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Photo courtesy of Nadja Endler | Photography, Houzz

Succulents are making a splash as indoor container plants. An increasing number of what were once considered dry-climate outdoor succulents can now be found taking center stage inside the home, thanks to their love of dry, warm climates and tolerance for a little neglect.

If you’d like to start your own indoor succulent garden — and have an area that receives hours of bright, direct sunlight — here are five choices that are likely to thrive.

1. Medicinal Aloe (Aloe vera)
Also known as Barbados aloe, medicinal aloe can do double duty as both an easy-care houseplant and a go-to source for soothing bites, inflammation, and burns, especially sunburns.

It has stiff, upright leaves that grow in a clump-like, rosette form. Look for hybrids that will stay small for indoor display.

Care: Plant in well-draining soil and place in a spot that gets bright, indirect light. A south-facing window is ideal, but they’ll also do well in a east- or west-facing location. They do best in indoor temperatures of 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water every three weeks or so, or when the soil is dry from one to two inches deep, and let drain thoroughly; the plant should never sit in water. Water less in the winter. Feed with a balanced fertilizer at half-strength every month to six weeks in spring and summer to encourage growth.

Caution: While aloe is great as an external lotion, it shouldn’t be ingested by humans or pets — the symptoms can be unpleasant to toxic.

2. Donkey Tail (Sedum morganianum)
Donkey tail, also called burro’s tail, was made for hanging containers. The stems are lined with tightly packed, fat, gray-green leaves that can reach four feet in length, giving the plant its common name. Use it as a single plant or let it drape over the edges of a mixed container. S. burrito, sometimes sold as S. Burro, is slightly fatter, while the giant donkey tail, which may be sold as S. orpetti, has slightly shorter stems with thicker leaves.

Because donkey tail stores water in its leaves, choose a sturdy container and hang it securely so its weight won’t be a problem.

Care: Choose a well-draining, neutral-to-slightly acidic soil, and place the container in a spot where it will get at least four to six hours of bright light, such as a sunny south- or west-facing window. It does best in temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and temperatures down to 55 degrees in winter. You can also provide a little less light during the winter months.

Let the soil dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly and let the soil drain completely. Cut back slightly on watering in winter. Feed monthly with a half-strength balanced fertilizer in spring and summer.

Tip: The stems of donkey tail break off easily, so keep your plant where it will be safe from being accidentally brushed against.

3. Hens-and-Chicks (Sempervivum spp.)
It’s not surprising that hens-and-chicks, or houseleeks, have made the transition from cold-hardy outdoor succulents to indoor succulent garden star. They do well in the temperatures and lower humidity levels of most homes, and you can easily mix them in a container garden with other succulents or show them off on their own.

Thanks to the growing number of hybrids, in addition to the familiar species, you can now find hens-and-chicks in a wide range of colors, from red and maroon to chartreuse, blue, and purple.

Care: Give these mountain-area natives fast-draining soil and at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight. Their color may fade with less light. They do best in temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day but can handle very cold temperatures at night.

Water sparingly, allow the container to drain completely, and let the soil dry out between waterings (water again if the plant shows signs of shriveling). Feed with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer at one-quarter strength four times during spring and summer.

The mother plant will die off in four to six years, but you can easily repot the “chicks” once they appear to start new plants.

Tip: Echeveria elegans and echeveria hybrids are also sold as hens-and-chicks. They’re very similar in looks and can be given the same care.

4. Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
You might bring a jade plant into your home as a small houseplant, but give it the right conditions and you’ll end up with a striking, 4-foot-tall, treelike houseplant with glossy, plump green leaves and a thick, sturdy trunk and stems. These qualities, along with its easy-to-care-for nature, are the reason jade plants remain a popular houseplant choice.

Care: Choose a wide and sturdy pot, as their tree-like canopy makes them top-heavy. Use a well-draining potting mix and place in a spot that gets at least four hours of sunlight; a south-facing window is ideal. Jade plants with variegated leaves will need less light. Keep out of drafts and away from cold windows in winter. They grow best in temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures as low as 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit in winter.

Water thoroughly about once or twice a month, when the top soil is dry to the touch, making sure the water drains well and the plant isn’t sitting in water. Cut back somewhat in winter. Wrinkled leaves indicate under-watering.

Feed every other month with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength, adding it when the soil is wet to encourage growth, though you can get by with less. Wipe leaves with water and a soft cloth to keep them dust-free.

Tip: Look for slightly smaller growers, such as C. ovata "Minima" or C. ovata "Crosby’s Dwarf."

5. Zebra Plant (Haworthiopsis fasciata, Haworthia fasciata)
The zebra plant may not be big, usually only reaching about 6 inches tall, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in style. Its rigid, triangular, 3-inch-long leaves, which grow upright out of the plant’s center, are smooth and green on the inside and marked by raised white edges on the outer side, giving this succulent its common name. The zebra plant’s small size and tolerance for the lower humidity levels found indoors have led to its popularity as a houseplant. Show it off by itself or mix it in with other succulents.

Care: Plant in well-draining soil and place in a spot that gets bright sunlight for most of the day, such as a south- or east-facing location. A little more sunlight will add a pleasing orangish-red tint to the leaves. If the plant gets too much sun, the leaves will turn white or yellow. It handles normal indoor temperatures from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water when the soil dries out from spring to fall, taking care that the leaves don’t get wet. In winter, cut back and water when the leaves start to appear wilted. Feed with a diluted balanced liquid fertilizer once a month from spring to fall.

Tip: H. attenuata, also sold as zebra plant, has white bumps on the inner leaf surface as well as the outer bands of white. It also will grow a little taller. Grow it indoors as you would zebra plant.

The zebra plant may not be big, usually only reaching about 6 inches tall, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in style.

Photo courtesy of Nadja Endler | Photography, Houzz
The zebra plant may not be big, usually only reaching about 6 inches tall, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in style.
Photo courtesy of Covenant LLC, Houzz

6 ways to warm up your kitchen or bath with wood accents

Ways to Warm

Want to warm up your home? See how these different applications of wood can add warmth to your kitchen or bath.

Kitchen

Generous wood detailing. You won’t believe this kitchen transformation when you see it. The island and refrigerator surround have been wrapped in rich, amber-colored wood to bring some warmth to the blue cabinets and slate-colored floor tile.

Wood wall niche. Sometimes while cooking you need a comfortable spot close by to get off your feet for a moment. The wall niche smack dab in this Minnesota kitchen seems like the perfect solution. Wrapping the area in wood brought some additional coziness to the niche and the mostly white kitchen.

Wood floor and furnishings. Weaving in wood accents is a relatively quick and easy way to add warmth to an already established kitchen, such as a rental unit in which you’re not allowed to extensively remodel. That was the case in this Oakland, California, studio loft. To warm up the stainless steel appliances, black cabinetry, and concrete ceiling, the homeowner introduced a rich wood dining table, wood stools, and a wood shelf unit to join the honey-colored wood flooring.

Wood countertop. For an even subtler but still effective approach, take a cue from this light and airy Kansas City, Missouri, kitchen. Blonde birch butcher block countertops soften the crisp white cabinets and subway tile.

Bathroom

Wood storage components. Wood can bring warmth to bathrooms as well. Here, wood was used just on the storage components. Hard surfaces and materials cover almost every inch of the rest of the space, yet the large blocks of flat-paneled maple cabinetry calm the eye.

Subtle wood accent. Entering this New York bathroom, you will see nothing but white Corian countertops and waterfall edge and swaths of blue square tile. Yet if you use the shower or toilet, you’ll get a glimpse of a section of walnut on the vanity, creating a brief moment of visual warmth.

A wood wrapped island warms this space.

Photo courtesy of Covenant LLC, Houzz
A wood wrapped island warms this space.
Photo courtesy of Houzz

4 festive Christmas tree alternatives that will spruce up your home

'Tis the Season

One of the unsung truths of the holiday season is that getting a big, expensive Christmas tree isn’t for everyone. There’s something so cheering and festive about a beautifully decorated tree, but for many reasons — perhaps you travel over the holidays, have a small living space, or simply consider yourself a minimalist — getting a large tree might not be appealing or even possible for you.

Nevertheless, you can still infuse your home with plenty of Christmas spirit. Here are four fun alternatives to a large, decorated cut tree.

1. Put a tree on your wall with ...
Chalk. To celebrate in style, you don’t have to get a real Christmas tree — or even an artificial one. A chalkboard wall can form a backdrop for a simple Christmas tree drawn in white chalk. If you are feeling ambitious, you could add more color with red and green chalk. If you don’t yet have a chalkboard wall, a can of chalkboard paint typically costs less than a large Christmas tree. Plus you’ll have a wall for drawing other festive holiday scenes year-round.

How to Make Your Own Chalkboard Paint

Washi tape. Use this simple tape to make a minimalist tree on your home or apartment wall. Tuck your wrapped presents beneath it for added cheer.

Cut branches. Houzz reader valesga crafted a creative wall tree of cut branches strung together with Christmas lights. You could create a similar arrangement with fallen branches from your backyard or a nearby park.

2. Create a treelike sculpture
“We are gone a lot of weekends in December and find it difficult to keep a fresh tree watered,” says Houzz reader Lynn Martin Dotterer. So instead of getting a live tree, they decorate a ladder. “This ‘tree’ makes for easy storage and is definitely a conversation piece,” Dotterer says.

3. Make it petite and sweet
A small tree can be a festive alternative to the classic large ones — plus you can typically find these trees potted with their roots in place, as opposed to cut. Depending on the type of tree you choose and the climate in your area, you may be able to plant the tree in your yard or even tend to it on your balcony. Perhaps your little tree can grow with you over the years.

That’s exactly what Houzz reader Garineh Dovletian did. “My husband brought this ‘tree’ home 17 years ago for my son’s first Christmas,” Dovletian said. “It was a tiny ‘Charlie Brown’ tree able to hold only one red ornament. The tree has grown with our son over the years and is very special to us.”

Another option is to choose a Norfolk pine, which looks similar to a Christmas tree but is actually a tropical houseplant.

Stylish Plant Stands to Hold Festive Foliage

4. Get a regular tree but keep decorations to a minimum
For those who would like a big, real tree but don’t want to fuss with (or purchase) all that tree decor, Houzz reader rachieleigh sets a great example. “Our tree is in the living room, very minimally decorated. I didn’t have a tree skirt and money is tight this year so I used an old Mexican blanket. I like it so much I plan to always use it in place of a tree skirt!”

Houzz reader Sarah BK faced a similar budgeting dilemma. “First year in our first house, so the budget is low,” she wrote last year. Dried orange slices and cranberries make for a festive, natural look for their tree. “Had to skip a popcorn strand because our pups would think it’s a snack tree.”

Tips for a Fuss-Free Holiday Decorating Season

This washi tape tree is perfect for limited space.

Photo courtesy of Houzz
This washi tape tree is perfect for limited space.
Photo courtesy of Acanthus Architecture PA, Houzz

5 festive ways to dress up your mantel for Thanksgiving

Holiday Cheer

Give your fireplace — or sideboard or dining room table — a little extra love this year with decorations that celebrate the harvest, Thanksgiving, and more. To get your creativity flowing, take a look at these styling ideas, from an arrangement of pumpkins and fall leaves to a collection of branches and feathers.

Fresh and contemporary
Keeping mantel decor simple and inspired by nature gives a fresh feeling to an airy living room. Try a wreath made of leucadendron foliage, lichen-covered twigs, persimmons, and tiny pumpkins. Add creamy yellow and green-striped pumpkins in a row on the mantel. Introducing deeper colors, like leucadendron's burgundy leaves, and bright accents from pumpkins and persimmons can make an otherwise neutral room feel festive for the season.

How to Lay Out a Contemporary Living Room

Minimalist
A spray of green and gold fall leaves and a couple of candles is all that’s needed to make a cozy fireplace feel dressed for the season. To set up your mantel so it’s easy to update for a year-round display, keep it simple and uncluttered, and invest in one standout vase. Over the year, you can fill the vessel with fresh seasonal elements, like cut branches in fall, evergreen conifer boughs in winter, delicate spring blooms, and colorful summer flowers.

Rich and earthy
Create a textured, earthy look by combining a variety of ingredients, concentrating on putting soft, fuzzy, or woven elements (like feathers, fabric, or baskets) in proximity to accessories with smooth, hard, or glossy surfaces (like glass bottles, metal candlesticks, or shiny picture frames).

Rustic cottage
An arrangement of vases and jugs is another example of a mantel display that works year-round. Add a few orange vases to an all-white collection for a welcome jolt of seasonal color.

Get a Statement-Making Vase to Center the Room

Farmhouse style
Use a flat woven basket set on edge to anchor a rustic fall-themed arrangement of pheasant feathers, miniature pumpkins and gourds, brass candlesticks, and sprays of berries. Bonus: Coordinate the table decorations with those on the mantel to tie the whole room together for a fall-themed dinner.

Trendy Table Runners for Your Next Dinner Party

A minimalist mantel with green and gold fall leaves.

Photo courtesy of Acanthus Architecture PA, Houzz
A minimalist mantel with green and gold fall leaves.

13 essentials for a charming farmhouse-style kitchen

Farmhouse Style

Looking to give your kitchen a dose of down-home charm? Few things capture that aesthetic better than a farmhouse-style approach. To get the look right, here are some of the top signature elements of a farmhouse-style kitchen, reinvented for today.

The basics
Farmhouse style in today’s kitchen is all about creating the look and the atmosphere of a traditional kitchen found on a family farm, with casually mixed ingredients that add up to a special style recipe with lots of humility and a welcoming attitude. Despite being somewhat modest, these kitchens are also incredibly beautiful, carrying a style that exists entirely outside the trends. Plus, they’re quite functional.

Essential: Freestanding furniture
Maybe the No. 1 defining feature of farmhouse style is the use of freestanding furniture, rather than the typical built-in type of cabinets, islands, and appliances you expect to see in more modern kitchen styles.

A furniture-style island, in particular, gives a farmhouse kitchen some of its essential casual appeal. It offers the sense that the room was built over time and has its own personality, rather than having been constructed all at once from a cabinetry catalog. A leggy furniture piece that you can see through also helps the space feel more open, so even the most humbly sized kitchen can feel big enough to do some real home cooking.

The palette
Farmhouse kitchens can come in a range of palettes. After all, the style is meant to show lots of warmth and personality. However, a typical farmhouse kitchen draws from colors and materials you would expect to see in an actual country or farm setting, like brick, stone, wood, and soft welcoming hues.

When dabbling in bursts of color, look to heritage hues that suit the timeless air of this style, rather than ultra-saturated, trendy hues that can feel too modern. Of course, if you prefer a contemporary take on farmhouse style, then feel free to go wild.

Essential: Milk paint
In Colonial America, paint mixed with milk was a popular choice for dressing walls and furnishings, and it gave a special, soft matte finish. These days, actual milk paint is often prized for being environmentally friendly, but even when the real thing isn’t being used, the matte finish and muted colors make great inspiration for farmhouse style.

Matte finishes give a softer sheen that is friendly to imperfections, but they aren’t always easy to wipe clean, so make sure to choose a “washable matte” or something similar. For a surprisingly happy blue-green hue, try Sherwin-Williams’ Waterscape.

Material: Beadboard and paneling
Farmhouse homes are rich with inviting texture, and nothing brings rugged tactility to your walls, floors, and cabinets like beadboard and wood paneling. Whether painted or stained — or clear-coated to show off as much natural grain as possible — the appeal of this simple stripe pattern shines through. Use a looser paneling for a woodsy, cottage-like appeal, or a tighter beadboard for a subtler and more polished take.

How to Use Beadboard Around the Home

Detail: Humble hardware
Many kinds of cabinet hardware can work with farmhouse style, but a top choice is the cup pull, shaped to be perfectly functional and not flashy. You’ll also notice latching pulls on the upper and lower cabinets, which give a historic air and satisfying click when opened and shut.

To avoid having fingerprints show on the hardware, use a brushed or antiqued finish. For pleasing sparkle to balance out other matte surfaces, use a polished steel or brass, as long as you’re ready for just a little more upkeep.

Kitchen Gadgets That for Function and Style

Fixture: Apron-front sink
Another small signature of farmhouse style is the apron-front sink. These sinks come in porcelain, steel, stone, and other materials, and they bring this material to the forefront rather than just inside the cabinet.

This turns the humble and functional sink into a decorative feature, celebrating the hardworking spirit of true farm homes. An apron-front sink needs a special type of cabinet to house it, so if you want to include one, make sure to plan for it early in your renovation process.

Essential: Warm wood
Whether on the floor, the cabinetry, or in little touches like dining stools or a freestanding hutch, warm and inviting wood is practically a must-have in a farmhouse kitchen. Knotty, local woods add lots of rustic character to ensure that your kitchen is unique yet classic. Look to subtle, slightly red or orange stains to bring out the inviting warmth of the wood and reveal the knots and grain.

Material: Weathered metal
There are few better foils to warm wood than crisp metal — and, of course, true farmhouses contain many a metal pail or tool — so it makes sense to find touches of metal in a farmhouse kitchen.

Using too much sleek, polished metal in your space may push the look toward a more modern or transitional sensibility, but don’t be afraid to work with weathered or antiqued metals like galvanized steel, antique brass, or blackened bronze. Add these through light fixtures, storage bins, accessories and brushed-finish appliances.

Splurge: Timeless appliances
If you’re going to splurge in your farmhouse kitchen, one of the best places to do so is on the oven and other large appliances. If you choose too many typical contemporary models, they may seriously interrupt the timeless look. A generously sized and traditional-looking stove suits such a space beautifully.

Detail: Open shelves
Although they may feel like a modern trend, open shelves are actually a classic staple that is both beautiful and functional. Simple floating shelves, or a hutch or island with an open cabinet, give you a spot to display beautiful everyday essentials like pitchers, glassware, or storage jars, along with collectibles or the “guest china,” so you can still enjoy these items every day even when they aren’t in direct use.

Essential: Vintage elements
Speaking of displaying treasured heirlooms, a farmhouse look benefits from the inclusion of some vintage furniture pieces as well. Colorful chairs with worn paint, an antique light fixture, or a well-weathered table bring a sense of history that gives your kitchen a lived-in feel.

Detail: Eat-in kitchen
Not every kitchen has room for a full eat-in space, but if you can work in a small table or even a place to dine on your island, it will bring that perfect sense of welcome to complete your farmhouse look. For extra style, mix and match your seating, and let your guests pull up the chair of their choice.

Like These Ideas? You'll Love This Farmhouse Decor

This kitchen features a rustic table for an island, a tall pantry cabinet, and even a charming Smeg fridge.

Photo courtesy of jPhoto.se, Houzz
This kitchen features a rustic table for an island, a tall pantry cabinet, and even a charming Smeg fridge.
Photo by Stephen Karlisch, Houzz

A love story is preserved in this cherished Dallas home

Houzz Tour

After her husband passed away, this Dallas homeowner, a hip, fashion-forward woman in her 50s, had a decision to make: Should she sell the beautiful home she and her husband had both loved or freshen it up with a remodel? Designer Carl Lowery of Wesley-Wayne Interiors had worked with her on small touch-ups here and there since her husband’s passing, but when she decided to stay in the home where her memories were, Lowery gave her the opportunity to preserve her husband’s memory while ushering in a new chapter with lighter furnishings that felt more like her.

The homeowner’s husband had always hated their cramped staircase, which felt even tighter due to the dark, heavily textured walls that pervaded the home. So designer Lowery’s crew widened the hall by about 16 inches but left the rest of the home’s floor plan as it was. All of the surface finishes and furnishings, however, were completely overhauled.

The floors were stained with a custom blend that helps to scatter the light from the front door and entry windows into the hall. The iron banister, a custom design, is the real focal point of this area and adds a sculptural element to the space.

Just down the hall are some of the homeowner’s special finds that have finally found their place in her home. She had bought the bookcases several years before and promptly put them in storage because she didn’t quite have a place for them. With the expanded entry hall came an opportunity to put the pieces to practical use, housing objets d’art and necessities like keys and mail.

The living room, which opens to the foyer, serves primarily as a formal entertaining space but also provides overflow seating for watching ballgames on TV when the more casual upstairs lounge is full. The artwork was plucked from the client’s collection and is one contrast among many in the room: The abstract forms feel ultra cool among the plush furnishings, which themselves merge rich leather and white upholstery through coordinated nailheads dotting the sofa.

The dining room is all about subtle glitz. Much like the wood floors in the foyer, the dining table’s French polish treatment reflects all that natural light from the windows. A gold-leafed mirror, silver leafing on the table and chairs, and a polished nickel chandelier help this room walk the line between classic and contemporary.

The room’s unique window architecture also called for thoughtful window dressing: Both windows sit within bump-outs that hang over and outside of the house. Lowery wanted to install something visually interesting here to showcase the window boxes without making it look too busy, so he took advantage of the mounting depth and hung Roman shades beneath cornices in a contrasting fabric.

Dress Up Your Windows With Beautiful Roman Shades

The homeowner’s husband’s former library has now become her office, and it’s filled with reminders of him. Where there used to be a pool table and a bar there are now multiple bookcases that cradle his legal texts and her own large collection of books. Lowery created “as many bookshelves as possible on almost every wall” and, among them, carved out a place behind his refinished desk for the husband’s old credenza.

The striped fabric on the pillows and ottoman was chosen not only because it tied in well with the rug, chairs, and draperies, but because it mimics the spines of the legal volumes. For the fireplace, Lowery used split-face stone and contemporized the whole scene with an unexpected light fixture. Hammered silver picture lights shine down onto the bookcases, creating a true library feel.

Consult a Furniture Repair Pro in Dallas for Quality Upholstering

In keeping with the overall lightening and brightening of the home, Lowery reframed the kitchen windows to bring in more natural light and “make the metallic finishes sparkle.” White cabinetry keeps a clean and crisp feel, while floor-to-ceiling mosaic tile work gives the room a magical quality that is fun and friendly.

Neutral cabinetry and tiling in the kitchen invited the designer to inject color in other ways. In the breakfast room, Lowery designed a custom banquette in two fabrics: a wipeable cream leather for the seats and a lush red and orange velvet geometric pattern that ties in with the red bar stools in the kitchen and the knobs on the stove. Above the whole setting is a gallery wall of the client’s personal photography taken on vacation with her husband.

Make the Kitchen Shine With the Right Mosaics

Sleeping alone can be one of the harder adjustments after a loved one’s passing, so Lowery worked hard to design a space that would comfort and soothe his client in this next chapter of her life. The new master bedroom has become her primary space of refuge when she’s relaxing at home. The chandelier, which is “reminiscent of bubbling champagne,” Lowery says, isn’t the only glamorous touch here: The tufted velvet headboard is like a comforting hug at the end of the day.

A palette of warm neutrals in the master bedroom provide a sophisticated backdrop for the fun pops of fuchsia and pink that were plucked straight from a large piece of original artwork from the client’s collection.

A former bedroom is now an entire room dedicated to a massive collection of Barbie dolls. The designer couldn’t even guess at how many she has: She’s collected them all her life and has “so many more than we could ever possibly display, probably thousands,” Lowery says.

The iron banister, a custom design, is the focal point of this space.

Photo by Stephen Karlisch, Houzz
The iron banister, a custom design, is the focal point of this space.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas hot spot hooks No. 1 ranking as best college city in America

Studies Show, Study Here

It might be a bit reductive to call Austin a college town, but that's what makes it so good. It certainly benefits from the creativity and industry of college living, but there's a lot more to do than go to gentrified lunches and cool, underground shows.

Recognizing this special balance, financial website WalletHub has declared Austin the No. 1 college city in the United States for 2023, beating out some obvious contenders like Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to being the best city overall, Austin also tops the large cities list, and is one of only two Texas locales represented in the top 10 of any category; the other is College Station, No. 6 on the small list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

And how did Austin make the grade? WalletHub looked at key metrics across three categories to determine the rankings.

Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics.

Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

And perhaps unsurprising to those who currently reside in Austin, the Capital City ranked worst in "wallet friendliness,” at No. 204 out of 415.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Houston (No. 64), Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169).

Dallas landed well down the list in every category: wallet friendliness (226), academic & economic opportunities (168), and social environment (147).

Fort Worth fell even farther down the list in the same categories: wallet friendliness (242), academic & economic opportunities (201), and social environment (149).

