Best Kids’ Clothing Store
1. Baby Gap/Gap Kids
2. The Children’s Place
1. Creative Care Center
3. tie: West End UMC and St. Mary’s
Best Place to Have a Baby
1. Baptist Hospital
2. Centennial Medical Center
3. Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Best Toy Store (Local)
1. Phillips Toy Mart
2. Toys R Us
3. The Games Store
Best Place to Shop for a Baby Shower Gift
1. Babies R Us
3. Especially Baby
Best School (K-8)
1. Eakin Elementary School
2. University School of Nashville
3. Ensworth School
Best School (9-12)
1. Hume-Fogg Magnet School
2. Hillsboro High School
3. Montgomery Bell Academy
Best Place to Take the Kids When It’s Raining
1. Cumberland Science Museum
2. Bellevue Mall
3. Nashville Children’s Theatre
1. tie: Dr. Bill Long and Dr. Robert Mallard
2. tie: Dr. Dave Thombs and Dr. Mary Keown
3. Dr. Eric Chazen
Best Deal on a Kid’s Meal
Best Sunny-Day Outing for Kids
1. Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
2. Red Caboose Park in Bellevue
3. Centennial Park
Editor’s Note: This year, rather than telling readers about the best place to take their kids, or the best “kid-friendly” restaurant, or the best schoolteacher, we decided to turn the entire section over to the kids themselves. So we assembled an editorial staff of local high-schoolers and let them do what they do best: Speak their minds. Contributors to this section are Catherine Carroll, Adam Cole, Cornelia Rowe, Deke Shearon, and Elise Tyler. Listen up. They’re a talented bunch, and they’ve got something to say.
Best Urban Hangout for Young Nashvillians: Hillsboro Village
In today’s world of enclosed shopping malls, it’s easy to forget that the idea of a mall started with streets littered with shops within walking distance of one another. One place in town where that type of “mall” still exists is Hillsboro Village. There’s the food court: Fido, Taste of Tokyo, and Jackson’s. There are the clothing shops: Pangaea and Posh. There’s a movie theater: The Belcourt (see below). All of this in one area, with easy parking and no need to drive from place to placean important consideration for people not old enough to drive or own a car. Incredible! Unbelievably convenient! And best of all: It’s outdoors. There’s no mall security, no piped-in music, and no playground in the center. Second place in this category goes to Hillsboro Village’s intangibly less hip cousin, Elliston Place.
Best Escape on a Friday Night: Brentwood Skate Center
The scene is set: disco balls, fluorescent lighting, the techno remix of The B-52’s “Love Shack,” and of course couples’ skate. The local skating rinkcomplete with Skee-Ball and arcade games, Cherry Coke, and awkward 13-year-old girls flirting with the fastest skater on the flooris an American cultural tradition. During the years before we had driver’s licenses, cars, and dates, being dropped off by Mom in front of the Brentwood Skate Center was about as cool a thing as a 12-year-old could do. But in the past two years, the roller-skating culture has made a comeback among older teenagers in Nashville. There is no better place to enjoy the music of R. Kelly or to escape from the pressures of high school, parents, and peers while the more seasoned skaters fly by and the disco ball spins its shower of lights round and round. Hidden off I-65 South on Wilson Pike Circle, the Brentwood Skate Center is the ideal location for a first date or a night out with friends.
Best All-Ages Nightclub in Nashville: Indienet
When it comes to clubs where the underage can hang out (legally), Nashville is admittedly lacking in choices. For years, however, there has been one place where we can retreat and hear bands without worrying about having that fake ID or sneaking in the back door. Indienet, whose first incarnation was as the legendary Lucy’s Record Shop, embodies “do-it-yourself” punk rockat least according to P. J. Kinzer, the club’s jack-of-all-trades manager. Located on Church Street near Baptist Hospital, it may not be in the safest area, but the allure of homeless beggars and dirty sidewalks only adds to its punk essence. The club’s sound system may not be great, the meager record section doesn’t offer much, and the bathrooms never seem to be clean, but Indienet has history, it has character, it only costs $5 to get in, and it welcomes all ages.
Best All-Ages Nightclub in Williamson County: NXT Generation
The local teenage music scene is varied and diverse, and it ranges from hardcore Goth metal to punk rock played by MBA students. Nowhere else is this diversity more in evidence than NXT Generation, located at the corner of an otherwise nondescript shopping center on Old Hickory Boulevard. Every Friday or Saturday night bears witness to the sheer variety of teenagers found in Nashville: There are kids with eyebrow, tongue, nose, and cheek piercings alongside teens wearing designer V-neck sweaters and pleated khaki pants. The venue itself is a smoky, dark affair lit with black lights, and those entering are immediately greeted with signs screaming “Mosh at your own risk.” One new innovation is that bands playing there can get a live bootleg of their show burned onto a CD, giving them something to sell as soon as the show ends. The existence of NXT Generation is a testament to the fact that our community isn’t just a disposable-income demographic with singular tastes.
