we've got a futuristic soundtrack that would be awesome to play from our jet car's cosmo-blaster. Rapper Mallo the Great, an "avid Dallas repper," according to his Instagram, developed one of the most unusual stylings of the year with his brand of hip-hop and cosmic backgrounds. Mallo took advantage of the quarantine to advance his freestyle talents and experiment with all sorts of alluring sounds and instruments to produce rap tracks backed with beautiful backgrounds that do more than just make noise. They elevate the drama and passion of the stories in his songs that feel like something on the same level as a passionate aria from an opera. The rhymes he spills can be just as furious as any rap standard, but there's something very passionate and beautiful in Mallo's works.

Best New Label
Bayleigh Cheek

Who would have thought that some of the hippest new music would come from a burgeoning label in McKinney? Katie Scott started Red Zeppelin Records as a music store on McKinney's downtown square for hardcore crate diggers; this past year, it also started producing its own indie artist releases. They are fairly new, but they've already produced a really slick release with local musician Juno Uno and the unique pop sound from his new track "Sides." Red Zeppelin also released a new 5-track EP from Bayleigh Creek called Immortals that offers its own unique mix of haunting and mesmerizing. It's a very encouraging start for a label that has nowhere to go up from here.

Best Of Dallas®

Best Of