2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks

Todd V. Wolfson

Best "It" Girl

Jendayi Bonds was practically a tyke when she took Austin by (quiet) storm. Performing solo or with her band, Charlie Belle (formed with kid brother Gyasi on drums and currently featuring bass talent Zoe Czarnecki as well), Bonds has graced stages from Whip In to the ACL Fest with top-notch originals and sly covers, toured Texas, and released an EP, Get to Know – all while keeping her grades up. She's been on Smart Girls at the Party; she's a Youth Spin regular on KOOP 91.7FM; and she plays benefits and volunteers tirelessly for nonprofits including Girls Rock Austin. Bonds is beautiful, poised, stylish, smart, and talented, of course. She’s also giving and community-minded beyond her years. Yup, she rocks.

Charlie Belle

Best All-Access Storytime Freeplay

The Play Zone at All Things Kids is a parent's best friend. The welcoming, enclosed back area of this toy shop is set up for imaginative free play with hand-picked toys from all over the world. Twice a week, kids are entertained by storytime with CJ (costumed as her alter-egos Princess CJ or CJ the Explorer). Engaging the kiddos in story, song, and sign language, CJ’s rapport with the little ones is truly exceptional, garnering her the biggest fan club of the littlest tykes.

All Things Kids
3220 Feathergrass

Sandy Carson

Best Queen of the Teen Scene, Emeritus

First we ever heard the words "Gary Clark Jr.," they came from the big red lips of Ms. Margaret Moser. Austin’s music oracle since before coyotes were invented, our beloved senior writer retired upon her 60th birthday in May, but not before cementing the soundtrack to this town for generations to come. Mother Falcon, another Moser first. The Peterson Brothers – Mama M. Residual Kid? You guessed it. William Harries Graham – future mayor of this town – she plucked him for our writers' cabal at 13. Decades ago, Moser wrote about the Sexton brothers in their bunk beds. Long live the Queen of Austin A&R!

Best Shopping Waystation

Just before the forest of perfectly decorated living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms of Ikea, lies the wee little Småland. Swedish for “Small Lands,” the magical play center for children at Ikea is a dream come true for errand-running parents. Modeled after a far away village in Sweden, Småland is free, supervised, and filled with faux stone walls and giant clogs. Leave your little ones to explore the hidden lands of Sweden while you admire those affordable and pleasant bedroom suites and kick back with some Swedish meatballs.

1 IKEA Way
Round Rock

Best South Austin Secret Treasure

Ask any veteran parent – the resale toy market is where it’s at, and Anna’s Toy Depot is where you find it. This South Austin classic is chock-full of gently loved cars, trains, tracks, Barbies, dollhouses, musical toys, games, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lego (seriously, so much Lego). Everything a kid could dream of, along with loads of educational and sensory toys. Bonus? Bring in what the kiddos outgrow on Anna's regular buyback days, and take home a new-to-you toy or keep the cash for a little something for that veteran parent. A true Austin win-win.

Anna's Toy Depot
2620-B S. Lamar

Best Turtle Bonding

Kiddie Barbecue Dos & Don'ts: Do bring the kids to this family classic set in an ol' Texas fishing lodge and nestled on the banks of Bull Creek. Don't let the li'l ones fill up on the melt-in-your-mouth mini-bread loaves (instead order a few to-go). Do take a stroll around the place and point out all the kitschy artifacts you remember from your childhood. Don't forget to line your pockets with quarters. After a meal, head out back to the dock, pump a few coins in the turtle-feed dispenser, and sit back and watch the kids delight as the bales and doles of our shell-backed pals swim and wiggle their way to get to the feast. Just like your little ones, they feed, they fuss, and they count on you to take care of them.

County Line on the Lake
5204 FM 2222

Bret Brookshire

Best Whooooosh!

Raleigh Hager makes riding waves look easy, and in a city without an ocean, that's no small feat. A pioneer on Austin's wakesurfing scene, this local teen takes home first place like the rest of us take home dinner. And by "teen," we're talking junior high, and by "first place," we mean world championships. Gone to her head, it hasn't. This lady is as grounded on land as she is on water.

Cutest Li'l Cute Cutes

Is it the sweet, teeny, tiny well-cared-for animals that make Tiny Tails to You such a hit with the kids? Or is it enjoying denizens of the outdoors in air-conditioned comfort that keeps the families so endeared? The petting zoo birthday parties? Perhaps it’s the can’t-be-beat customer service provided by a team that even giant toddler tantrums won't faze that does the trick. The combination of all these things (okay, especially those adorable bunnies … and baby chicks … and bearded dragons …) make Tiny Tails to You a unique Austin enterprise that has earned its stellar reputation.

Tiny Tails to You Petting Zoo

In Remembrance

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the sudden passing of Phillip Adams, a member of our "Best of Austin" family ("Best Imagination Hour," 2013). Phillip was recognized for his weekly kiddo-centric storytime adventure at Whole Foods. Phillip was also an esteemed member of the Capital City Men’s Chorus, finding a second family both in voice and veracity of song. He was a Whole Foods team member, and could always be found among the aisles by beacon of his boisterous laughter. Through WF, he volunteered with Pride Week and the Out Youth Prom, always the first to pitch in and last to leave. All in, wherever Phillip went, he was surrounded by family. We mourn his departure and celebrate his spirit.

Phillip Adams
WFM Deep Roots Garden
717 Henderson

Most Rosey Mama Rose

When 250 teen thespians took the Dell Hall stage to perform at the inaugural Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards, Ginger Morris wasn't standing in the aisle yelling, "Sing out, Louise!" The domineering pushiness that defines Gypsy's thorny Rose can't be found in this generous and sweet-tempered director/choreographer. What she does share with that mother of all stage mothers is an eye for young talent, and the passion and drive to develop it. Through her work in schools across the region, the musical theatre training programs she's established (Summer Stock Austin, which she started with Michael McKelvey 10 years ago, and her own Texas Arts Project), and the GAHSMTAs, which she organized and directed, Morris has helped hundreds of aspiring performers realize their dream in the spotlight and receive the applause they so richly deserve. With Mama Ginger backing these musical stars of tomorrow, everything is comin' up roses.

Texas Arts Project
St. Stephen's School, 6500 St. Stephen's Dr.

Todd V. Wolfson

Critics: Food
Critics: Media

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