2000 Readers Poll
2000 Critics Picks
Best 2 X 365 Ways To Keep A Kid Happy

Culver's Frozen Custard Flavor-of-the-Day. Oh, mercy. We're talking a year's worth of flavors, a flavor a day, flavors that will make your head spin, your heart sing, and your tastebuds do the macarena. We're talking about different flavors every day at each of Culver's two locations. That's 730 flavors a year! Don't believe us? Here are but a few of last month's flavors: maple nut, chocolate raspberry, caramel cashew, blueberry crisp, and French silk pie! We could get used to this.

Culver's Frozen Custard
2240 W. Braker, 512/836-1670
3424 W. William Cannon, 512/892-1114

Best Heartwarming Moment On Rails

When the train goes by and all the kids wave. Maybe in some places kids throw rocks, but our young folk get really ecstatic when the train goes by. Then kids on the train wave, too. Awww ... We can't help it, it's so darned sweet!

Best Kiddie Singles Bar

This branch of the steadily growing Dallas entertainment megaplex is primarily geared toward adults, which is pretty funny, since it is essentially a video arcade. You might say D&B appeals to the kid in all of us, or more accurately, the raging hormone-engorged adolescent in all of us. They've got all the latest hightech gadgetry in the form of elaborate games like Firefighter, 18-wheeler, and a cool freestanding Western-themed shootin' gallery. It's an overwhelming 40,002 square feet of bleeps and bloops and machines that go whoooo whooo and glow in the dark. But the best thing? Although they are a late-night singles hot spot, they allow kids (accompanied by an adult over the age of 25) - and in fact encourage families - to enjoy the overstimulation before 10pm.

Dave & Buster's
9333 Research

Best Kids Summer Drama Camp

They made us sit out an entire summer while they regrouped, but now they're back! The intensive, all-day, four-week program, now at the Dell Center, for kids who like to act out onstage, features a serious curriculum, covering the dramatic landscape from playwriting and directing to comedy, improv, Shakespeare, and mime. This camp is about a lot more than producing an end-of-camp production/parental photo op (though there is one, and it's always terrific!). Here's to next summer!

Austin Theatre for Youth
710 E. 41st

Best Kids' Science Web Page

Whoa! "Pond Scum" is going to mean a whole lot more than a nasty grade school slur after your young one visits this site! Mixing scientific principles with a child's creativity, the folks at the Austin Nature & Science Center and Roger Stryker's fifth-grade class at Baranoff Elementary School explain the biology of a pond as well as its history and function in the ecology of their community. The Web site was named first runner-up for the Unisys Prize for "outstanding use of the Web as a tool for science investigation." And we add our splay-toed "thumbs-up" to that vote!

Austin Nature & Science Center
301 Nature Center Dr.

Best Place For Class Clowns To Figure Out If They Want To Be Or Not To Be

Your kid's got energy to burn. He's a little strange, able to channel entire episodes of The Simpsons. Suddenly, he's breaking out into showtunes and reciting his own cryptic sixth-grade version of Shakespeare. Raging talent? A budding impresario? Maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn't hurt to explore the options. Or maybe your little guy's a little shy - loves to sing and tell jokes, but only in front of stuffed animals. Perhaps your daughter dresses up in mommy's heels one day and does drag as one of the Backstreet Boys - complete with hairbrush microphone, soccer shirt, and eyebrow-penciled facial hair - the next. Zach Scott will seem like home to all of these types of kids, and even to all the "normal" ones, as well. Zach provides the perfect combination of relaxed atmosphere and professional edge to entice your young Branagh or Brando or Bullock(!) out into the spotlight. They encourage kids to develop skills appropriate to their own abilities, and never forget the bottom line: fun. The play's the thing, and whether it's serious drama, comedy, or dance, Zachary Scott Theatre Performing Arts School makes theatre fun for kids, all kids.

Topfer Theatre at Zach
202 S. Lamar

Best Place For Kids To Learn To Ride Bikes

Devoted bikers who eschew oxygen-choking cars for manually powered transportation aren't the only cyclists who bemoan the intolerance of drivers on the roads they share. The littlest peddler faces the same dangers, even though most of them don't attempt to venture beyond their immediate block. Shouts of glee when the two-wheeler wobbles off sans training wheels are quickly replaced with shouts of "Watch out for that car!" Hardly the environment that builds confidence behind the handlebars. Slide the bike into the trunk and head to Pease Park for a stress-free environment that allows tykes to master the peddle on the sidewalks that encircle the big playscapes and on the basketball court when hoopsters aren't dunking. Tricyclists will also find the expanse of smooth surface perfect for their vehicles. When the finer points of turning, retaining balance, and stopping are in reasonable control, you can all hit the hike-and-bike trail and join the world of Austin outdoors.

Pease Park
1100 Kingsbury

Best Place To Buy Books In Bulk

It's elbow-to-elbow at Literacy Austin's Annual Book Sale. And watch out! Because if you're not careful, you'll get an elbow to your kneecap with all the kids who come to load up with affordable books. Every year, Literacy Austin takes over a few of the available/vacant retail spaces in the west wing of Northcross Mall and fills them with a public library-sized slew of bound material. One entire store area is dedicated to literature for kids. The items are organized by category, as any good book store would be, and patrons are charged a small admission fee to cut loose and peruse the piles. The prices are so impossibly cheap, you can walk out with too much for two armloads and still get change back from a twenty.

Literacy Austin
2002 Manor Rd.

