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Riley Heruska
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Our state isn't exactly known for its crystal clear waters or white sandy beaches, but that doesn't mean the beaches aren't worth checking out. With the intense heat of July bearing down on us, it's time to head to cool waters. Luckily, you can drive to more than a dozen different beaches in the area for swimming, sunbathing, boating, and so much more. 

Here are some of the best beaches you can drive to along the Texas coast: 

Port Aransas

Although this beach doesn't attract as many people as some places, it's definitely one of the better-known shorelines in the area. It's relatively clean and easily accessible, so finding a place to stay isn't difficult. People of all ages will have fun enjoying the open sand and local seafood. There's a reason people love this small town area, and if you visit, you'll probably see why. 

South Padre Island 

This is the only true island in Texas, and people visit for its wide beaches and clean sand. It tends to be one of the more crowded vacation spots, but that doesn't keep tourists from checking out all of the fun water activities and relaxing beach resorts. It's a mini-tropical island getaway just eight hours driving distance from the DFW area. 

Boca Chica State Park 

Where the Rio Grand River enters the Gulf, there is a sandy shoreline that is one of the state's gems. You can truly take a breath and enjoy your surroundings without being pestered by vendors of any kind. It's usually not very crowded, so just kick back and relax. 

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 

If you really want to take a break from society, then head over to this wild sanctuary. You can take a trip in a safari truck through the open Texas landscape, then make your way down to the area's sandy shores. You might spot alligators, armadillos, raccoons, and a whole range of state wildlife. 

Mustang Island State Park 

You can access this stretch of golden sands from Corpus Christi or the Port Aransas area, and many people recommend it because it tends to be less crowded than other beaches. Clean and spacious, it's a great location for picnicking near the ocean. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this serene shoreline. 

Crystal Beach 

This beach has been nominated as one of the best in Texas due to its relaxing atmosphere, cute beach houses, sea life viewing, and water activities. You can drive your car right onto the beach and camp out for a day, or you can book a stay at one of the nearby accommodations. Although it can get pretty crowded during certain times of the year, you might get lucky and have much of the beach to yourself if you visit at a less popular time. 

Surfside 

If you love paddle boarding or surfing, then you'll have a fun time at this Texas beach. Pitch a tent for shade and enjoy a cool breeze as you sip on something cold. Although most people wouldn't describe this beach as quiet or relaxing, it's an exciting getaway for people in search of a fun time. Plus, it's family-friendly and great for people of all ages. 

Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area 

Described by some as a "fantasy destination" hidden in our large state, Matagorda Island offers everything from seashell collecting to good fishing. It is a little bit more difficult to get it than most of the beaches on this list, but some would say it's worth the strife. Take the ferry and spend a day exploring this shoreline, which is usually not very crowded. 

San Jose Island 

Tourists visit this island for its getaway atmosphere and natural surroundings. Although it is a privately-owned beach, it's open to the public during most of the year. Take in the peaceful environment as you look for shells, fish, dolphin watch, or simply appreciate the surrounding nature. 

So, where are you going to road trip before summer ends? Do you have other Texas beaches you love to visit? Let us know in the comments below! 

Riley Heruska
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Fourth of July just wouldn't be the same without a healthy dose of sparklers and impressive explosions in the sky, am I right? Luckily, Texans like to go all-out when it comes to celebrating the patriotic holiday. Here are a few of the best firework shows to catch on the holiday weekend and the Fourth. 

The Market Street Allen USA Celebration (June 24) 

This one takes place quite a bit before the holiday, but it never hurts to spread out your firework viewings, right? Head over to Celebration Park in Allen around 4 PM to take part in various fun activities, then stick around for a phenomenal fireworks show later in the evening. 

Rockin' the River at Panther Island Pavilion - Forth Worth (July 1) 

Want to float the river and enjoy beautiful fireworks? Look no further. Enjoy live music as you make your way down the Trinity River and then witness a firework show worth waiting for. Just head over to Panther Island Pavilion on July 1 (or July 8). 

Old-Fashioned Family Fireworks Picnic - Forth Worth (July 2/3/4)

The Fort Worth Botanic Garden will be hosting another year of fireworks, as well as the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestra and the perfect space for a family picnic. 

Kaboom Town - Addison (July 3) 

This might be one of the most well-known recurring shows in the area, and it's obvious why: their fireworks display has been recognized as one of the best in the country. If you want good seats, you should plan on arriving at Addison Circle Park as early as you can. People will be pouring into the area to celebrate the holiday in style (as many as 40,000!). 

Red, White & Boom on the Bridge - West Dallas (July 3) 

On the Continental Bridge, you'll find a celebration full of music and good food. Enjoy a lovely view of the Dallas skyline and stick around for the fireworks once the sun goes down. 

Rangers Post-Game Fireworks - Arlington (July 3)

DFW residents sure do love their Rangers, so why not ring in the Fourth at their stadium? You can buy tickets online here

Light Up Arlington (July 3) 

Head to Downtown Arlington for a range of fun activities, from train rides to carnival games and food trucks. At about 9:45, there will be a festive fireworks show set to music. What more could you want? 

Star Spangled Spectacular - Garland (July 3) 

Firewheel's Town Center will have bounce houses, face painting, and a whole bunch of activities to keep everyone entertained. Fireworks will begin at 9:15 PM. 

Lone Stars and Stripes - Grand Prairie (July 3/4) 

After the horse races on these selected dates, Lone Star Park will be shooting off an impressive display of fireworks set to festive tunes. There will also be fun activities, including pony rides, a petting zoo, bounce houses for the kids, and live music. 

Independence Day Celebration - Irving (July 4) 

Lake Carolyn will be home to a patriotic celebration on the Fourth. There will be live music performances throughout the evening, as well as free attractions for children and novelty foods and toys for purchase. 

Freedom Festival 2017 - Lewisville (July 4) 

How does a DJ, face painting, carnival games, concessions, and fireworks after dusk sound? Pretty great, right? Make your way to The Village Shops and Plaza around 5 PM to take advantage of the holiday activities. 

July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza - Grapevine (July 4) 

You'll definitely want to snag a spot near the lake for this spectacular show. This is the 35th show at Lake Grapevine, and the event is known for its extravagant festivities and music. 

Family 4th Celebration - Richardson (July 4) 

With bounce houses, a climbing wall, live music, and of course, fireworks, what more could you want from this Richardson celebration? Head over to Breckinridge Park around 6:30 to participate in all of the fun. 

July 4 Fireworks - Plano (July 4) 

The Amphitheater at Oak Point Park will host a DJ, food trucks, and a nightime fireworks show for people of all ages. Head over to the free event around 5 PM. 

Fort Worth's Fourth (July 4) 

Panther Island Pavilion will play host to a night of family-friendly activities and music. Come check out the kid zone with face painting, pony rides, tubing, bounce houses, and even a zip line. Don't worry, they have great food and drinks (as well as tubing) for adults, so everyone can enjoy the holiday. 

Independence Fest 2017 - Flower Mound (July 4) 

Gates will open at 5 PM at Bakersfield Park, so be sure to check out their live music, Children's Parade, and a fireworks finale. The country duo Brothers Osborne will be headlining the event, and there will be a Kid's Zone packed with activities to keep the little ones occupied. 

Frisco Freedom Fest (July 4) 

Visit the Toyota Stadium after the game for post-match fireworks at 7:30 PM. To grab tickets for the match, click here

Fair Park Fourth - South Dallas (July 4) 

Although you do have to buy tickets to this event, the cost is totally worth it. Enjoy the Razzmajazz Dixieland Band's performance, more than thirty rides, a dozen carnival games, and delicious concessions. Fireworks will be launched from the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium and other locations throughout the Fair Park grounds. The event will be televised on WFFA-TV Channel 8. 

July 4 Community Fireworks - Carrollton (July 4) 

Carrollton is keeping it pretty simple with a 15-minute fireworks display over Josey Ranch Lake, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out. Watch from nearby neighborhoods or from the available parking areas. 

Denton Kiwanis Club's 4th of July Fireworks Show (July 4) 

This particular event has been occurring since 1972, so it's had plenty of time to evolve into a festivity you won't want to miss. Head over to Apogee Stadium for a variety of concessions, live band performances, and a children's activity area. Fireworks will start at 9:30 PM, and all proceeds from the event will be used to fund the youth services that Denton Noon Kiwanis Club supports. 

 

With all of these incredible festivities taking place, there's really no excuse for not celebrating the Fourth in the best way possible. Know of other places that will be hosting special events? Let us know in the comments! 

Riley Heruska
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In today's society, most people rarely tote around an expensive camera on a daily basis. Why should they when their smartphone probably has a camera feature with all the whistles and bells? More than 90 million people in the United States own iPhones, and it's much easier to slip the slim device into your pocket than it is to carry a bulky camera. Now, many professional photographers would argue the benefits of a DSLR or non-smartphone camera, but sometimes convenience beats quality. 

There are a few things you can do to maximize the quality of the photos you snap with your iPhone. Here are a few steps you can take to capture important moments quickly (and clearly).

Keep It Simple 

Capturing too much in a photo often results in blurred faces, poor lighting, or a distracting image. The simpler you keep the photo, the more professional it will look. Try to find boring backgrounds to help highlight your subject, and really pay attention to the other objects that might creep into your photo unintentionally (birds, fast-moving pedestrians, blinking lights, etc.). 

Use Two Hands When Shooting

When taking a picture, pretend that your iPhone really is a nice camera. Flip your phone horizontally and hold it with both hands. Not only will this technique reduce blur in your photos, but it will also allow you to capture more of the scene. If you have shaky hands, try to rest your arm on something and avoid moving as much as possible. Nobody can appreciate a photo that's unfocused or fuzzy. 

Remember That Lighting Is Everything 

Honestly, this is just a general rule of good photography, but it's especially true when it comes to shooting with an iPhone (or any smartphone, really). The iPhone camera has a fairly small lens, which means it can't always take in as much light as some other cameras would be able to. That's why your photos occasionally look grainy or extremely washed out. Really make an effort to pay attention to how your subject is lit. If possible, seek out natural lighting while avoiding harsh shadows or direct sunlight. Evening and early morning are considered the "golden hours" of photography, so really take advantage of those well-lit times. 

Avoid Shooting Objects in Motion

As we've talked about, blur can be a real issue with iPhone cameras if you have unsteady hands or shoot something that's moving around a lot. In most cases, it's better to just avoid focusing on objects that can't sit still. If you really want to capture your son playing soccer or the dog playing in the backyard, consider taking a video and then screenshotting parts of it later on. That way, even if the photos seem blurry, you'll have the clear video at a minimum. 

Stay Away From the Zoom Feature

Even though your iPhone camera can zoom in on far away objects, professionals recommend that you forget the feature even exists. Instead, use your body to get closer to the subject. It will undoubtedly result in a clearer picture with less grain and more detail. 

Invest in a Waterproof Phone Case/Bag 

If you really do plan to use your iPhone as your main camera, then a waterproof case or bag is a must-have. Otherwise, how are you going to snap shots on the beach or near the pool? Trust me, you don't want to face the tragedy of a fried phone that accidentally got splashed. 

Don't Get Lazy With Your Editing 

Instagram and dozens of other apps have reduced the art of editing photos to a mere click of a button, and although it might seem easy to slap a filter on your image and call it a day, that's not always the best option. Photography editing is not a "one size fits all" process. Take the time to make your own edits that perfectly enhance your specific image. Sometimes, it's as easy as simply upping the contrast or reducing some shadows. Remember, simple is better 99% of the time, so avoid over-the-top filters. 

Clean Your Phone 

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by how many people rarely wipe their phones down with a disinfectant wipe or glass cleaner. Failing to give your phone's camera lens a nice cleanse every now and then can really impede your photography. No one likes a photo that's blurred by a ginormous fingerprint smudge. 


Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you preserve more memories (and strengthen your social media game, of course). 

Riley Heruska
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Recently, we talked about how important it is to keep reading and learning alive over the summer break, especially for young children. The problem is, most kids don't squeal with excitement at the thought of cuddling up with a good book. Fortunately, the world of children's literature is always evolving, and there are plenty of books out there that can help spark a love of reading in your young ones. Here are some of the top bestsellers for every age group. 

Ages 6-8

The Magic Treehouse Books by Mary Pope Osborne 

These books have been around since I was in elementary school, but they're still wildly popular with young children. Imaginative and fun to read, each installment offers something new. Plus, there are dozens of sequels, so your kid can travel with Jack and Annie to magical places and embark on dangerous quests again and again. 

The Descendants Series by Melissa de la Cruz 

This trilogy is perfect for the child who loves all things Disney. Learn more about the children of infamous characters like Malificent from Beauty and the Beast or the son of Jafar from Aladdin. With fun references to so many movies, sassy characters, and an interesting plot, these books will have your kids addicted. Plus, there is a Disney Channel show and a movie based on the books, so your child will be able to enjoy both the novels and the screen adaptations. 

The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp 

Does your kid get a real kick out of dragons and magical tales? Then they'll love this unique tale about a three-headed dragon and its hidden home. The dragon has been alive for thousands of years, and they regale readers with tales from long ago. Kids will be hooked into this fantastical story within one or two chapters. This one might be a little advanced for some kids, but if your child is a strong reader they'll love it. 

Nate the Great by Majorie Weinman Sharmat 

Full of illustrations by Marc Simont and a comedic story by Sharmat, this book will have your kid turning pages without too much encouragement. Nate, a mini-Sherlock-wannabe, helps his friends uncover mysteries as he learns to ask the right questions and use his deductive skills. 


Ages 9-12

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book is packed with heart and understanding, and your child will enjoy and learn from it. Auggie has never attended a real school due to his condition and facial difference, but when he finally enters the fifth grade at a real public school, he realizes he has a lot to learn about people and life... and so do the others around him. It's an easy read and full of moral themes. Plus, your child can read it before its film adaptation hits screens this fall. 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Riordan's fantastic series is hands-down one of the best pieces of children's literature out there. Follow Percy as he battles fierce creatures and attempts to find his way in a world fraught with life-threatening quests, witty satyrs, and ancient Greek gods. Don't let the mediocre movie adaptations sway your opinion: these books are the bomb. 

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

I'm sure you've already heard of these hugely popular books, and there's a reason why: They're humorous, addictive, and extremely well-written. Your kids will get such a kick out of Count Olaf's eccentricities and the outrageous situations the Baudelaire children find themselves in. There are thirteen books in the series, and chances are, your child will devour all of them. 

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown  

Does your kid love robots? Then they'll be enchanted by this imaginative story of a robot learning to survive in the wilderness of a deserted island. Although Roz, the young robot, has no idea why she woke up on the island, she embraces her surroundings and has a bit of an unexpected adventure. Your young reader will enjoy the entertaining story, as well as the beautiful illustrations. 


Ages 13-16 


The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Okay okay, I know this is such a cop out, but come on. If your child has only ever seen the movies, then this is the time to encourage them to pick up the books. Trust me, reading about Harry and his adventures is entirely different from witnessing them on the big screen. Before you know it, your child just might be holing themselves up in their room to devour a 600-page novel without being forced to. 

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paloni 

At first, your child might be intimated by the sheer size of these novels. They're definitely not quick reads, but they do grab your attention quickly. This summer is the perfect chance for your preteen to meet Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, as they attempt to defeat evil in a magical land. If they love movies like The Lord of the Rings films, then they'll gobble this enchanting story up. 

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
 

This book provides the perfect introduction to romantic comedy for young readers. Cute and entertaining, Flipped has been earning admiration for many years for its adorable love story and relatable characters. 

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 

Even though this book was written in the 1980s, it's still a favorite among many young teens. Heart pounding and page-turning, Hatchet has been grabbing young readers' attention for more than thirty years, so it's pretty likely that even a reluctant reader will enjoy this story. 

These are just a few selections from the bestseller lists. What do your kids love to read? Leave recommendations in the comments below! 

Riley Heruska
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JUNE 12

THEFT OF PROPERTY 

A 59-year-old female resident reported that an elderly woman stole merchandise from her store in the 4000 block of Villanova Drive. The theft occurred on June 5 but was not reported until June 12. It occurred at about 4:05 in the afternoon. 


JUNE 15

BURGLARY OF VEHICLE 

A 31-year-old male resident reported that an unknown subject broke into his vehicle and stole the third-row seats while it was parked outside of his residence in the 2900 block of Hanover Street. The theft occurred between 8:00 PM on June 14 and 10:00 AM the next morning. 

BURGLARY OF VEHICLE 

A 17-year-old female resident reported that an unknown subject found an unlocked vehicle and stole a bottle of pills and a television between 10:30 PM on June 14 and 7:30 AM the next morning. The vehicle was parked in the 4000 block of Bryn Mawr Drive, outside of the victim's home. 


JUNE 17

THEFT OF PROPERTY 

A juvenile victim reported that his Mongoose mountain bike was taken while he was working out in the 6000 block of Preston Road. The theft occurred between 12:45 PM and 1:45 PM. 

THEFT OF PROPERTY 

A 56-year-old man reported that a motor scooter was taken from a front yard in the 4300 block of Bryn Mawr Drive without his permission. The theft occurred between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. 

THEFT OF PROPERTY 

A 48-year-old female resident reported that an unknown suspect entered the parking garage of her residence in the 6000 block of Hillcrest Avenue and removed her bicycles without permission. The theft occurred between 2:00 PM on June 15 and 2:00 PM on June 17. 

CREDIT CARD/DEBIT CARD ABUSE

A 38-year-old male resident reported that an unknown person used his credit card without consent between March 20 and June 17. The man lives in the 3700 block of Binkley Avenue. 

HARASSMENT 

A 52-year-old male resident reported that he was threatened by a suspect through text message at approximately 7:10 PM. The victim lives in the 4500 block of University Boulevard. 


JUNE 18 

BURGLARY OF HABITATION 

A 59-year-old female resident reported that an unknown person stole her custom bike from the garage of her residence in the 3600 block of Asbury Avenue. The theft occurred between 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM. 

DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED 

Officers initiated a traffic stop in the 3500 block of Lovers Lane in which they arrested a driver on suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated. The arrest occurred at approximately 10:50 PM. 


All information provided by UPPD 

Riley Heruska
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JUNE 12

IDENTITY THEFT 

At approximately 4:53 PM, police were dispatched to the 3700 block of Normandy Avenue on a report of suspected identity theft. The victim reported that he had returned from vacation on June 7 to find several pieces of mail indicating that his identity had been compromised.


JUNE 17

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF

Police were dispatched to the 4600 block of Abbott Avenue in response to reported criminal mischief. The victim stated that between midnight and 4:15 AM, an unknown subject used an unknown object to break his vehicle's driver's side window without consent. 

THEFT OF A FIREARM 

At approximately 10:00 AM, police responded to reports of a stolen gun in the 4700 block of Drexel Drive. The victim stated that between June 13 at 3:00 PM and June 14 at 6:00 PM, an unknown subject entered the backhouse of a backyard in the 3700 block of Lexington Drive and unlawfully appropriated a black 9MM semi-automatic pistol. 


JUNE 18

BURGLARY OF HABITATION 

At approximately 5:16 PM, police responded to a report of items stolen from a house under construction in the 4300 block of Westway. The victim (and homeowner) stated that someone entered his residence while it was undergoing renovations and took several items from his entertainment room, which amounted to roughly $1,500. 

All information provided by HPPD 

Riley Heruska
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A few weeks ago, we asked our Arlington BubbleLife members to tell us where we should go to get great drinks. Today, we're announcing the results! And the winner is... Mac's Bar and Grill with 25 percent of the votes! Congrats to all the nominees and of course to our winner. 

About Mac's Bar and Grill 

Location:
 6077 Interstate 20 W, Arlington, TX 76016

Why People Love It:
 This place is perfect for brunch, dinner, or whatever you're feeling. The drinks are spot on and there's a great happy hour. You can sit at the bar and sip on something, or you can give into temptation and stay for a full meal. 

What to Order: 
People love the chicken fried steak and any of the drinks on the menu. 

So when are you going to check out this BubbleLife winner? 

Riley Heruska
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A few weeks ago, we asked our Coppell BubbleLife members to tell us where we should go to get great drinks. Today, we're announcing the results! And the winner is... J Macklin's with 35 percent of the votes! Congrats to all the nominees and of course to our winner. 

About J Macklin's Grill 

Location:
 130 N Denton Tap Rd #120, Coppell, TX 75019

Why People Love It:
 With a daily happy hour and different specials every time you visit, J Macklin's is sure to satisfy your cravings. You can visit for brunch or for late night drinks, whatever floats your boat. The casual atmosphere will make you feel right at home, and sometimes they host live entertainment on the patio. 

What to Order:
Some wine and a decadent brownie dessert (because why not?). 

So when are you going to check out this BubbleLife winner? 

Riley Heruska
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A few weeks ago, we asked our Uptown Dallas BubbleLife members to tell us where we should go to get great drinks. Today, we're announcing the results! And the winner is... The Rustic with 29 percent of the votes! Congrats to all the nominees and of course to our winner. 

About The Rustic 

Location:
 3656 Howell St, Dallas, TX 75204

Why People Love It:
 With tasty American dishes, local brews, and live music on the outside patio, The Rustic has been a favorite of the area for years. It's great for going out or just relaxing with an ice cold beer. Plus, who doesn't love a free show with your drink? 

What to Order: 
A cocktail or one of the local brews 


So when are you going to check out this BubbleLife winner? 

Riley Heruska
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A few weeks ago, we asked our Flower Mound BubbleLife members to tell us where we should go to get great drinks. Today, we're announcing the results! And the winner is... Anamia's with 33 percent of the votes! Congrats to all the nominees and of course to our winner. 

About Anamia's 

Location:
 1900 Long Prairie Rd, Flower Mound, TX 75022

Why People Love It: 
This Mexican restaurant offers a great happy hour and strong margaritas. Pair those with scrumptious fajitas and you've got yourself the perfect night out. 

What to Order: 
One of their margaritas and chips with a bowl of delicious queso. 

So when are you going to check out this BubbleLife winner?