I like the mixture of having a dry creek run through a mulch bed with plants/trees around it. Having a dry creek bed in your garden will give a soothing and natural look over there. Also, one such bed will allow efficient drainage of rain water.
Providing all the benefits of dry-laid flagstone, but with a more formal appearance, mortared cut stone is an excellent choice for high-use areas. Lay a gravel base, concrete pad, and mortar bed before setting the cut stone.