Scarborough Renaissance Festival

What do turkey legs, knife throwing acts, wenches, and men in tights all have in common?

They’re all things you’ll find at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival.

Scarborough FestivalHeld on weekends from April through May, the festival combines high fantasy and courtly adventure, offering visitors an opportunity to enter a whimsical realm. Staged around sixteenth century England, Scarborough Renaissance Festival has a little something for everyone. You can ride a camel, engage in a sword fight, and  enjoy wine tasting at the Vinery. The entertainment is top notch. Be sure to catch Don Juan and Miguel who bill their show as sword fighting, comedy, and romance. These two have performed at Renaissance festivals for almost three decades. The Star Dancers are another crowd favorite, but be careful as you may find yourself onstage and part of the belly dancing.

Visitor tips

Buy a program. If you purchase nothing else, buy the souvenir program. It contains all the information you’ll need for the day including performance times, craft demonstration locations, and information on all the eateries and merchants. Best of all, there’ll be a map.

Dress the part. First, you don’t have to wear a costume to enjoy the festivities. However, the festival is the ideal place to wear that kilt in your closet, medieval Halloween costume, or leftover Harry Potter wizard cape. Visitors can also rent costumes inside fair grounds. And festival merchants sell everything from medieval robes to belly dancing outfits, though you’ll pay a hefty price for your attire. As for the kids, flower hair wreaths, fairy wings, and wooden swords are big hits with the youngsters.

The festival employs a troupe of paid, costumed actors. The actors set the stage. But it’s the costumed visitors who make for the best people watching.

Eat like a king. Within the festival grounds, food purveyors sell everything from turkey legs to baked potato. You won’t go hungry but you can expect to pay as much to eat as you did for your admission ticket. While you can’t bring outside food into the parks, one economical way to get around the high prices is to enjoy a tailgate picnic back at your car. Just be sure to get your hand stamped for readmission.

Bring dollar bills. Yes, admission includes entertainment on half a dozen stages along with smaller acts scattered around the village. However, expect the performers to pass the hat (or hat facsimile) around for tips following every performance. Tipping is optional. But these folks work hard for minimal wages, and some of the smaller acts working entirely for tips. If you liked the act, tip the performer a buck or two.

Wear sun protection. Don’t forget your sun screen. Texas can be hot even outside the summer months. A hand fan or paper umbrella work well to cool you down or provide a little shade.

When you go.

Scarborough Renaissance Festival is in Waxahachie at 2511 FM 66 (just off of Interstate 35). The festival operates Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. For the best price on admission, purchase your tickets online or visit your local Kroger for discounted tickets. Adult admission begins at $22 and children’s admission begins at $9. Visit the festivals website at www.srfestival.com for more information.

Dallas Area Wildflowers

Yes, you can find wildflowers in the Dallas area! Roadways and parks near Dallas offer Bluebonnetsplenty of springtime blooms including fields of bluebonnets!

In the Heart of the City

The best Dallas wildflower viewing may just be at Southern Methodist University and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. A 15-acre urban park planted with native prairie grasses and wildflowers forms a semi-circle around the back of the Presidential Center. Not only will you find bluebonnets, but also dusty pink carpets of evening primrose, brilliant reds and yellows of firewheel, and magenta wine cup. Benches scattered around the garden make for an ideal spot to stop and enjoy the magnificent spring display. The park is open sunrise to sunset. There is a fee for touring the Presidential Center, but entry to the attached park is free. The George W. Bush Presidential Center is at 2943 SMU Blvd, Dallas. For more information, contact them at (214) 200-4300 or visit their website.

Half Forgotten Zion Cemetery

There is nothing quite as stunning as a hillside covered in bluebonnets. Zion Cemetery, a small pioneer cemetery in Little Elm, showcases one of the Metroplex’s best displays of bluebonnets. At the height of the season, this sleepy little cemetery becomes a parking lot with hundreds vying for that perfect snapshot of the kids in the flowers. I’ve even seen an industrious photographer lug a Victorian chaise lounge onto the hillside to capture just the right photo! Zion Cemetery is located on Farm to Market (FM) 423 between Eldorado Parkway and State Highway 380.

Highways and Byways

Since 1934, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has beautified state highways and roadways with wildflowers. TxDOT encourages wildflower propagation by delaying grass mowing until after the flowers bloom and reseed. To continue the highway blooms, TxDOT plants over 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed each year. Local areas with highway wildflowers include US highway 67 between Mount Lebanon and Beltline. South of Dallas in Ellis County, you’ll find bluebonnets along FM 85 from Ennis to the Navarro County line; and mixed wildflowers on FM1182 between FM 85 to Interstate Highway 45.

Wildflower Website

Be sure to check out the Wild About Texas Wildflowers website for updates on where flowers are blooming around the state.

Sundance Square Plaza

Sundance Square in Fort Worth is well worth a visit – even if you live in Dallas.

North Texas Ramblings - Sundance Square Plaza With so many people living in suburbs, city downtown areas often fall into decline. Dallas and Fort Worth are two cities bucking this trend by providing places for people to gather. Dallas has Klyde Warren Park, and Fort Worth has Sundance Square.

Anchored by the Bass Performance Hall, Sundance Square sports comedy clubs, jazz nightspots, and theater groups, not to mention the annual Lone Star Film Festival held every November. Shopping, dining, urban living, and hotels – Sundance Square has it all.

Sundance Square Plaza

Completed in November 2013, Sundance Square Plaza adds an almost European dimension to the Sundance Square scene. Outdoor seating surrounds a jetted fountain on the west side of the plaza. More than 200 jets shoot water into the air on a random schedule. Kids love it. They gleefully wait in anticipation for the water entertainment. Yes, kids can play in the zero-depth fountain (normally from 2 to 6 p.m.). There are some rules: no animals, street clothes only, and no pool toys.

On the east side of the plaza, you’ll find a cloud of four gigantic umbrellas sheltering outdoor tables from the sun. The 80-foot umbrellas, while immensely practical, have the elegance of an beautifully designed sculpture. At night, LED lighting illuminates the canvas ceiling.

Free Entertainment

With a new plaza, Sundance Square is the perfect spot for outdoor entertainment. A free, Sunday jazz series runs every other Sunday, through the end of June. Music starts at 3 p.m. Then on Wednesday evenings this summer, come by the square at 8:30 p.m. for a family movie shown in the plaza.

The Flying Saucer

What could be better than burgers and beer? How about burgers, beer, and bands? The Flying Saucer (111 East Third Street) has an outdoor stage that draws a crowd from within the restaurant’s outdoor patio and from people strolling Third Street. A beer emporium, the Flying Saucer has over 200 different beers on tap.

The Bird Café

The Bird Café (115 East, Fourth and Commerce) is a new restaurant opened following renovations to Sundance Square Plaza. The Bird Café has extensive patio seating facing the plaza, and indoor seating in the historic Land Title Block building. Decorated with bird prints from artists Scott and Stuart Gentling, the restaurant’s interior adds to the dining experience. The Gentling brothers toured Texas painting native birds in a style similar to that of naturalist John James Audubon. Bird Café sources many of its ingredients locally. The café offers some unique items such as quail and rabbit, along with more pedestrian choices.

Sid Richardson Museum

The Sid Richardson Museum (309 Main Street) is a unique little museum tucked in among Main Street storefronts. Richardson was a Texas oilman who made his fortune in the 1930s. The museum displays his collection of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell artwork. Western art is not normally my favorite, but I thoroughly enjoyed this small gem of a museum. A detailed guide gives you the story behind each painting. The museum is free.

When you go.

Sundance Square spans 35 city blocks. It supports a host of businesses, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and even a radio station (The Ranch, 95.9 FM). The architecture is an eclectic mix of modern, in some cases, high-rise buildings; and early twentieth century architecture. Parking is available in three large garages: Garage 1 (Commerce and First Street), Garage 2 (Calhoun and Third Street), and Garage 3 (Taylor and Third Street). Parking is expensive on weekdays, but free on weekends and after 5 p.m. There are so many unique shops and wonderful restaurants that I can’t list them all here. I hope you enjoy wandering the streets and exploring the shops as much as I did. Be sure to take time to relax in the plaza.

 

Dallas Farmers Market

You can still buy fresh produce at the Dallas Farmers Market as it undergoes its North Texas Ramblings Dallas Farmers Markettransformation. And while you’re shopping, stop in at Ruibal’s for your spring plants and flowers. Finish your outing with lunch at Pecan Lodge.

