kids
1992 Readers Poll
1992 Critics Picks
Best Childrens' Bookstore

Terrific selection of books, music, and science toys, great environment, and a smart staff add up to one of the most beguiling and checkbook-draining shopping stops around.

Toad Hall
1206 W. 38th, Ste. 1101
512/323-2665

Best Childrens' Resale Clothing

The 4 1/2 year old grew 3 1/2 inches this year. That means clothes - lots of them. But I refuse to sucker to the scam of retail shopping - $30 for a pair of pants he'll outgrow in 6 months? Forget it - how about $3 for Girbaud jeans or $8 for a Donna Karan dress (for me!)? This is the place. Rhea Kester, proprietor, takes only fashionable, gently worn items (hard to find in boys clothing), and she loves natural fabrics. Bring your used clothing on Thursdays for in store credit or cash. Shoes, socks, suits, crib toys, books...the Cheshire Cat has some of everything. After you've checked out the kid's room, be sure you head for the women's clothing. Hands down, it's the best in town!

Cheshire Cat
612 W. 34th
512/452-1145

Best Grocery Store To Take Your Kids

This HEB has carts with infant carriers already attached and clearly marked "no candy" checkout lanes. Sure, it's crowded and noisy and packed with college students. That's the beauty of it: plenty of camouflage. And once, when one of our daughters sent a pound of un-ground coffee beans skittering all over the floor, an employee magically appeared and in a low, comforting voice said, "I'll take care of it. You can just disappear, it never happened." That's gold medal material.

1000 E. 41st, 459-6513

Best Parent's Night Out

Such a deal! The kids are extremely well-supervised, lovingly cared for, and provided with excellent ways to occupy themselves while you make good your escape for a whole luxurious 3 1/2 hours - enough time to see a movie, spend some quality time alone together, or even eat in a restaurant where you don't have to unwrap the food first. Heavens! These people are saints sent from above!

Trinity United Methodist Church
4001 Speedway
512/459-5835

Best Place To Buy Presents For Children

Outstanding selection of challenging innovative toys as well as the more usual models such as cars and wooden trains. The selection is so extensive but tasteful, you can't lose. This is the stuff childhoods are made of.

Terra Toys
2438 W. Anderson Ste. 1-C
512/445-4489
www.terratoys.com

Best Place To Eat In Peace With The Toddler

The kid may not eat, but you can. They created a, what? 8' x 8', play area, say the size of another table space, threw a few toys in and voila, the only place in town I've been able to eat in peace in two-and-a-half years. Politically correct food, whimsical paintings, friendly wait staff. Now, if they put a changing table in their bathrooms...

Best Place To Take Your Child When He's Driving You Insane

We know it's really commercial and unhip, but any place whose mascot is a gigantic rodent is okay by us. There are millions of machines, toys, air hockey games etc. It's really, really loud and there's enough stuff to satisfy even the grumpiest youngster. The pizza is horrible, but who cares? Plus, they have a stage where 6-foot tall electronic puppets put on a show every 30 minutes or so. You can also bond with the many, many shell-shocked, exhausted parents who frequent the place. Lastly, they sell beer, so you can sip a cool one while watching Junior emerge from a huge pit filled with multi-colored plastic balls.

Showbiz Pizza
502 Ben White, 8038 Burnet
512/441-9681

Best Playscape

Run by the University of Texas' Dr. Joe Frost, an internationally-known expert in child development and play-ground equipment safety, the Redeemer Lutheran playground is constantly evolving and contains the latest in playground technology. Although used primarily by the church for its day-care center, the playground is open to the public and contains two specially designed playscapes: one for younger kids and one for older ones.

Redeemer Lutheran Church
1500 W. Anderson

Photo by John Anderson

Best Playscape (indoor)

An imaginative ideascape, the Austin Children's Museum entertains on many levels, so the young are enthralled and the old not bored.

Thinkery
1830 Simond
512/469-6200
www.thinkeryaustin.org

Best Restaurant Playscape

Combining the best of all worlds, this McDonald's offers a nearly escape-proof outdoor area with a wonderful wooden playscape and a giant inflated moonwalk where your kids can jump to their heart's delight. Guaranteed to leave your house unruffled while giving you enough uninterrupted time to read a magazine. All this and frozen yogurt cones, too, for only thirty-one cents-a-kid and some very dirty socks to wash ... later.

McDonald's
303 E. Oltorf, 512/442-7717
1143 1/2 Airport, 512/926-1234
Capital Plaza, 5355 N. I-35, 512/452-7473
www.mcdonalds.com

Best Swimming Lessons

The 4-year-old has been taking swimming lessons at Crenshaw's for the past few years and this kid is a fish. His friends, Sarah and Laura, aged 4 and 6 respectively, do breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, sidestroke, Russian jumps into the pool, water ballet, and basically seem like shoo-ins for an Esther Williams revival. You want drownproof, you'll get drownproof. You want a kid that swims like a naiad, you may get that too. And you will also get to rest your eyes on some of the hunkiest young swimming coaches on the face of the earth. Not a bad deal for the price.

Crenshaw's Athletic Club
5000 Fairview Dr.
512/453-5551

Best Toy Store Aisle

Battery-operated, pedal-powered, foot-powered plastic vehicles for your toddlers' pleasure. We go there when it's raining or on boring weeknights when the kid just wants to go somewhere and we feel one more Barney song will send me screaming to a Prozac lab. Warning: you may have to stay in this aisle for at least 30 minutes or you'll have to put up with a lot of wailing or a lot less cash. Thirty minutes on a regular basis, however, is a trip to the park as far as the kid's concerned, so you don't have to lay out the big bucks for a jaunt behind the wheel of a $500 mini-Volkswagen.

Toys R Us
4025 Capital of Texas Hwy.
512/441-7216

Best Toy Store To Go To Without A Child

Everything at Toy Joy is so touchable! And wondrously accessible to people of all sizes. But you can't trust little kids when they twist the knobs on wind-up monsters, squeeze on the squishy, unidentifiable and occasionally disgusting creatures or try on weird jewelry. So leave the children at home - select an appropriate guilt offering if you must - and go play!

Toy Joy
403 W. Second
512/320-0090
www.toyjoy.com

Best Worm Bar

Here is my dream date with anyone over two and under ten: it's at Northcross Mall, where we take in a movie, then sit and watch the skaters while licking a cone. We check out Petland on the way to throw pennies into the fountain, where we wish our separate child and grown-up wishes, then wind things up at Oshman's. We cruise the driving range, the racquetball court, the rollerblade area, archery range, the ski slope, the basketball court (in case you haven't been there lately, you can really test-drive those sporting good purchases these days.) For a grand finale, we hit the worm bar in the fishing department. This is a set of three wooden counters, each 20 feet in length, in whose 361 individual compartments are 361 different styles of plastic worms, minnows, crawfishs, floating lizards, salamanders and the aptly named gets-itz, in every fluorescent, gaudy, ugly and beautiful color on earth, many with gold and silver sparkles embedded in the rubbery surface. These things cost 5 cents each, so you can imagine exactly just how much bang you get for the buck you give to a kid here. Only problem: the adult-height counters are too high for small children to see without a boost, but this is only because the designers of Oshman's had no idea they were setting up one of the cheapest and most entertaining kiddie amusement areas in the city. Maybe they'll fix it now that they know.

Oshman's Super Sport
Northcross Mall; 2525 W. Anderson
512/459-6541

 
Critics: Architecture & Lodging
Critics: Architecture & Lodging

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle