BEST FAMILY DINING OUT: GERST HAUS ON A FRIDAY NIGHT
At some point in your German-flavored meal of jagerschnitzel, schweine schnitzel and spaetzle at this East Side homage to a Bavarian lodge, the house band Musik Meisters might take a break from their accordion-enhanced version of "Mack the Knife" to instigate a restaurant-wide Chicken Dance. At that point, you'll set down your fish bowl of Gerst beer (named for the same family, now manufactured by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company) and join your fellow diners in a conga line as you flap your arms and shake your tail feathers. It's not exactly German. It's not exactly dignified. But it's a Nashville tradition worth experiencing at any age. CARRINGTON FOX
BEST UNEXPECTEDLY BABY-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT: MARCHE
It's true: Falling into a baby hole means never leaving the house again, or at least, being so vibe-shamed for daring to bring an infant into most public places that you'll soon wish you never left the house. So imagine cautiously wandering back into your old pre-breeding haunt, artisan café Marche, baby in tow, and seeing server eyes light up with delight at her presence instead of the usual barely concealed dread most restaurant staff whip up for their daily special. Toes are wiggled; high chairs are whisked over and everybody acts like having a baby is — gasp —completely normal, even a good thing. Maybe the French-inspired menu extends to a more relaxed, European attitude toward the presence of children, too, but either way, it's a rare respite from the pervasive baby haterade. TRACY MOORE
BEST RESTAURANT WHERE YOUR KIDS WILL ACTUALLY EAT THE FOOD: THE DOG OF NASHVILLE
Located on Belcourt Avenue in Hillsboro Village, The Dog of Nashville is the perfect place to widen your kids' restaurant repertoire without wasting money on food they won't eat. The Dog serves up child-sized hotdogs made to order as well as what some say are the best french fries in town. Adults can choose from more sophisticated dogs, including the Diet Starts Tomorrow Dog, which is deep-fried, wrapped in bacon and covered in cheese sauce. YUM. LINDSAY FERRIER
BEST PLACE TO TAKE KIDS FOR CANDY: BUZZY'S CANDY STORE
It's always candy time at the corner of Belmont Boulevard and Portland Avenue, where Buzzy's Candy Store anchors a trifecta of confectionary options. The nearby Circle K has your standard American candy bars, gum, and mints, while The International Market, better known for cheap Thai comfort food, is where you can find all manner of Asian sweets, such as Kasugai Gummies (now in Muscat grape flavor!) and Pocky sticks. Of the three, though, Buzzy's is the only place entirely devoted to sweet treats. The giant lollipops by the door and the colorful decor make it look as if the place was spun from sugar. Candy bars, M&Ms by the pound, and novelty candies like "Wormz and Dirt" will surely stun the tots — and help Belmont students get their buzz on. GALYN MARTIN
BEST INTERACTIVE ICE CREAM EXPERIENCE: SWEET CECE'S
Sweet CeCe's on Harding Pike can best be described as a frozen yogurt-lover's dream. You swirl your own yogurt and add your own toppings, and at the end, you pay for your creative concoction based on its weight. Genius! Germaphobes will appreciate that Sweet CeCe's is squeaky clean. It's a sweet enough experience that both my kids now call Sweet CeCe's their favorite place in town. LINDSAY FERRIER
BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKSTORE: FAIRYTALES BOOKSTORE AND MORE
Part child's pleasure palace, part mother's little helper, this East Nashville nook is a literary haven for the under-10 set. Two years ago, despite the woeful economy and even worse outlook for publishers, Tammy Derr and her husband started a bookstore for children. Surely their accountant clutched his chest, but love and determination paid off. The book selection is deep and well considered: yes, the hot YA novels are there, but so are My First Ramadan and Jesus Loves Me, both residing peaceably next to Where Is Baby's Dreidle? — not to mention their hip neighbor Heather Has Two Mommies. Half of the store is set aside for art, and Fairytales' Artistic Village hosts a story time every day with coloring, crafting, and live music. "I wanted to create a place where children are comfortable, where they know they are welcome," says Tammy. Mission accomplished. GALYN MARTIN
BEST NEW MUSIC CAMP FOR KIDS: TENNESSEE TEENS ROCK'N' ROLL CAMP
The best song written about the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, you should know, was called "Deepwater Horizon," and written by a band called Rolling Radiation, who had only existed for a week — they met and formed at the inaugural Tennessee Teens Rock 'n' Roll Camp, the new, co-educational offshoot of the venerable Southern Girls Rock 'n' Roll Camp. If living in an industry town has made you forget that music is about fun and friendship and nervousness and joy, do us all a favor and send a kid — maybe even your own — to this camp next year. STEVE HARUCH
BEST SUMMER CAMP VALUE: ART AL SOL; ARTS IN ACTION
Packing kids off to summer camp is totally affordable with Metro school's Art al Sol and Arts in Action summer programs, two of the school system's best-kept secrets. The former offers 8-to-13-year-olds five days of professional instruction and guidance that go beyond crayons and paints and into multimedia, construction and thematic exploration. The latter offers 8-to-12-year-olds a full two weeks of dance, drama, musical performance and visual arts for the seriously committed student artist, with a final musical and art show. Though camp locations shift a little each year, most of the schools they're held in are near one of the city's major thoroughfares, including Sylvan Park Elementary, JT Moore Middle and West End Middle. Plus one is usually held at Hume-Fogg, convenient for parents who work downtown, no matter where their commute starts. Prices went up slightly this year — Art al Sol is $150 and Arts in Action is $200 — but it's still a bargain considering the quality of instruction and engaging activities. NICKI P. WOOD
BEST CHEAP/FREE CHILDREN'S CLASSES: METRO PARKS
Forget expensive lessons for your budding Carlos Santana or Anna Pavlova. Metro Parks offers fantastic classes for kids that are completely free of charge, from children's guitar to creative acting. The clay class will cost you, but it's still inexpensive at $40 for nine weeks, and classical ballet classes are just $65 per semester. If you've seen a Centennial Youth Ballet performance, you know that's a true bargain — the city's celebrated program has turned out more than a few students who've gone on to become professional dancers. Check out nashville.gov/parks/classes.asp for a complete schedule. LINDSAY FERRIER
BEST SWIMMING POOL: MARYLAND FARMS YMCA
If you have kids and a YMCA membership, the Maryland Farms YMCA pool is well worth the drive from wherever you happen to live. Prepare to encounter what looks like a mini water park, complete with slides, plenty of fountains and a giant bucket that dumps water every minute or two on everyone standing beneath it. All of these features are within an enormous swimming pool that's shallow enough to give parents peace of mind. An outdoor grill, nearby playground, Olympic-sized adult pool and plenty of seating make your trip a perfect all-day summer experience for the whole family. LINDSAY FERRIER
BEST INDOOR ACTIVITY: FRANKLIN LANES
My kids think they know how to bowl because of the many hours spent Wii bowling. But the weight of the slight controller is nothing compared to the heft of a real bowling ball, so they were quickly discouraged when we went to Franklin Lanes. Fortunately, in addition to regular bowling lanes, there is also Highway 66, a mini-bowling area that is more kid-friendly (and you don't need to rent shoes). If that isn't enough, there's yet another room full of arcade games that rivals Chuck E. Cheese, without the giant anthropomorphic rat. Sure, you could do something educational — but sometimes kids just have to scatter some pins. GALYN MARTIN
BEST OF NASHVILLE: KIDS' CHOICE
By EAKIN EAGLE WRITERS
Eakin Eagle Writers is an afterschool writing club composed of second-, third- and fourth-graders at Eakin Elementary School, under the guidance of teachers Mary Ginter and Nicole Sunday. We asked this panel of experts the question: What is the best of Nashville?
A place you should eat at is PM Café! PM Café is a delicious burger place! At PM Café they have salads, sushi, fries, & of course burgers. Yum, yum, yum!
My favorite place in Nashville is TPAC. I like the dancing and the music.
Love Tessa H.
I like the Parthenon because I like Greek Mythology. Even if I didn't like Greek Mythology, I would still go to the Parthenon because it has lots of old, beautiful art in the front. My favorite part of the Parthenon is the huge statue of the Greek goddess, Athena. In the room with the statue, it shows how they made the statue. In the gift shop, you can buy a six inch statue of Athena!
My favorite place in Nashville is Sweet CeCe's. It's a frozen yogurt and ice-cream place.
Nashville has some of best parks. Dragon Park is my favorite park.
My favorite restaurant is Athens. Its Greek food is awesome!
My favorite place in Nashville is the Adventure Science Center. I like it because it has a gift shop and all sort of science stuff like a star walk. It also has a moon ride.
My favorite thing in Nashville is the Frist Center because they teach about Chihuly and crafts. Chihuly is a person who blows glass.
My favorite place in Nashville is JC Penney because they have clothes that I like.
My favorite place in Nashville is Centennial Park. It has a playground for younger kids and older kids.
I like the Predators hockey team. They are pretty good not the best. They did not win a lot last year.
I like Eakin School a lot. It is really fun there. It is fun because we cooperate all the time!
I like Regal movie theaters. A lot of funny movies are there.
I like eating at McDougal's Chicken Coop. It has good sodas and chicken.
My favorite candy store is Buzzy's.
My personal favorite place in Nashville is defiantly Radnor Lake. I love Radnor Lake because it's a great place to hike and observe nature. There are lots of trees, deer, turtles, beavers, otters, and lots of other beautiful and magnificent animals and plants. I recommend Radnor Lake for cool days when you have nothing to do, and I think that this week would be the perfect week to go there!!
Sarah Graham M.
My favorite place is Shins Marshal Arts. You do punches and kicks.
One of my favorite places in Nashville is Dragon Park. The reason is because it has lots of things to climb on, including a mosaic dragon. It also has a sand pit full of sand. That is why I like Dragon Park.
One of my favorite places in Nashville is the Frist Center. They always have some sort of cool exhibits to see.
I love Dragon Park it is fun because we can climb the rocks. They have 2 parks there and I like both of the parks!
My favorite restaurant is Red Robin.
My favorite place in Nashville is Eakin Elementary School because the students are so cool! I love how committed and enthusiastic they are about learning.
My favorite kids in Nashville are the students who attend Eakin Elementary School. They are inquiring learners!
I was at Cleopatra it was awsoooooooooome
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