Kids
2015 Readers Poll
2015 Critics Picks

Bret Brookshire

Best Afterschool Activity

Krav Maga may have been developed for the Israeli military, but Lions Krav Maga's afterschool program offers comprehensive self-defense and anti-bullying techniques to four age groups (kids, youth, juniors, and teens – ages 4-18). The program imparts everyday life skills such as self-confidence, socialization, teamwork, and respect. Not to mention the classes are an excellent outlet if your child is one with boundless energy.

Lions Krav Maga
3300 W. Anderson
512/588-3356
www.lionskravmaga.com

Best Birthday Cakes

You get a cake, and you get a cake, and you! Birthday cakes for all, no matter what the dietary restriction! All of Capital City Bakery's sweet stuffs are vegan with some gluten-free treats as well. But if you are looking for the traditional end of things, look no further than Sugar Mama's; their sheet cake is the bomb.com.

Sugar Mama's Bakeshop South
1905-A S. First
512/448-3727
www.sugarmamasbakeshop.com

Capital City Bakery
2211 E. Cesar Chavez
512/666-7437
www.capitalcitybakery.com

Best Bookstore for Kids

BookPeople has long been Austin’s premier bookstore, with a homegrown atmosphere to match the selection. Their kids' section is just as welcoming and eclectic. But it doesn't end there. BookPeople also goes deep into the YA genre and has an entire Teen Press Corps at the ready with great recommendations on the website. With engaging storytime programming, a thorough selection of toys and books, author visits and signings geared toward the young, and the tot-sized cave with reading nooks, little readers and their tween and teen counterparts are spoiled for choice.

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

Best Club for Teen Performers

Perfectly suited for, how you say, leveraging the spontaneity of youth and led by the indefatigible Jessica Arjet, the Hideout Theatre's program of improv classes for teens provides a sort of high-octane bonding time during which the performers hone improv skills that will not only suit them well onstage but in all aspects of their burgeoning lives. Just the sort of thing – laughter, creative self-expression, physical movement – to make adolescence almost tolerable.

Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse
617 Congress
512/476-1313
www.hideouttheatre.com

Devaki Knowles

Bret Brookshire

Best Fandom/Nerd Supply Store

Pop into Dragon's Lair on any given night and you'll see dozens of tables populated by men and women engaged in fantasy role-playing games, Magic the Gathering tournaments, and other esoteric card and board games. Look again and you'll see kids in their midst, too, playing along while also receiving gentle gaming mentorship from their companions and competitors. Hard proof that geeks are far from anti-social. Add to that the deep collection of anime and comic books and a friendly, helpful staff, and you've got fertile ground for the next generation of Comic Con attendees.

Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy
2438 W. Anderson Ste. 1-B
512/454-2399
www.dlair.net

Best Gaming Hangout

Welp, you’ve gone and raised yourself an indoor child with a proclivity toward avatars and power-ups and pixel-based entertainment. What’s a parent of a video-game-loving yet still socially competent child to do come dog days/snow days/general "I'm bored" days that you just can't even right now? Hail, Pinballz! Give that kid $25-30 (factoring in snacks) and s/he will be out of your hair for a good hour, at least. With rooms and rooms full of pinball, arcade, and skeeball at their flipper fingers, any kid, teen, or kid at heart can party like it's 1979 with games like Pac-Man while also enjoying the high-tech wonders of a giant, interactive Fruit Ninja and our personal favorite, Harpoon Lagoon. Kids can hang until 10pm Fridays & Saturdays, after which time it's 18+ only.

Pinballz Arcade
8940 Research #100
512/420-8458
www.pinballzarcade.com

Shelley Hiam

Best Party Place

We know the battle to get the family away from the mind-numbing allure of the (TV, cell phone, tablet, video game) screen. We recommend a skate party. Playland's got all sorts of affordable packages and the biggest, baddest, recently installed wooden floor in Central Texas. And if the party crew needs a little practice before the big night, Playland accepts Kids Skate Free passes on Mondays and Wednesdays during the summer months.

Playland Skate Center
8822 McCann
512/452-1901
www.playlandskatecenter.net

Best Restaurant

Examine the burger menu at Phil's Icehouse, and you'll start to wonder what the correlation is between the geographically specific nom-de-patty and the ingredients contained therein. Why, for example, is the "78704" Burger made with jalapeños, chipotle mayo, and a jalapeño/cheese bun while the Allandale Burger is the most basic burger on the menu? What are you trying to say, Phil's Icehouse? Eh. It doesn't matter, because this is the one place where "Parent's Recess" is a thing – a very happy hour thing.

Phil's Icehouse
5620 Burnet Rd., 512/524-1212
2901 S. Lamar, 512/707-8704
13265 Hwy. 183 N., 512/257-8750
www.philsicehouse.com

Best Shoes

For kids, it's about the festive sea of neon sneakers. For parents, it's about exact foot measurements, shoes lined up by size and outside of the box so youngsters can quickly judge what they like. For everyone, it's about kind employees who look you in the eye. Sandy's Shoes, tucked away next to the Northcross Mall, is a regular Readers Poll winner for a reason: The shoe-shopping experience is all gain and no pain.

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

Best Sports/Rec Program

This program meets once a week at day care centers, schools, and parks throughout the greater Austin area to introduce kiddos ages 2-8 to the most popular sport in the world. They not only learn the skills to play, but also develop balance, coordination, and agility while learning concepts such as teamwork, sharing, and respect. Get them started early – you may just be raising a future World Cup star.

Soccer Shots
8820 Business Park Dr. #400
512/420-9450
www.soccershots.org/austin

Best Teen Hangout

Welp, you’ve gone and raised yourself an indoor child with a proclivity toward avatars and power-ups and pixel-based entertainment. What’s a parent of a video-game-loving yet still socially competent child to do come dog days/snow days/general "I'm bored" days that you just can't even right now? Hail, Pinballz! Give that kid $25-30 (factoring in snacks) and s/he will be out of your hair for a good hour, at least. With rooms and rooms full of pinball, arcade, and skeeball at their flipper fingers, any kid, teen, or kid at heart can party like it's 1979 with games like Pac-Man while also enjoying the high-tech wonders of a giant, interactive Fruit Ninja and our personal favorite, Harpoon Lagoon. Kids can hang until 10pm Fridays & Saturdays, after which time it's 18+ only.

Pinballz Arcade
8940 Research #100
512/420-8458
www.pinballzarcade.com

Best Texas Amusement Park

We've all been to the knockoffs. You might as well be one of the kids sitting in the kiddie pool from the old commercial, scraping for an inch in substandard wave pools. And why even bother when there's a quartet of Schlitterbahn parks to explore right here in the great state of Texas? Padre holds the beachside luxury title, your kids won't get lost in Galveston's family-friendly free-for-all, and Corpus has that new-car smell. But nothing holds a candle to the original, sprawling Schlitterbahn New Braunfels, which has served Central Texas since 1979. Come play?

Schlitterbahn
14353 S. Padre Island Dr., Corpus Christi
381 E. Austin St., New Braunfels, 830/625-2351
33261 State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, 956/772-7873
2026 Lockheed, Galveston, 409/770-9283
www.schlitterbahn.com/corpus-christi

Best Toys

Terra Toys offers up the best curated selection of playthings from all over the world. Gifts and gadgets geared for educational, imaginative play – puppets, Brio trains, games, kiddo-sized musical instruments, Haba toys, and an unbelievably large selection of Playmobil. Bonus: Their brand-new, in-house cafe offers up a caffeine fix, something all parents can attest is a toy-store adventure necessity.

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

 
Readers: Food
Readers: Media

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle