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Photo courtesy of Visit Plano

When it comes to parks, Dallas-Fort Worth isn't playing around. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land’s 2023 ParkScore rankings rated Plano at No. 16 nationally and No. 1 in Texas for the best parks system among the country’s 100 most populated cities. Dallas soared to new heights on the list.

The annual ParkScore report rates 100 of the largest American cities' park systems on five metrics: park access, equity, acreage, investment, and amenities.

Plano hung on to its No. 1 spot in Texas for the third year in a row, but did fall one place from last year's ranking of No. 15 nationally.

According to the report, Plano stood out because:

  • 80 percent of Plano residents live within a 10-minute walk to one of its parks, which is 3 percent higher than last year.
  • Plano spends the most money on its park system out of any Dallas-Fort Worth area city, at $196 per person.
  • The city's median park size is nearly 14 acres, which is more than twice the national ParkScore average of 5.4 acres, so Plano residents have plenty of space to play.

Also notable in this year's ParkScore rankings, Dallas jumped ahead 10 spots from last year, landing No. 43 in 2023. The report lauds the city for putting a more direct focus on its park systems through increased investment and improved park amenities, such as access to dog parks and basketball hoops. Dallas currently dedicates $124 per person for its park system, which is a $15 increase from the previous year, the report says.

In a press release, Dallas mayor Eric Johnson boasted about the city and its work to create "innovative green spaces at an unprecedented pace" and put forth a lofty goal.

"Parks are critical infrastructure in a modern city, and now is the time to take to the next level our efforts to make Dallas greener and greater for all," he said in a statement. "As the single biggest champion of Dallas’ park system, I am committed to ensuring Dallas becomes the city with the highest level of park access in Texas."

Garland was the only other Dallas-Fort Worth city to improve in the ranking, moving up from No. 91 in 2022 to No. 87 this year. Garland spends $106 per person on its system, where 63 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to any of its parks.

Arlington's ParkScore rank fell the most out of the remaining Dallas-Fort Worth cities after it reduced park spending by $10 year-over-year to $113 per person, giving the city a six-place drop into No. 74.
Irving and Fort Worth also dropped in this year's report by one and two places each, putting them at No. 88 and No. 99, respectively.
Washington, D.C. and St. Paul, Minnesota remained the top two best park systems in the nation, with Minneapolis, Minnesota taking No. 3. Arlington, Virginia, which was No. 3 last year, fell to No. 5 in 2023.
Trust for Public Land additionally published its new research, "The Power of Parks to Promote Health," that discovered high-ranking ParkScore cities are healthier places to live. Overall, the research found that Texas cities are "among the national leaders" working toward improving community health, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area was specifically recognized for its focus and dedication.
"Dallas partners with local community organizations to provide health screenings at parks, Plano offers free guided nature walks, and the Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department works with health providers as part of the Blue Zones Project to promote walking and healthy social activity in public parks," the report said.
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Prominent Hill Country winery cracks open new tasting room in Fredericksburg

Winery news

One of the most prominent names in Hill Country wines has uncorked a new tasting room in Fredericksburg. On September 22, Grape Creek Vineyard’s owners, Brian and Jennifer Heath, cut the ribbon to their latest property, Invention Vineyards, at 4222 S. State Hwy. 16.

Heath Family Brands has used the name for some time, first as a vintage from the Grape Creek portfolio. A 2022 purchase of Slate Mill Wine Collective cleared the way for Invention to be born as its own estate label.

Under longtime winemaker Jason Eglert, Invention crafts mostly Texas blends. The line also includes several single-varietal wines, focusing on Old World grapes like Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, and Viognier.

The property echoes that approach. The tasting room is on the former 35-acre site of Pioneer Flour Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther’s original mill. The entrepreneur did business in Fredericksburg for eight years before volatile weather conditions prompted a move to San Antonio.

A handful of Guenther’s original stone buildings still stand near the entry to Invention, but new construction houses the brand’s tasting room and state-of-the-art production facility. Nodding to the original structures, the rustic-industrial facility utilizes weathered brick and a corrugated roof.

