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Photo courtesy of Merlin Entertainments

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will soon get even more Peppa Pig with the addition of the Peppa Pig Theme Park, scheduled to open in North Richland Hills in 2024.

When it debuts, it will become the second-ever Peppa Pig Theme Park in the world, following one that opened in Lakeland, Florida in early 2022. It will also be an expansion of the Peppa Pig brand in Dallas-Fort Worth, as Peppa Pig World of Play opened at Grapevine Mills in 2019.

The theme park, which is aimed at younger children, will be a standalone attraction featuring multiple rides, interactive attractions, themed playscapes, and shows.

Peppa Pig Theme Park is the second major amusement park to be announced for the Dallas-Fort Worth area in recent months, following the notice in January 2023 about a Universal Studios theme park coming to Frisco.

The park comes from Merlin Entertainments, which also owns brands like LEGOLAND, Madame Tussauds, and SEA LIFE Aquariums. Their licensing agreement with Hasbro allows them to build and operate Peppa Pig attractions targeted at the preschool market.

"Given the incredible success of our LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium in Grapevine, TX, the North Richland Hills community was a natural next step in our expansion and rollout,” said Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments Scott O’Neil in a statement.

According to a statement from North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino, the new theme park will be located next to the pre-existing NRH2O Family Water Park, making the area even more of a draw.

"North Richland Hills is known for its family-friendly amenities and activities and we could not be more thrilled to add Peppa Pig Theme Park to the mix," said Trevino in a statement. "This will be a great addition to our community.”

The exact opening date for the park has not yet been determined. Fans can sign up for Peppa Pig Theme Park emails at peppapigthemepark.com/dallas-ft-worth to be among the first to hear new details and get a sneak peek at all the new park will have to offer.

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21 North Texas museums offer free admission to military families this summer

Giving Back

Nearly two dozen Dallas-Fort Worth museums are honoring active duty military personnel and their families with free admission through the Blue Star Museums initiative, May 20-September 4, 2023.

Established by the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Blue Star Museums program annually provides military families free access to 2,000 museums nationwide throughout the summer. The program begins yearly on Armed Forces Day in May and ends on Labor Day.

Free admission is extended to personnel currently serving in the U.S Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (including those in the Reserve), and all National Guardsman. Members of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps and NOAA Commissioned Corps are also included in the program.

Those who qualify can use their military ID to bring up to five family members - including relatives of those currently deployed. More information about qualifications can be found here.

There is no limit on the number of participating museums that qualifying families may visit. Admission for non-active military veterans, however, is not included.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts website, the initiative was created to help "improve the quality of life for active duty military families" with a specific focus on children. The site states 2 million have had a parent deployed since 2001.

"Blue Star Museums was created to show support for military families who have faced multiple deployments and the challenges of reintegration," the organizers say. "This program offers these families a chance to visit museums this summer when many will have limited resources and limited time to be together."

In Dallas-Fort Worth, participating institutions include well-known art, science, and history museums, as well as smaller museums outside the city limits. Here's a look at all the museums in North Texas that are participating in the Blue Star Museums initiative this year.

In Dallas:

In Fort Worth:

In Garland:

In Irving:

In Mesquite:

In Cleburne:

In Krum:

In Sanger:

More information about Blue Star Museums and a full list of participants can be found on arts.gov.

These are the 7 best most intriguing hot dogs in Dallas right now

Hot Dog News

Editor's Note: In prior stories, CultureMap contributor Lila Levy has sussed out the top bagels in Dallas, and tried pretty much every lavender latte in town. Now she's ready to offer her take on that summertime classic: hot dogs.

Portillo's hot dogs
Portillo's
portillo's hot dogs

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Hot dogs are the quintessential summer food and an item that nearly everyone loves. They're simple, flavorful, easy to make at home, and affordable if you dine out.

Some cities like Chicago have a long-standing tradition with hot dogs, and while Dallas is not Windy-City-level quiet yet, we've seen an influx of some exciting new hot dog concepts come to town, joining a few locals who've been dishing out memorable hot dogs all along.

Here's the 7 most interesting hot dogs you can find in Dallas-Fort Worth:

Portillo’s in the Colony, Chicago-style hot dog, $4.50
Chicago-based fast casual brand known for its hot dogs and other favorite Chicago fare, has expanded to Texas, with its first restaurant in The Colony, which opened in January 2023. Chicago-style hot dogs are my favorite kind, and Portillo's does it right. Their basic hot dog comes with "everything": mustard, relish, celery salt, chopped onions, sliced tomato, pickle, and sport peppers on a steamed poppy seed bun. I loved the condiments, especially the peppers and relish. My companion thought the bun was too soft, but it was fine for me. Their hot dogs have a snappy casing with a robust tangy flavor.

Hunky'sHunky Dog, $4.25
Cedar Springs pioneer has been serving hamburgers, fries, and malts, since 1984. They're known for their burgers but they also do a trio of hot dogs including the classic "Hunky Dog," a hefty quarter-pounder with relish, onions, and mustard. I've been here before and know it's best to ask for the hot dog to be grilled extra, to give it that additional "burnt hot dog" cookout flavor. At $4.25, it's a bargain and their presentation is cool: They split the hot dog down the middle and place the onions and relish on top, and they toast the edges of their bun.

Fletcher's Original Corny DogsMake Mine Texan, $10
No story on hot dogs is complete without Fletcher's, famed purveyor of the classic corny dog. You used to have to wait for the State Fair of Texas to get them, but now that they have a food truck, you can find them camped at venues such as the Dallas Arboretum, and they're also at Klyde Warren Park Tuesdays-Sundays. They've expanded their lineup of flavors so I ordered their most recent invention: Called Make Mine Texan, it's a hot dog made of beef and brisket, with smoke seasoning that adds a heartier Texas flavor.

