Photo courtesy of Magnolia

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. 7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco. For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation, Chip and Joanna Gaines, have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show. Here are seven surprises behind the castle walls in Waco.

2. Booming Dallas neighbor unlocks honor as one of America's best places to live. It's no wonder so many people are moving to McKinney. A new ranking from Livability, whose research generates lists of the best places to live, work, and visit, puts McKinney at No. 18 among the country’s 100 most livable small and midsize cities.

3. One of Dallas' most acclaimed restaurants Petra and the Beast is moving. One of Dallas' most highly rated restaurants is moving: Petra and the Beast, which has earned countless accolades since it opened in 2018, is leaving its location at 601 N. Haskell Ave. and moving to the center of Lakewood.

4. New Tex-Mex opening at Preston Royal Dallas with largest patio evah. When in doubt, Tex-Mex: A new restaurant called Escondido Tex-Mex Patio is opening in the Preston Royal area of Dallas, from an operator who knows the neighborhood well. Escondido is a new concept from Jon Alexis, owner of TJ’s Seafood, which is at the same intersection.

5. Dallas bar veteran shakes up cool cocktail champagne bar for Denison. A veteran of Dallas' cocktail scene is opening a stylish spot on the tippy-top northern edge of North Texas. Called Champagne Charlie's Cocktail House, it'll open in Denison at 120 S. Burnett Ave., where it will bring well made cocktails and that trendiest of beverages, Champagne.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia

7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco

Royal revelation

“Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV’s Fixer Upper. This time, it wasn't the home owners waiting outside a first glimpse at their home makeover; it was a small group of tourists gathered on the porch, ready to step inside the Gaineses’ most ambitious renovation project yet — a century-old castle in Waco.

For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show.

Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this three-story, 6,700-square-foot residence was started in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaineses purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal flip that will be featured on an eight-episode special called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The Castle, beginning October 14.

They plan to sell it in the fall. But before a home sale comes an open house, and for three months only — through October 29 — the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.

Hour-long castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook, and cranny — from turret to toilettes. Knowledgeable guides dispense history, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories from Chip and Jo that may or may not make it on TV.

For Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia maniacs, and Gaines gangs in Dallas, it’s worth the 90-minute drive down I-35 to experience the castle transformation in real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a 10-foot-tall, 400-pound, solid-oak door) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo reno.

Without revealing too much, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.

1. History meets homey. A castle museum, this is not.

“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces but also make it more practical for the modern family that’s going to live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the beginning of the tour.

While many original features — including seven fireplaces — were restored, the castle has been fixed up as a home for the future, not a shrine to the past. One-of-a-kind and collected antiques (such as the kingly dining room table from Round Top, Texas) blend with pieces from the Gaineses’ own Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design elements and products and where to buy them. And in the ultimate modern touch — a branding tie-in — a forthcoming “Colors of the Castle” paint collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.

2. Sweet nods to the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the foyer is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed construction in 1913. It talks of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ all seasons of the year.”

On the center of the dining room fireplace mantel is Abeel’s family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Next to it, children’s heights are recorded from the 1930s to the early 2000s, the last time a family lived here.

3. A cozy nook in the turret. The original design was modeled after a small castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and there is one tower turret. A space historically used (in “real” castles) for military defense has, here, been turned into one of the coziest corners of the house. Tucked into a corner next to the winding staircase, two comfy chairs sit under an antique-y light fixture from Austria. It's the perfect place to curl up with a book from the library upstairs.

4. Rooms with storylines. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna had when they bought the castle was, there was no one, really, they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “So they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”

Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom,” and “girl’s bedroom.” The storylines are that the future homeowner’s son would come back from college and stay in his childhood bedroom, and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while hanging out at the grandparents’ house.

The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decor, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink,” a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.

5. Bodacious bathrooms. There are three-and-a-half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they’re some of the prettiest spaces, mixing metals, woods, and tiles; even original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom — which (tease!) will be fully revealed on the show.

6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle, they take place in the dungeon — er, basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights sits next to the family room, which houses the only TV in the castle. The guest bedroom’s also in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former wine cellar now left “blank” for the new owners to reimagine.

7. Behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits. Fixer Upper devotees will devour the charming and quirky tidbits about the Gaineses shared throughout the tour. There are a few design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a fun story about what Chip did when they found bones — yes, bones — in the basement. And, the prime selfie spot for Fixer Upper fans is a large mirror that, the tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup during the filming of the show.

Castle tour tickets, $50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting The Cove nonprofit organization. (Note that the home does not have an elevator and requires guests’ ability to access three staircases.)

Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage in Waco:
Shop: No castle jaunt would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and on the roof before the crowds (and the heat) arrive. Hint: August is a “slower” month at the Silos, and Tuesday through Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets are $25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.

Eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe stays busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab to-go items like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter flight, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches, and enjoy them on a table outside (if it's not too hot).

Stay: Availability at Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to come by, but watch the website for nights to pop open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay at the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go solo and book the darling Hillcrest Cottage, the Gaineses’ newest and smallest lodging, which opened in fall 2021. A forthcoming Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Shrine building downtown, is slated to open in 2024.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.
Photo courtesy of LovBe

Dallas couple goes on MTV reality show to air their secret relationship

TV News

MTV, which used to be a good cable channel that aired music videos, debuted a relationship-themed reality show in April, and there's an episode featuring a Dallas couple that'll air next week.

The show is called Help! I’m in a Secret Relationship! which helps "baffled lovers when they discover that they're in secret relationships and figure out why their partners didn't want them to go public."

Reality shows have long been outed as the opposite of reality, but this one is worse than usual. The premise is that one member of the couple is keeping the relationship secret — if that's the case, how and why would the couple be appearing on a TV show? So you know it's all lies.

Real or not, it could have benefits. People in relationships often keep secrets, so maybe seeing a fake couple work out that kind of issue on TV would help viewers be less secretive or better deal with a secretive partner. It definitely seems to be a hot topic: A google search of "secret relationship" yields 2,280,000,000 results. There's even a wikihow on "How to have a secret relationship."

The Dallas episode stars Alexia, a 20-year-old server at Knockout Sports Bar; and boyfriend Javy, a professional boxer. According to the storyline, Javy is the one who wants to keep the relationship secret, even though he's appearing on the show; maybe he's promoting his boxing career.

From the press release: "Each episode, the hosts will investigate every jaw-dropping twist of a relationship on the brink, uncover shocking clues and theories as to why they're being kept hidden, and bring the couple face to face to expose the shocking truths behind their partner’s deception. When their unpredictable secrets are finally revealed, will the truth set them free or will it end the relationship forever?"

The hosts are Travis Mills, actor and singer-guitarist for a band named Girlfriends; and Rahne Jones, actor and activist who previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security.

The whole thing is extremely low-budget. Jones sits in a hotel room that looks like a suburban Red Roof Inn.

The show was filmed during the pandemic, and it feels like a lot of the action consists of the two hosts driving around on Dallas freeways.

  • They visit Javy's practice gym where his sparring partners say that he's never talked about Alexia.
  • They visit Alexia at Knockouts, waiting on tables in a skimpy Knockouts uniform.

The denouement takes place at Alexia's apartment, which looks like a set.

Javy's secret is a big shocker: He's been secretly filming porn online. Didn't see that one coming.

"You gotta understand, during quarantine, you got no money, you got no job, you see your parents struggling, and your family struggling, what are you gonna do?" he says.

Spoiler No. 2: The couple does not stay together. Alexia's trust has been broken.

The episode, "Alexia & Javy," no last names, airs on Tuesday, June 14 at 8 pm.

The show is produced by a company called Sharp Entertainment, whose previous work includes Travel Channel's "Man v. Food." The parties at MTV responsible for this dreck include Todd Radnitz, Nadim Amiry, Leanne Mucci, Marisa Weinstein, and John Varela, all reality-TV veterans, they must be so proud.

Photo courtesy of Shen Yun

These are the 11 best things to do in Dallas this Memorial Day weekend

Weekend Event Planner

Dallas has been enjoying a series of huge weekends as of late, and this long holiday weekend features a lot to do, too. There will be two different music festivals, some top drag performers, a new interactive art exhibition, two new local theater productions, two dance events, a big hip hop/R&B concert, a classical music concert, and a movie marathon.

Below are the best ways to spend your precious free time this Memorial Day weekend. Want more options? Lucky for you, we have a much longer list of the city's best events.

Thursday, May 26

RuPaul's Drag Race UK vs The World Tour
Since 2009, RuPaul's Drag Race has been one of the most popular reality competitions on television, spreading to 12 different countries, earning its famous host five Emmy Awards in the process. One of its offshoots, RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs the World, just finished its first season, and now contestants like AWhora, Baga Chipz, Blu Hydrangea, Cheryl Hole, Divina de Campo, Janey Jacké, Krystal Versace, Lawrence Chaney, Lemon, Pangina Heals, and Tayce To will strut their stuff in this show at House of Blues Dallas.

Psychedelic Robot: An Immersive Art & Storytelling Experience
The immersive art exhibition Psychedelic Robot has had several incarnations in Dallas in recent years, and now it heads north to set up shop at The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano. The 360-degree visual storytelling experience features interactive exhibits, augmented reality, narrative audio, and art & design by world-class artists, all narrated by TNX, a thousand-year-old dragon. The exhibition will be open through at least August 28.

Outcry Theatre presents Lipstick Traces
In Lipstick Traces, a narrator with a Ph.D. joins Sex Pistols’ manager and self-proclaimed mastermind Malcolm McLaren to recount an alternative history of the 20th century via the Sex Pistols, the Cabaret Voltaire, the May ’68 riots, and a handful of medieval heretics. The production, which will have five performances through Sunday at the Addison Conference and Theatre Centre, is a physically ecstatic and intellectually nervy theatrical vision of “movements in culture that raised no monuments… movements that barely left a trace.”

mixtamotus presents #Filtering
#Filtering by mixtamotus is a a 50-minute intimate installation exploring beauty ideals through the use of dance, interactive media, and music. The audience is invited to join the company in the creative process during the production, which will have four performances through Saturday at Bath House Cultural Center.

Jeezy & K. Michelle in concert
Two big names from 21st century hip hop/R&B will band together for this special concert at Texas Trust CU Theatre at Grand Prairie. Rapper Jeezy has been at or near the top of the charts since the beginning of his career in 2005, notching three No. 1 albums. K. Michelle used a starring role on VH1's Love & Hip Hop to get a recording contract, and each of her first three albums made it to the top 10 on both the Billboard 200 and R&B charts.

Ochre House Theater presents In The Garden: Under The Moon
Ochre House Theater will present the fourth and final show in their one-act play series In The Garden. Under The Moon is about an old wizard who, along with the help of his cuckoo bird apprentice and captive angel, attempts one last work of magic: to marry the moon. The production is an unlikely tale of enchanted misfits, filled with song, dance, music, and spectacle. It will play at Ochre House Theater through June 4.

Friday, May 27

So What?! Music Festival
For the first time since 2017, Third String Entertainment will present the So What?! Music Festival, which features a weekend of metal, rock, rap, hip-hop, alternative, and pop-punk performances. Bands performing at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington will include I Prevail, Parkway Drive, The Ghost Inside, Blackbear, Simple Plan, Sum 41, 2 Chainz, Rae Sremmurd, Trippie Redd, Tyga, Knocked Loose, The Maine, Princess Nokia, 3OH!3, and more. The festival takes place through Sunday.

Shen Yun
Shen Yun’s unique artistic vision expands theatrical experience into a multi-dimensional, deeply moving journey. Featuring one of the world’s most ancient and richest dance systems — classical Chinese dance — along with dynamic animated backdrops and all-original orchestral works, Shen Yun opens a portal to a civilization of enchanting beauty and enlightening wisdom. There will be four performances through Sunday at Winspear Opera House.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Mussorgsky’s Pictures"
Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents "Mussorgsky’s Pictures," featuring conductor Gemma New. Selections for the concert, which will have three performances at Meyerson Symphony Center through Sunday, will include the world premiere of Jessie Montgomery's new orchestral work, Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole, Grainger's Pastoral from In a Nutshell, and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Saturday, May 28

Klyde Warren Park presents Memorial Day Movie Marathon
Movie lovers can get a full day of great films at Klyde Warren Park's Memorial Day Movie Marathon. The marathon will start with the kid-friendly Raya and the Last Dragon, continue with the vampire romance Twilight, and finish off the Oscar-winning musical La La Land. As always, there will be a variety of food trucks on hand for viewers to grab a snack or meal.

Sunday, May 29

KEGL's BFD featuring Papa Roach
KEGL's BFD is an annual festival-style concert that features a variety of great rock acts. Taking place at Dos Equis Pavilion, the concert will feature performances by headliner Papa Roach, along with Seether, Bush, The Hu, Fuel, Dead Sara, and Giovannie & The Hired Guns.

Shen Yun returns to Winspear Opera House for four more performances, May 27-29.

Photo courtesy of Shen Yun
Shen Yun returns to Winspear Opera House for four more performances, May 27-29.
Photo by Scogin Mayo

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team gets the boot from CMT

TV news

After 16 seasons, CMT is breaking up with "America's Sweethearts." The network revealed on March 31 that Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team is not being renewed.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders organization says, however, that it will "look forward to continuing the exclusive journey on a new platform." No other details on a potential "new platform" have been announced.

“We could never have anticipated the outpouring of admiration and support from our fans and friends over the 16 Seasons on CMT’s Making the Team,” says Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders director Kelli Finglass in a release. “The global impact on our brand, and the beautiful journeys of amazing performers and teammates have been amazing. The women who competed and shared the personal journeys should be applauded, those who earn the right to wear the legendary uniform have influence and inspiration that deserves to be shared worldwide."

The reality series started in 2005 as a behind-the-scenes look at the process of selecting the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Over the course of 16 seasons, it became CMT’s most popular and longest-running series, according to the release.

While not addressed in the release, the news comes on the heels of an ESPN report detailing a $2.4 million settlement with four cheerleaders, who, in 2015, accused a Dallas Cowboys senior executive of taking photos of them in their dressing room.

