Nathan Hunsinger

With its bookstore located in Deep Ellum, Deep Vellum's publishing arm has quickly become a powerhouse in the Dallas literary scene. Launched as a nonprofit in 2013, the operation is headed by founder Will Evans, who later opened the little bookstore in 2016. Each year, Deep Vellum publishes several original titles and new translations of foreign literary works from around the world. In recent years, they've also put a focus on publishing Dallas-based authors and supporting the local literary community. If you get a chance to pop into their bookstore, you'll find their own titles and plenty more, and you can enjoy some of the best coffee in town.

We know, performance art isn't for everyone. But if your cup of tea spilleth over for the bizarre and avant-garde, then keep up with Odyssey Studios. The small warehouse space holds nothing in it but performers and spectators can watch inside or outdoors. One recent show featured Gibson Regester on a series called Amygdala Hijack consisting of three different nights highlighting abuse within queer relationships. In the first, the artist put on pink boxing gloves and beat themselves up with pink paint. For the last show, they ate a bar of soap. In June, the brilliant Colton White's performance showed the artist trapped in a translucent box, summing up the helpless sequestering experience of quarantine.

There's nothing that gets us in the Christmas spirit like spending a couple of hours with the inhabitants of Tuna, the "third-smallest town" in Texas. The satirical 1989 play A Tuna Christmas features two actors playing over 20 colorful characters, from Tasty-Creme waitresses and radio disc jockeys to UFOlogists. Theoretically the story is about a Christmas yard display contest and the hijinks that ensue, but there are too many subplots to count. Really, the fun is in the dialogue and the gymnastics the actors perform as they switch in and out of characters. (All of whom are both completely absurd and instantly recognizable if you've spent any time in rural Texas.) When it debuted, A Tuna Christmas was so instantly beloved that it made its way to the White House, where the writers and original cast performed it for President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush. And because it's easy to produce, it's been a staple of community theaters in the South ever since.

When you think of cat cafés, you might assume something along the line of Fleabag's guinea pig themed café, not an eatery actually populated by cats. But that's what you get at The Casual Cat. Crazy cat ladies and gents with a love of felines greater than the Tiger King's can make the drive to Richland Hills to cuddle with cats for just $11 an hour for a refreshment garnished with a bit of fur ball. All the cats are up for adoption. The cat lover haven also sells cat merchandise and offers activities such as yoga with cats, crafts with cats and painting with cats.

Mistermckinney, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When nobody was looking, McKinney became cool. Not to be mixed up (by Dallasites who rarely venture beyond city limits) with McKinney Avenue, the northern suburb has always had its charm: an old prison that once housed Jesse James' brother and a Charles Manson follower, antique shops, boutiques and mom-and-pop restaurants. But now it's actually cool. McKinney has a female-owned record store with Red Zeppelin, a comic book store and a spot called Mom and Popcorn. The city's square is now also surrounded by far more bars than we remember and has specialized shops selling guitars, pies or tobacco — all under strings of lights that sparkle in the night time.

Jonathan Furlong/Facebook

Shepard Fairey, the street artist best known for his red and blue "Hope" poster of former President Barack Obama, has a long history with Dallas as the spot where he began a career as a street artist. Through his collective Obey Giant, Fairey left a gift to the city this year in the form of a mural on a water tower in Deep Ellum. The work, called "Cultivate Harmony," includes that phrase along with the words "Eyes open, minds open," and "Rise above" with a design that includes a peace sign and a giant eye, which must be Dallas' thing now.

Steven Novak

Some people are really into Halloween, but spending thousands of dollars on yard decorations doesn't necessarily make the displays any more creative. Dads, take some notes from artist Steven Novak, whose elaborate Halloween decorations terrified neighbors who called the police over what they believed to be a bloodbath taking place in his East Dallas front yard. The story on Novak's home (which, to brag, we reported first) was covered worldwide, from Newsweek and People to publications in France, Italy, Brazil and Singapore.

Rico DeLeon

The Dallas Mavericks joined with Dallas' music scene this year to do their part in the fight against racism. Truth to Power is a project started by Jeff "Skin" Wade, commentator for the Mavericks, and Josey Records co-owner Luke Sardello, with whom Wade owns record label Eastwood Records. Along with the Mavericks, the pair recruited every stellar connection in the music scene (including Leon Bridges, Sarah Jaffe and Black Pumas, as well as several local studios) for an album called Truth To Power Project, pressed on a special triple-album vinyl by Hand Drawn Pressing. Sales from the album go to four nonprofits — For Oak Cliff, the Music Forward Foundation, Joppy Momma's Farm, and Young Leaders, Strong City — that work to counter systemic racism.

In early August, a West African banded cobra saw an opportunity to explore the great outdoors when his cage was left unlocked. Since leaving his Grand Prairie home, the highly poisonous reptile has outsmarted animal control time and time again and evaded the 100 traps they put up to catch the fugitive snake. The outlaw is just trying to live its life and stay incognito hiding its 6-foot body from the bad guys trying to lock him up in the suburbs. Meanwhile, he's become an Internet hero with support from many North Texans rooting for his freedom through personal Grand Prairie Cobra accounts created on social media and his thousands of followers on Twitter.

With the influx of new residents in North Texas, it feels like renters are willing to settle for any old closet where we can fit if not a bed, at least our phone chargers. But we still remember the good days of yore when rentals had generous floor plans, and we know a good living space when we see it. Harvest Lofts and its neighboring complex Taylor Lofts are across the street from the Dallas Farmers Market, giving residents an opportunity to shop for fresh produce and local honey on the weekends and an ideal walking distance from Deep Ellum. The complexes have excellent management and customer service. The units offer high ceilings, kitchen islands and amenities such a resident club house with a pool table, a two-story gym and an enormous, luxurious pool with lounge chairs that go into the water and three private cabanas. It may feel like a resort, but the complex is reasonably priced, pet-friendly and quiet.

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