Editor's note: What was Dallas reading in 2020? We are so glad you asked. A curious thing happened as we began to compile our annual list of most popular stories: In a year of "bad news" headlines, our readers clamored for "good." They clicked on stories about new vacation destinations and travel deals, local cities earning prestigious distinctions, and most of all, Christmas lights that were sure to make spirits brighter at the end of the year. There were some sad restaurant closures that got a lot of attention, and important coronavirus news to keep up with. These are the stories that readers devoured this year. Find out our most popular dining, arts and entertainment, travel, and real estate stories in their own lists, too.
1. Where to see the most spectacular Christmas lights around Dallas in 2020. Never had we needed the joy of holiday lights to brighten a dark year like we did in 2020. Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, readers devoured our list of the biggest, brightest, most spectacular Christmas light displays in the area, making it our most-read story of the year. There was no better way to enjoy our socially distanced holidays than to pour the hot chocolate, load up the car, flip on the holiday tunes, and explore these merry, magical wonderlands.
2. Texas' largest crystal lagoon makes waves as cool new summer vacation spot. Texans looking to make a splash — but with a healthy distance from others — had a chance to dive into a massive island-style getaway this summer. A 12-acre lagoon opened to the public during the limited-capacity Summer Lagoonfest at Lago Mar in Texas City (in the Houston area) from July 15 through September 13. It then offered some special events in the fall.
3. New drive-thru 'holiday light spectacular' to debut in 3 North Texas cities. In October, a new holiday lights event was on its way to brighten up 2020 for North Texas. "Radiance! A Holiday Light Spectacular" announced it would be flicking on in Frisco, Weatherford, and Decatur this holiday season. (It runs through January 3, 2021.) Radiance hopped on the hottest trend of the year as a drive-thru experience that would be more than a mile long and take 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
4. Dallas suburb packs up title as America's best city for a staycation. In May, personal finance site WalletHub compared more than 180 cities across 15 key metrics, evaluating things like parks per capita, average home square footage, and the best summer weather, to determine the very best spots for staycationing. And guess who landed at No. 1? The North Texas suburb of Plano.
5. 6 affluent Dallas-Fort Worth cities cash in as the richest in Texas. Forget Beverly Hills. Move over, Manhattan. These Dallas-Fort Worth cities are cashing in as the richest in Texas for 2020. A list published in January from data provider HomeSnacks ranked six spots in North Texas among the 10 richest places in the state with at least 5,000 residents. Highland Park took the No. 3 spot statewide.
6. Dallas' Gas Monkey Live fronted by Fast N' Loud's Richard Rawlings closes. The live music spot Gas Monkey Live in Northwest Dallas confirmed in May it was closing, but the live music — and scheduled shows — would live on. The venue, which initially closed in late March due to COVID-19, would merge with its nearby sibling Gas Monkey Bar N' Grill, personnel said then. It is not open now. A December 9 message on Gas Monkey's website says it is "hibernating for the winter."
7. North Dallas steakhouse gets locked out and relocates to Frisco. The Dallas location of III Forks Steakhouse closed September 9 after being locked out by the landlord, but set up shop in a sister restaurant in Frisco. Located at 17776 N. Dallas Pkwy., the steakhouse shut down after nearly 23 years at that location, citing the impact of COVID-19 as a cause. It relocated to 1303 Legacy Dr., taking over the space occupied by its sibling steakhouse, Silver Fox.
8. Texas governor finally issues statewide shutdown of restaurants and bars. After avoiding the inevitable for more than a week into Texas' early outbreak of coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19 finally shut down dining in restaurants and bars across the state. Restaurants could still do takeout and delivery, and, notably, Abbott also allowed them to sell beer, wine, and mixed drinks to-go. They reopened later in spring, but limits on crowd capacities and other strict COVID-19 protocols have continued throughout the year.
9. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines takes off with new Texas route for $29. In early December, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines wheeled out a new way to get to Houston — cheap. Beginning April 12, 2021, Southwest customers can fly between Love Field and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental, nonstop, for $29 one way. The new flights are part of Southwest's new service in and out of Bush in Houston.
10. Master list of every Dallas restaurant and bar that closed in 2020. It's a gloomy CultureMap tradition to compile an annual list of restaurant closures, although it's usually framed as more as an homage to what came and went. But the 2020 version was more brutal than usual, since so many restaurants and bars closed due to COVID-19. Here was that end-of-year list, published on December 28.