Photo by Daniel Halseth on Unsplash

Somewhere between the arctic blast that recently chilled the state and the triple digit temperatures of the last few months, Dallas-Fort Worth emerged as one of the top destinations for winter vacationers looking for a warm place to spend their holidays.

A new report by WalletHub for 2023 called Best Winter Holiday Destinations divided 70 of the biggest U.S. metropolitan areas into two categories: the top "warm" and "cold" weather destinations. The study evaluated every metro based on 37 factors, including travel costs, local costs, weather predictions, and safety.

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked No. 4 with a score of 63.69 points (out of a possible 100), just behind Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown (No. 3), San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California (No. 2) and Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada (No. 1).

Dallas maintained its position in the top five for the third consecutive year.

For the purpose of the study, "cold" weather was determined to be less than or equal to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, while "warm" weather was greater than or equal to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Both guidelines were analyzed based on the 50-year average December temperatures.

The report found that the Metroplex had the fourth-lowest travel cost and hassles, much of which can be owed to the busy (but highly efficient) Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Luckily for Texans, the cheerful holiday season begins in November. There's plenty of time to make those festive weekend plans, from ice rinks to cowboy Santa appearances throughout the Hill Country and the rest of the state.

As expected, most of the best warm weather destinations in the report fall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The highest concentration of warm weather places is in the Sunshine State of Florida (10 metros), followed closely behind by Texas (nine metros), then California (eight metros).

However, Texas cities dominated the top 10. Right behind Austin and Dallas is San Antonio-New Braunfels (No. 5), and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (No. 8).

According to Linchi Kwok, a professor of hospitality management at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, winter holiday travel around the country is going to be impacted by the current economy. That could make other Texas destinations like San Antonio, Austin, or Houston more enticing for Dallas-Fort Worth residents.

"While Americans still want to travel this winter, they may pick a destination closer to home and find ways to stretch the dollar," Kwok said.

Oddly enough, if Dallasites would like to get away and enjoy some cold weather, the report recommends Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, Georgia (No. 1). Not exactly the picture of a winter wonderland. Chicago, at No. 3, is the highest ranked cold destination in the Northern states.

The top 10 best warm weather winter vacation destinations are:

  • No. 1 – Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
  • No. 2 – San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  • No. 3 – Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, Texas
  • No. 4 – Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
  • No. 5 – San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
  • No. 6 – Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina
  • No. 7 – San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
  • No. 8 – Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas
  • No. 9 – Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Arizona
  • No. 10 – Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa

Slide down a snowy mountain and 9 more Texas travel tidbits in November

where to travel right now

Thanksgiving is barely on the horizon, but places all over Texas are getting a head start on the holiday season's festivities. Can't decide where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in November.

In the Hill Country

Texans on fall getaways will find a winter wonderland at the JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, starting already on November 11. The popular resort's Hill Country Christmas adventures are rolling out several familiar and brand new immersive experiences. Resort guests and visitors can slide down Snow Flow Mountain, sing their favorite holiday carols with Mrs. Claus, decorate gingerbread houses, participate in a Secret Santa Scavenger hunt, and more. Ticket prices range from from $12.99 to $39.99 for different activities, and bundle ticket pricing is available. The Hill Country Christmas experiences will run until December 31.

For even more Hill Country holiday revelry, travelers can take a spin on the ice rink at the Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, beginning November 10. The Galleria is bringing the wintery activity back this year after its highly successful debut season in 2022. The ice rink will be open daily at varying hours, and reservations are encouraged. Tickets for a 60-minute skate session are $15 each, which also includes the skate rental.

Weekend holiday events are also ramping up in the Gruene Historic District in New Braunfels, but visitors can catch live music in the small town every day, all year. The Grapevine Garden's monthly "Come and Taste It" event falls on November 16, and is open to the public for all to share in delightful Texas wines and craft beer. Riding in for some early Christmas cheer, Cowboy Kringle will visit Gruene for special photo sessions with families from November 18-19 and 24-26. If you're hanging around the small town on the first weekend for Cowboy Kringle, make sure to stick around for the Old Gruene Market Days to shop the many vendors selling handmade items and locally made food.

Around Central Texas

Waco's Fixer Upper royalty Chip and Joanna Gaines are resuming tours of their century-old "Cottonwood Castle," which they spent years renovating and showcased on TV last fall. One-hour, guided walking tours that explore its design and history will be offered Mondays through Saturdays, for a limited time. Tour tickets are available online in timed intervals from 9 am to 12:30 pm through January 31, 2024. Tickets are $50 (children under four are free), and groups of six or more can receive a 10 percent discount.

Just down the road, the Gaineses' fixed-up Hotel 1928 also officially opens for reservations on November 1. The 33-room, luxe boutique hotel sits in the historic Grand Karem Shrine Building in downtown Waco and is named for the year in which it was completed. Rates start at $375 per night. Hotel 1928 will get its own weekly TV series, Fixer Upper: The Hotel, beginning 8 pm November 8 on Magnolia Network.

