Kids
1999 Readers Poll
1999 Critics Picks
Best Bookstore kids

Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss; Brothers Grimm and Mother Goose; Stella Luna, Madeleine - all these beneath the Toad Hall sign. And more, of course: all the literature of childhood, in a shop so amenable to both kinder and their kin that going to Toad Hall is like rediscovering a favorite book left in the attic since second grade. It's like why you started reading in the first place. It's like - just about the best thing you can do for your kids. Just ask Curious George.

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

Best Camps/Classes

Want to keep those little minds and bodies busy with things like painting, clay modeling, collage projects, and especially explorations of theatre and its varied arts? The Dougherty Arts Center has been doing just that, and - judging from the smiles and grins and bright creativity - very successfully, for years. Kids realize instinctively that all the world's a stage; watch their talents shine on a theatre's small ground, with lights and cues and plenty of action.

Dougherty Arts Center
1110 Barton Springs Rd.
512/974-4000
www.austintexas.gov/dougherty

Best Clothing

New York Times style maven and Fashion Ed. Carrie Donovan with her furry friend Magic the Airedale have endeared kids and parents alike to Old Navy (Can you say, "Gap this"?) with some of the silliest, most swingingest national ad campaigns to grace the boob- errr, we mean tube. Well, catchy jingles, whacked out neo-Atomic Age pop graphics, and lovingly disinterred guest stars (Morgan Fairchild! The Jeffersons!) can only go so far. What really keeps the families coming back is a little thing known as "Markdown Madness," where last month's fashions (literally) go out the door for a song. We're talking $1.99 - $6.99 here, folks.

Old Navy
2901 Capitol of TX Hwy. S.
512/328-0953
www.oldnavy.com

Best Clothing Resale

Remember coveting an older sib's blouse or jeans? Today's small families don't always generate that treasure trove of hand-me-downs, and any parent knows the expense of new clothes. You voted this good cause as a good place to recycle good clothing. Good, good, good - this little piggy sang all the way home.

Goodwill
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
2800 S. Lamar, 512/442-8802
836 Airport, 512/389-3277
Main office: 1015 Norwood Park Blvd., 512/637-7100
13096 Hwy. 183 #104, 512/258-5898
8965 Research Blvd., 512/832-0004
5555 N. Lamar, 512/451-2306
9801 Brodie, 512/280-8037
701 Newman, 512/478-6711
7100-C W. US Hwy 290, 512/288-7700
3910 Far West, 512/795-6387
6505 Burleson, 512/681-3301
7727 Burnet, 512/374-0260
1819-B S. Pleasant Valley, 512/389-0547
1700 W. Parmer #101, 512/719-4119
9111 S. First, 512/280-2204
1420 Wells Branch Pkwy. #300, 512/251-2777
2814 Bee Caves Rd. Ste.2814-B, 512/329-8771
www.austingoodwill.org

Best Entertainer

Still King of the Mountain when it comes to bringing joy to the kiddies, Joe Scruggs reigns supreme as the singingest, smilingest, possibly the silliest guitar player in River City. With talents sharpened via live performance and audio-video recordings and a library of the latter to spread his gospel of fun, this man rocks the cradle and way beyond.

Best Indoor Playscape

What kids will discover here, besides the usual video games, is a carefully crafted catalyst for sheer physical activity. Huge plastic tunnels overlapping and interlocking like some giant alien's intestinal tract, ropes to swing by, moonwalks to bounce on, rooms full of multicolored balls, a veritable smorgasbord of slides and things to climb. There's even a separate section, for the really small toddlers, to help keep the parental mind at ease.

Discovery Zone
9503 Research
512/346-9666

Best Party Supplies

You are cordially invited to attend a celebration of celebration. Who? Party Pig, who else? What? Yet another "Best of Austin" for this soiree sow, of course. Where? Two locations serving Austin: the reliable Anderson Road depot and the new Hancock Center location near UT. When? Right now! What are you waiting for? See, we even got these snappy invitations there, and wait till you see the decorations! Also, don't forget they are the place for a Halloween hullabaloo, with the area's biggest Boo Day party section, not to mention the fabulous costume center.

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

Best Playground/Park

Choo choo! First take the miniature train and see the sights of our prized wonderland. Then watch 'em climb the fire engine, the bridges, ramps, chutes and slides in the playscape. Hungry? Have a picnic in the Rock Garden. Dawdle in the shade of mighty oaks while you watch 'em rolling down the hills. Ready to chill? Take the plunge in miraculous Barton Springs. What a day! What a place! What a winner!

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
512/974-6700
www.austintexas.gov

Best Restaurant

These cheap, informal restaurants are an answer to a mama's prayer. Most of the adult fare - pizza, soft tacos, burgers, salads - is also scaled down for kids, in addition to a sizable (and healthful) children's menu. Yet the food somehow suits the tastes of everyone in the family. The good grub, plus the stimulating surroundings - upbeat music (reggae, the last couple of times we were there), bright-colored decor, and jars of crayons at every table - make this a place we like to return with the little ones.

Best Shoe Store

Sometimes we just need quantity. Sometimes we need some sandals that will just see the kiddos through their current growth spurt. And sometimes, we hope that the cartoon character du jour that their hearts desire can be had without forking over a bundle. At these times, readers can indulge thanks to the wallet-friendly pricing at this chain. And you can even pick something up for yourself with the change.

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

Best Toy Store

Readers again choose the user-friendly local charmer as their favorite. This store delights in making its wares accesible and available to perusers and purchasers. You can race cars, pull wooden trains, and read a beautiful book as you ponder the perfect birthday present for yourself as well as the intended youngster. For those whose toy experience has been limited to the monoliths, this is the perfect antidote to the cold toy warehouse.

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

Best Video Selection

If you're looking for PG-13 and milder, you won't find a bigger selection than what's stocked on the shelves of this entertainment juggernaut. Hundreds of titles of old and new favorites, Disney, Spielberg, Mattel, enough videos to keep kids glued to the tube until they're old enough to move out of the house. Or, just enough for a special treat every now and then. Like, between books, for instance.

Blockbuster
1112-A N. Lamar
512/440-7710
www.blockbuster.com/

 
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