An autumn harvest fair. A Memorial Day celebration, punctuated by a 21-gun salute. A kids' summer camp complete with archery, swimming, and a meet-and-greet with a friendly raccoon mascot. These are just a few of the events hosted by Grand Prairie Parks & Rec, a department that has garnered a Gold Medal from the National Recreation and Parks Association. Its recreational facilities––including a pool with an aquatic climbing wall––and frequent social events bring the city together year round. Under the bright sun or starry skies, visitors can dance at a concert in the park, rather than just dancing to the rhythmic creak of a swing set. For longer excursions, the 791 lakeside acres of Loyd Park feature 221 campsites replete with cabins, picnic areas, and trails. There, visitors can paddle out on the water in a rented kayak, play a game of volleyball, or sleep overnight under the stars.
Fiendish ghouls and lost souls stagger across Chaos Crew Presents Mischief Manor and Chaos Academy, the successor to the 13-acre Texas Scaregrounds, which was lauded as one of the top haunted venues in the United States by Haunted Attraction magazine. After the twists, turns, and bloodcurdling screams of the dozens of strobe-light-filled rooms inside Mischief Manor Haunted House, visitors can try their luck at the interactive zombie-themed apocalypse training ground, an abandoned town where the leftover denizens' favorite food is brains. After surviving both attractions, visit Panic's Playground, where you can play games or get your face painted with the likeness of friendly zombie butterflies or carnivorous flowers.
The experienced pilots of Business Aircraft Services, LLC soar over the Dallas–Fort Worth area, providing aerial views of its iridescent spread of Christmas lights. In preparation for an hour in the sky, mentors summarize their aeronautic experience before briefing duos on the workings, safety features, and dietary habits of the Cessna 172 aircraft. Passengers chart their own courses, though guides are on hand to suggest such bastions of yuletide radiance as Highland Park Village, Mira Vista, and downtown Fort Worth. Once the metallic falcon is fully flapping its wings, participants gaze down at patterns of colored lights, which glimmer against the dark backdrop of the landscape like fallen constellations.
When Birgit and Bruce Anderson first purchased their 2-acre property in Burleson, Texas, the new surroundings where they grew vegetables and raised farm animals reminded them of the then-popular television show Little House on the Prairie. The couple—who originally trained as a tax agent and sociology professor—and their daughters farmed the land for several years before a 1995 trip to Napa Valley seduced them into the vineyard lifestyle. After 10 years of studying grape-growing and winemaking, the Andersons opened Sunset Winery, which they've nicknamed and trademarked "The Best Little Wine House in Texas."
Since opening, the late-blooming winemakers have established themselves by winning multiple prizes for their wines and drawing a steady stream of visitors each year. Sunset's lauded bottles include Moon Glow merlot and Twilight Tango malbec, the latter of which won top accolades at the 2009 GrapeFest People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic, edging out other malbecs and a chagrined Susan Lucci.
Wayne Standefer, the head pilot at Balloon Adventures, is well versed in Dallas-area scenery and topography, knowledge that helps him regale passengers with information during flights. The adventure begins as the aircraft is brought to life before your eyes. Once his balloon reaches its full height—more than 10 stories—Standefer invites you inside the tightly woven wicker basket to soar above rooftops and trees and dip low over fields and rivers. Total flight time is usually around an hour, though the whole experience can take three times as long from start to finish.
Balloon Adventures also charters its services for weddings, arranges surprise flights for special occasions, and offers instruction in specific tasks such as rigging the balloon, navigating in-flight, and shooing away flocks of paper airplanes. In addition, the company participates in hot-air-balloon festivals, where clouds of bright purple, orange, and yellow balloons fill the daytime sky or illuminate the festival grounds at night.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.
Boneyard Haunted House has been featured in numerous local media outlets, including in a story on CBS 11 news exploring whether or not the space is actually haunted. Rumors swirl that the large, formerly abandoned building that operator Dan Hall has converted into a haunted house harbors some very real ghosts. To give his guests a proper Halloween fright, Hall has outfitted the building's downstairs area with more than 40,000 square feet of realistic-looking skeleton scenes, elaborate designs, and passageways that reduce one’s line of sight to up the surprise factor. But, as Hall told CBS 11, other unintentional things have been happening inside the haunted house. Rolls of receipts have rolled across the floor and trash cans have accelerated across the room, all seemingly of their own volition. The phenomena have even caused paranormal investigators to come in with recording technology to try to contact the spirits of any lingering souls or prolific Ouija boards that might be stuck on the premises.
For guests who have walked through the haunted house in previous years, every season brings new and scary surprises. A writer from the North Dallas Gazette reported on the effort, noting that "each year, the haunt is completely taken down and the team starts fresh building exclusive rooms and new props." The attraction also boasts an indoor festival area with games, music, concessions, and vendors.