1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks

photographs by Kenny Braun (top) and John Carrico   Kenny Braun and John Carrico

Best Camps/Classes

The play's the thing, it seems, with these two strongholds of theatre-for-the-swingset-set sharing first place with drama programs intent on catering (to) the young hams of River City. Check out the "Best Stage Director" category in Arts & Entertainment; Kid's Acting's Dede Clark took the top spot. Dougherty Arts, on the other hand, also offers a slew of arts & crafts and all sorts of disciplines for the kids. Parks & Recreation Aftercare programs and Camp Longhorn get positive nods. Together, they tied for second.

Dougherty Arts Center
1110 Barton Springs Rd.

2826 Real

Best Children's Bookstore

Frogs can't read but children can And they won't let you leave without book in hand Parents know this is the place to go That's why Toady's won five years in a row Book People showed well, too, it's true That might account for them taking place two. Kids happily reading, we like to see Half-Price and Barnes & Noble tied for three!

Toad Hall
1206 W. 38th, Ste. 1101

photograph by Kenny Braun   Kenny Braun

Best Children's Clothing

So many kids fall into the Gap each year, it's a wonder that ol' Gap isn't all filled up by now. Well, if it's not all filled up, at least it's stocked, as always, with everything from pretty pastel onesies to cool cotton cardigans. This repeat winner has everything you need to prep up your little ones who will do their best to outgrow those very clothes so you can shop again Real Soon.

The Gap
Gap Kids, Barton Creek Square, 512/328-6288
2354 Guadalupe, 512/482-0355
Gap Kids, Highland Mall, 512/452-5440
Gap Kids, 11200 Lakeline Mall Dr., 512/257-1774

Best Children's Entertainer

If you ever had an uncle who would sing you clever and silly songs that he'd made up, and who generally delighted the heck out of you with his cheerful chicanery, and that uncle had released some CDs and videos of his fun, and he was beloved by children all over Austin & beyond - then you're likely a nephew or niece of Joe Scruggs, who takes the Best spot here this year. That same uncle probably smiles, too, with a good-natured gleam in his eye, at runners-up Joe McDermott and Doodlebug the Clown.

4412 Spicewood Springs, 345-4664

Best Children's Resale Clothing

What better way to instill a sense of recycling's worth in young minds than to provide, for their bodies, excellent clothes that have been previously worn? Between Friends can have your kid decked out in duds that look like the antithesis of hand-me-downs, the sort of garb that is cool in school and out. Our readers also want us to know that a vintage store catering primarily to adults, the hipster's heaven known as Buffalo Exchange, may also provide sartorial assistance with Junior.

Between Friends
8108 Mesa

Best Children's Shoe Store

One of the main things kids do is grow. And, perforce, their feet grow with them. And you just know last week's shoes will be hard-pressed to fit next week's feet - which is why any place where you can actually pay less for footcovering is going to be popular with parents. Thus, our readers suggest the best, the eponymous, Payless Shoe Source.

Payless Shoesource
2301 E. Seventh, 512/472-8616
2326 S. Congress, 512/326-4515

Best Children's Video Selection

Lassie! Benji! Disney! Flipper! - if you ask kids, there's no place hipper! It's hard to beat Blockbuster anyhow, and that is triply true when it comes to finding video fare for those restricted to PG-13 and milder. This major chain is the major pick of parents with VCRs. No wonder that local Vulcan Video pulls in a close second with its shining selection of popular public TV series, vintage cartoons, and Japanimation.

1112-A N. Lamar

Best Healthy Restaurant

If your kids like vegetables, this is the place to take them. And if they don't like vegetables yet, after a few visits to Mother's beautiful patio, juxtaposed with the spinach enchiladas and the mouthwatering veggie lasagne and the various & scrumptious Southwestern dishes - not to mention smoothies worth putting off adolescence for - they probably will then. The gorgeous harp music on Wednesday and Thursday nights courtesy of Thomas "Doc" Grauzer will keep the little ones lulled or curious as well.

Mother's Cafe & Garden
4215 Duval St.

photograph by Kenny Braun   Kenny Braun

Best Kids' Party Supplies

The partying porker wins for the second year in a row. One step inside the sprawling splash of balloons, streamers, banners, and coordinated table covers in every color imaginable tells why this fiesta barn is our readers' favorite. Whether the theme is pop cultural (Stars Wars, Jurassic Park, Hot Wheels, Barbie) or general (rainbow colors, tropical fish, Western), Party Pig can get the party started. Oink-Oink!

Party Pig Superstore
2900 W. Anderson, 512/454-2518
Tech Ridge Shopping Center, I-35 & Parmer
5601 Brodie, 512/892-2721

Best Playground/Park

Zilker Park, with its eminently climbable fire engine, its miniature train rides around the entire park, and oh yeah, the multicolored chutes and ladders and platforms and semi-cages of its almost Dr. Seussian architecture, right there in the middle of the great in-town outdoors, is the perfect place for kids to get happily heated up before plunging into the chillsville water of nearby Barton Springs. How can it not win?

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Playscape (indoor)

Go ahead, just sit there and read a book or chat with friends near the video games while your kids go tear-assing through the circuitous maze of giant overhead tunnels, as they careen down the types of slides you could only dream of during your own childhood, as they climb over giant cargo nets and swim through rooms full of multicolored balls and bounce giggling off thickly cushioned walls and pylons. Go ahead, friend: Just try.

Discovery Zone
9503 Research

Best Toy Store For Kids

This is where you bring your kids as an excuse to spend hours looking at and trying out dozens of familiar and exotic toys you'd like to buy for yourself someday. Since they also feature a wide selection of beautiful books, a couple shelves stocked with truly retro candy, quirky educational gadgets, fine dollhouse furniture, rubber animals, and a staff of folks really into the merchandise, this is an unparalleled place for the young at mind. And, this year, they knocked the megalithic Toys R Us out of first place, too! Ha-ha! King of the mountain!

Terra Toys
2438 W. Anderson Ste. 1-C

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