Author / Al Stevens


Celebrate Halloween with the Best Costumes and Events in Texas

Young or old, Houston and Dallas residents will have no shortage of events to celebrate Halloween and escape from reality for a few hours with a creative costume and sugary sweets.

Halloween Events in Houston

Enjoy Halloween while helping dogs in need find a new home at Bridgeland’s 10th annual Howl-O-Ween Fest, taking place on Oct. 27 at Josey Lake, providing free fun and games for all ages. This festival will have food trucks, pumpkin decorating, a magic show and trick-or-treating for both children and dogs!

The 7 – Acre Wood in Conroe will be the site of the 18th annual Thrill at the Mill, on Oct. 27. Here, visitors can indulge in delicious food and activities including a petting zoo, mini golf, hayrides, pony rides and more!

Sugar Land will host its own Halloween party on Oct. 28 with the city’s Halloween Town. This event will feature a costume contest, activity stations, a pumpkin patch and more entertainment for kids and adults to enjoy.

Halloween Events in Dallas

Scare on the Square in McKinney, is a free event on Oct. 31 from 4-7 p.m. that gives groups of all ages a safe and friendly venue to enjoy Halloween. A costume contest, pumpkin races, candy and more help to make this event a spooky success.

Halloweekend at the Dallas Zoo brings together the best parts of the holiday, with trick-or-treating for kids, a craft beer garden for adults, a pumpkin patch, hay maze, bounce house, animal encounters and more on Oct. 28 and 29. A special Halloween day at the zoo (and costumes are encouraged). What could be more fun?

At Friscovania in Frisco, experience a kid’s carnival concourse, live music, fortune tellers, trick-or-treating, a runway show, costume contest and more. It’s all happening on Oct. 27 from 3 – 8 p.m.!

Best Group Costumes

Gather your friends, children, loved ones or neighbors! It’s time to pick an award-worthy group costume for 2018.

Looking for a costume that offers a bit of mystery or magic?

Solving mysteries with fashionable flair was the highlight of this cast of characters. Bring a mystery to life as the gang of Scooby Doo while seeking the home offering the biggest candy bars on Halloween night. You could also honor that cast from the wizarding world of Harry Potter for this holiday. Grab robes and wands before heading out for an enchanting evening.

Prefer superpowers to magic? Flex those muscles as one of these bands of superheroes like The Incredibles, The Avengers or The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Other group costume ideas include:

  • Mario, Luigi and friends
  • The characters from Toy Story
  • Disney princesses and princes
  • Characters and dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and Jurassic World
  • Dominos
  • Crayon Colors
  • Group of minions
  • The three little pigs
  • Sesame Street characters… and more!

What’s your favorite group costume idea or Halloween celebration?

Food Lifestyle

Enjoy a Texas Date Night Out

Whether it’s a first date, an anniversary or a spontaneous night out, both Houston and Dallas offer fantastic dating opportunities near Darling Homes communities.


Couples of all ages have plentiful options for both understated dinners and energetic activities.

Upscale Outing

Delight in upscale dining at Robard’s Steakhouse in The Woodlands. This restaurant provides a gorgeous atmosphere with award-winning food making it ideal for a special night out. With items ranging from roasted corn & king crab chowder to filet mignon and truffle risotto, this menu has items to please every palette.

Romantic Dinner for Two

Romance is in the air at 13 Celsius, a European wine bar and cafe. With a wine list featuring selections from all over the world, this location’s expansive menu includes savory selections such as cheese plates and delightful desserts like s’mores and affogato.

Fireside Seats and Groovy Beats

At Cottonwood, spend a warm night on the patio or grab a fireside seat and enjoy live music while sipping one of the 42 craft beers on tap. Check the Cottonwood Facebook page for a list of upcoming musical guests.


Elevate the average date night with a stop at one of these Dallas restaurants.

Decadent Dinner with a View

Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, on the 50th floor of the iconic and recently renovated Reunion Tower, offers 360-degree views of the city from its revolving dining room, where you can indulge in decadent Asian cuisine, pan seared Texas red fish, crispy Texas quail or a variety of dumplings. Before calling it a night, take a few minutes to explore as this location also features two casual bars just outside of the dining room.

Tastings and Tapas

There is no need to debate where to wine and dine, rather be a tourist in your own city and select a progressive date. Dallas Wine Tours offers expeditions that stop at three different locations for wine tasting and appetizers. The locations rotate The company provides transportation and a guide for the duration of the tour, creating a fun and relaxing day out.

Appetite for Adventure

At the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Las Colinas, couples can take time out at the spa or choose from four different delectable restaurants. With the Mandalay Canal on Lake Carolyn, visitors can also enjoy a romantic gondola ride around the area or stand up paddle boarding.

Whether you’re looking to relax or have a unique adventure, opportunities for a fantastic date night out are just around the corner for Darling Homes residents.


Hit Plays and Musicals Coming to Texas

From the musical sensation Hamilton to Charles Dickens’ timeless classic A Christmas Carol, both Dallas and Houston will have a wide range of musicals and plays over the next few months for theater fans to enjoy.


The upcoming Broadway season in Dallas will be kicking off on Nov. 27 with the holiday favorite Elf the Musical bringing a whimsical set and story to the stage through Dec. 2. Though the season debuts with a lighthearted play, the rest of the works coming to the stage in Dallas in the next few months cover a broad range of stories, featuring everything from history to heartbreak.

Upcoming Broadway shows at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas include:

  • Elf the Musical; Nov. 27 – Dec. 2, 2018
  • The Phantom of the Opera; Dec. 19, 2018 – Jan. 6, 2019
  • The Book of Mormon; 29 – Feb. 3, 2019
  • Anastasia; Feb. 19 – March 3, 2019
  • Hamilton; April 2 – May 5, 2019

The Dallas Opera is staging the beloved four-act opera Carmen by Georges Bizet this fall. Carmen’s iconic storyline, following the lives of a gypsy and the men who love her, is running Oct. 19, 21, 24, 27 and Nov. 2 and 4. The Winspear Opera House, where Carmen will be performed, will also host the holiday play A Christmas Story on Dec. 12 – 16 and feature the Tony Award-winning show Chicago Dec. 18 – 23.


Houston’s upcoming selection of Broadway plays is incredible, with fan favorites such as The Phantom of the Opera, Waitress and The Book of Mormon all coming to stage within the next few months. All of the awe-inspiring works will be performed at Sarofim Hall at The Hobby Center.

Upcoming Broadway shows in Houston include:

  • The Phantom of the Opera; 7 – 18, 2018
  • The Book of Mormon; 15 – 20, 2019
  • Waitress; 29 – Feb. 3, 2019
  • Anastasia; March 5 – 10, 2019
  • The Play that Goes Wrong; March 26 – 31, 2019

At the Alley Theater, the wintertime favorite A Christmas Carol will be on stage Nov. 16 – Dec. 30 for viewers to be enchanted by the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and holiday spirit. The Houston Grand Opera has two major productions this fall with The Flying Dutchman, a haunting love story, showing between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2 and La Bohème, an enchanting love story, premiering Oct. 26 and running through Nov. 11.

With epic tales of love, loss, war and adventure crossing the stages of Dallas and Houston in the coming months, theater fans will have plenty of options to spend a night out enjoying the best of the Lone Star State’s performing arts.

Community Travel

Best Places to View Fall Foliage in Texas

Leaves are beginning to change in Darling Homes communities in Dallas and Houston, and there are a few hidden gems throughout the Lone Star State where visitors can go to experience autumn’s beauty.

Below are three Texas state parks and natural areas that offer visitors an unparalleled look at fall colors, and this leaf color map from Thrillist is an excellent tool to keep track of when leaves are at their most brilliant.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Lost Maples State Natural Area, located northwest of San Antonio, is known for its radiant beauty during autumn. Filled with striking maple trees that turn brilliant hues of orange, yellow and red, Lost Maples is renowned for its rugged beauty.

At this park, visitors can indulge in a variety of outdoor activities, including:

  • Over 10 miles of trails meandering along the edge of a 2,200-foot cliff
  • Camping at a selection of over 30 campsites
  • Fishing in the Sanibal River or Can Creek
  • Geocaching
  • Wildlife watching
  • An off the grid weekend – no cell service here!

Tyler State Park

At Tyler State Park, a peaceful retreat nestled in northeast Texas, visitors will delight in seeing the changing leaves from the comfort of the car with a scenic drive or getting an up close view at the vibrant hues from one of many hiking and walking trails.

This beautiful park offers its visitors a plethora of activities, including:

McKinney Falls State Park

Near Austin, at McKinney Falls State Park, visitors will find themselves enchanted by the capital region’s hill country, where Onion Creek flows over limestone ledges to create a breathtaking waterfall. During autumn, this scenic park is brimming with incredible colors.

While visiting McKinney Falls State Park, explore the outdoors by:

  • Camping at one of 81 sites
  • Mountain or road biking
  • Fishing in Onion Creek
  • Bouldering
  • Joining a Ranger Program on birding, geocaching and more

Texas is filled with incredible opportunities to see fall foliage while exploring the outdoors!

At Home Home Decor

Decorating Home for Autumn

The air is turning crisp and the leaves are taking on a golden hue which can only mean it’s time to find inspiration for autumn décor for your Houston or Dallas home.

Warm and inviting spaces are a hallmark of Darling Homes’ designs. To add a sophisticated autumn touch, accent your home’s natural beauty by placing a wreath on the front door, adorning the mantel with pumpkins or lighting candles with seasonal favorites on the coffee table.

Need more inspiration? The 2018 Good Housekeeping list of autumn décor helps homeowners discover some of the simplest yet most endearing home decorating tricks in the book.

Fall décor suggestions include:

  • Dried wheat wreaths to adorn the front door
  • Fall-themed throw pillows
  • Rustic-colored blankets in shades of orange, brown, red and yellow
  • Dried leaf garlands
  • Acorn accents for side tables and centerpieces
  • Pumpkins and squashes positioned throughout the home for a hint of autumn
  • Doormats with festive fall phrases such as ‘give thanks’

Autumn brings with it opportunities for indoor entertainment, whether you spend your nights and weekends in the living room with the fireplace burning or cozying up in the media room, take time to find your inspiration for fall décor on the Dallas and Houston Pinterest boards from Darling Homes. With a mix of pre-made and DIY décor ideas, these boards are the top choice for those looking to spice up their seasonal décor.

DIY projects for autumn can include:

  • Charming candy jars filled with candy corn or painted acorns
  • A garland made of glittering leaves
  • Pumpkins crafted out of yarn
  • Burlap wine bottle covers
  • Rustic mason jar candle holders
  • Chalkboard pumpkins embellished with a fall message

Whether seeking a craft for the holiday season or a new twist on autumn-themed home décor, these tips and tricks are certain to help bring a taste of fall into any Darling home.

Food Lifestyle

Experience the State Fair of Texas

It’s time for Texans to start preparing for their journeys to Dallas for the State Fair of Texas, an opportunity to indulge in fried food, catch their favorite artist performing live, check out the auto show and spend a few hours having a blast on the Midway rides. The fair begins September 28 and runs through October 21.

Prepare ahead of time

A full schedule of events is up on the State Fair of Texas website for visitors to use for planning their trip around a favorite musical act or special event, such as the Texas Innovation exhibit, the Texas Auto Show, Zuzu African Acrobats and much more. The website has a full list of options posted to help visitors prepare, including tips for arranging transportation, which activities to start with and where to dine.


Foodies will delight in the wide array of choices at the Texas State Fair. A wine garden and celebrity chef kitchen provide an exciting culinary adventure for attendees. Food lovers can also grab a taste of award-winning fare with winners and finalists from the Big Tex Choice Awards, including a creative cotton candy taco and Arroz con Leche.

From delicious fried goods to the thrills of the Midway, this year’s State Fair of Texas is sure to be unforgettable.


The fair has a series of concerts, free with the price of admission this year, taking place on the Chevrolet Main Stage. On opening night, Kraig Park will take the stage as Elvis, followed by a variety of acts through the rest of the fair.

Artists performing at the fair include:

  • Aaron Watson on Oct. 6
  • Austin Mahone on Oct. 7
  • The Molly Ringwalds on Oct. 12
  • Ludacris on Oct. 13
  • Hunter Hayes on Oct. 14
  • Casting Crowns on Oct. 20

The Midway features over 70 rides for visitors to try out, including the Top o’ Texas Drop Tower, the Texas Star Ferris Wheel and the Sparkletts Log Flume.

The entertainment doesn’t stop there – the fair also offers up shopping, creative arts experiences, historical exhibits and will host college football games throughout the fair.


It wouldn’t be a state fair without the livestock, and this year’s State Fair of Texas is no exception. In addition to fun events, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about agriculture and interact with a variety of farm animals.

Livestock activities include:

  • Farm Day at the Fair for students in 2nd through 4th grade
  • Cow milking demonstrations
  • Livestock terminology lessons
  • Cows, sheep, rabbits and llamas on display
  • Hands-on educational exhibits

New Attractions

Every year, the State Fair of Texas works to bring in new exhibits. This year, the state’s inventive side is on display with a unique exposition, “Celebrating Texas Innovation,” which showcases local contributions to agriculture, medicine, science and more.

Innovation isn’t all the fair is adding this year. Other new exhibits and shows include Amazing Archery, Dallas in the Time of MLK and an All-Star Stunt Dog Show.

This year’s State Fair of Texas is filled with fun experiences, delicious food and thrilling rides Texans won’t want to miss!


Creating a Child’s Dream Room

A child’s bedroom is a place to play, imagine new worlds, explore creativity and grow. With Darling Homes, it’s easy to help your child create their own sanctuary in Houston or Dallas.

When it comes to creating the ideal space for children of any age, Lee Crowder, Darling Homes’ Design Gallery and Model Home Branding Manager, recommends letting kids express themselves in their bedroom.

“Let them get involved!” Crowder said. “Take them to pick out paint colors, wall art, bedding. Make it a fun adventure that lets them show off their style.”

Crowder said the key to designing any child’s room is to start with a well-crafted, high-quality bed that can last through the child’s years living at home – and beyond.

“Buy a bed that stands the test of time, something that has a simple, pleasing design,” Crowder said. “Buy a bed that is a nice, beautiful piece of furniture so that the child can then take it as part of their furniture when they move out.”

Crowder advises parents and guardians to let kids have fun with colorful paint, wallpaper, bedding and decor. Focal points such as an accent wall, gallery of photos, trophy collections, monogrammed names and more can help transform a normal bedroom into a child’s dream room.

“Let the kids have rooms that don’t match the rest of the house, to be their place and their safe haven. Wallpaper, paint and decor is all easy to redecorate later,” Crowder said.

When it comes to furniture, Crowder has some recommendations of what make the ideal bedroom. Her list of must-haves includes:

  • Bed with a high-quality mattress
  • Desk
  • Large dresser
  • Nightstands
  • Comfortable chair

The comfortable chair and desk can be used for a reading nook, homework space or a place to relax, unwind and play games.

The way furniture is positioned in a room can open it up as well. Getting a full-size bed or a day bed and pushing it up against the wall opens up floor space for an active child and placing a dresser inside a closet can offer opportunities for desks and other items in a bedroom without making the room feel crowded.

“Focus on personalization,” Crowder said. “That’s the most important part of designing a child’s bedroom. From there, it’s easy to adapt as the kids change and grow.”


Places to View Art in Texas

The streets of Houston and Dallas are filled with opportunities to experience the arts, with murals, photography, galleries and museums just around the corner from Darling Homes communities.


At the First Saturday Arts Market in Houston, open year-round in the Historic Houston Heights area, visitors can meander through an outdoor market to find art that catches their eye. With the atmosphere of a festival, locals can also indulge in food truck cuisine and enjoy live music while searching for the perfect piece of art to complement the interior design of their Darling home. A Houston mainstay for the past 14 years, this market creates a friendly atmosphere for all ages to come and enjoy the arts.

Handcrafted goods sold at the market include:

  • Jewelry
  • Photography
  • Sculptures
  • Folk art
  • Paintings

Houston is also home to a long list of galleries, which Paper City Magazine organized into a list based on region. This list also includes local art museums and centers, giving Houstonians a guide to view beautiful works of art located around town.

Gallery Row, located at the intersection of Colquitt and Lake Streets in the Upper Kirby region of the city, is known as a hotspot for artwork, with locations including the Hooks-Epstein Galleries, Goldesberry Gallery, Moody Gallery, Dean Day Gallery, Parkerson Gallery and more.

Genres of artwork displayed at these locations include jigsaw puzzle paintings, rare estate finds, vintage photography, contemporary artwork, realism, sculpture and much more.


When exploring Dallas, there are numerous locations that feature artwork. Throughout Downtown Dallas, artwork is present on street corners and situated in front of buildings for the passersby to admire. The Dallas Arts District has worked since 1984 to build an artistic presence in Downtown Dallas, and the region has grown into the largest contiguous arts district in the country, spanning 19 blocks. This artwork covers a wide range of genres, from Texas historical features to music and mythology to a police memorial.

With this guide from D Magazine, art lovers can easily find the location of public works, including:

  • Rosa Parks statue
  • John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza
  • Pegasus Statue
  • The Storm, a music-themed mural
  • Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive, a collection of 49 bronze longhorns and three cowboys

The Dallas Art Dealers Association also offers a list of art walks and events in the city, and is known to host DADA art walks at various times throughout the year. The association also offers a free, comprehensive gallery guide that ensures art enthusiasts have information about how to view art throughout the year.

Each gallery in Dallas offers its visitors a unique view into the world of art, including Dallas Contemporary, a former warehouse converted into a showroom that dedicates itself wholly to public engagement. This free gallery is known for its thought-provoking and absorbing artwork, and brings in new, exciting exhibits for visitors to see throughout the year.

From galleries to outdoor markets, Houston and Dallas provide ample opportunities for artists and art lovers to experience local showcases.

Community Fashion

Finding the Best Shopping in Dallas and Houston

For fashionistas, people shopping for new clothes for an event, or those simply looking to enjoy a day out on the town with friends, there are numerous shopping destinations near Dallas or Houston Darling Homes communities with convenient access to today’s best brands.


When it comes to shopping in and around Dallas, there is no shortage of fantastic choices. NorthPark Center provides its patrons with a broad range of shopping, dining and event options. This metropolis often houses special displays inside, such as its current exhibition on ‘The Fabric of Opera’.

Stores at NorthPark Center include:

  • Neiman Marcus
  • Versace
  • J.Crew
  • Express
  • Fossil
  • Williams-Sonoma, and a variety of other shopping options

In Allen, the Allen Premium Outlets are conveniently located near several Darling Homes communities and provide a large, walkable outdoor mall filled with opportunities to get high-quality brands at great prices.

Outlet stores include:

  • Ann Taylor Factory Store
  • Guess Factory Store
  • J. Crew Factory
  • Loft Outlet
  • Armani Outlet and much more!

At the Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, locals can take a day to go to a movie, grab lunch from a snack station or dine in a full-service restaurant, and shop at their favorite stores::

  • Athleta
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Disney Store
  • Vera Bradley and a wide range of other incredible stores


It’s easy for residents of Darling Homes communities in the Houston area to find first-class shopping close to home.

One of the best destinations in Houston is The Galleria, an upscale retail hub that houses delectable dining options including FIG & OLIVE, Nobu Houston, The Oceanaire Seafood Room and more to cater to any craving. This exceptional space is renowned for being the largest mall in Texas and home to extraordinary special features, including an expansive ice rink that is adorned with a giant Christmas tree during the holiday season.

Stores include:

  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Sephora
  • Nordstrom
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Lululemon Athletica
  • Armani Exchange and hundreds of other choices

At Katy Mills Mall, a large indoor mall in Katy, near the Darling Homes community of Elyson, shoppers can purchase goods from:

  • Bass Pro Shop
  • Calvin Klein
  • Coach
  • Converse and more popular stores

Market Street, a diverse shopping center situated in The Woodlands, offers its customers a full experience with restaurants, local artworks and an ongoing calendar of social events. Stores here include:

  • Kate Spade New York
  • Francesca’s
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Lucky Brand and other stylish options

Both Houston and Dallas have incredible, upscale shopping opportunities for residents to enjoy year-round.



Celebrate Labor Day near your Community

Labor Day was created to honor the American labor movement, and the federal holiday provides a much-desired three-day weekend for many workers across the United States. With an extra day off, Darling Homes residents in Dallas or Houston can join in a celebration near their communities to revel in the unofficial end of summer.


Parade of Activities | Garland

Head to Garland to catch a parade starting at 9 a.m. in the historic downtown area. Following the parade, the festivities will continue with a car show, a kids’ BBQ festival and more Labor Day activities.

Truly Texan Labor Day | Plano

For a truly Texan Labor Day, head to The Texas Pool in Plano for a fun-filled day in the sun. The regular snack bar will be open for business, and food trucks for Kona Ice and 5-OHH BBQ will be on location to keep visitors well-fed throughout the day. Modeled after the state of Texas, this community pool features:

  • Diving board
  • Two water slides
  • Island and a wading area for kids


Luau for all Ages | Spring

Wet’n’Wild Splashtown in Spring is throwing a Labor Day Luau for all ages on Monday. Enjoy the incredible fun of a waterpark and stay cool under the hot sun with some added elements, listed below, to make the holiday more memorable:

  • Fire and luau dancers
  • Face painting
  • Balloon art

Restaurant Weeks | City-wide

Foodies in Houston can take advantage of the last 2018 over the weekend. This annual fundraiser gives residents and visitors special deals for exceptional dining throughout the city while contributing to local food banks. With brunch and lunch deals for $20 and dinner options ringing in at $35 and $45, diners enjoy delicious and photo-worthy meals for a good cause.

American History

Military personnel have the opportunity to view a bit of history on Labor Day with free entry for active duty members and their families to all three presidential libraries and museums in Texas.

How will you spend Labor Day?