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Two Dallas universities have achieved high rankings for their high-quality educational experiences this year: Southern Methodist University and The University of Texas at Dallas both have earned top-10 spots on U.S. News and World Report's just-released list of the Best Colleges in Texas for 2024.

SMU claimed the No. 4 spot in Texas, and ranked No. 89 nationally. The private institution had an undergraduate enrollment of more than 7,000 students in fall 2022. The school, which costs $64,460 in tuition and fees each year, ranks No. 121 for "Best Value Schools" by U.S. News.

In April, SMU's Cox School of Business ranked No. 4 in U.S. News' ranking of the best graduate programs in Texas. SMU business graduates additionally make the third-highest earnings in the nation within the four years after their graduation.

SMU actually fared one spot better in U.S. News' list of top Texas schools than it did in another recent report, in which it ranked No. 5 statewide.

U.S. News' profile of SMU says the university finds pride in its rich campus culture that encourages students to participate in different organizations and activities.

"Students can check out the Dallas International Film Festival, which draws 40,000 viewers annually, or explore the more than 400 parks in the city," the site says. "About 2,000 students are involved in SMU Greek life, and all students can participate in annual events such as the Festival of Lights, a candlelit assembly on the school’s Main Quad each December, and the Mane Event, a celebration of spring complete with bands and food."

SMU's cross-Metroplex rival, Texas Christian University, ranked No. 6 in Texas and No. 98 nationally.

Just behind TCU, Richardson's UTD placed No. 7 in the Texas rankings, and No. 115 nationally. With a total undergraduate enrollment of over 21,600 students in fall 2022, the university values itself as a top-tier research institution.

"The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship utilizes world-class, academic education, industry-leading experiential training, venture mentorship and advisory support to support the launch of new businesses," the UT Dallas website says.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense recently announced it will work alongside UT Dallas to develop a $30 million energy storage systems campus in a new initiative to improve battery technology.

"The project will accelerate transition and scaling of next generation batteries, while reducing dependence on scarce critical materials," the release said.

UTD ranked No. 14 in the recent Niche list of best Texas colleges.

U.S. News' top 10 best colleges in Texas in 2024 are:

  • No. 1 – Rice University, Houston
  • No. 2 – University of Texas at Austin
  • No. 3 – Texas A&M University, College Station
  • No. 4 – Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • No. 5 – Baylor University, Waco
  • No. 6 – Texas Christian University, Fort Worth
  • No. 7 – The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson
  • No. 8 – University of Houston
  • No. 9 – Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • No. 10 – University of St. Thomas, Houston

The full rankings can be found on usnews.com.

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Massive auction of ZZ Top bassist's guitars and flashy duds hits Dallas

Auction News

A massive collection of guitars, fancy clothes, boots, and other memorabilia belonging to the bassist from rock band ZZ Top makes its Dallas premiere. Julien’s Auctions presents “The Collection of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top," a three-day auction taking place December 7-9 in Dallas at 915 Slocum Street and online at Julien's Live.

The auction will feature nearly 1,200 lots showcasing Dusty Hill's one-of-a-kind instruments, Western style wardrobe worn on stage and in appearances, gear, documents, favorite cowboy hats, boots, buckles, and memorabilia. As a prelude, the collection will be on display at 915 Slocum Street through December 7.

A Dallas native who passed away in 2021, Hill was notorious for his collection of stuff, some of which was already sold off in an estate sale in Houston in 2022.

The auction's headlining item will be Hill’s fur bass guitar played on the “Legs” music video. The 1983 Dean Explorer style bass, in sheepskin finish with ZZ Top logo painted on the fretboard, was attached to a rig worn around Hill’s waist to make it spin. They're predicting it will fetch $80,000 to $100,000.

Another offering is Hill’s signature 1953 Fender Precision bass guitar, and most-played instrument by Hill out of all the guitars in this collection. The bass was heavily used by Hill and served as his go to stage guitar for numerous ZZ Top live performances and in the studio until Dusty retired the bass in 2012 due to road wear.

Fans will find a museum-like exhibition created a la “Dusty Land” with instantly recognizable items on display, such as:

  • Circa 1983 Wayne Charvel, Custom Eliminator Hot Rod car-shaped bass guitar in custom red and yellow Eliminator hot rod finish previously displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
  • Circa 1960s Fender body Telecaster bass guitar, in grey / blue finish with custom pinstriping by Houston artist Jim Carnifax done in 1983, used in “Gimme all your Lovin" and "Sharp Dressed Man" music videos
  • An MTV Moonman award statuette presented to Dusty Hill for Best Group Video "Legs" at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards ceremony held in 1984
  • Bald eagle jacket by Manuel with talons and feather accents down sleeves, accented with prong-set stones, with personalized "Dusty Hill" Manuel label
  • Black leather motorcycle jacket with custom painted skeleton motif, eagle head pins on lapel, and silver spike embellishments with "StreekLandslide" written on the back

Special wall displays feature a horseshoe ring of hats, awards, Elvis Presley memorabilia, cowboy boots, and Western style accessories.

”Dusty treasured all of the items in this auction and it means so much to me that the fans, whom he loved, will have an opportunity to own something from his personal collection. He would be so happy to know that this auction will benefit other musicians in need through the efforts of MusiCares,” says his widow "Chuck" in a statement.

"The Collection of Dusty Hill" was previously exhibited at Julien’s international exhibitions in Kildare, Ireland, and then in New York at Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. It's currently on display at 915 Slocum Street through December 7. Photos of auction items can be seen here. The exhibition is free and open 12-8 pm weekdays, 10:30 am-6:30 pm on Saturday-Sunday December 2-3.

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

News You Can Eat

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

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

Thunderbird Station, the bar in Deep Ellum, has closed, which owner Kim Finch attributes to ongoing challenges in the service and restaurant industry. It opened in 2020 in the former Bowls and Tacos, but the space was previously Riegel's Gulf Service auto shop for 62 years. T-bird got loads of acclaim at CultureMap including Best Patio, again Best Patio, Best Bartender, Best Bar 2022, and Best Bar 2021.

Zero Gradi has opened a location in McKinney, in the District 121 complex at at 6651 Alma Rd #100, where it's bringing pastries, authentic Italian gelato, and premium coffee. Favorites include the Lemon Basilico sorbetto, made to order with fresh-squeezed lemon and crushed basil as well as the Ferrero Rocher round croissant. The original Zero Gradi opened in 2016 in Melbourne, Australia; the first Zero Gradi in the U.S. opened in downtown Dallas in 2021, next to its sibling restaurant 400 Gradi, the award-winning Italian restaurant founded in Melbourne, Australia by famed chef Johnny Di Francesco, which debuted in Dallas in 2019.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is opening its first location in Princeton on Monday, December 4. Located at 800 W. Princeton Dr., the restaurant will feature their signature Chipotlane, a drive-thru pickup lane that allows customers to pick up digital orders without leaving their cars; there are also Chipotlanes in Richardson and Plano. They'll be open 10:45 am-10 pm, and will have the limited-edition Carne Asada menu item. They don't say what number location this is, but there are at least 30 in the Dallas area.

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

Side Hustle Burgers is a burger pop-up from the owners of Cane Rosso, Zoli's, and Thunderbird Pies, located at their ghost kitchen inside Thunderbird Pies in East Dallas at 7328 Gaston Ave. #110, or for delivery on DoorDash and UberEATS. The menu has six burgers with toppings like American cheese, onions, and jalapenos, priced from $12 to $16, plus a chicken sandwich, plus fries, onion rings, and potato chips with dip. It's almost enough to make you think Dallas is filled with barbarians who will only eat meat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shining bright

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

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

Burkman Holiday Home Frisco
Photo courtesy of Burkman family

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

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

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

Homes with over-the-top displays and shows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neighborhoods and subdivisions with special displays

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larger neighborhoods lit up for the holidays

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

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

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

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

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


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