As holidays go, Labor Day gets a little bit of a bum treatment. There's no big parade (no disrespect to Garland's annual event), no huge Labor Day-themed festival. (Though you can get plenty festive at WestFest and other festivals happening over the weekend.)
All this doesn't mean there's nothing to do. Quite the contrary. We've rounded up a great list, with something for every letter in the holiday that needs a little love: L-A-B-O-R D-A-Y.
L is for Lakes
Get out and enjoy the water all around the area, whether it's cruising on a pontoon, paddling a kayak or doing some stand-up paddleboarding. There are all kinds of options. And if you're just looking for a beachy vibe, we've got you covered there too. Protip: Labor Day is the last day to take a cool dip at spring-fed Burger's Lake in Fort Worth.
A is for Arcade
Look, we might be getting closer to fall, but it's still way too hot outside. Why suffer in the heat while you can be playing fun games inside with friends and family? If you want to play a flat fee for oldschool gaming, Free Play Arcade (in Richardson, Arlington and Denton) has all the Joust and Smash TV you could want for $10 (not including the craft beer you can buy on the side).
If you're more of a cider fan, Cidercade (at Bishop Cider Co.) also offers unlimited arcade games for a flat $10 fee, which you can play while you drink. They've got plenty of hits including Dance Dance Revolution and Mario Kart Arcade GP, but they also have the hard-to-find, 10-player arcade/strategy game Killer Queen. New to the scene in Dallas is Regeneration Arcade Bar and Pizzeria, which pairs classic arcade and pinball machines with pizza, so you can really feel like you're back in the early '90s. (Yes, they have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine.)
If you want a slick sports bar attached to a flashy arcade, Dave & Busters can keep you occupied whether you want to earn some tickets in a giant version of Fruit Ninja or dominate your friends in a game of Pac-Man Battle Royale.
If you're most interested in arcade games from Japan (especially cool rhythm and fighting games), Round One is probably where you want to be.
Or if you and your fellow adults just want to hang out at a bar but also play some heated Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 matches, you can always hit up Barcadia (in Dallas and Fort Worth) and try out Giant Jenga while you're there.
B is for Beer
What's better than going to the zoo? Going to the zoo for a beer festival.
The Dallas Zoo invites adults 21-and-up to experience the animals and attractions with a cold beverage in hand during an event called Brew at the Zoo. Local and national breweries will be set up among the exhibits sampling their tasty libations. Couple that with tunes from country band the Texas Gentleman and funk group the Suffers, and you're in for a roaring good time. (See what I did there?)
But wait, there's more! The seventh annual Labor of Love competition is also worth raising a glass. The event, which takes place Sunday, Sept. 2, at Deep Ellum Brewing Co., features beer from dozens of Dallas-Fort Worth homebrew teams, and they're not afraid to pull out the stops. This is a competition after all, so expect some wild and crazy beers alongside some seriously tasty ones.
The winning prize is every homebrewer's dream: The beer deemed "Best in Show" will actually be produced by DEBC as a seasonal offering. Last year's was a blonde ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla and lactose called Cinnamon Toast Brunch, which will be made available in the brewery's taproom on Sept. 2.
O is for Outdoor Eating
Fire up the grill or head to a patio: Labor Day Weekend is all about being outside.
If you're cooking at home, consider the Texan tradition of smoking a brisket. The first thing to know, though, is that making Central Texas style barbecue is a challenge; maybe you should visit one of these barbecue joints in advance to set the bar. Then, consult our list of 11 brisket secrets for at-home barbecue enthusiasts. The day goes like this: Lots of beer, lots of patience and lots of patio sitting.
Speaking of patios, you're welcome to let someone else do the cooking if you'd rather soak up some rays on your day off on a restaurant porch. Hit up Dallas spots Katy Trail Ice House for a dog-friendly option or HG Sply Co. for a third-story perch. Or try Local Traveler for a gorgeous, giant covered patio in East Dallas. In Plano, we like the top deck at Haywire, a West Texas-themed restaurant inside Legacy West. In Arlington, check out Tipsy Oak, a spacious beer bar. And in Fort Worth, Joe T. Garcia's is everyone's favorite. If you want a different feel -- or aren't craving margaritas -- try the stylish Press Cafe.
R is for Rhythm and Blues
And jazz and funk and soul. However your tastes run and wherever your location in North Texas, there is a music festival on Labor Day weekend to satisfy.
The second annual Riverfront Jazz Festival will be at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters in downtown Dallas. Legendary local singer Erykah Badu once again headlines the first night of the event; there’s a long list of luminaries joining the festivities, including Kenny Lattimore, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Tito Puente Jr. ... you get the picture. The music starts Aug. 31 and goes through Sept. 2.
The Bedford Blues and BBQ Festival turns up the volume to celebrate its 10th year. Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Tab Benoit will headline. And a big BBQ contest and a market will accompany the music across from city hall.
And then there’s the new Music Fest at South Fork Ranch in Parker. It’s an adult listener’s dream with performers such as David Sanborn, Najee, Norman Brown and Spyro Gyra. It’s also an old-school soul fan’s dream with The Temptations, The Dramatics, The Whispers and more laying down a smooth Saturday night groove.
There has got to be a way to make all three. Right? Right.
Dawn M. Burkes
D is for Drive-in Movie and Concert
The Coyote Drive-In movie theater in Lewisville has an inviting menu and beer list to enjoy on their patio before the evening's double bill features begin. But on Sept. 1 and 2, you'll want to get there a couple hours early to add some music to your movie night.
On Saturday night, local country rocker Jon Christopher Davis will perform, and on Sunday, the stellar, Nashville-based soulful Americana band the Cordovas, will perform, playing songs from their fine new record. The concerts are free with paid admission for that evening, and $20 VIP upgrades, which include artist meet-and-greets and reserved concert seating, are also available for each night.
Movies include back-to-back screenings of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War; Incredibles 2 and Hotel Transylvania 3; National Lampoon's Vacation and National Lampoon's European Vacation, and more.
A is for Art Museums
Add a little culture to your holiday weekend with a visit on Saturday or Sunday to the trifecta of the Arts District museums: the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Collection and the Nasher Sculpture Center. Drop by Klyde Warren Park after you've gotten your cultural fill and fill your tummy at the rotating food trucks.
Most museums and galleries are closed on Mondays, so if you are looking for an aesthetically inspiring way to spend your extra day off, consider roaming through Deep Ellum or the Bishop Arts District to spot murals, sculptures and other pieces of public art.
Or, head over to NorthPark Center. Not only will you find Neiman Marcus and Henri Bendel at this luxury shopping mall, but also Andy Warhol, Frank Stella and Mark di Suvero, among its high-end art collection. You can even request a complimentary NorthPark Art Tour Map with descriptions of each piece from the concierge on level one. (Added bonus: There's air-conditioning.)
Y is for Yard Games
If you're headed to the lake this weekend for a cookout, you're surely considering tossing a football or lobbing bean bags. But no lake is required for that kind of backyard fun; bars and restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth have turned their patios into hot little spots for yard games.
Katy Trail Ice House (and its Outpost in Plano) and the Rustic, both in Uptown, are great spots for drinkin' games like cornhole and giant Jenga. If you've got kids in tow, head to the Lot in East Dallas, where both the little ones and Mom and Dad can have some fun in various play areas. Dallas restaurants Lovers Seafood and Mudhen Meat and Greens have games, too, and both invite you to come and play awhile.