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Kids
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best Afterschool Activity

They've been cooped up in a classroom all day surrounded by shhhhhs. The bell rings. All that's pent up is fit to explode. Into a bag of chips and Super Mario? No, not anymore. Now, all that energy can be molded, guided, and channeled by the calm, experienced instructors of the academy, who maintain one goal for all programs: self-development. (And these Mr. Miyagis are totally hot, too. Major plus for the single mom.) These guys aren't just teaching martial arts to your child. They're teaching your child self-respect, inner peace, zapping the couch-cushion rambunctiousness and handing back to you, over your wrinkly work clothes, a more confident, more focused, more fulfilled child.

Austin Martial Arts Academy
5000 Bee Caves Rd. #210
512/327-2900
www.austinmartialarts.com

Best All-Ages Music Venue

Look, Mommy! There's Betty and Wilma and Pebbles! One of the many reasons Emo's Austin has become one of the nation's premier live-music venues is their open-door policy to kids of all ages. It might cost a couple bucks more, and it sure is hard to wash that big, black "X" off your hand, but that is a small price to pay to see their world's finest up-and-coming emo-esque and pop-punk sensations before they graduate to less intimate halls and arenas.

Best Arcade

Boasting a giant arcade, which includes more than 100 of the best video and virtual-reality games, is it any wonder this wonderland of excitement got voted Best Teen Hangout and Place to Party? If video games aren't your thing, no problem. Main Event is also home to active-interactives, such as glow-in-the-dark bowling and golf, laser tag, rock climbing, and pool. Wow! How does all of that fun fit into one building? Only one way to find out. What are you waiting for? Get over there!

Main Event
13301 Hwy. 183 N.
512/401-0000
www.maineventusa.net

Best Birthday Cakes

Oh, we get it. We understand that your munchkin has been eagerly anticipating her special day. And we also understand that you’ve been looking forward to it, too but not to rug rats tearing it up on Big Wheels or Patches the Clown’s detachable thumb trick. Oh no, you've been anticipating the butter cream chocolate icing. The red velvet cake. Lucy’s makes sure that the tears forming in your eyes aren’t only due to the realization that “Junior is growing up so fast.”

Best Bookstore

Maybe it's the indoor theatre space that functions as Storytime Central, or maybe it's the well-informed, opinionated staff that hops to attention at the slightest mention of "Newbery Award-winning illustrated books," but y'all just love the gigantic space devoted to future bookworms at Austin's stalwart indie bookseller.

BookPeople
603 N. Lamar
512/472-5050
www.bookpeople.com

Best Clothing

Covering bases of quantity and quality, our readers tied a national and local outlet for this category. Old Navy has cheap, colorful, trendy clothes for the kiddos. And you can buy those cheap, colorful, trendy clothes in every city in America. For two generations, Bright Beginnings, has been a local treasure only found here in Austin. (OK, so they have one store in Houston, but it's called Cotton Tots, so there.)

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

Bright Beginnings
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S.
512/328-8989

Best Kids Video/DVD Selection

Some kids don’t like The PowerPuff Girls. Some kids get bored with Thomas the Tank Engine. Some kids have already figured out that Vulcan Video is way better than the chains. While Vulcan on the Drag keeps its children’s section just below its expansive animation collection, the Vulcan of SoCo boasts more than 5 feet of Jim Henson videos and hard-to-find gems such as Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre.

Best Party Place

Boasting a giant arcade which includes more than 100 of the best video and virtual-reality games, is it any wonder this wonderland of excitment got voted Best Teen Hangout and Place to Party? If video games aren't your thing, no problem. Main Event is also home to active-interactives, such as glow-in-the-dark bowling and golf, laser tag, rock climbing, and pool. Wow! How does all of that fun fit into one building? Only one way to find out. What are you waiting for? Get over there!

Main Event
13301 Hwy. 183 N.
512/401-0000
www.maineventusa.net

Best Place to Commune With Nature

Hey, we love our video games, too, but sometimes you've just got to get off the couch and breathe in the sweet air that is the wonderful world of Zilker. With so many options, you'll never tire of this game: Take a ride in the Zilker Zephyr; go canoeing; play with the ducks; or just sit, swing, and enjoy the breeze. Ahh, Zilker.