Best Place To Introduce Kids To The Real Braveheart

Those of use who lay claim to Gaelic blood have found Things Celtic to be comfortingly discerning and artful about their wares, but nothing has grown as much as their book section. You need not have Irish or even Celt in you to appreciate that its inventory has tripled in a year (the music section merely doubled, and the sword collection is impressive), and its kids titles are remarkably entertaining and educational. From fairy tales to songbooks, and hands-on craft books, we whiled away an hour, finally deciding on paper doll books of Irish step-dancers, a pennywhistle, and a biography of William Wallace, the real Braveheart.

Things Celtic
1806 W. 35th

Best Place To Send Those Gently Used Books

This past June 22, the Children's Hospital of Austin dedicated its brand new Half Pint library. The full official name of the stacks is the Half Price Books Half Pint Library due to the fact that the Half Price folks planted the huge seed of 12,000 books to get the thing going and on the shelves. The books were gathered from donation drives at their many locations. You can bet that this will be an annual happening, so save up those kids books.

Brackenridge Hospital
601 E. 15th

Best Source For Info On Kid-friendly Services

If you've got kids in your life, you've probably used the great lists and services provided by this charming local monthly. Publisher and editor Nick and Debbie Denner (respectively) know plenty about kids - they've got four of them. So their dedication to "providing information that promotes smart parenting and healthy families" is straight from the heart (not to mention right out of the magazine's mission statement!). Austin Family is available free all over town (at 500 locations) and is chock-full of info on events and resources geared toward families with kids. Every February, their exhaustive roundup of the plethora of summer camp options available in Central Texas helps families plan for summer fun.

Austin Family Magazine
1301 S. I-35

Best Summer Camp For Aisd Malcontents

If your child's Friday folder brings tears to your eyes over what might have been had the district valued learning over TAAS scores, this camp's for you. Modeled upon a university program for gifted kids from preschool through 8th grade, parent and therapist Karen Sims Langdon, M.Ed., has assembled a stellar faculty to teach subjects like archeology, architecture, poetry, Greek myths, and global geomegame taught in two-week sessions.

Summer Wonders
3901 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Best Summer Camp For Spielberg Wannabes

Finally, this movie town gets serious about training the next generation (the nine-to-16-year-old set): Laguna Gloria has breathtakingly upped the ante with its summer program hookup with UT's RTF department. Professional everything from the RTF faculty to the cameras, sound equipment, computers, and studios. But you better have an answer ready for when your 10-year-old puts an AVID on his birthday wish-list.

The Contemporary Austin Art School
3809 W. 35th

Best Things That Make You Go Moooooo

It's a little game we play with our kids whenever we go out to eat. Who can last the longest with the stupidest milk moustache before wiping it off before others notice? Okay, so it's not the most suave of lessons for our juniors' future dates, but it passes the time and pumps \'em full of calcium. The game is easier at some restaurants than others. And at Dan's, it's the easiest, because their milk comes out of one of those big shiny, chromey, boxy things with the big-bulbed handle on it. It is so cool and soooo cold, we've been known to moooooooooooo with approooooooval.

Dan's Hamburgers
844 Airport, 512/385-2262
4308 Menchaca, 512/443-6131
5602 N. Lamar, 512/312-5361
610 Old San Antonio, Buda, 512/321-5361

Best Trip To The Seventies

"Mama, tell me what life was like back then. It was so long ago, mama. Please, tell me all about The Seventies."Oh son (wistful sigh), let me take you to a place that will show you better than I can ever tell. See, darling? See these large, chunky resined wood tables? And the hanging plants all over the place? Those are very, very Seventies. These curious drawings of virile Vikings? Why, these are called Frazettas, son. Frazetta was an artist whose style was so popular in the Seventies that people thought his name was \'Molly.' Still don't understand, my boy? Well, look over here. Video games, son. Do you notice anything strange about them? It only costs 25¢ to play them, son - Yes, honey, just like in the Seventies -"

Conans Pizza
2438 W. Anderson, 512/459-3222
2018 W. Stassney, 512/441-6754
2438 W. Anderson, 512/459-3222

Best Unexpected Toy Store Within A Store

We've been coming to this ecologically correct haven for our environmentally friendly needs for the garden and the house for some time now, but we hadn't paid too much attention to what had kept our young ones so interested while we shopped - until lately. Eco-Wise has a quality toy selection featuring a clever assortment of stuffed animals of the unusual variety, nature puzzles, puppets, magnets, unique wind-up toys, and an assortment of science stuff. All this coupled with their distinctive selection of cards has Eco-Wise becoming our first stop for birthday gifts.

Best Use Of A Napkin

Melissa Cowden, a local mom, created napkins with upbeat notes on them for the kids' lunch boxes. A box of 16 comes with a different design and message on each one. Messages like "Hanging around with you is great fun," coupled with a drawing of upside-down bats, are intended to bring a smile to the lunchables.

Little Love Letters

Most Impressive Comeback

Four years ago, Martin Junior High was one of only four schools in the five-county area tagged as a low performer by the Texas Education Agency. But 1999, when Martin was declared a blue-ribbon winner by the U.S. Dept. of Education, was one of the proudest years in the school's history. TAAS scores are way up, but what's even cooler is that the Soaring Eagles are taking awards in band, theatre, and athletics as well. The Eastside kids know you'd have to be a fool to ditch this school.

Sam L. Martin Junior High School
1601 Haskell

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