Dog Haus in RichardsonTooo Chi, $8
California hot dog chain takes a gourmet approach with jumbo hot dogs, veggie dogs, vegan sausages, and 40+ toppings including some you might not expect, such as arugula. I ordered the Tooo Chi, their version of the Chicago hot dog, which they brag is a hormone- and antibiotic-free beef hot dog, with tomato, pickle, neon-green pickle relish, mustard, diced onions, sport peppers, and celery salt. Their cooking added a nice char that emphasized the grilled flavor. It made me nostalgic to the days when my parents would grill hot dogs in the summer outside. Their point of distinction is their bread: sweet rich King's Hawaiian rolls, which they butter and grill, for a nice contrast of soft roll and crisp edges.

Angry DogAngry Dog, $8.95
Deep Ellum staple had hot dogs on the menu long before hot dogs became the foodie sensation they are today, and they offer a simple plain hot dog on a bun as a nod to those humble days. But everyone gets the signature Angry Dog: a kosher dog, split in half and grilled, placed on a toasted open-faced bun, then topped with chili, grilled red onions, mustard, and shredded cheddar cheese. It's more of a chili casserole than a hot dog, a knife-and-fork kind of deal where the bun gets soggy underneath the mountain of toppings, and you almost lose track of the hot dog. But unbeatable for a hangover cure or a big cheat meal.

Globe Life Field, Ballpark hot dog, $7
In recent years, the Texas Rangers' food service division has been jazzing up its ballpark menu, introducing new items, some of them crazy like the Boomstick 2-foot-long hot dog. I stick to the basic ballpark hot dog, with the only option being that you can get grilled onions at no additional charge. It's a standard six-inch hot dog, with self-serve mustard, ketchup, and relish, on a soft, nondescript bun, with a nice snap, the prototypical hot dog you eat while cheering on the hometown team.

Frank Seoul, Potato hot dog, $5.49
Korean hot dogs, also known as Korean corn dogs, are a Korean street food that started showing up in Dallas a few years ago, via Korean-born chains such as Two Hands and K-Town. Frank Seoul was one of the first and has locations in Carrollton and Frisco. Their specialty is hot dogs coated in a batter and deep-fried, like a corny dog but with a batter made from flour or rice flour, and additional ingredients such as the coating of diced potatoes in the potato hot dog that I ordered. They have a wild variety like a "cream cheese dog" — literally cream cheese on a stick &mdash and prices are all $6 or less.

This is not the place for a hot dog purist. The hot dog itself was lackluster, but the "shell" of crispy fried potatoes was magnificent, like a wonderful hash brown, and great on its own, didn't need the mustard I added a bit.

Disney's Little Mermaid remake goes swimmingly despite new so-so songs

Movie review

The biggest problem with the majority of the live-action updates to classic Disney animated films is that they haven’t been updates at all, choosing to merely regurgitate the moments audiences know and love from the original in a slightly repackaged form. That’s great for nostalgia, but if that’s all viewers wanted, they’d just go back and watch the original.

The Little Mermaid falls into much the same trap, although the filmmakers get at least a little credit for trying to offer something new. The story, of course, remains the same, as Ariel (Halle Bailey) has a fascination with everything above the surface of the ocean. Her rebellious nature, at odds with strict King Triton (Javier Bardem), leads her to spy on a ship with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and his crew, putting her in position to save Eric when the ship crashes into rocks.

Now totally enamored of Eric, Ariel is convinced by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her voice for a chance to live on land and make Eric fall in love with her. Trouble is, despite the help of Sebastian the crab (Daveed Diggs), Flounder the fish (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle the seabird (Awkwafina), Ursula has no plans to let Ariel succeed fair and square.

Directed by Rob Marshall and written by David Magee, the film clocks in at nearly one hour longer than the original, going from 83 minutes to 135. They accomplish this feat with the addition of several songs, including ones “sung” by Ariel while she is without voice, a relatively clever way to get into her thoughts during that long stretch. There are also additional scenes that give Prince Eric more of a backstory, making him more than just a pretty face on which to hang all of Ariel’s hopes and dreams.

The new songs are hit-and-miss; Ariel’s “For the First Time” is a fanciful number that fits in nicely, but “Wild Uncharted Waters,” a solo song for Prince Eric, feels unnecessary, and the less said about “The Scuttlebutt,” a rap performed by Scuttle and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the better. What most people want to see are how the original songs are done, and they come off well for the most part. The actors’ voices are uniformly good and the staging is engaging.

Other changes seem half-hearted, at best. A vague environmental theme broached at the beginning is quickly dropped. The cast is very multicultural, but haphazardly so. The film is obviously set on and around a Caribbean island, making it natural for The Queen (Noma Dumezweni), Eric’s adopted mother, and other islanders to be Black. But giving Ariel “sisters from the seven seas,” allowing for mermaids of several different races and ethnicities, feels odd and forced, and a little creepy given that King Triton is supposed to be the father of all of them.

The fact that Bailey herself is Black, while great for representation, is neither here nor there in the context of the film. Bailey has a voice that is equal to everything she is asked to sing, and her silent acting is excellent in the middle portion of the film. McCarthy makes for a great Ursula, bringing both humor and pathos to the role. Hauer-King, who bears a similarity to Ryan Gosling, plays Eric in a more well-rounded manner.

The live-action version of The Little Mermaid, like almost all of the Disney remakes, never truly establishes itself as its own unique thing. Still, it’s a thoroughly pleasant watch with some nice performances, which clears the bar for success for this era of Disney history.

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The Little Mermaid opens in theaters on May 26.

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid

Photo courtesy of Disney

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid.