The Best Places to Live

Evening strolls along curbless streets. Lake view vistas through kitchen windows. Close-knit communities where neighbors actually talk to each other. Restaurants and nightlife just a few paces from front doors. These are our fav

Evening strolls along curbless streets. Lake view vistas through kitchen windows. Close-knit communities where neighbors actually talk to each other. Some of these are secret; others are well-known. But they’re all our favorite neighborhoods>>

SOUTHERN SPLENDOR: Houses on historic South Boulevard are as grand as anything in Dallas.

The Best Places to Live for History

Winnetka Heights
Dallas’ largest historic district is also one of its more popular. Take one walk along the tree-lined streets, and you’ll see why. Founded in 1908, Winnetka Heights was a country getaway for Dallas residents—mere miles from downtown, but crossing the Trinity River made it feel like a secret hamlet. It still does. Quaint bungalows, prairie-style homes, and even some Mediterranean gems populate this friendly area. Residents sit on oversize porches calling out to their neighbors walking by, parties are a common occurrence, and the holiday lights home tour is a not-to-be-missed event. Expect to pay about $250,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1920s prairie-style home with 1,600 square feet.

Munger Place
When the homes started going up in Munger Place in the early 1900s, front porches were key to the entire project. Today, as you drive the streets of Junius, Worth, Tremont, and others in the small East Dallas neighborhood, you’ll see why. Residents sip wine on those same front porches and talk to neighbors while their kids ride bikes down the sidewalk. “We know everybody on our block,” Chris Knox says. “I love the old homes. Everything in our circa 1911 house is untouched, really.” Munger Place became Dallas’ third historic district in 1980 (the first was Swiss Avenue in 1973), and the neighborhood also boasts the largest collection of prairie-style homes in the United States, most of which are between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet and range in price from $200,000 to $400,000.

Downtown McKinney
McKinney’s downtown area looks a lot like it did 100 years ago. Antiques stores and art galleries do business in turn-of-the-century buildings. You can still get your prescriptions filled at Smith Drug Company, which has been in operation since the 1800s. But downtown McKinney doesn’t live solely in the past. Next year, the courthouse will reopen as a performing and visual arts venue. Homes range from Queen Annes from the late 1880s to craftsman-style bungalows from the early 1900s. Most are priced between $180,000 and $400,000. And the sign of a truly successful downtown? Lofts, available for about $1.20 a square foot.

The Cedars
Victorian mansions and groves of oak and red cedar trees once populated this largely industrial neighborhood directly south of downtown, on the other side of I-30. The Cedars was developed in the late 1870s as an affluent residential area, but it declined through the years, and, in the early 1920s, homes were demolished to make room for businesses and bars like Jack Ruby’s infamous Silver Spur. Recently, the Cedars has seen a flourish of revitalization. Landmarks like the American Beauty Flour Mill and abandoned Sears mail-order plant have been converted into hip lofts and apartments. Live-music venues Gilley’s and Poor David’s Pub moved in. Two-bed, two-bath lofts at South Side on Lamar lease for about $1,600 per month.


South Boulevard-Park Row
Prosperous Jewish families settled into this four-block neighborhood after the Temple Emanu-El was moved from nearby downtown in 1917. When those families fled to North Dallas in the 1950s, prominent black families moved in, making South Boulevard a showplace of grand homes that rivaled anything on Swiss Avenue. But the years haven’t been kind, and many of the homes have fallen into disrepair. However, couples and families are gently restoring these houses to their former glory. Park Row is still a transitional street littered with modest prairie-style bungalows and fixer-uppers, but South Boulevard is the opposite: houses are large-scale and ornate. Louis Cruz and Michael Jones bought a 5,000-square-foot manse on South Boulevard (pictured right) about four years ago for $189,000. After “six figures in renovation,” the property was appraised for $410,000.

The Best Place to Live for Hills and Trees

Easton Place
A little east of White Rock Lake, a road called Easton Place cuts a rectangle through pecan and oak trees. The road is so steep that when it ices over, cars get trapped. Perhaps only two dozen homes occupy this enclave. They were built in the late ’70s and early ’80s, each in a contemporary style rarely seen in Dallas: walls of glass, 18-foot ceilings, skylights, holes in roofs to accommodate mature trees. No fewer than two architects live on the street, and homes rarely come up for sale. At press time, the only one on the market was a 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath for $277,000.

East Kessler Park
Blend Austin with Dallas and you get East Kessler Park. This Hill Country-esque neighborhood in Oak Cliff is home to the most eclectic mix of architecture in the city—here you’ll find English Tudor, mid-century modern, Spanish colonial, or quaint cottage. You’ll also get some of the most dramatic topography in Dallas. Houses are everywhere: in valleys next to creeks, hidden in groves, perched on cliffs, and even amid treetops. One particular area of Cedar Hill Road in East Kessler is carved out of mountains of limestone that loom 15 feet above the nearby roadway. The streets rarely follow a grid pattern, which makes for some twisty-curvy charm. But the best part of this neighborhood is the trees. On a warm, windy night, the swaying elms and cedars create a deceptive melody. You’ll swear you’re in the country, not in the shadow of downtown’s skyline. At press time, a two-bed, two-and-a-half-bath 1950s soft contemporary home, with about 2,100 square feet, was listed for $350,000.

Van Dyke
At the northeast tip of White Rock Lake sits Norbuck Park. There you’ll find a ball diamond and sparse playground equipment. But you’ll also find White Rock Prairie, some of the last unspoiled blackland prairie in Dallas. The preserve is bordered by Van Dyke Road. On the other side, there are 40 homes, modest cottages that sell in the $200,000s only because their front yard is one big nature preserve. But the real gems are at the end of the street, on the park side, at the top of a hill. The park, then, serves as their back yard, giving them an unobstructed view of the lake, with downtown Dallas in the distance. This handful of homes rarely goes on the market, but the asking price on the last one that did was $800,000.

The hilly area south of Northwest Highway and east of Lovers Lane is the Chippewa Falls of Dallas. Here in one of the city’s most pastoral neighborhoods, kids ride their bikes over the river and through the woods down Briarwood, past the white picket fences on Shadywood, up the hilly slopes of Bluffview Boulevard to the cul-de-sac on top. From the crest of the hill you can overlook a true Texas creek spilling over limestone outcroppings on its way to nearby Bachman Lake. While some of the estates are 4 to 5 acres, there is nothing prim and proper about the landscaping—unkempt bushes separate houses like thick hedgerows. An updated 3/3 overlooking the creek fetches around $1.4 million, but we found several Austin-stone cottages in the area, proudly displaying Texas flags, listed for less than $400,000.


Park Bridge Court
About a dozen homes line Park Bridge Court, one of the most exclusive addresses in Dallas. “Across the Bridge” is not for everyone, as evidenced by the private gate that requires a code for entry at night and on weekends. Take a slow drive on the short street, and you’ll see what all of the fuss is about. Modern, sizeable, and architecturally unique, each home takes advantage of its serene setting. The houses here cling to the side of a hill that overlooks the lush greenery of Turtle Creek and the greenbelt on the other side. At press time, a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath, 4,000-square-foot home designed by Frank Welch was listed for $1.7 million.

SLOW RIDE: Downtown Plano’s pace of life is more small-town than suburb.

The Places to Live for Community Spirit

Highland Park Village
Walking neighborhoods are rarities in Dallas. A neighborhood within walking distance of the oldest shopping center in the United States is something all together different. Around Highland Park Village, life is about as small-town as it gets only minutes from downtown Dallas. “We don’t really cross Preston very often,” says Lael Beer, whose children attend nearby John S. Bradfield Elementary. Although things have changed since the Village opened in 1931—with a Tom Thumb instead of a Hunt’s Groceries and Williams-Sonoma instead of the S&S Tearoom—families can still walk to the movies, dinner, even Chanel. Homes in the area range from original 1930s cottages priced at $500,000 to new construction at up to $3 million.

Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica
Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica is the scrappier, sweeter, southern sibling of Lakewood, with community spirit to spare. When the city designated Hollywood Heights-Santa Monica a Conservation District in 1989, two things happened. One, residents could rest easy knowing that the 1920s Tudors in the neighborhood would not be razed to build McMansions. Two, residents didn’t rest easy. Conservation efforts were just the beginning. Residents became involved and helped give the East Dallas area its cohesive, hip feel. The Hollywood/Santa Monica Neighborhood Association and its crime watch are very active, and there’s even an annual home tour. At press time, a three-bed, one-bath 1,514-square-foot 1927 Tudor on Monte Vista listed for $269,000.

Downtown Grapevine
“This is the best community I’ve ever lived in,” says Yasmine Bohsali, who owns the Main Street Bread Baking Company with her husband Fabien Goury. The French couple left downtown Dallas years ago in search of a small-town community similar to their native France. They found it in Grapevine. While other small-town volunteers may spend their time drinking tea at PTA meetings, local members of the Grapevine Wine Pouring Society will happily pour you a glass at any of its many local events. If you’re lucky enough to buy in the historic district, you’ll live in a house from the early 1900s up to the ’40s, or one of a handful of new homes, and pay between $170,000 and $320,000. “The problem is nobody wants to sell,” real estate agent Dennis Luers says. “There are people walking the street, knocking on doors, asking, ‘Do you want to sell your house?’”

