Kids 

Load up your wallet with $1 bills, because it’s a long walk back to the Zoofari restaurant for cash, and you’re gonna need plenty of it for this addictive animal roundabout, which boasts the first anteater seat in the country.
Best Kids’ Ride: Merry-Go-Round at the Nashville Zoo Load up your wallet with $1 bills, because it’s a long walk back to the Zoofari restaurant for cash, and you’re gonna need plenty of it for this addictive animal roundabout, which boasts the first anteater seat in the country. After an afternoon of walking from meerkats to elephants to poisonous frogs, the merry-go-round provides a welcome, melodic respite. Take a musical ride on a bongo, flamingo or clouded leopard. When you’re refreshed, head over to the neighboring Lorikeet Landing, where the birds will take a ride on your shoulder. Turnabout—on a roundabout—is fair play. —CARRINGTON FOX Best Indoor Adventure: The Delta, Opryland Hotel Best Indoor Adventure: The Delta, Opryland Hotel Your Kim Possible or Jonny Quest will stare dumbstruck at the sheer Jules Verne enormity of Gaylord’s 15-story glass-domed garden, complete with a winding river, waterfalls, an 85-foot fountain, concrete arches and pathways in every direction, three-story palm trees and a shopping island modeled on New Orleans. (Bet Michael Chertoff felt right at ease addressing the National Conference of State Legislatures last August in a nearby convention hall.) Looking and walking are free, but if you have the money for a 15-minute ride on one of the Delta Flatboats that circles the river—$8 adults, $6 kids—it’s a calming treat, especially when giant catfish swim lazily before the bow like down-home dolphins. —JIM RIDLEY Best Kids’ Meal: Baja Burrito Without coloring books, placemat mazes, 6-foot rodent costumes or the other desperate strategies restaurants use to temporarily tranquilize tiny diners, Troy Smith’s perpetually mobbed Thompson Lane burrito mill becomes Tot Central most weeknights. The main reason is a three-dollar kids’ menu featuring soft tacos, quesadillas or plates of rice and beans that might actually sneak a fresh vegetable past your 4-year-old’s clamped lips. But something about the mustardy colors, the cheerful Mexican pop on the overhead speakers and the close tables tends to set adults as well as toddlers at ease—and the folks who work the line are blessedly tolerant of tykes who want to construct their own meal. For that day of reckoning you decide you can’t abide one more meal at Chick-Fil-A. —JIM RIDLEY Best Ingenious Restaurant Diversion: Pie in the Sky When the kids are starving, the wait between ordering food and actual delivery can be agonizing, from the shrieks of delight every time a plate nears the table to the howls of anguish as it passes right on by. This cheery upscale Cool Springs pizza parlor has found the trick to silencing the lambs: an open kitchen with a long counter where kids can watch alongside the window. But that’s not the grabber. When asked nicely, the cook will lop off a chunk of dough and hand it to your child—who will spend the next half-hour in amazement mashing, stretching, rolling and smushing handprints in it. No wonder manager Glenn Zigli says the place goes through 500 pounds of dough a week. Better still: the pizza’s great, and the servers are a model of patience (thanks, Katie Stevenson!). Just don’t let your kids eat the dough—until it arrives bubbling with pepperoni and ricotta cheese. —JIM RIDLEY Best Offbeat Family Outing: Tomato Art Festival If you have raised your children properly—that is, read them lots of Dr. Seuss—they will react with delight rather than terror when a 5-foot tomato comes strolling toward them up Woodland Street. (Come to think of it, I react with delight whenever I see a hot tomato walking up Woodland Street, but that’s another festival.) In just three years, the neighborhood art festival Meg and Bret MacFadyen founded at their Art & Invention Gallery in East Nashville has become a kind of late-summer Mardi Gras for all ages across the river, with a parade, music, costumes, tomato-bobbing, tomato-tossing and this year even a second-line Dixieland marching band. The copious Bloody Marys may help to explain the locals wearing tomato makeup. When your child asks, “Mommy, why does that man have a red face?,” for once you won’t be left stammering for an answer. —JIM RIDLEY Best Place to Explain Potty Training: Adventure Science Center Colon Slide Everyone says don’t worry—your kids won’t be in diapers forever. But for parents who will try anything to get their toddler on the potty track, why not have an earnest discussion about poop while zooming down the colorectal slide? Or, if you prefer something less alimentary, the BodyQuest exhibit features a laser game of lymphocytes vs. pathogens, a giant walk-through heart and an aging game to show the effects of various activities on the human body over time. With interactive exhibits that range from dinosaurs to big construction projects, the Adventure Science Center is a wholly educational assault on the senses, the perfect place for teaching your kids a thing or two—or just getting them all pooped out. —CARRINGTON FOX Everyone says don’t worry—your kids won’t be in diapers forever. But for parents who will try anything to get their toddler on the potty track, why not have an earnest discussion about poop while zooming down the colorectal slide? Or, if you prefer something less alimentary, the BodyQuest exhibit features a laser game of lymphocytes vs. pathogens, a giant walk-through heart and an aging game to show the effects of various activities on the human body over time. With interactive exhibits that range from dinosaurs to big construction projects, the Adventure Science Center is a wholly