While it might not rival New York or Chicago’s urban pandemonium, Dallas is a bustling city with its share of high-stress professions, crowded scenes, road rage and those intermittent heartaches to which no human is immune. If you know where to look, you’ll find our neighborhood offers respite from the daily grind or occasional trauma in the form of peaceful nooks, comforting crannies and uplifting activities. Here, find a guide to our readers’ and our own favorite escapes.
CenterPark Garden at NorthPark Center
Drawing millions of visitors each month, our neighborhood’s sprawling shopping mall may
not seem like an ideal place to find your Zen.
Loyal patrons know, however, that NorthPark is different. With its clean modern lines, impressive fine art collection and lush green space, the place has become nationally revered for being more than a mall.
The 1.4-acre garden at the retail giant’s center features canopies of 45-year-old live oaks and red oaks (90 trees in all) as well as colorful blooms. It’s common to find people lounging on the lawn with a blanket and a book.
Kristen Gibbins, NorthPark’s publicist and a Preston Hollow resident, says the quietest times at the mall are during weekday afternoons.
CenterPark Garden isn’t the only place to escape the crowds.
“There’s a hidden spot within the food plaza,” Gibbins says.
Right in the middle of the mall’s busy food court is the compluvium, an outdoor eating area enclosed in glass and open to the sky. Other quiet dining options include the patios at Bread Winners or La Duni, if you can get in just after the lunch rush but right before happy hour.
It’s no White Rock, but there’s plenty to enjoy about Bachman Lake, which sits right on the western edge of our neighborhood at Shorecrest and Northwest Highway.
The trail around the lake is too narrow to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians, relieving some of the stress related to navigating such scenarios.
Besides providing the home base for the Dallas Rowing Club and its regattas, the lake attracts mostly casual users — walkers, joggers and dog-walkers. Fishermen also frequent the lake for its steady supply of catfish.
Arrive at sunrise to avoid the heat and traffic. You also can watch planes take off from Dallas Love Field, flying low over the lake.
For an evening visit, the picturesque patio at Bugatti Ristorante (3802 W. Northwest Highway) overlooks Bachman Lake.
Museum of Biblical Art
The beautiful space at the Museum of Biblical Art (7500 Park Lane) is a thoughtful retreat for those who appreciate art and architecture (it’s become a popular place to exchange wedding vows). The museum burned to the ground in 2005 but came back to life about three years ago, demonstrating a special kind of resilience. Sit on the benches in the center atrium and reflect on the biblically themed sculptures that draw from different religions and denominations.
Preston Hollow United Methodist prayer labyrinth
But even as cars roar past, hurrying to their destinations east and west on the six-lane road, it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth. Figuratively, that is.
“It’s a place where you can go to center yourself and let go of any need to direct your own path,” says assistant pastor Adam Young. “It has become a sacred space.”
Dating back thousands of years, a labyrinth differs from a maze in that the single path always leads to the center. It’s not a puzzle to solve but rather a “prayer in motion.”
“You’re walking with God,” Young says.
William R. Morris III created this one three years ago for his Eagle Scout project. Carefully placed stones outline the grassy path, framed by two wooden benches.
It’s one of the rare places in Preston Hollow where traffic noise can become almost soothing and perhaps even aid meditation.
Young says the labyrinth’s location is deliberate, making the space accessible to anyone who wants to walk up and use it.
Corner booth at Inwood Lounge
The dark, neon-lined tavern accompanying the historic Inwood Theatre provides a perfect spot to unwind with a martini (take your pick of concoctions ranging from fruity to chocolaty). At the back of the bar is a cozy booth offset from the rest of the space. Go for happy hour 5-7 p.m. weekdays when martinis are just $5.
Unity Church of Dallas prayer chapel
On the first Thursday of each month, the Unity Church of Dallas (6525 Forest) hosts a meditation class from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the John Webster Prayer Chapel. A $10 love offering is accepted. The building backs up to a creek with a bridge and walking path well suited for quiet time.
The Gents Place of Preston Hollow
This high-end spa is the neighborhood man cave if there ever was one. Sip a complimentary beverage or two (whiskey, anyone?), and get pampered from head to toe. The rustic ambiance of The Gents Place (10720 Preston) resembles an underground lodge. It’s quiet, and there’s no awkward pressure to make small talk.
Adrift Float Spa
For some serious alone time, step into the “personal floatation facility” at Adrift Float Spa (8315 Preston), which has received acclaim for its relaxation service, the only one of its kind in Dallas. You’ll float in a dark, silent tank and likely slip into a sensory-deprived, trance-like state.
Temple Emanu-el Olan Sanctuary
Long hailed as one of Howard Meyer’s finest architectural works, everything about the mid-century building and grounds of Temple Emanu-El inspires awe. A quiet moment in the Olan Sanctuary provides peace during times of stress while making all of life’s trivial pursuits melt away.
White Rock Creek Trail
This seven-mile-long hike and bike trail winds along the creek past Medical City Hospital. The journey starts in our neighborhood, and if you keep going under the High Five, you’ll eventually end up at White Rock Lake, where peaceful places abound.
Leave the iPod at home, and walk, jog or bike the Northaven Trail, which winds through the residential streets of Northaven from Valleydale to Preston, for now. Admire the wildflowers and discover neighborhood gems such as Congregation Tiferet Israel’s community garden, located right off the trail near Dealey Park.
Meadows Museum Plaza and Sculpture Garden
You don’t have to venture inside Southern Methodist University’s acclaimed museum to soak up the artistic energy (although we’d recommend doing so anyway). The Meadows Museum Plaza and Sculpture Garden out front features impressive landscaping and benches where visitors can admire sculptures by some of the country’s most revered artists.
At the center of the garden is “Sho,” by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The stainless steel mesh sculpture stands 13 feet tall and depicts a young Chinese woman’s head, prompting viewers to ponder how our lives are made up of millions of other tiny elements and processes.
For the sculpture’s full effect, visit the garden at night when the art is lit up from underneath. Don’t miss the overlook of Santiago Calatrava’s “Wave.”
Preston Royal Library
Sometimes, the best place to find solace is in a book, and our neighborhood library has a selection that holds its own against the chain bookstores.
“Our community is pretty well read,” says Amy Priour, manger of the Preston Royal Branch Library, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Preston Royal is one of the most heavily used branches in the city. During the first three months of the year, almost 23,000 people visited the library and checked out 127,000 items.
The branch carries a number of bestsellers because readers request them. Titles shipped from other branches often remain at Preston Royal.
Despite its high traffic, the library is full of great reading nooks — solitary chairs hidden away behind the shelves.
“Fridays are typically very quiet for us,” Priour says.
She says the library still attracts patrons from the early days.
“To them, this is the neighborhood library they grew up with.”