Greenway Parks
Designed in 1927 on the English Commons idea of clustering homes to face a series of long private parkways, Greenway Parks is one of the most distinctive communities in Dallas. There are no unsightly alleys—garages and second entrances line the streets. On weekends, common areas swell with residents walking dogs, playing baseball, or helping neighbors with renovation projects. Homes—ranging from sprawling ’50s ranch houses to romantic ’20s storybook cottages to colonial revival to half-timbered Tudors—are often passed from generation to generation. The strong, active homeowners association is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the neighborhood and sees to it that the well-defined deed restrictions are adhered to. At press time, a two-story with 4,500 square feet was listed for $855,000, while, a few streets over, a “great remodel” was only $550,000.


Downtown Plano
Even before the DART line opened in December 2002, downtown Plano had a lot going for it. Now there’s no stopping its urban-like coolness. Yes, in Plano. Picture a mass-transit depot, West Village-like apartments and condos, and a beer garden. “It has a European feeling over here,” says Jörg Fercher, who owns Jörg’s Cafe Vienna. “When people leave the restaurant, they walk around the stores, walk to the theater. It’s something you hardly find anymore.” Along with the apartments and nearby homes, town houses and condos are in the works. Fifteenth Street Village digs are pre-selling for $300,000 for a 2,000-square-feet town house; 950- to 1,400-square-foot condos start at $150,000. Homes around the downtown area were built generally in the ’60s and ’70s, with a section of Victorian and earlier era homes just north of downtown. Home prices range from about $80,000 to $200,000.

ROOM AND A VIEW: Residents of the Peninsula enjoy views of White Rock Lake and the downtown skyline.

The Best Places to Live for Water Views

Old Preston Hollow
Some of the most expensive homes in Dallas surround “The Ponds” in Old Preston Hollow, but the ducks here have the right of way. This quaint area was once a private enclave of family farms and estates owned by the Slaughters, Neuhoffs, Deloches, and Pollocks. The big houses weren’t fancy, gates between properties remained open, and kids ran freely and boated along the creeks that still snake through the neighborhood. Jourdan Way runs between two of the three ponds, and it’s not unusual to find the bumpy road flooded with water—this may be the only part of town where you actually need an SUV. We recently spotted some Cub Scouts canoeing the waters and talked to a local who stubbed her toe on an old horseshoe while walking on her property. At press time, a 17,000-square-foot, three-story, Mediterranean-style villa was going for $5.9 million.

Highland Village
This affluent bedroom community on Lake Lewisville once was a lakeside settlement. As the story goes, Park Cities residents used to weekend here in the ’50s and ’60s. Now it comprises mostly families seeking good schools and safe neighborhoods. Highland Village has a wide variety of homes along the lake, ranging from $250,000 bungalows that date to the town’s beginnings to new homes that sell for more than $1 million. Most homes for sale are in the older section, which actually is much cozier, with its dense trees and definite lakeside feel. The town is working to complete a 12-foot-wide activity trail that ties lakefronts to neighborhoods to schools. “The whole community is centered around kids,” says Fred Placke, who lives in the Highland Shores subdivision and is vice president of the Lewisville School Board.

The Peninsula
Drive west on any street on the Peninsula—a narrow band jutting out over the eastern side of White Rock Lake—and your view magically opens up to the acreage of White Rock East Park, the downtown skyline, and, of course, all that shimmering water. Sunsets here are spectacular. This neighborhood is where Dallas showcases its biggest geographical asset—“The Lake”—along with its surrounding greenbelt and parkland. Mature trees, informal houses of all shapes and sizes built mostly in the 1940s and ’50s, and streets without sidewalks give the Peninsula a lush, gently frayed South Austin feel, with a kick of eccentricity. Prices reflect its burgeoning appeal: at press time, a three-bed, two-bath, 1,750-square-foot house built in 1949 listed for $264,000.

North Lake Estates
Often lumped in with Preston Hollow, the Ricks Circle Chain o’ Lakes offers some of the most scenic escapes from the city. Ricks Circle, a mile-long horseshoe off Northaven with 300-foot-deep lots, is the focal point of the area, but it’s not the only “on the water” option. Rick Strong developed the area as an upper-crust country tract in 1947, when homes had to be a minimum of 2,300 square feet. On Ricks and the other lake-lacing streets (Eastview and Westmere circles), private owners are scrapping the shabbier homes and remodeling the sturdier ones. Some residents still have their permissible one horse per acre, and one couple says the pizza deliveryman always has trouble finding their home (they love it). A  four-bedroom, three-bath “tear down” on a 1-acre lot on Ricks Circle recently listed for $799,000; a similar house on a half-acre lot on Westmere circle was $400,000.


