3 Places to Stay Just Outside of Dallas, TX 

Dallas, the ninth largest city in the United States, is often called the commercial hub of the North Texas region. Featuring a variety of museums, sporting venues, and cultural events, the city is home to a variety of activities that make it a great place to visit for people of all ages. While most travelers to the area plan to stay near the downtown area, venturing out to the smaller towns surrounding the city can provide a unique glimpse into the region and is often more affordable.

Lancaster

Located about 5 miles from Dallas, Lancaster offers visitors the opportunity to see attractions they would probably miss if they stayed in the city. Lancaster’s Commemorative Air Force DFW Wing is a small museum that allows visitors to see, touch, and explore planes from World War II. The museum is open on the weekends and staffed by former military members who provide visitors with intriguing history lessons they won’t soon forget.

Visitors to the area will also enjoy exploring Lancaster’s Bear Creek Nature Park, which is home to a butterfly garden, rock climbing wall, fishing pier, and multiple hiking trails.

Lancaster is a vibrant community that travelers will enjoy exploring. By taking advantage of the hotel accommodations available in Lancaster, visitors will have access to the unique attractions mentioned here as well to the variety of restaurants and shops in the area.

Plano

Situated less than 20 miles from Dallas, Plano features a diverse assortment of attractions that visitors to the area will enjoy. Nature lovers can explore Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, which features 3.5 miles of concrete trails and 5 miles of soft surface trails. Kayaking and paddle boarding are also available at the preserve, and visitors should check out Go Ape Zip Line and Treetop Adventure for a one-of-a-kind experience that will have them zipping through the forest canopy. The preserve is open from dawn until dusk.

Plano’s Heritage Farmstead Museum is another must-see attraction for travelers to the Dallas area. This living history museum gives visitors a first-hand peek at what life was like on the Texas Blackland Prairies years ago.

Garland

A quick 30-minute drive from Dallas, Garland features several unique attractions, including Hawaiian Falls Garland, a large water park, and Spring Creek Forest Preserve, a natural area that’s perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon outdoors.

Hawaiian Falls features a lazy river, numerous water slides, and a 16,000 square foot wave pool. Kids and adults alike will enjoy spending the day at this thrilling water park. If you’re looking for a more laid-back way to spend the day, Spring Creek Forest Preserve is a city-owned nature preserve featuring short, easy hiking trails that allow you to experience the region’s beautiful scenery.

On your next trip to Dallas, consider staying in one of the nearby towns. You’ll discover new areas to explore and save a little money at the same time. This vibrant part of Texas is sure to provide visitors with memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Image via Flickr by awsheffield

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Vintage Family Portraits are Like Sitcoms with Laugh Tracks

The term “picture perfect” is becoming less relevant these days.

Last week I was in Dallas on a work trip and the week before that I was northern California on vacation spending a lot of time with my wife’s side of the family, which explains the extremely low number of posts for the last couple of weeks.  (I’m not the kind of guy who announces “I’m on vacation on the other side of the country!” as my facebook status- I don’t think it’s a good idea to announce to the world when I’m not at home.  Maybe that’s just me.) While in Sacramento, I saw a studio portrait of my wife’s family, circa 1985.  Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, wearing big smiles (for the most part), all looking at the photographer (for the most part), and best of all, a fake forest backdrop was used as the background.

Granted, this was the mid ‘80’s, so anything that happened during that time was bound to be excessively cheesy compared to now.  But here’s the thing- even today, many professional family portraits are still, at best, hokey.  Because they represent a family at a perceived idea of their best, not what is normal or natural.  In the past decade as reality shows have begun dominated prime time, sitcoms have become more sophisticated and life-like; by being more satirical and less slapstick, and also by removing the laugh tracks.  Yet it can be a difficult thing to make studio family portraits less fake and more real.

And that’s why I’m a snapshot kind of guy.

Just as every family has a “family tree enthusiast”, every family also has a default photographer- and in some family circles, I’m it.  I always have my camera with me anywhere I go, ready to snap some shots of whatever unique, random, or funny situation I find family or friends in.  That means that a lot of times, not everyone is looking at the camera.  But a snapshot can often tell such an interesting story- even if the picture isn’t “picture perfect”.

I am so into snapshots, that it’s part of the name of this website.  Last week in Dallas, I met a person who after I told them the name of Scenic Route Snapshots, said to me, “I get it”.  I thought that was pretty cool, since a lot of people when they hear the name and try to repeat it, ask me, “Seen a cloudy slapshot?” But in case it needs explanation, the concept of my site is that I tend to write about things that most people wouldn’t think to question on their own.  I take an alternative, more laid-back approach to things (the scenic route) and take plenty of snapshots to remember them by (memoirs and journal entries).

But do professional photographers exist that take family portraits that don’t run the danger of being as corny as the opening theme song montage of Full House?  Is it possible for a family in the 2010’s to have a portrait made which represents them in a realistic and relevant way?  Yes, I’m seeing more and more begin to pop up- often following the “on locale and in character” formula of high school senior portraits and engagement photos, by placing the family in an environment which is familiar and natural for them.

When I think of a professional photographer who perfectly captures the realness and believability of snapshots in his professional work, I think of “Photo Joe” Hendricks who I’ve been friends with since I first moved to Nashville five years ago.  As I was trying to conjure an image of what the modern family portrait should look like, I immediately thought of his work, which I’ve included in this post as examples (minus the one at the very top of my wife’s family in 1985). These pictures are the equivalent of a sitcom without laugh tracks- more sophisticated, more natural, and more original.

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Blue Skies Eventually Become Outer Space: From the Real World to the Heavenly Spiritual Realm

“Is there a God?  Why is He waiting? Don’t you think of it odd when He knows my address?  And look at the stars- don’t they remind you of just how feeble we are? Well it used to, I guess.” –John Mayer, “New Deep”

Though it may be difficult to grasp, neither the Wild West (in the past) nor Outer Space (in the future) in fictional entertainment have ever really interested me.  In fact, they have actually turned me off from certain franchises.  Back to the Future, Part III was a Wild Western, as was American Tail: Fievel Goes West.  And though it was before my time and marketed to the opposite gender, before being cancelled, the Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats went to Outer Space for their final season.  Going into the Wild West or Outer Space both come across as “jump the shark” moments to me.  (Star Wars is an exception because it happened a long, long time ago, which is weird to think about.)

Here in the year 2010, the Wild West has been replaced as modern-day Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas have more trouble with violent gangs than they do misbehaving cowboys or Indians.  However, no matter what year we survive to, there is still an unseen future- and an unexplored Outer Space will always be something we remain fascinated by.  Even if we can shake off the possibility of other life forms out there (see Do Aliens Really Exist?), the scientific fact remains that there is no end to the Universe.  Space never stops; it literally can’t.  The ultimate great wide open.

A cliché idea is that when you look up at the stars you realize just how small you really are.  It’s true.  Even right now if I look up at the sky, I think how if only I could see far enough, I would see Outer Space.  And part of the whole “you realize how small you really are” doesn’t just account for physical size, but also for our spiritual relation to this Universe.

I am not convinced that Heaven is millions of light years away from us, way out there past Outer Space, like I have always unquestionably assumed.  God doesn’t fear that we humans will become so smart and efficient with our space travel programs that we will physically be able to fly to Heaven and therefore force our way in, despite our spiritual condition and relationship with Him.

For all I know, Heaven is actually so physically close we could throw a rock to it.  But our inability to see the spiritual realm prevents us from seeing it now.  Even when it somehow becomes easy to forget the relevance of God and eternity and how everything really is spiritual, Heaven isn’t that far away.  We definitely don’t have to travel past the blue skies into Outer Space to find the place.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on outer space, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST

Italians?  Check.  French?  Check.  Koreans?  Check.  Jews?  Oddly, not so much.

When the creators of LOST were in the casting process, they knew they wanted an “international cast”.  Well done.  Who wants to see another show with a bunch of white people and one African-American thrown in for good measure?

The ethnic diversity on the show adds so much to the characterization and even their storylines.  I have gone through the painstaking process (for most, but for me was a lot of fun!) of searching and studying the ethnicity of the entire cast of LOST.  While I won’t bombard my fellow Losties with every single cast member ever, I will feature most of them.  The phrase in (parenthesis) tells where the actor was raised.

Matthew Fox as “Jack Shephard”: Italian-English (America)

Evangeline Lilly as “Kate Austen”: English (Canada)

Josh Holloway as “James ‘Sawyer’ Ford”: Scottish (America); rare in that he is one of the few Southerners on the show- from Georgia in real life, on the show he was born in Jasper, Alabama

Jorge Garcia as “Hugo ‘Hurley” Reyes”: Chilean-Cuban (America)

Naveen Andrews as “Sayid Jarrah”: Indian (England)

Daniel Dae Kim as “Jin-Soo Kwon”: Korean (America)

Yunjin Kim as “Sun-Hwa Kwon”: Korean (America)

Terry O’Quinn as “John Locke”: Irish (America)

Dominic Monaghan as “Charlie Pace”: English-Irish (Germany); he speaks both  English and German

Michael Emerson as “Benjamin Linus”: English (America)

Emilie de Ravin as “Claire Litteton”: French (Australia)

Henry Ian Cusick as “Desmond Hume”: Scottish-Peruvian (both Scotland and Peru)

Sonya Walger as “Penny Widmore”: Argentinean-English (England)

*oddly, married couple “Desmond and Penny” are both in real life half British, half South American

Alan Dale as “Charles Widmore”: New Zealander (New Zealand)

Ken Leung as “Miles Straume”: Chinese (America)

Francois Chau as “Dr. Pierre Chang”: Cambodian-American-Chinese-Vietnamese (America); random fact- he played “Shredder” in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze

Andewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as “Mr. Eko”: Nigerian (England)

Nestor Carbonell as “Richard Alpert”: Cuban-Spanish (America)

Elizabeth Mitchell as “Dr. Juliet Burke”: English (America); another rare Southerner (from Dallas, TX)

Jeff Fahey as “Frank Lapidus”: Irish (America); though his character his Greek-American

Cynthia Watros as “Libby Smith”: Greek or Czech (America)

Michelle Rodriguez as “Ana Lucia Cortez”: Puerto Rican-Dominican Republican (America)

Tania Raymonde (Katz) as “Alex”: Jewish (America)

Mira Fulan as “Danielle Rousseau”: Jewish (Croatia)

Katy Sagal as “Helen Norwood”: Jewish (America); played Locke’s love interest, also known as “Peg” on Married with Children

Titus Welliver as “Man in Black (Esau): Irish  (America);  though he looks like Billy Joel, who is Jewish

Mark Pellegrino as “Jacob”: Italian (America)

Since Jews only make up 1.7% of the American population, the three confirmed Jewish actors on LOST accurately and proportionately represent themselves in the large number of actors on the show.  And that’s rare.

Of course, as usual, in the strange case there are no Jews or hardly any Jews on a show or movie (like Family Matters or Family Ties), the producers and/or writers are Jewish.  So it goes without saying, that in fact, LOST creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof are both Jewish.  Along with Jeffrey Lieber (who most likely is based on his name and physical appearance).  Same thing with LOST writer Adam Horowitz.

It’s safe to say that LOST truly has the most international, most diverse cast of any show in American history.  We as Losties have invested years of our lives in these characters.  They’ve become like real people to us.  I’m so glad this show is made up of such a randomly planned cast of characters and actors.

Read more about the astonishing number of Jewish actors in American film: The Funny Thing about Jews

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one