educational assault on the senses, the perfect place for teaching your kids a thing or two—or just getting them all pooped out. —CARRINGTON FOX Best Children’s Entertainer: Tahra From Tahra Time on Npt Sure, she’s a little creepy at first, all dressed up in a peasant skirt and cowboy hat or fireman’s helmet and galoshes, dancing around on a psychedelic stage, with a stuffed animal, singing about raindrops or a missing sombrero. But, damn if you’re not singing “Tahra Time” to yourself three days later as you strap the kids in the car seat. Tahra’s toothy smile and her unbridled happiness may gross you out, but the kids dig her, and more than a few daddies admit to thinking Tahra’s hot. So, look for her daily at 8:25 a.m. on NPT or check out www.tahratime.com to find upcoming appearances at Opry Mills and Hickory Hollow Mall, among other places. —CARRINGTON FOX Best Place to Introduce Tykes to the Joys of Hiking: Hungry Hawk Trail At Edwin Warner Park Little kids have little legs, so if you want them to love hiking, it’s often best to start short. The Hungry Hawk Trail, just behind the Nature Center off Highway 100, fits just right. This 1/3-mile path offers diverting stops along the way—a bird blind, a stream, an observation deck—and a few quick detours for the willing. Before you start, go to the Nature Center, where you can check out a purple backpack just for Hungry Hawk explorers. It’s stocked with binoculars, a compass, a magnifying box and other educational tools disguised as toys. After your trek, stop to play at the pond, a kid’s paradise of frogs, stepping-stones and dragonflies. Enjoy a snack, visit the hands-on exhibits back inside the center, and with any luck, your tired little hiker will reward you with an afternoon nap. —LISA ROBBINS Little kids have little legs, so if you want them to love hiking, it’s often best to start short. The Hungry Hawk Trail, just behind the Nature Center off Highway 100, fits just right. This 1/3-mile path offers diverting stops along the way—a bird blind, a stream, an observation deck—and a few quick detours for the willing. Before you start, go to the Nature Center, where you can check out a purple backpack just for Hungry Hawk explorers. It’s stocked with binoculars, a compass, a magnifying box and other educational tools disguised as toys. After your trek, stop to play at the pond, a kid’s paradise of frogs, stepping-stones and dragonflies. Enjoy a snack, visit the hands-on exhibits back inside the center, and with any luck, your tired little hiker will reward you with an afternoon nap. —LISA ROBBINS Best Place to Start Your Family Weekend: YMCA Cue the dance music…. Young man, you’re not so young anymore when you wake up on a Saturday morning, load your brood into the minivan and drive to your nearest Y, where every member of the family’s got something going on: gymnastics and swim lessons for the toddlers, soccer for the preschoolers, workout rooms and Pilates for Mom and Dad and—hallelujah—childcare! If you remember the Y fondly from your own childhood, give it another look now that you’ve got kids. It will become an invaluable tool in your otherwise chaotic family management. —CARRINGTON FOX Best Place to See Christmas Lights: Fountainhead, Brentwood We may spend 11 months a year dog-cussing the largesse of our Williamson County neighbor, but not December. The Franklin Road subdivision of Fountainhead deserves every ampere, volt and kilowatt it sucks out of Middle Tennessee for its yearly Christmas display, which turns a sedate wooded complex of crests and valleys into a spectacle somewhere between the Las Vegas Strip and the end of Close Encounters. Inflatable Santas and motion-controlled reindeer compete for attention with 6-foot snow globes, untold thousands of lights and enough garland to snatch Cedars of Lebanon bare, on curvy, winding, nearly vertical streets congested with sightseeing limos. A gift to the area is what it is, since these folks couldn’t possibly be doing this logistical nightmare for the fun. But it is mightily appreciated. Best enjoyed with a thermos of hot cocoa, miniature marshmallows optional—and kids with eyes wide as saucers, however much the light constricts their pupils. —JIM RIDLEY Best Kid-friendly Haircut: Ralph Dishman at Belle Meade Barber Shop Trimming a fifth generation of baby bowl cuts these days, Ralph is a landmark for first haircuts. He perches the little guys on a special booster seat in the red-leather barber chair, gives them a Matchbox car to play with, asks Mom how many baby curls she wants to keep, then gives everyone a penny for gum when it’s all over. Ralph and the white-coated guys at the Belle Meade Barber Shop look like an outtake from The Andy Griffith Show, chewing the fat as gentlemen ages 1 and up wait to take a little off the top. With development of the H.G. Hill shopping center pending, Ralph’s closing up shop at the end of the year, so now would be a good time for a trim—even if you don’t need one. —CARRINGTON FOX Trimming a fifth generation of baby bowl cuts these days, Ralph is a landmark for first haircuts. He perches the little guys on a special booster seat in the red-leather barber chair, gives them a Matchbox car to play with, asks Mom how many baby curls she wants to keep, then gives everyone a penny for gum when it’s all over. Ralph and the white-coated guys at the Belle Meade Barber Shop look like an outtake from The Andy Griffith Show, chewing the fat as gentlemen ages 1 and up wait to take a little off the top. With development of the H.G. Hill shopping center pending, Ralph’s closing up shop at the end of the year, so now would be a good time for a trim—even if you don’t need one. —CARRINGTON FOX

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