Best Hangout Where Kids Can See Everyone in Town: SATCO on 21st Ave. S.
It’s safe to say that probably everyone in Nashville, from middle-schoolers to Vanderbilt psych majors, has autographed SATCO’s wall on their way to ordering chips and cheese. On Friday afternoons and Saturday evenings, the restaurant is especially packed with hungry Tex-Mex lovers. A person can saunter out onto the deck, with its festive colored lights and music playing to find teenagers, college students, and teachers alike chowing down on fajitas and hot wings. It’s an especially good spot for the high-school crowd because of its central location, within walking distance of University School of Nashville and Guido’s Pizzeriathe latter being a frequent teen haunt that features local bands. Most of all, it’s SATCO’s tasty, reasonably priced cuisine and easy atmosphere that attract the horde of teenagers who gather there on weekends. After all, you can’t beat eating tacos while listening to “Freebird” with a group of friends, with the sun out on a late spring afternoon, and summer so close that you can taste it.
Best Place for Teens to Go After Midnight: Waffle House
Waffle House knows the true meaning of the old real-estate saying “location, location, location.” The fact that no matter where you go in Nashville, there’s always a Waffle House nearby is probably one reason that teenagers and adults alike flock to the numerous yellow-and-brown restaurants scattered throughout town. For teenagers, the main draw is not the 24-hour breakfast or distinctly individual servers, but the knowledge that they can retreat somewhere well past midnight. Add in a terrifically terrible jukebox and $1 cups of coffee, and it’s no wonder that Nashville’s youth think of “their” Waffle House as a second home.
Best Bookstore to Read What They Don’t Teach You in School: Halcyon Books
These days, when most corporate-owned bookstores are situated in massive buildings, the setting of Angela Messina’s intimate Halcyon Books is a pleasant change. Her store lies hidden behind Off 12th Records at 1118 Halcyon Ave. and is a little bigger than a walk-in closet. It has no coffeeshop, music store, or gift area. Instead, shelf after shelf is crammed with comprehensive collections of books by writers seldom found at other bookstores, such as new wave geniuses like Dave Eggers. Banned books, local zines, eccentric bumper stickers, and the all-important music magazines provide liberal, self-proclaimed “nerds” with weekly doses of philosophy and progressive writing. So next time the words “books” and “intimate” come to mind, pay Halcyon a visit.
Best Record Store to Expand a Young Music Fan’s Tastes: Off 12th Records
Hidden away on a quiet street around the corner from 12th Avenue South, Off 12th Records is the type of store that’s only going to be found by those on a mission for music that most chain stores don’t offer. Tired of having to mail-order every album he fancied, owner Matt McKeever opened Off 12th in January of last year with the confidence that Nashville could use a store like his. Luckily, he was rightthe store now has its share of regulars. What keeps them coming back is the fact that Off 12th just doesn’t carry bad music. The selection may be small (though diverse) and the decor might be plain (though pleasing), but any true music fan will surely find him- or herself right at home. Matt’s hand-selected collection includes everything from indie to hip-hop, R&B to jazz, CDs to vinyl, and both new and used albums. Be sure to step next door and visit the neighboring Halcyon Books (see below).
Best Place to Wear All Black: The Belcourt
You can’t help but feel like an intellectual when you’re watching a subtitled movie, dressed head to toe in black. And there’s no better place in town to feel like a full-blown cinephile (and look like one too) than Nashville’s arthouse cinema, The Belcourt. You enter, greeted by the carpet-and-candy smell of an authentic movie theater. You feel the love for film emanating from every patron. The genial staff offers a welcome change from the uniformed, robotic workers of chain theaters, and the lobby, with its wooden benches looking out onto Belcourt Avenue, offers a wonderful place to discuss your brilliant interpretation of the film you’ve just viewed. Best of all, when you buy a ticket, you get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from helping out an institution that is still around because of a grassroots movement rather than a corporate buyout.
Best Place to Flaunt Your Teen Angst: www.diaryland.com
\A network of Nashville teens has flocked to this online diary site to vent their innermost thoughts and feelings. During a time in their lives when they’ve got the most on their minds but the least desire to talk about it, these kids have found a place for personal expression. The best part: Anyone can read it. The worst part: Anyone can read it. After a few entries, it’s likely that the writer will become a bit paranoid and consider sheltering his or her opinions, but eventually he or she will realize that it’s nice to have an audience that only has to listen if it really wants to. Colorful format options and profiles make it easy to personalize your diary and even easier to discover others with common interests. Though most adults associate teen angst with the likes of Marilyn Manson and black makeup, this is a truly constructive place to let it all out.
Best Band Under Legal Drinking Age: Silent Friction
Formed in the summer of ’99 after the demise of local teen idol group Yellow Five, Silent Friction never fail to draw a crowd. Their quirky sound has been refined over the years under the influence of bands such as Weezer and Sunny Day Real Estate. With their charming mélange of hard indie-rock, playful pop, and emotional lyrics, these guys have the sound and the stage presence that shows they’ve certainly found their place in Nashville’s music scene. But one could not mention Silent Friction without also citing their Animal Records labelmates, Esposito. When these two bands met last spring, they formed a fertile alliance that resulted in “house band” status at Brentwood’s all-ages club NXT Generation Performance Hall. Together, they’ve formed a fan base that rarely misses a show. Best of all, Silent Friction’s dedicated members aren’t afraid to act their age, but they still take their music very seriouslythese kids are the real thing. Check out the band’s Web page at www.silentfriction.homepage.com.
Best Summer Event for Local Teens: Dancin’ in the District
Though complaints about Nashville’s lack of teen-accessible activities abound, one often overlooked event is Nashville’s Dancin’ in the District. This weekly concert series takes place each spring and summer in Riverfront Park. Some of last year’s best Dancin’ performances included Guster and Superdrag, and best of all Dancin’ in the District is absolutely free. The audience includes everything from hippies with hacky sacks to pale Goths with fairy wings strapped on their backs to scantily clad preadolescentswhich only goes to show how much the city of Nashville unites at this spectacular event.
Best Sign That School’s Almost Out and Summer’s Almost Here: Nashville River Stages
What do Hole, Widespread Panic, and Kid Rock have in common? All have been performers within the past three years at Nashville River Stages, a three-day concert that occurs annually in Riverfront Park downtown. For many teens, going downtown during the first weekend of May for River Stages is the first sign that the school year is coming to a close and summer is just around the corner (well, that and sitting outside at SATCO). As they roam from each of the five stages amidst vendors selling food, clothing, jewelry, and CDs, teenagers can let their anxieties over grades and SATs rise into the air. It’s the premier place for kids to commune because it brings together music, food, art, and people in one spot. Given that you have to drive everywhere to do anything in this town, that’s a welcome relief.
Best Thing That Nashville Teens (and Adults) Need: Better Public Transportation
It’s easy for adults to overlook what for many younger citizens is one of our biggest needs: mobility. Nashvillians have been trained to rely on personal vehicles as their number-one form of transportation, even though our city has grown into a major metropolis in recent years. Teens, however, are well-acquainted with the issue. By the time they’re old enough for high school, odds are they’ll no longer be thrilled about being hauled around by their parents. But as things stand, what can they do about it? After all, how often does MTA run its buses through their neighborhoodsif the buses run there at all? The need for public transportation could become an even bigger problem in the near future as the graduated license program goes into effect, causing teens to rely more and more on others to get them where they want or need to be. What’s more, improved public transportation would likely equal less teen fatalities from car accidents, less pollution in our city, and, hell, less tickets to give to teens for talking on their cell phones en route to wherever. If Nashville wants to join the ranks of other major cities, better public transportation is definitely in order.
Best Rite of Passage for Local Teens: Getting a Driver’s License
In a city lacking widespread, effective public transportation, having a car isn’t a luxuryit’s a necessity (see above). Consequently, getting a driver’s license is an even more powerful rite of passage for teens than it would be in other big cities. The ritual begins with the computerized test for a learner’s permit, followed by a year of fighting with parents while they sit reluctantly in the passenger seat. The ritual’s end is the ceremony at the color-coded, odd-smelling DMV involving the terrifying, and terrifyingly short, driving test. The resulta thin, red-white-and-blue, 3-inch-by-2-inch cardis more important to a teen’s freedom than the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution combined. Unfortunately, this rite of passage has been compromised by Tennessee’s new graduated license laws. This new barrier to freedom, affecting those whose birthdays fall after July 1, limits the hours and conditions under which a teenager can drive until he or she reaches the age of 18. But for those who’ve just missed the cutoff date, there is no day more important than their 16th birthday.
Best Youth Volunteer Agency: Nashville Youth PULSE
PULSE (People United Leading and Serving Everywhere) is a group of teens from all over the Nashville area reaching out to serve anyone, anywhere. Formed by well-known Nashville service groups Hands on Nashville and the Oasis Center, PULSE now includes over 700 members and counting. What makes this agency so cool is both the number and variety of projects it hosts each month. From working at the Kids’ Cafe at the Martha O’Bryan Center to volunteering at Easter Seals or the new Frist Center for the Visual Arts, it truly offers something for anyone who wants to get involved. To become a member, simply attend one of the weekly information sessions held each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Oasis Center’s 17th Avenue location. In addition to these monthly projects, PULSE also hosts an annual event called PULSE Daya citywide day of youth volunteering from both PULSE members and nonmembers alike. This year, PULSE Day will be held Saturday, April 7, at the Bicentennial Mall. For more information about Nashville Youth PULSE, contact Beth Petry at the Oasis Center, 327-4455.
Best After-School Gig: Peer Educator at the Oasis Center
Who says teens don’t give back to the community? After engaging in a 28-hour training course that educates youth in issues revolving around drugs, stereotypes, sex, values, discrimination, and more, participants in the Oasis Center’s Peer Educator program commit to volunteering at least once a week for a two-hour shift. For one-half of that shift, the Peer Eds answer Oasis’s Teen Line and help callers with problems, using the knowledge they acquired in the training course. The other half is spent talking with the teens staying in Oasis’ emergency sheltera place where troubled kids can stay free of charge for up to two weeks and receive family counseling and therapy. In addition, Peer Educators lead educational groups twice a week in the shelter. Many teens go through times when they feel like no one understands them, and oftentimes it’s easier to take advice from someone who could easily be one of your friends. To get involved, contact Melissa Mosely at the Oasis Center, 327-4455.
Best Reason for Kids to Use Fake IDs: Cops Monitoring the Doors at R-Rated Movies
Due to a recent crackdown on movie-theater regulations, many Nashville theaters are now hiring Metro police officers and rent-a-cops to guard the doors of R-rated films on busy nights. So here’s the deal if you look like you’re under 30: As if fumbling for your ID at the ticket counter isn’t enough, you may have to pull it out again at the theater’s entrance. An employee at the Regal Green Hills 16 explains that if caught trespassing within the theater doors, a minor could potentially be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. And the theater itself could be punished as well: After an undercover report by a local news station, the Green Hills 16 was given a stern warning for its lack of diligence in ticket monitoring. Because of this, films containing heavy sexual or violent content are now shown on the first floor of the cinema and guarded stringently by police officers during the early showings. It sounds like a reasonable plan in theory, but unfortunately, there’s one real problem no one bothered to think about. Are kids really worse off watching a film that may be inappropriate for their ageespecially given the inscrutable standards that differentiate PG-13 and R-ratingsor loitering amidst strangers in the parking lot after they’ve been kicked out of the theater and have no place to go?
Best Place to Watch White Kids Acting Out: Thoroughbred 20
Sometimes the best shows take place in the lobbies of Nashville-area movie theaters. Perhaps this is best exemplified at Franklin’s Thoroughbred 20, located on Frazier Drive just south of the CoolSprings Galleria. Despite being situated in the heart of the wealthiest county in Tennessee, it seems the patrons of this particular theater go out of their way to appear impoverished. Here you will find thug-a-bes of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. The cinema’s built-in coffee and ice cream shop provides an ideal spot to sit and observe these sociological wonders in a natural setting. From a booth behind a protective window, spectators can view the misadventures that take place in the headquarters of the Franklin/Brentwood branch of the Caucasian Fubu Mafia. All can marvel over the atmosphere of rebellion established by the backwards, upside-down visors worn by Thoroughbred regulars and possibly even experience an occasional chill upon witnessing such brazen defiance of the visor’s only intended purpose. In the bathrooms, one can listen in as these elusive playas loudly discuss matters of thuggery over their cell phones to homies in adjacent stalls. This is entertainment at its best: a big-screen fantasy followed by a real-life one, or vice versa. A double feature is always in store at Thoroughbred 20, where suburban youth take on roles as well as any Hollywood actor, bee-yatch!
Best High School Brochure: MBA
The truth is in the advertising, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of private-school brochures. Witness the 50-plus-page booklet sent out by Montgomery Bell Academy Inc. Featuring image upon image of MBA’s lush, university-like campus to go along with its lush, university-like tuition, the brochure is accompanied by stirring pictures of MBA students, making the most famously exclusive school in Nashville look like the Rainbow Coalition. The brochure sent home to students and their families even features pie charts detailing MBA’s finances, as if the school were run by Ross Perot. All this from the one school in Nashville whose logo is a registered trademark. Accept no substitutes and have no doubts: MBA produces the finest Gentlemen, Scholars, and Athletes in town.
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