In Austin

One of the city's oldest hotels, The Stephen F. Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel, recently welcomed the arrival of its new royal mascot. The Baron of Austin is an ode to The Hippopotamus Lounge and Piano Bar, which previously occupied the second-story bar and terrace during the "early 20th century." To celebrate, the hotel has created the swanky "Baron of Austin Experience Package" in partnership with the Austin Zoo. Guests who book a stay in one of the luxurious suites using the promo code "BARON" will receive two free admission passes to the zoo, cocktail vouchers for "The Basking Baron" (a secret menu specialty cocktail from Stephen F's Bar and Terrace), and 10 percent of the proceeds from the stay will be donated to the zoo. Nightly rates for suites begin at the princely sum of $729.

The banks of Waller Creekwill soon be aglow with illuminated art installations as part of Waterloo Greenway's free creek show, which has been a must-see annual event since 2014. Visitors can experience Austin in a whole new light and walk along 9th Street to Waterloo Park to experience the eye-catching artwork from November 10-18. This year's show features six new light-based art pieces created by local artists and designers. The show will run from 6 pm to 10 pm.

For a Dallas staycation...

November 22, 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza will acknowledge the sad occasion with a special exhibition opening November 8. "Two Days in Texas" will revisit the former president's November 1963 trip to Texas through eyewitness accounts and his own words. Original film footage, photographs, news articles, and more will be drawn from the museum’s collection of more than 95,000 artifacts relating to the assassination. Never-before-seen video of Kennedy's motorcade will also be debuted during the exhibition, which will run until June 16, 2024. "Two Days in Texas" is included with the price of admission ($18 for adults until December 31, and $22 beginning January 1, 2024).

The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas partnered with Texas-based design firm Rottet Studio for a multimillion-dollar renovation that, it promises, "redefines the standards of opulence." The hotel's public areas, Club Lounge, and all of the 218 guest rooms and suites have gotten their own upgrades with new luxurious amenities. The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas is offering a limited time “Destination Dallas” package to celebrate the renovations through March 31, 2024. Guests can book one of the hotel’s deluxe city-view guest rooms using the code "CUE" and receive breakfast for two, a surprise welcome amenity, a 20 percent discount on spa services, and two tickets for the JFK Trolley Tour. Room rates for the package begin at $1,079 per night in November.

Over in Fort Worth...

Even before the official Christmas in the Fort Worth Stockyards celebration in December, the holidays arrive with the Stockyards Rodeo Rink gliding in on November 20, along with several other spirited Christmas activities. Santa's Grand Arrival Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place right after Thanksgiving on November 24, and visitors can grab photos with Cowboy Santa on Wednesdays through Sundays starting that same day until December 24. Mrs. Claus will hold her classic story time hour for families on Thanksgiving weekend and into December.

DPhoto by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash

Dallas tumbles 26 spots in prestigious new list of world's 100 best cities

World's best list

Big economic investments and population growth are definitive highlights of Dallas' success over the last year, but they weren't enough to keep it within the top 50 best cities in the world, according to a new prestigious report.

The annual "World's Best Cities" report, compiled by Canada-based real estate and tourism marketing advisors Resonance Consultancy, quantifies the relative qualities of place, reputation, and competitive identity for the world's principal cities with metropolitan populations of 1 million or more.

Dallas comes in at No. 73 for 2024, slipping from its position as No. 47 in the 2023 ranking.

London topped the list again for 2024, followed by Paris (No. 2), New York (No. 3), Tokyo (No. 4), and Singapore (No. 5).

The report primarily focuses on Dallas' ability to show a thriving "economic reality," rather than explaining its ranking.

Over 10,000 corporate headquarters have found their place in Dallas, the report says, making it the city with the highest concentration of large employers in the U.S.

The report praised the city's consistently high ranking Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which landed an honor as North America's best airport by the Airports Council International earlier in 2023.

"[The airport's] planned $3-billion Terminal F project [is] possibly back on the table, given DFW’s rebound of 73.4 million passengers in 2022 — an increase of 17 percent over a busy 2021," the report's author wrote.

Two major upcoming projects were highlighted in the report's overview of Dallas: the new 2.5 million square foot convention center, and the rebuilding of a major highway through the city.

"[2028] should see the trenching of the city’s car-worshiping Interstate 345 that cut off Black neighborhoods when it was built in the early 1970s," the report said.

Dallas' cultural footprint has also substantially developed throughout the years. According to the report, Dallas is home to "America's sixth-largest LGBTQIA+ community," but it's not the only thing that makes the city so diverse (and fun).

"On 20 square blocks of mixed-use space, institutions like the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art, theaters, and symphony and opera venues all power an improving [cultural status]," the report said.

Austin and Houston also earned spots on the World's Best Cities list for 2024, but only one took a significant tumble from the previous year's rankings. Houston fell from No. 42 in last year's report to its current rank as No. 66.

Austin, on the other hand, maintained its position as No. 43 for the second consecutive year.

The top 10 best cities in the world, according to Resonance Consultancy, are:

  • No. 1 – London, United Kingdom
  • No. 2 – Paris, France
  • No. 3 – New York, New York
  • No. 4 – Tokyo, Japan
  • No. 5 – Singapore
  • No. 6 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • No. 7 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 8 – Barcelona, Spain
  • No. 9 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • No. 10 – Seoul, South Korea
The full list of cities and the report's methodology can be found on worldsbestcities.com.
Photo courtesy of Carolwood Real Estate

Most expensive home for sale in Texas is a luxury lodge going for $65M

luxe lodge livin'

Texas' luxury real estate market is showing no sign of slowing, with the reveal that a sprawling, $65 million estate in Houston is the most expensive listing for sale in the state.

A new national real estate report by online real estate marketplace Point2Homes determined The Lodge at Hunters Creek - a nine-acre estate located along Buffalo Bayou at 107 Timberwilde Ln. - is not only the highest priced property in Texas, it's also the No. 8 most expensive residential property for sale in the nation.

If this estate seems familiar, it was also the priciest home for sale in Texas in 2022. At that time, it was going for $60 million. It was also on sale in 2021, at the current $65 million price.

Currently listed by Billy Dolan at Carolwood Real Estate, the property was built in 2005 and boasts a gigantic 22,000-square-foot main house, complete with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Each bedroom contains its own en-suite bathroom.

Floor-to-ceiling windows can be found throughout the house, allowing guests to get a picturesque view of the backyard pool, the expertly manicured garden, and the forest surrounding the home. The solariums are the ideal spot to sit and daydream, or perhaps do some yoga.

107 Timberwilde Lane, home for sale in Houston

Photo courtesy of Carolwood Real Estate

The solariums give the perfect view of the garden, pool, and the trees beyond.

Guests can choose to relax in one of the many lounge areas throughout the house, including a cozy-yet-sophisticated study that comes with a fireplace, spiral staircase, and multiple bookshelves along the walls.

107 Timberwilde Lane, home for sale in HoustonCozy up with a good book by the fire in this breathtaking study.Photo courtesy of Carolwood Real Estate

Tall, lusciously green trees wrap the spacious property with the perfect amount of privacy, but a personal 24-hour guard house also provides a sense of security for owners and guests. The gravel driveway into the property is a noticeable difference from the asphalt and paved driveways Houston is known for.

A two bedroom, two bathroom guest house with a private pool and spa can be found farther away from the main house for added separation.

Other over-the-top amenities at The Lodge include a multi-car custom showcase garage, a flexible sport court, an outdoor kitchen and bar, an on-site well, and more.

With this hefty price tag, The Lodge has received national attention, most recently in the Robb Report. More information about the property can be found on carolwoodre.com.

Facebook/Magnolia Market

Spooky ghost tours, a big Silobration, and more Texas travel tidbits in October

where to travel right now

Fall is finally here, and with the (hopefully) cooler temps will come the chance to get outside and enjoy autumn activities all around Texas. Can't decide where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in October.

Throughout Texas

If searching for beautiful fall foliage around Texas is at the top of the priority list, cabin rental agency Smoky Mountains' prediction map is the perfect guide to help estimate when the leaves will begin changing throughout the state and the U.S. The map predicts most of Texas will have minimal-to-patchy changing leaves by the end of October, and most of the state's trees will be at their color-changing peak in November.

Dallas-based luxury bus operator Vonlane added 60 new weekly departures to meet anticipated high demand for the fall travel season. There are now more than 430 trips per week departing Vonlane hubs in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Travelers can book their trips online for both one-way or round-trips, with fares beginning at $119.


The annual Magnolia Silobration at The Silos will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chip and Joanna Gaines' Waco-based home design and lifestyle empire from October 19-21. Fixer Upper fans can visit the Silos to enjoy a three-day adventure of local artisan and food vendors, live music performances, shopping, and more. The festival is free, but note that certain ticketed experiences like the 20th anniversary tour, weekend rooftop passes, and Evenings with Chip and Jo are sold out.

Along the Gulf Coast

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spooky season than by seeking out haunted ghost experiences in Corpus Christi? The Heritage Park Museum will showcase four reportedly haunted houses, and phantom chasers will delight in visiting the USS Lexington during the "Haunting on the Blue Ghost" event, October 6-31, to glimpse any ghostly crew members lurking about the vessel. The abandoned Nueces County Courthouse also has some ghouls of its own, with reports of voices, noises, and screams being heard following a hurricane that devastated the area more than a century ago.

Summer might be over, but a trip to the beach is always in the cards on South Padre Island. The annual Sandcastle Days falls on October 5-8, drawing the attention of sandcastle-building experts, food and craft vendors, and free family-friendly entertainment. Then, from October 19-21, classic cars and motorcycles rev up the brand new Chrome in the Sand Festival. The weekend will consist of live performances, car shows, a poker tournament, and more. Tickets for the Chrome in the Sand Festival begin at $20 for general admission, $55 for VIP, and $500 for VIP tables.

In the Hill Country

It's never too late for a day by the pool, and the luxurious Lantana Spa at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa has opened reservations for their renovated pool cabanas with a special VIP poolside service and deluxe amenities. The private, two-person Canyons, Preserve, and Oaks Spa Cabanas each include an unlimited mimosa service, shaded seating and chaise lounges, a dedicated server from 11 am-5 pm, and more. Cabana reservations can be made by resort guests or in addition to a spa service, and rates begin at $400.

Nonprofit trade association Texas Hill Country Wineries is bringing back its Texas Wine Month passport this month for a self-guided journey through 45 local wineries with special discounts scattered along the way. With participating estates scattered throughout popular weekend destinations like Fredericksburg, Johnson City, and New Braunfels, it’s a chance to explore the Hill Country and soak in those autumn vibes. Wine passport-holders can visit up to four wineries daily to get the most out of a weekend getaway. Individual passes are $85, and couples' passes are $120.

Speaking of wineries, one Marble Falls-based winery is hosting regular events throughout October, which is perfect for those holding a Texas Wine Month passport. Every Saturday and Sunday, folks can venture out to Flat Creek Estates & Vineyard for their effervescent Bubbles and Brunch from 11 am to 3 pm. And if the trip transforms from a brunch outing into an all-day affair, guests catch live music from local Texas bands during the winery's weekend music series from 2-6 pm. Ernie Vasquez and Evan Grubbs are scheduled the weekend of October 7-8, and Stephen Daly and Andrew Lopez will play on the weekend of October 14-15.


It's finally festival season down in Austin this month, beginning with the iconicAustin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park for two consecutive weekends from October 6-8 and 13-15. Luckily for Texas travelers, CultureMap's got the scoop on all things ACL – from can't-miss acts, to new eats, and more. One-day general admission tickets begin at $170. Weekend One tickets are waitlisted, but there are still one-day general admission tickets available for Weekend Two. Weekend passes for both weekends are waitlisted.

Then Austin zooms forward to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas from October 20-22. Red Bull Racing has already won the 2023 Constructors' Championship after its longstanding driver Max Verstappen won the Japanese Grand Prix, and Verstappen is well in the lead to win his third-consecutive World Drivers' Championship title. Three-day general admission wristbands are $475, two-day GA is $425, and three-day parking passes are $275.

Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science

Check out this giant shark and 10 more Texas travel tidbits for August

Where to travel right now

Even as summer vacation season winds down, there's fun to be had all across Texas in August. Can't decide where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 11 exhibits and events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings around the state to help plan a getaway.

In Houston

A jaw-dropping showcase has taken a dive into Houston's Museum of Natural Science this summer. At the exhibit's centerpiece is Meg, a gigantic 50-foot shark showing off her wide, toothy grin for photos with visitors of all ages. But not to worry, this Jawsome exhibit is focused on educating and inspiring curiosity. Patrons can explore six galleries that include a live shark tank, 14 life-sized models, interactive and touchable items, dazzling digital displays, fun photo ops, and megalodon-sized chunks of information about the ocean's apex predators.

In Austin

Swanky destination spas rarely offer deep discounts. So spa fans can be thankful for Miraval Austin's limited-time Gratitude Sale. Book by August 15 for stays through November 30 to receive a $100 discount on nightly rates (which start at $849) and a $100 nightly resort credit. Guests can also choose to receive a $225 resort credit per night. Credits can be used on spa sessions; private sessions with Miraval Specialists; or deluxe experiences like yin yoga, tarot reading, beekeeping, and more.

Another Austin spa-resort is headed to the top of the charts: Lake Austin Spa Resortwas recently featured in Trips to Discover's "Top 20 Spa and Wellness Resorts in the U.S." list. Ranking No. 7, the resort earned praise for its executive chef, lakefront access, and variety of fitness classes offered for guests. The resort is booked out for August, but rates for September stays begin at $581 a night.

A cornerstone Austin music venue is celebrating its decade-long empire with a month full of festivities. After 10 years in business, Empire Control Room & Garage is toasting its anniversary through August 26 with a series called "A Decade of Empire." Every Friday and Saturday night throughout the month brings new shows, a mini-museum of Empire photos and "ephemera," and giveaways, among other surprises.

"Mother/Land" - a new large-scale art exhibition, will be on display at the Austin Central Library Gallery beginning August 24. Designed in response to Austin-based artist (and UT Austin assistant professor) Yuliya Lanina's relationship with the ongoing war in Ukraine, the display uses animation and sculpture to explore the impacts of the war, both physically and emotionally. Lanina is a second-generation Holocaust survivor, born and raised in Russia of Ukranian descent, and arrived in the United States in 1990 as a refugee. "Mother/Land" will be available for viewing until Sunday, November 5.

In the Hill Country

The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is lettingguests treat their furry friends to an luxurious lodging experience with a new Pet Retreat Package. These exclusive rooms have their own walk-out patios, dog beds and blankets, and food and water bowls. Dogs also will receive a chew toy, treats, and a stylish bandana as deluxe take-home gifts. Book the package on the resort's website using the code U8D, with rates beginning at $414 a night.

A new luxury RV and tiny home resort has pulled into Fredericksburg. The FireFly Resort is located on 52 acres of land and boasts over 230 sites with gorgeous Hill Country views. The resort is only a 15-minute drive from Fredericksburg's thriving main street district, where folks can visit one of the many local shops, eateries, and wine bars that make it one of the most-loved destinations in Texas. Rates for RV sites start at $60 per night, while nightly rates for tiny homes begin at $162.

Johnson City's Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa is collaborating with nonprofit radio station Sun Radio for a new weekly Saturday night concert series spotlighting homegrown Texas musicians. The Sun & Vine Music Series begins on August 19 from 5-7 pm, with a new lineup of musical talent every week until September 30. The free concerts will be held at the resort's central pavilion, and attendees are encouraged to donate to Sun Radio as they continue to promote Texas music. Carolyn Wonderland and Shelly King are scheduled for August 19, while Beat Root Revival will perform August 26. Make it a weekend stay by booking a room at the resort, with rates starting at $219 per night.