The 60-year-old DCC organization says it will now aim to "continue showing its loyal fanbase beyond what it takes to make it onto the field for gameday, and highlight what it means to be selected to represent the Dallas Cowboys Football Club around the world as goodwill ambassadors and elite entertainers," they say in the release.

Adds Finglass, “My hope is to continue their stories with our fans more globally, as we are in the process of negotiating a new partnership and we look forward to continuing to feature the DCC on a new platform.”

So, stay tuned.

Facebook/Real Housewives of Dallas

First-ever Reality Fest brings stars and secrets of reality TV to North Texas

Reality rules

UPDATE 7-22-2022: Reality Fest has been postponed. In an e-mailed statement, organizers said, "We have decided to postpone the event as it is currently scheduled in September while we run the traps for the future. We apologize for the short-term inconvenience; however, we believe that the moves we’re making now will serve to launch our inaugural Reality Fest event to a much higher orbit in the future. That means better exposure for Reality Fest, which translates to a bigger impact for the kids for whom we’re all working in the first place." Those who have already purchased a ticket or sponsorship level for the September dates have been refunded in full. For more information, visit the website.


There's never been a Real Housewives of Fort Worth or a Survivor: Fort Worth, but the city will be the center of the unscripted TV universe during the inaugural Reality Fest this fall.

Taking place September 17-18, Reality Fest promises two days of events dedicated to all things unscripted. "Meet some of your favorite stars, get casting tips, learn what goes on behind the scenes of your beloved series, and have a chance to party with some of your favorite cast members," the organizers say on the website.

Proceeds will benefit the Lone Star Film Society's educational film camps for aspiring filmmakers.

Reality Fest is the creation of Tricia Jenkins — a Texas Christian University film and TV professor, Fort Worth Film Commission executive board chair, and Lone Star Film Society board member — and reality TV star Clint Robertson.

"Reality Fest is a new event that we are launching this year, and if it’s successful, we hope to run it every year in Fort Worth," Jenkins says.

The idea came last year, she says, when she taught a class on unscripted series and brought in Robertson as a guest speaker. Robertson, a TCU grad and DFW native, was a runner-up on NBC's The Apprentice and is the current host of HGTV’s Boise Boys and Outgrown.

"Over dinner, he mentioned how much he had wanted to start a 'reality con' where people could come meet their favorite unscripted personalities and learn what goes on from the production side, as well," she says. "Since I had experience programming events and knew a lot of local people who had been in unscripted series, we started brainstorming how to launch this."

The Fort Worth Film Commission hopped on board as co-producer of the event.

The festival has a robust lineup of speakers and near-full schedule published on its website. Panelists will include popular stars of reality franchises like The Real Housewives of Dallas and Survivor, as well as hosts of HGTV shows and even an award-winning Fort Worth chef who's competed on Food Network. All events will take place at Arts Fort Worth (formerly the Fort Worth Community Arts Center).

Robertson will deliver the keynote and welcome to open the festival on September 17.

Panels and their participants so far include:

  • "The Reality of Home Improvement Shows" — Clint Robertson, host of Outgrown and Boise Boys (HGTV); Grace Mitchell, host of One of a Kind (HGTV); Andy Williams, host of Flip or Flop Fort Worth (HGTV)
  • "Producing Unscripted Series" — Carolyn Bailey, CEO of Script & Screen, producer AMS Productions; Alan Farris, co-founder of Script & Screen
  • "Casting" — Jodi Wincheski, former casting director for Survivor and The Amazing Race; Riley Wincheski, psychological background checks for Survivor
  • "The Inner Circle" — Terilisha, Season 2, The Circle (Netflix); Lee Swift, Season 2, The Circle (Netflix)
  • "All Things Survivor" — Michaela Bradshaw, contestant on Survivor; Libby Vincek, contestant on Survivor; Danny McCray, contestant on Survivor
  • "Working with Your Celebrity" — D'Andra Simmons, cast of Real Housewives of Dallas; Elena Davies, contestant on Big Brother; Ashton Theiss, contestant on The Amazing Race
  • "The Real Housewives Franchise" — LeeAnne Locken, cast of RHOD; Kary Brittingham, cast of RHOD; Jeremy Nguyen, associate producer, RHOD and RHOSLC
  • "Up Close and Personal with Reality Chefs" — Fort Worth chef Juan Rodriguez, Iron Chef and Chopped

More speakers and seminars are being announced as the event nears. There will also be a cast member after party (ticketed separately), where attendees can mingle with cast and production professionals.

Two-day passes have just gone on sale; a $95 "early bird" deal is on until June 15, then the price goes up to $125. For more information, visit the event's website.

Two of these former Real Housewives of Dallas stars will be speakers.

Facebook/Real Housewives of Dallas
Two of these former Real Housewives of Dallas stars will be speakers.
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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."