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

Best Recreation Center

Wet or dry, the kids can rock some doggy paddle, or thrive under the tutelage of Mother Nature (and their own mom and pop) with Austin Adventure Guides, blazing trails and making the nature scene. The YMCA has it all and at locations around Austin. It's no wonder the "Y" was tied by the one-stop hop for entertainment: Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex. It has it all. Watch a movie. Go bowling. Play video games. Climb on the twists and turns of a mazed playground. Strap on roller skates and get on the Xanadu tip. What can't you do here?

YMCA Town Lake Branch
1100 W. Cesar Chavez
512/542-9622
www.austinymca.org

Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
1156 Hargrave
512/472-6932
www.myec.net

Best Restaurant

Dining out with children can be fraught with a variety of problems, beginning with deciding on a restaurant that will be kiddie-pleasing. Fortunately, EZ's and Chuy's fit the bill, offering a wide variety of food in fun-packed environments where even the grownups are known to be a little louder than usual. If your kiddos like atmosphere, Chuy's has got you covered with wacky decor and great Tex-Mex. At EZ's, on Wednesday nights buy one entree, get one kid's meal free, plus there's a balloon-animal sculptor ready to take your kids' orders.

Chuy's
1728 Barton Springs Rd.
512/474-4452
www.chuys.com

Best Shoes

Sandy's is back on top! That's right, Austin's favorite place to buy high-quality kid's shoes is back, after being toppled off of their long run of wins last year. This one-store operation doesn't need its foot in every corner of the Earth to corner the Austin market on kicks for the smaller set. And, with a wide-ranging inventory that spans sneakers, boots, and party shoes, Sandy's deserves all the props that our readers see fit to give them.

Sandy's Shoes & Toys
2525 W. Anderson, Bldg. 1, #150
512/452-8697
www.fb.com/sandysshoes

Best Sports Program

This nonprofit youth organization has been keeping Austin's kids fit and out of trouble since 1981, luring them out of the arcades and away from the television not with USMC-style threats of push-ups as punishment but with a dedication to "positive coaching" that eschews the win-at-all-costs mentality of so many competitive sports. People like that. At least, normal people. As in those who read the paper you hold in your hands. As in you.

West Austin Youth Association
1314 Exposition
512/473-2528
www.waya.org

Best Summer Camp

Taking "let's play pretend" to the next level, KA puts on impressive, remarkably talented renditions of popular musicals every summer. The talented staff draws out so much spirit, confidence, and stellar performances to match shining smiles of these little thespians-in-training at every curtain call. Fun for all ages and experience levels. The kind of leg-breaking parents can dig.

KidsActing
2826 Real
512/836-5437
www.kidsactingstudio.com

Best Teen Hangout

Boasting a giant arcade which includes more than 100 of the best video and virtual-reality games, is it any wonder this wonderland of excitment got voted Best Teen Hangout and Place to Party? If video games aren't your thing, no problem. Main Event is also home to active-interactives, such as glow-in-the-dark bowling and golf, laser tag, rock climbing, and pool. Wow! How does all of that fun fit into one building? Only one way to find out. What are you waiting for? Get over there!

Main Event
13301 Hwy. 183 N.
512/401-0000
www.maineventusa.net

Best Toys

“Yetis and rainbows and nuns, oh my!” Behind its cheerful mural-covered walls, Toy Joy eschews movie merchandising in favor of real toys – gooey eyeballs, clockwork animals, and fuzzy puppets. While a location two minutes from the UT campus means it attracts its fair share of students, this independent toy store puts children first.

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

Best Video-Game Rental/Purchase

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and you have a few options. You could try to crack the level-60 barrier with your gnome warlock Jeurgnnadie, you could take your mom’s advice and get some sun, or you could rent the new Madden and teach your buds the meaning of the word “pawned”. If the latter is chosen, GameStop’s helpful staff and stacked stock are enough to make even the most discerning gamer drool. And even though they only sell and not rent, our readers still think GameStop is Teh RoXXorz!!!111one. It’s just a shame that “N00b!” doesn’t translate as well in verbal communication.

GameStop
6001 Airport, 512/467-9902
500 E. Ben White, 512/326-1833
2901 Capital of TX Hwy., 512/329-5851
4477 S. Lamar, 512/892-6905
5601 Brodie, 512/892-3995
9300 S. I-35, 512/292-6613
10000 Research, 512/346-6437
9911 Brodie, 512/292-6529
12901 N. I-35, 512/989-6170
www.gamestop.com

 
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