Notably, cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

These are the 9 best food and drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Christmas spirit is in full swing, with all but one of this week’s events being holiday-themed. Check off pics with Santa for both the family and fur babies; take a Christmas cocktail-making class; sample holiday spirits from around the world; and stroll acres of candlelit walkways while indulging in holiday hors d’oeuvres and drinks – just to name a few. ‘Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 6

Caymus Wine Dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Decadent four-course meal features pairings with wines from award-winning Caymus. Courses include Stuffed Mushrooms with Shrimp, Rigatoni Al Forno with Chicken, Filet & Scallop Spiedino with Mashed Potatoes, and Crème Brulée, paired with Caymus wines including Cabernet Sauvignon and Conundrum Red Blend. The dinner is $75 starts at 6:30 pm. For the Dallas location, reserve here, and for Plano, reserve here.

Fontodi Wine Dinner at La Stella Cucina Verace
The Dallas Arts District Italian restaurant will host a five-course dinner paired with wines from Fontodi, a producer located in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Courses will include beef carpaccio, butternut squash cappellacci with brown butter and sage, porchetta di Pienza with marble potatoes, Wagyu New York strip tagliata with porcini mushroom and butternut squash, and apple crostata. Dinner begins at 7 pm and is $175 plus tax and gratuity.

Thursday, December 8

Santa Paws at Texican Court Hotel
The Irving hotel invites furry friends and their humans to pop by for photos with Santa and complimentary hot apple cider and s’mores by the fire. Santa will be available for pet photos from 5-7 pm. Also enter to win a “Pups Night Away” overnight stay. Don’t miss the hotel’s pocket tequila bar, Salt, for new holiday cocktails in jolly keepsake glassware.

Reindeer Games Bar Crawl
Here’s a holiday bar crawl that spans beyond just drink specials. Participants get their money’s worth with a night of mini golf, axe throwing, unlimited video games, a chartered “sleigh bus,” and a pizza buffet. Start at Another Round and make stops at Flashback Retro Pub, LoneStar Axe Dallas, and Sylvan Avenue Tavern. Participants will also get a beer or seltzer at each stop. Tickets are $150 per duo, and the crawl will run from 6:15-10:30 pm.

Holiday Spirits Around the World at Hotel Vin
Sample an array of global spirits during this tasting experience at Grapevine’s Hotel Vin. Spirits to be served include Montenegro Italian liqueur, The Dalmore Scottish whiskey, Komo tequila, and Horse Soldier bourbon. Each spirit will be paired with globally-inspired bites. The tasting is $50 and will begin at 7 pm.

Friday, December 9

Cocktails by Candlelight at Old City Park
Candlelight will feature more than 13 acres of holiday cheer with decorated buildings, carolers, craft vendors, and candlelit walkways in Old City Park. Its 50th edition is set to begin on December 10, but adults only can get a sneak peek the night before during Cocktails by Candlelight, which comes with heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Tickets are $100 per person or $175 per couple, and the event begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, December 10

Shaken, Not Stirred, Holiday Cocktail Class at Elm & Good
The modern American restaurant inside the Kimpton Pittman Hotel will host a holiday cocktail class great for groups looking to make spirits bright. Elm & Good’s lead mixologist Indy Acevedo-Fowler will guide guests through creating three cocktails: a cranberry margarita, peppermint espresso martini, and sangria rosa. Guests will also receive a branded take-away gift. The class is $35 and will begin at 2 pm.

Sunday, December 11

Brunch with Santa at the AC Hotel Dallas by the Galleria
Meet the big guy himself while indulging in brunch dishes during this family-friendly Sunday Funday. Tickets are $25 for adults (includes one mimosa) and $15 for kids 3-12. Children will get to meet Santa and take family photos. Brunch will run from 11:30 am-1:30 pm.

Monday, December 12

12 Days of Thompson
The Thompson Hotel Dallas will spread Christmas cheer with 12 days of daily holiday activations. The festivities start Monday with Home Alone, S’mores & Sips, a movie night with cocktails themed after the Christmas classic, a s’mores bar, and movie screening amid downtown views. The price is a $15 charitable donation. Doors opens at 5 pm with the movie to start at 6 pm. Other 12 Days of Thompson events range from a pie-baking class and cookie decorating to brunch with Santa and Holiday High Tea. See the complete calendar of events here.

