It's been a tough time for many in Texas, with a conservative-majority Legislature penning legislation targeting LGBTQ+ rights. But the state Capitol may soon gain its first openly gay Black lawmaker living with HIV in Dallas Democrat Venton Jones, who's running for House District 100. Community advocate Jones is endorsed by the Victory Fund, a pro-LGBTQ+ political action committee. He's long worked toward ending the HIV epidemic and is an advocate for public education, fixing the power grid and civil rights. Jones, who was born and raised in HD 100, is also a licensed Realtor and serves as CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network.

The Basic Blogger Bitch, Alexandria Ashraf, struck TikTok gold when she managed to piss off every $30,000 millionaire in DFW by simply stating the facts: Dallas is a dating dumpster. Truth hurts, fellas. But TikTok after Tiktok, Ashraf continues to enthrall followers with her ability to be unforgivably herself, and luckily, she brings Dallasites along for the ride. Ashraf is the TikTok BFF everyone needs. With the support of 22,900 followers and over two million likes, Ashraf has been able to cover a broad range of topics from Pakistani representation to her Taylor Swift fandom seamlessly. She is the perfect balance, relatable to both millennials and Gen-Zers. Dallas and beyond is hitting the red follow button to join in on her shenanigans.

Mike Brooks

We have strong opinions about the best vodka in the Lone Star State, and no, it's not Tito's. Duckworth Vodka is located in Dallas, where each hand-crafted small batch is made with the utmost care. Duckworth is so good that you can actually sip it, which isn't what most people have in mind when they think of vodka. Interestingly enough, Duckworth is overseen by an accomplished winemaker-turned-distiller whose attention to detail manifests in each batch's balanced taste. The Premium Sipping Vodka is great for nursing neat or on the rocks, and the earthy Truffle Vodka is a show-stopping delight. Martini-lovers rejoice.

Virtual reality isn't a fantasy about how the future might look. It's the present. It's available in our homes. It's available on our computers. It's available on our phones and can be used with something as simple as a carefully cut-out piece of cardboard. VR venues have to go the extra mile to top something so accessible and easy to use. Zero Latency's games can set up virtual walls and hallways and create challenges that aren't like anything you can play on an Oculus Quest. They range from zombie survival shooters to cooperative puzzle-solving worlds, and you get to hold weapons and objects that mimic what you see in the virtual world. They've even added a triple AAA game title from the popular FarCry franchise of videogames. Zero Latency in Addison offers games that you can play at home only if you demolish all the walls on one floor of your house, and it offers technology that feels like something used to train military personnel.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Just as grandmas did while playing bingo at the VFW in the '80s, groups of players stake out territory at Four Corners to play loteria on Thursday nights. The game moves fast, and it's actually kind of intense for short stretches of time, but once someone wins, you'll have a few minutes to get back to your drinking, smack talk and those ginormous fried fajita balls. This brewery in the Cedars has a fun tap room and the person leading the loteria doubles as a DJ. You might even learn some new Spanish words (like ladder: escalera). Pay attention and don't be shy. This is a great experience if you're looking for a way to entertain out-of-towners too — and get them drunk. Or get them to shut up for a bit.

The Observer has long promoted the talents of WFAA's Pete Delkus. But another, more under-the-radar forecaster from the same channel is ready for his time in the sun: Jesse Hawila. A Texas native, Hawila grew up wanting to be a weatherman, and he's also passionate about many types of music, particularly metal. His consistent social media updates on North Texas weather are often infused with a comforting sense of humor, whether it be stormy or hot as hell. Hopefully, Hawila's weather wizardry can help to deliver mild winters and cool summers from here on out.

Raul Reyes Jr.'s roots are in West Dallas. His parents, Raul and Juanita, immigrated to Dallas in the '60s. In 1979, they bought a home in West Dallas, eventually purchasing several other properties in the area. Today, Reyes Jr. is bringing up his kids in the same community. Over the years, he's organized political battles in the community, like its long-running efforts to run a shingle manufacturer out of town. That effort continues today. Another he's helped spearhead is a proposed neighborhood-led plan for his corner of the city. West Dallas has grown substantially over the years. With property taxes on the rise, some in the community are worried they'll be priced out of their own neighborhoods. As long as Reyes is around, someone will be fighting on their behalf.

Mike Brooks

Unless you've spent time attempting to become a sommelier, it's easy to get overwhelmed at wine bars. At Times Ten Cellars, the friendly, knowledgeable staff will help guide you to find your perfect wine fit. This Dallas gem works with vineyards located in the Lone Star State and California to deliver a chic-yet-accessible wine collection. Feeling adventurous? Order a tasting flight so you can sample 2-ounce pours of three different wines. Those who start to feel a little peckish can also choose from Times Ten Cellars' food menu, which features delectable cheese boards and flatbreads.

Mike Brooks

For the past couple of years, Dr. Michael Phillips has emerged as one of North Texas' foremost free speech advocates. The former Collin College history professor is one of several educators who say they were fired for speaking out about alleged rights violations at the school. Since then, Phillips has worked with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a First Amendment watchdog, to stress the importance of academic freedom. He's also a lauded author who's researching the history of eugenics in Texas.

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Atwater Alley is a side-hustle of Henry's Majestic. There's no sign or advertising, so you have to know about it to find it. (If you're facing Henry's, go left to the end of the sidewalk, then take a right down the alley. Look for a guy sitting in a chair.) Inside is a two-story bar. On slow nights you'll find everyone upstairs in a dim room filled with booths and deep chairs. There's no cocktail menu here, just chat with the bartenders and they'll get you what you need, maybe even suggest something new. It fills up late at night. It's not necessarily a nightcap place, but something like that.

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