Though the business has been open during the build-out, the grand opening marked the first opportunity for guests to see the completed compound.

For hours, memberships, tastings, and more, visit the website.

Cidercade cider and games venue opens mega-facility in heart of Arlington

Cider News

Cider and games are coming to Arlington with the opening of Cidercade, a new entertainment venue opening at 500 E. Division St. in the heart of Arlington on September 29.

Cidercade has hundreds of arcade games, shuffleboard, pool tables, and more, all available for playing with a single admission fee, as well as dozens of drinks on tap. It's all ages during the day then turns 21+ at 8 pm.

Arlington is the fifth location in Texas, following existing Cidercades in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston, and is the largest yet with a huge space spanning 25,000-plus square feet.

It houses more than 300 retro and modern arcade games, pool tables, ping pong tables, shuffleboard courts (a Cidercade first), party rooms, and event spaces for groups of all sizes.

In a statement, co-founder and CEO Joel Malone says that with Arlington's reputation as an entertainment destination, he knew they had to build "something awesome."

"Cidercade Arlington is not only our largest location yet, but it includes a much larger variety of games and experiences," he says.

Cidercade customers pay an admission fee of $12 and get unlimited play on all the games and activities once inside. Cidercade also offers a $20 monthly membership that includes unlimited admissions as well as discounts on drinks and merch.

Beyond the games, multiple bars serve a big lineup of adult beverages on tap, all made by Bishop Cider, and soft drinks from soda machines with unlimited refills.

Customers are allowed to bring their own food or have it delivered from nearby restaurants.

In addition to the Arlington expansion, Bishop is also relocating the Dallas Cidercade to a new site near Love Field Airport, where it will be expanded dramatically to 79,000 square feet, nearly 10 times larger. It will feature concepts, games, and activities that aren’t offered anywhere else in Texas, and will open in 2024. The current location will remain open until then.

Malone and and his wife and partner Laura Malone initially founded Bishop Cider as a quaint 704-square-foot cider bar a decade ago. The company has since grown into a leader in beverage manufacturing and beverage experiences comprising four brands:

  • TexBev, a co-packer for carbonated soft drinks, juice, energy drinks, wine, beer, and RTDs.
  • Cidercade, the cider and game venue
  • Bishop Cider, the hard cider company
  • Wild Acre Brewing, a brewery and beer garden venue in Fort Worth that produces seasonal brews and year-round core beers like Texas Blonde, Juice Slinger IPA, and Sundance Wheat.

Dallas can now rent pickleball and tennis courts in people's backyards

PLAY BALL

Dallas-Fort Worth pickleball and tennis lovers can now play on courts that were previously inaccessible: in people's backyards.

The service is from Swimply, the online provider that has previously let homeowners rent out their private pools by the hour. They've now expanded their services to include courts.

Swimply says in a release that other backyard spaces for rent were the "logical next step" -- especially given the popularity of pickleball.

"Pickleball is a phenomenon and there aren't enough courts to meet demand," the release says."Tennis, likewise, has historically been an exclusive leisure activity where people pay upwards of $100 an hour at private clubs for court time."

In addition to tennis and pickleball, basketball courts will also be listed for rent on the site, beginning at $25 an hour. There are currently nine pickleball courts for rent in the DFW area and one tennis court, spanning from Allen to Aubrey to Mansfield to McKinney. (The DFW service has just started and will surely amass more options.)

These join 200 spaces in Austin, and 300-plus available across markets in Houston, New York, and Los Angeles.

Swimply founder and CEO Bunim Laskin says this new launch is a "game changer" for communities whose members want greater accessibility to recreational spaces.

"We're excited to offer this new opportunity for families and friends to have fun, exercise, and connect with each other in a safe, affordable, and convenient way," Laskin says. "Our mission has always been about democratizing access to exclusive spaces and creating positive social impact, and we believe that court rentals are a natural extension of that vision."

It won't stop there: Swimply is looking into expanding their recreational offerings to include backyards for events, music studios, and more.