Along the Gulf Coast

Corpus Christi's 21st annual Conquer the Coast bike ride has opened registration for this year's event, Saturday, September 16. The 66-mile course, including the "toughest 18 miles in Texas" will route cyclists down Mustang Island, JFK Causeway, Ocean Drive, and the Corpus Christi Marina before returning to where they started. If the full course is a little too extreme, intermediate cyclists can choose a 21-mile endurance course, while families can enjoy a 10-mile scenic route along Ocean Drive. Registration varies from $50-$110.

A breathtaking waterfront condo in Rockport(and its owners) has sailed to the top of Airbnb's nationwide report of the "most hospitable" rentals in 2023. The remarkable coastal condo has one bedroom, two bathrooms, can accommodate up to four guests for a relaxing vacation with stunning panoramic views of Little Bay. The owners, Doug and Sandy, won the Airbnb award thanks to their 100 percent five-star ratings. With the condo's typical price ringing up at $240 a night, it's safe to say this cozy condo is in high demand with Texans yearning for a beach trip.

In North Texas

Across the Metroplex in Fort Worth, a new exhibit called “FLORIGAMIINTHEGARDEN” (that's "Florigami in the Garden") will showcase whimsical origami-inspired sculptures making their Texas debut at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden,August 19. The 18 pieces, ranging from petite works of just a few feet to towering structures more than 30 feet tall, will (appropriately) "fold" into the landscape - from Pollinator Pathway to the Rose Garden - and will depict animals, flowers, and a variety of geometric shapes. The exhibit will be included with the price of general admission ($6 for children between ages 6-15 and $12 for adults). A special summer “buy one, get one admission” discount is being offered through August 31.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Meaty new menus are the theme of this Dallas restaurant news roundup

News You Can Eat

This roundup of restaurant news around Dallas features an odd assortment of items, ranging from new seasonal menus to monthly specials to a sad closure in Deep Ellum. There's also sneakers, for a twist.

Here's what's happening in Dallas restaurant news:

Thunderbird Station, the bar in Deep Ellum, has closed. According to owner Kim Finch, she was besieged by ongoing challenges in the service and restaurant industry. The bar opened in 2020 in a space built in 1922 that was home to the Riegel's Gulf Service auto shop for 62 years, before it became home to the short-lived Bowls and Tacos restaurant. It got lots of acclaim here at CultureMap including Best Patio, a second nod for Best Patio, Best Bartender, Best Bar 2022, and Best Bar 2021.

Carte Blanche, the chef-driven restaurant on Greenville Avenue, has launched a new series on Sunday nights at 5 pm, featuring classic (and mostly traditional) Texas BBQ, featuring giant Wagyu beef rib pastrami, Wagyu brisket, chicken legs cooked over the coals Hill Country style, Berkshire pork "bacon steak, and whole smoked lamb shank. It's almost enough to make you think Dallas is filled with barbarians who will only eat meat. There are also sides like coconut creamed corn, and dessert such as whiskey pecan pie. Pre order via Toast, under the "BBQ" tab. Much of the menu for December 3 is already sold out, but there's still some cowboy beans, potato salad, cornbread, and braised cabbage with caraway.

Cava, the Mediterranean fast-casual chain, is testing Grilled Steak on its menu, as an option in their customized bowls or pitas, and in two new menu items: Steak Mezze Salad with feta, tzatziki, corn, pickled onions, red pepper hummus, arugula, spinach, and Greek vinaigrette; and Steak + Feta Pita, with the same basic ingredients, but in a pita. The steak is being tested in the Dallas area, one of only two markets where it's being tested (Boston is the other), beginning December 4. It's almost enough to make you think Dallas is filled with barbarians who will only eat meat.

XOXO Dining Room has a newly updated menu featuring Lobster Mac & Cheese with a 6-oz lobster tail, four-cheese blend, and truffle oil; Cupcake Wheel featuring six cupcakes displayed in a gold Ferris wheel; Social Dinner, a multi-course meal with a bottle of Cavatina Sparkling Rosé that serves 4-6 people; Tempura-fried Lobster Bites with XO sauce; Truffled Fried Chicken with Parmesan mashed potatoes; and Steak Frites with a 10-oz Prime NY Strip and truffle fries.

Which Wich Superior Sandwiches introduced a new menu featuring 50+ sandwich options and an array of 50+ toppings, offering customers the ability to create their own one-of-a-kind sandwich creation. The brand is going back to its "custom sandwich shop" roots with sandwiches ranging from top-quality deli meats to seafood, plant-based protein and vegetarian options.

Urban Rio in Plano has specials for December: Poblano Rojas tamales featuring two tamales filled with roasted poblanos and topped with jalapeno peppers, cilantro, queso fresco and tomatillo sauce; and the December taco of the month: Crab Cake Tacos, featuring a house-made crab cake with chipotle aioli, slaw, and pico.

Urban Crust in Plano has a pizza of the month for December: The Surf and Turf pizza with basil pesto, mozzarella, sirloin, Gulf shrimp, red onion, pepperoncini peppers, sun-dried tomato, and chili flakes.

Partenope has debuted a new Aperitivo Hour Monday-Friday from 4-6 pm with $5 draft Peroni, $8 glasses of red or white house wine, $9 spritzes and sangria, and $6 bar snacks including bruschetta with tomato & basil, prosciutto with olives, fried pizza dough with marinara, bread with olive oil, and fried Brussels sprouts, at both their downtown Dallas location and their recently opened second location in Richardson.

Federales in Deep Ellum has launched a Weekend Brunch Party every Saturday-Sunday from 10 am–4 pm with DJs, an All-You-Can-Eat brunch buffet featuring a carving station with brisket, turkey, Andouille sausage, omelet station, taco & nacho bar, seafood tower, crudités, salad, fruit, doughnuts, and desserts.

Thirsty Lion has launched a new seasonal holiday menu that includes Parmesan panko crusted halibut, seared scallops with cilantro jasmine rice, and filet mignon with white cheddar mashed potatoes. Seasonal cocktails include espresso martini, maple old fashioned with High West American Prairie Bourbon, and Tito’s winter white cosmopolitan.

Empire Baking Co. has a new seasonal baked good: Glazed Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Oranges, wrapped in a gift package, for $21.25, joining other seasonal treats including Nutella babka, gingerbread, iced apple-cinnamon walnut bread, and a pecan ring. Plus challah rolls, $4.15 for a half dozen.

Snooze A.M. Eatery has a new festive holiday menu served through January 3 that includes cranberry orange pancakes with orange custard, candied cranberries, and cranberry mascarpone; short rib and Gruyere polenta with roasted sweet potatoes & kale, savory sofrito, mushroom-beef gravy, and sunny-side egg; a vanilla cranberry cosmopolitan; and cranberry orange Snoozius with vanilla cranberry juice, OJ, and whipped cream — vodka optional.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar has a burger of the month for December: Three Wise Men, featuring three patties with Fontina cheese between each, plus garlic mayo on a toasted onion bun. They also have a limited-edition Caramel Pecan Cake Shake. Both are available December 6-January 2. Three patties: It's almost enough to make you think Dallas is filled with barbarians who will only eat meat.

True Food Kitchen has eliminated all seed oils from its cooking. The 45-location restaurant brand made the transition to cooking solely with avocado and olive oil last summer. This is the first step in evolving its ingredient standards, with plans for additional menu updates in early 2024.

Apothecary cocktail lounge has created custom-made sneakers designed by the Apothecary team, and are available for purchase online through December 24 at 11:59 pm, or until they sell out. They're green & gold high-tops and are $225. They come with perks that include reserved seats at the sneaker launch party in March 2024, early access to book 2024 Apothecary special dinners & events, and a free staff shot whenever sneaker owners drink or dine at Apothecary in 2024 (must be wearing shoes).

Best Dallas-area homes and neighborhoods for sensational 2023 Christmas lights

Shining bright

When it comes to holiday decorating, Dallas homes and neighborhoods know how to bring the "merry and bright."

From over-the-top homes that would make Clark Griswold proud to entire streets that synchronize animated shows, dazzling displays can be found all across North Texas. (After all, Dallas is the second most festive city in the country.)

Burkman Holiday Home Frisco
Photo courtesy of Burkman family

The Burkman Holiday Home of Frisco competed on ABC's The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2021.

Below is a list of top local homes and neighborhoods for Christmas light pilgrimages this season. Check back often as it'll grow and grow as the holidays draw near.

For a larger list of spectacular Christmas lights around Dallas-Fort Worth, including drive-thrus and commercial displays, click here.

Homes with over-the-top displays and shows

Burkman Holiday Home of Frisco, December 1-25
Two years after their appearance on ABC’s The Great Christmas Family Light Fight, the most famous "Christmas light family" in DFW will be lighting up its over-the-top display of 98,000+ lights. New features for 2023 include more motion/action village pieces, new-and-improved selfie stations, "Sampa's Light Factory," a nightly dance party with a hip-swinging Santa and live dance cam, and more. This year, they're collecting charitable donations for The LiyanaStrong Foundation and for a family friend suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Hours: 5:30-6:30 Superhero Hour (lights will be on at dusk for sensory sensitive individuals) and 6:30-10 for all other visitors, weather permitting. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays until December 18, then open daily until Christmas. The home is at 3809 Hazelhurst Dr., Frisco, on the Frisco/Little Elm border. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Miracle on 134th Street, Celina, through December 23
A Celina family has turned their ginormous property into a holiday amusement park, complete with 2 million lights, a train, carousel ride, Santa's workshop, Sugar Plum Fairy Island, and so so so much more. The Christmas adventure park is a ticketed experience, $25.99 for adults; $19.99 for kids 3-12, with season passes available and free on-site parking. It runs 5:30-9 pm through December 23. Find it at 10455 County Road 133, Celina, 75009. Follow their Facebook page for updates on special photo ops and more.

The Browne Family Holiday Light Show, Parker, through January 5
This family has a tradition of turning their Dublin Park Estates home into a destination. The Browne Family Holiday Light Show is a full light show synchronized with music taking place throughout the Christmas season. While the show is free, it is an official drop-off point for Toys For Tots; visitors are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate. The show runs from "dark" to 9 pm Sundays through Thursdays, and "dark" to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, at 2701 Dublin Park Dr. (in Dublin Park Estates), Parker.

Santa House, University Park
Once hailed "the single best Christmas light display in Dallas," this perennial favorite fills the front lawn with hundreds of lighted blow-mold decorations that homeowner Wayne Smith has amassed over the years. But look up — way up to the roof — and you'll find his distinctly "Dallas" touch: the head of the State Fair's very first Big Tex, restored to his original form as St. Nick in 1949 and donning a Santa hat. Find it nightly at 3629 Southwestern Blvd., Dallas.

'Movie House,' Allen
This Allen family home has a fun theme: favorite holiday movies. Thousands of lights and props are set to a choreographed show, complete with music and movie quotes from classic characters like Clark, Buddy, Ralphie and more. About 30 films are represented. You'll find it at 1600 Wagon Wheel Dr., Allen. The show runs nightly. Preview it here.

Light Show, Rockwall
This home in The Shores neighborhood of north Rockwall annually puts on a show of twinkling trees and lighted animations that "dance" to music. Visitors can tune their car radios to 87.9 FM to hear the music. Find the home at 1050 Ridge Road West, Rockwall (in The Shores, north of SH66, off SH205). It's up and running nightly, 5:30-10:30 pm, through the holidays.

Lights on Oak Bluff, Sachse, through December 31
This fantastic lights display consistently wins awards from the City of Sachse and the neighborhood HOA. Expect 14,000 individually computer-controlled lights, a 13-foot Megatree, Singing Faces, snowflakes, yard decorations, and synchronization to music, on 92.9 FM. The show runs 6-10 pm nightly (weather permitting), at 4310 Oak Bluff Ln., (in the Woodbridge subdivision) Sachse, 75048. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Wisdom Way Lights, Haltom City, through January 1
The Gonzalez family's choreographed light show first went viral for a "Selena" theme; this year it's getting attention for its tribute to the Texas Rangers' World Series win. The choreographed show includes broadcast game highlights and more, and runs nightly until December 1. Then a "Super Mario Bros." show and two traditional Christmas themes will play through January 1. Visitors can view the shows from from their cars and listen on radio channel 89.7 FM. Wisdom Way Lights runs nightly from 6-11 pm. Find it at 4521 Wisdom Way, Haltom City, and follow Wisdom Way Lights on Facebook and YouTube for updates.

Curry Christmas Chaos, North Richland Hills
Three houses annually collaborate to present a light show synchronized to music that's anything but "chaos." From start to finish, it's typically over an hour long, and features a mix of pixels and standard LED lights "dancing" to music. Visitors can tune in to 89.9 FM to listen as lots of Christmas trees light up on the lawn. The show runs every night (unless Mother Nature decides differently), 6-11 pm. Find it at 3506 Reeves St., NRH. Follow the Facebook page for more information and updates.

Tell Family Lights, far north Fort Worth, through December 31
The family in this home near Keller Central High School also operates the popular Sugar Lane Lights in Haslet, now it its second year. But their own residential display is still going strong, bigger and better than ever this year, they say. Find the home at 5016 Keating St., Fort Worth, 76244. The choreographed light show is on 6-10 pm daily. From their car, visitors can scan a QR code or visit the website to vote on songs to play. (Make sure to not block anyone’s driveway and be careful driving down the street, they advise.) Follow their website or Facebook page for more information and updates.

Neighborhoods and subdivisions with special displays

Interlochen Lights, Arlington, dates TBA
The Interlochen neighborhood annually presents Interlochen Lights during the holiday season. Hailed as one of the best neighborhood light shows in Texas, the event allows guests to drive through the neighborhood and pick out favorite displays while they tune into holiday music on radio stations 102.1 FM or 98.7 FM. This is one of the busiest spots in Dallas-Fort Worth during the holiday season, and it's free. The route map is here. As of press time, dates were not yet available. Watch for updates on their website and Facebook page.

Deerfield Holiday Lights, Plano, December 1-30
The Deerfield neighborhood of northwest Plano hosts a top-rated winter wonderland you can walk or drive through. You can even book carriage rides in advance to see dancing Santas, millions of twinkling lights, and larger-than-life displays. Deerfield subdivision is located between Preston Road and Coit Road. Check the website for maps and important information about traffic flow and parking. The free event runs 7 pm-10 pm on weekdays and 7 pm-11 pm on weekends.

Regents Park Luminary Event, McKinney, December 16-17
This Stonebridge Ranch neighborhood takes advantage of its layout to host a magical event every year. Residents hand fold over 2,500 paper bags each year and line the streets and central park area with luminaries for families to enjoy. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or apple cider and drive or walk through streets lined with traditional luminaries and enjoy the Christmas lights that adorn these Craftsman-style homes. Rumor has it that a certain special guest in his red suit even loves this event so much that he makes a special trip just to enjoy it himself. For updates, follow the Facebook page (highly recommended as this is a weather dependent event). Runs December 16-17.

Diamond Loch, North Richland Hills, through December 31
This North Richland Hills neighborhood has dressed up for the holidays for decades. Drive through the cul-de-sac slowly to check out adjacent houses that join forces to present a massive computerized show. The rest of the street decorates nicely to make an enchanted "Whoville" Christmas experience known as #NRHGrinchLights. They grow the show every year, and The Grinch himself may actually pop in occasionally; follow their Facebook page to keep up. It's open daily, 5:30-11 pm. To find it, navigate to the address 6217 Windsor Ct., NRH, 76180. (Enter Diamond Loch from Glenview Drive. On busy weekends, traffic must enter going eastbound on Glenview. Turn east off of Hwy 377/Denton Highway onto Glenview Drive, then, in about 1/2 mile, turn right into Diamond Loch.)

Glenbrook Christmas, Bedford, through December 31
The Bedford neighborhood lights up nightly to tell the story of “The Night Before Christmas - In Texas That Is” - along with other festive displays. The entrance to Glenbrook is on Brookside Drive located between Cummings and Forest Ridge. The displays will be on daily, 6-10 pm. Follow the Facebook page for updates.

Morrisdale Estates, Euless
Morrisdale Estates neighborhood in Euless is known for great light displays. The Morrisdale tradition is for everyone in the neighborhood to put up the same red lights on their curbs to create a sea of red as you drive through the neighborhood. Bonus that it's still a bit of an undiscovered gem, so there's not as much traffic as other neighborhoods. Find the neighborhood between Pipeline Road and Hurst Blvd., 76040.

Larger neighborhoods lit up for the holidays

The Park Cities
The grand homes in the Park Cities neighborhoods of Dallas shine with beautiful light displays, many of which are professionally installed; pick just about any street where you see houses lit top to bottom in twinkling lights, and there are bound to be a dozen more. Be sure to check out Highland Park Village and its 1.5 million lights while you're in the area, and don't pass by SMU without driving down the campus' main drag, Bishop Boulevard, toward the fountain and back.

Kessler Park
Historic Kessler Park goes all out, with lots of holiday lights on homes and trees against a backdrop of the Dallas skyline. The holiday decorations are coordinated on various traffic islands in the neighborhood each year. From downtown Dallas, go west on Interstate 30. Take the Sylvan exit, turn south on Sylvan, drive about a half a mile, and turn west on Colorado. You can't miss some of the most majestic oak trees in Dallas, shining bright for the holidays.

Elderoaks Lights, Oak Cliff
A Dallas tradition over 30 years strong, Elderoaks sees 96 percent of the homes in the neighborhood participate in a dazzling display. Located along three streets just south of the old Oak Cliff Country Club (Elderoaks Lane, Elderleaf Drive, and Elderoaks Place), the neighborhood scenes celebrate Christmas with homemade decorations that span medieval times to present day. Don't miss the streaming show of Christmas carols. There's no fee to watch, and lights go on at dusk each night.

Ryan Place, Fort Worth
The gorgeous historic homes in this grand Fort Worth neighborhood get illuminated in spectacular fashion, as do the long walks that lead up to them. The beloved annual Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place home tour takes place December 2-3, but these stately homes will stay illuminated through the holidays.

Historic Fairmount, Fort Worth
You can pick any night to drive around Fairmount and see historic bungalows lit festively for the season. But the best night of all is Festivus, the annual celebration and holiday lights tour. It takes place 6-9 pm Saturday, December 9. Maps of participating homes will be handed out on arrival. Donations of $10 or a toy for One Safe Place are being requested. Watch the historic district's Facebook page for more information as plans develop.


Know of another spectacular lights display in DFW? Email stephanie@culturemap.com. Please include a website or link to social media page with your recommendation.

New book by Dallas author will be a dishy tell-all about true crime TV

Author News

Dallas-based journalist and podcaster Claire St. Amant has agreed to a deal with BenBella Books to publish Killer Story, a memoir revealing the inner workings of national TV crime coverage, while also offering a behind-the-scenes peek at her journey in mainstream network news.

In the book, St. Amant will recount her days as an investigative crime reporter and producer at CBS News' 48 Hours and 60 Minutes, where she lived the high-stakes game of network television. It promises a peek at the ruthless world of true-crime television reporting, behind the yellow tape and the camera flashes, to show what it really takes to get a killer story.

BenBella Books has published pop culture/celebrity bestsellers such as The Actor's Life, The Geraldo Show, Pretty Little Killers, Presumed Guilty, and Family Don't End with Blood.

In a statement, BenBella Books publisher Glenn Yeffeth says he's "thrilled to be publishing Claire's fascinating account of her career as an investigative crime reporter."

"The only thing more interesting than the true crime cases she covers is the behind-the-scenes accounts of how she breaks the news," Yeffeth says. "Claire is relentless, brilliant and does what it takes to get her story. I could not put this manuscript down!"

Told through the framework of headline-grabbing murder trials, Killer Story is St. Amant’s personal journey into—and out of—true crime television. Can you say Bombshell?

St. Amant was a founding editor for CultureMap Dallas when it launched in 2012, and subsequently spent nearly a decade in network television, pitching, producing, and writing about the biggest true crime stories in the country: American Sniper Chris Kyle, the Parkland School Shooting, and the Murdaugh Murders.

Her stories on Keller "black widow" Michele Williams are still among the top traffic-getter stories for CultureMap since they were published in 2013.

St. Amant has been face-to-face with serial killers, hit men, and cold-blooded murderers. She didn’t start out with any connections to the national media, but built an award-winning body of work that had the big three networks chasing her reporting all the way down to Texas.

"Most people would not believe what actually goes on behind the scenes when you are making true crime TV. It’s a cutthroat business in more ways than one," St. Amant says. "This book has been a dream of mine for years, and it's really exciting to see it come to life."

St. Amant, who also launched a true crime podcast series in 2021, is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Laura Dail Literary Agency. The book is set for publication in February 2025.