Briar Creek Estates
Driving down Briar Creek Lane, the homes look like any other in the Hillside neighborhood northeast of Mockingbird Lane and Abrams Road. But Briar Creek Estates is actually a neighborhood surrounding three “lakes,” which are really more like creeks but still big enough for residents to paddleboat and catch catfish. The 70 homes that make up the community were built in the ’50s—generally large, ranch-style homes (which are all either one or one-and-a-half stories, mandated by deed restrictions) that sell for $250,000 to $750,000. Kevin and Sherry Daly recently bought the neighborhood’s showcase home, a 1956 ranch home with modern twists that was on the cover of House & Home and Texas Parade magazines. “In the summertime, with the trees full of leaves, you can’t even see Mockingbird,” Kevin says. “It’s hard to believe you’re in Dallas.”

A IS FOR ADDISON: In the self-contained Addison Circle, nightlife is just a few paces from your front door.

The Best Places to Live for Entertainment

Three or four years ago, downtown’s revitalization was speculative at best. More like fanciful. Finally, it’s here. The city’s core has too many bars, restaurants, and clubs to list here, not to mention the projects that are in the works. Okay, we’ll try: Jeroboam, Metropolitan, Izmir Mediterranean Tapas, Campisi’s, Umlaut, Euphoria, P.D. Johnson’s, Pegaso, the new Which Wich, and more. “I think we just have to get people to realize that it’s an emerging neighborhood,” says Don Raines Jr., president of the Central Dallas Association’s Resident’s Council. He says there are about 3,000 people living downtown, enough that you recognize people walking around. “In 10 years, it’s going to be more like a neighborhood and less like an office park.” Raines would know, because he’s lived and worked downtown for four years in the Kirby Building. A two-bed, one-and-a-half-bath condo at 1505 Elm lists for about $230,000 (full disclosure: one of the magazine’s editors is currently under contract to buy one).

Addison Circle
Think of Addison Circle as The Love Boat for landlubbers. Post Properties has created a self-contained village that seems to be on a perpetual pleasure cruise just off the Tollway. Post’s management staff organizes more than 100 social events a year for residents, including outdoor movies on the grassy esplanade. In all, there are 10 buildings, most with shops and restaurants on the first floor and apartments above. WaterTower Theatre is right next-door. The bedlam of Belt Line Road is just a few blocks away. Or you can stay at home and pop down to the Dugout. Deb, who owns the place, says hers is the friendliest bar in town. Her slogan: “Get your hug out at the Dugout.” Rental prices range from $600 a month for an efficiency to $4,500 for a 3,200-square-foot penthouse. For those of the purchasing persuasion, CityHomes recently got approval to build 183 town homes on adjacent land.

Nowhere else in Dallas are the entertainment options as concentrated as they are along the Uptown strip of McKinney Avenue, from Blackburn to Akard. If you’re bored, it’s your own fault. Three performance theaters mean something worthwhile is always onstage. Sultry haunts Republic, Stolik, and Dragonfly attract beautiful people like hummingbirds to hibiscus, while McKinney Avenue Tavern, Thomas Avenue Beverage Company, and Ginger Man draw a crowd more relaxed but no less comely. At press time, a 2,286-square-foot brownstone in the historic State-Thomas area listed for $309,900. Live here and you can park your car after work on Friday and forget it till Monday morn’—just use the buddy system after dark.

West Village
PR hype has named it “the new SoHo of Dallas.” We’re still not certain where the city’s old SoHo is; nevertheless, the urban oasis that opened in 2001 has proved popular with hipsters who eat, shop, and party where they sleep. West Village moviegoers love the Magnolia for its independent films. Hot spots Nikita, Crú, and Paris Vendome light up the nights. And, as any Dallasite will confess, days are made for retail therapy. Living above sweet boutiques and big-name chains obliterates every excuse for not being well-dressed or having a well-appointed pad. An expansion, now under way, will bring more blocks of retail shops and 500 new apartments, or, as one woman who lives in the area says, “five hundred more people to shop at our one tiny Albertson’s.” Currently, $1,620 to $2,360 per month gets you a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment—not including considerable monthly charges at Banana Republic.


Cochran Heights
This small triangle of homes, tucked between Henderson and Fitzhugh avenues, just east of Central Expressway, is in a transitional phase. A completely updated two-story home with new hardwood floors and remodeled baths could fetch as much as $300,000, while a lovingly restored 2/2 cottage was listed at press time for $180,000. In between, solid houses of stone, stucco, and wood frame await the touch of an industrious owner. But the real charm is convenience. By day, homeowners in this pedestrian-friendly neighborhood can easily roam the eclectic shops like La Mariposa, Another Time and Place, and Emeralds to Coconuts or peruse the quaint antiques shops in Potters Village that line Henderson. At happy hour, the patios of Cuba Libre and the Old Monk swell with locals. And on busy weekends, the hottest clubs in town—Sense and CandleRoom—are just a short stagger away.

Photos: House: Doug Davis; Plano Bike: Sean McCormick; White Rock Lake Bike: James Bland; Addison: Kevin Hunter Marple