Dedicated volunteers extract Spaghetti Warehouse trolley from Dallas' West End

Trolley News

Thanks to a dedicated team of conservation-minded folks, the vintage trolley from the Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas' West End has been moved to a temporary new home: in a warehouse at Orr-Reed Architectural Co., the salvage store just south of downtown Dallas, which will provide a safe space for the vehicle while it undergoes a restoration.

A permanent home is still TBD, but Orr-Reed will be housing the trolley for at least the next 12 months.

The trolley was one of the original streetcars that ran through East Dallas nearly a century ago. It surged to fame in 2019 when Spaghetti Warehouse closed after 47 years, and the company held a giant auction of its extensive collection of memorabilia.

The streetcar got a bid from an anonymous buyer, but that buyer bailed once they encountered the difficulties of removing the trolley from the location.

The trolley was donated to the Junius Heights Historic District, a neighborhood association in Old East Dallas who wanted to save the trolley because of its role in the original streetcar program that was key to the establishment of Junius Heights.

Orr-Reed is providing the space and backup manpower for free.

"The first time it went on the auction block, I wanted to buy it because I'm obsessed with keeping the city’s history," says Orr-Reed owner Hannah Hargrove. "Dallas is known for tearing things down and replacing it with bigger and better things, but 'bigger and better' only lasts 50 years. Since we have the space, we wanted to be helpful in providing the trolley's next chapter of life."


spaghetti warehouse trolley A team unloads the Spaghetti Warehouse trolley into a warehouse at Orr-Reed.Johann Huebschmann

The move
JD Middleton, who builds out restaurants and bars for his "day job," oversaw a team of volunteers who broke the trolley down into pieces and transported it to the new location.

"My buddy JJ Velez and I saw it in the news, we both had a personal connection," Middleton says. "My grandfather drove the trolley, it's possible he drove that one, while JJ had seen it when he was a little kid, after the Christmas parade in downtown Dallas."

With another friend, Randy Lasiter, assisting, they volunteered to do it on a 100 percent volunteer basis. For the past six months, they've been going there in the early morning, before heading to their regular job sites.

"We do a lot of crazy things for customer requests, and this was right up our alley," Middleton says.

This entailed cutting the exterior into parts: removing the front and back "nose pieces," breaking down the body of the trolley into panels, then splitting up the chassis foundation — like a vertebrae that they cut up, to be reassembled by a welder.

Middleton says that Uncle Dan’s Pawn Shop donated saw blades and trailers and other equipment, as did Frida's Social Club on McKinney Avenue, who provided a big trailer and truck to haul it over to Orr-Reed.

Middleton assembled a group of friends who spent four hours on December 3, loading the trolley piece-by-piece onto trailers, then unloading it at Orr-Reed. He's also volunteered to help restore it.

"There's some rusting on the inside, it's like an old Ford Model-T that's been sitting in a garage," he says. "We'll get it sand-blasted and primed and painted, then put it back together again."

Their work is saving the Junius Heights Historic District hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's like an art project for us, and we're getting the opportunity to help take care of history," Middleton says. "JJ ate there when he was a little kid, and he'd like to take his kid to see it when it's finished. That’s why we're doing it."


Spaghetti Warehouse trolley Spaghetti Warehouse trolley, in pieces.Johann Huebschmann

The new home
The Junius Heights group does not yet have a permanent home for the trolley, nor a plan for how it will be managed or maintained. Details details.

For now, it resides in Orr-Reed's "dry house" — a warehouse they've used for overflow and for items that need to be kept out of the elements such as big furniture items, casement windows, and things that cannot get wet.

Hargrove and her staff built shelving and redesigned the warehouse to make it work.

"It'll definitely affect our day-to-day routine — there's a giant cumbersome trolley that's taking up space — but it’s worth it," Hargrove says. "If we hadn't done it, they would have had to spend a lot of money on storing it rather than restoring it. I'm a keeper of history, it’s my duty, although I've never done anything on this scale."

"We're not doing it for the money, we're doing it because someone has to," she says. "I feel like I'm doing the right thing."