Times Are Changing

Operated since 1941 by the City of Dallas, the farmers market recently sold to DF Market Holdings. According to the Dallas Morning News, the private company will invest over $64 million to renovate the area for mixed use to include retail, apartments, restaurants, and a fresh produce market. Redevelopment is already underway, with Dallas Farmers Market Shed 1 demolished, refurbished, and now open for business.

Market Shed 1

With a new roof and floor, Market Shed 1 houses a much smaller farmers market. You’ll still find half a dozen produce vendors. The produce prices for fresh fruits and vegetables rival what I pay at the grocery store. Unfortunately, not all the items are local.

In addition to produce, we found local honey, fresh eggs, a pickle vendor specializing in Texas BBQ pickles, artisan cheese from Waco, and the standard jams and jellies. There was even a vendor with massive bones and other treats for your four-legged, dog-friends.

A small number of crafers have stalls in the shed. Yumscents sells soaps, scents, and handcrafted shaving kits (Yumscents lavender eye pillows are a steal at $7.95). Finally, a few food vendors sell breakfast burritos, tamales, and roasted corn.

Expect to see additional vendors as spring moves into summer, and more local farmers set up shop.

Ruibal’s Plants of Texas

Michael Ruibal began selling plants out of a truck at the Dallas Farmers Market in 1984. Now he operates four nurseries in the Dallas area. His market location is kitty corner to Shed 1. Ruibal’s boasts a vast variety of plants. Colorful annuals, perennials, garden pots, shrubs, and even trees are available at the fully stocked nursery that covers two city blocks. A visit to Ruibal’s is a must for anyone getting ready to plant their spring garden.

Pecan Lodge

Alas, Pecan Lodge no longer fills the market air with the sweet smell from its smokehouse. Pecan Lodge, named by D Magazine in 2010 as Dallas’ best new restaurant, and THE place for BBQ, has moved. While Pecan Lodge now has its own restaurant location in Deep Elum, it’s still within a mile of the Dallas Farmers Market. Shop the market in the morning and take a walk over to Pecan Lodge for lunch.

When you go

The Dallas Farmers Market (1010 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.; and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is free and plentiful. Ruibal’s Plants of Texas (601 South Pearl Expressway, Dallas) is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And Pecan Lodge (2702 Main Street, Dallas) is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and from 3 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

McKinney Third Monday Trade Days

Are you looking for an out of the ordinary shopping experience? Third Monday Trade Days (TMTD) in McKinney offers everything from alpacas to yard art. Catering to the treasure North Texas Ramblings - McKinney Third Monday Trade Dayshunter in all of us, the market overflows with collectibles interspersed among flea market castoffs. Located on US 380, just two miles west of US 75, this three-day, once a month event hosts an eclectic group of vendors. Third Monday crafters’ stalls sell handmade jewelry, clothes, hats, etched glass, and even tooth fairy pills. Interior designers frequent the market for its wide selection of home accents and architectural hardware.  Looking for garden art? There are planters, wrought iron sculptures, and wide selection of concrete critters.

Antiques, collectible glass, and china stalls sandwich between vendors selling t-shirts and ball caps. A covered building called the Mall holds a mix of shops from photographic art to vintage clothing to a coin dealer. There is even an ATM at the Mall, just in case you need more money.

Throughout the market, food trucks sell food normally reserved for the State Fair. Foot long corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and honey roasted corn are just a few items sold. Stalls also sell other delectable treats for shoppers to take home like pecans, fresh roasted coffee, local honey, and elderberry jelly.

While shopping, don’t miss the opportunity to chat with vendors. Many have been part of Trade Days for years and all have fascinating stories about their products. In fact, Third Monday Trade Days is part of Collin County history. In pioneer Texas, the circuit court judge made his rounds to each county just once a month. In Collin County the judge presided over court on the third Monday. People from around the area would come to town to see the court proceedings – think of it as the Judge Judy of the frontier. They would bring their goods to trade and sell, thus the birth of our modern Trade Days. Third Monday Trade Days is located in what used to be Buckner, another piece of local history. The frontier town, Buckner, was the Collin County seat from 1846 – 1848. All that remains of Buckner is the Buckner Cemetery located on the market’s west end.

When you go.

Trade Days are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday preceding the third Monday of each month. Admission is free, though there is a $5 charge for parking (parking is free on Friday). Located at 4550 West University Drive in McKinney, the next TMTD weekend begins April 17. For more 2015 dates, visit the TMTD website or call 972-562-5466.