Best Of 2010

Mini Me

Mini Me

Best Library Branch

Central Library
600 Soledad
(210) 207-2500

Bless our oh-so-forgiving (and impeccably grounded) readers, who not only forgave architect Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis’s Evel Knievel-grade angles at our downtown library branch, but obviously revel in the whole chili-powered enchilada enough to give it Best Library Branch plaudits. They know the cellar’s bookstore, wickedly good Texana collection, and growing multimedia chamber are what matters at an urban learning station. And when reading eyes tire, we suggest creeping past the flowering esperanza bushes to enjoy the perfect setting for your very own Matchbox versus Hot Wheels death-match competition.

2. Landa Library, 233 Bushnell, (210) 732-8369

3. Brookhollow, 530 Heimer, (210) 496-6315

Best Place for Birthday Parties

America’s Incredible Pizza Company
11743 West Ave.
(210) 342-2121

You may feel a little disoriented by this ginormous combination of pizza, pasta, potato, and dessert buffet and game-a-teria, but your kids won’t; it is kid nirvana. Hold your wee one’s birthday fête there for either $14.99 or $19.99 per guest (the higher-priced package includes more game tickets, etc.), and revel in a party room with food, drinks, the attentions of a party hostess, a spin-for-a-prize wheel-go-round for the birthday kiddo, and claro, CAKE! Then, whoa nellie, gird your loins for the giddy chaos once the sugar rush starts. Things to look out for: Stray mini-bowling balls; raging 2-year-olds armed with either mini-golf clubs or piñata bats; bumper-car “accidents,” and overly vigorous Whac-a-Mole. We called to make extra sure they have Whac-a-Mole. They do, and apparently they get a lot of calls about it. Important to know: THEY DO NOT SERVE BEER. More important to know: You will be your child’s hero.

2. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s,

3. Kiddie Park, 3015 Broadway, (210) 824-4351,

Best Kid-friendly Park (& Comeback Story)

Kiddie Park
3015 Broadway
(210) 824-4351

One spring day we bit the bullet and decided to head over to the Witte Museum for a look at the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit. After the shock of being told it would be a four-hour wait, we had the good sense to convince our intelligent, hyperactive 4-year-old that Kiddie Park, just down the lane, would be just as much fun. Our rationale was that dinosaurs had been around for millions of years, surely they can wait another week to see us. Imagine our surprise when we were right: We had a blast! I mean, really, how often does that happen?

Don’t misunderstand. If you’re looking for a high-tech, high-price, over-the-top sensory experience, don’t go here. This is all about the good old days when parks were affordable, you didn’t need a map, rides were slow, came without warnings, and made loud clacking noises as gears ground by. There is something impossibly reassuring and romantic about watching kids happily ride carousels and rides that have been around for generations. The stress fell off of us at the thought of being able to say, “Sure, you can ride anything you want.” 

Kiddie Park is the oldest kids’ park in the United States. The carousel was made in 1918. Open since 1925, the park still reflects that era — intimate, slow-paced, with a limited number of rides. The favorites of the day were the runaway school bus, the boat ride (because who doesn’t like splashing water?), and the helicopter rides.

A few facts: It’s called Kiddie Park for a reason, folks. The rides are for small children — 2-10 are good ages. Don’t try sticking the older second cousin from out of town on the rides; they won’t fit. There are tables for snacks and resting, and the restrooms have been updated. The walking surface is made up of stones, so pushing a stroller is almost impossible. It’s open all week from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; you can purchase tickets for $2.16 a ride or buy the $12 all-you-can-ride wristband. Kiddie Park — it may not be what you were originally looking for, but it could turn out to be just what you needed.

2. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s ,

3. McAllister Park, 13101 Jones-Maltsberger,

Best Family-Friendly Fiesta Event

King William Fair
10am-6pm Sat, Apr 24

While we miss the days of wandering through the barricades for free (it’s now $5 for anyone 13 and up), this is still a fantastic Fiesta family event with a charming small-town feel, provided you follow these rules: Arrive in time for the parade; leave by mid-afternoon. Set a spending budget for fried goodies and sugary drinks ahead of time, and stick to it. Do not, under any circumstances, get tipsy, because you + brewing hangover + hot-and-cranky toddlers = a call to CPS. When you’re ready for a break, head past the kiddie games by the river to the cool grass along the banks; you and yours won’t be the only ones napping under a tree while a band plays in the background.

Ed. note: This was one of three categories in which the Best of SA tally malfunctioned, so we’ve substituted a critic’s pick instead. See our FAQ for more info and watch for this category next year.

Best Kid-friendly Restaurant That Serves Booze

The Cove
606 W. Cypress
(210) 227-2683

With $5 plates of organic hotdogs and grass-raised mini burgers (organic milk included!), the Cove will feed your kids a sight better than ol’ Mickey D’s, and you get to feel like a hip adult again all the while. Delta blues over the soundsystem or live singer-songwriters onstage means that average child noise can’t be heard above the convivial din, and any of the Anchor Steam-to-Dos Equis beer selection will take the edge off of cutting things into bite-size pieces. You can wash those cotton diapers while you snack on your fish tacos, too - the one-stop Cove is still a laundromat.

2. The Friendly Spot Ice House, 943 S. Alamo, (210) 224-2337,

3. Big’z Burger Joint, 2303 N. Loop 1604 West, (210) 408-2029,

Best Museum Family Days

The Witte Museum
3801 Broadway
(210) 357-1900

San Antonio loves the Witte, whether it’s arty types checking out exhibitions of photography — Michael Nye’s recent portrait exploration of hunger was awe-inspiring — or Texas culture nerds brushing up on their history. However, the Witte remains first and foremost a beloved family outing place, where you can usher your kids (or grandkids, or nieces and nephews) into a fascinating world of science and culture. Their most recent family day, on Sunday April 4, included hands-on fossil activities. Although, what with their Free Tuesdays, y’all can have a weekly family day of your own. Facebook-friend the Witte or follow their Twitter feed to find out about future family days and special events.

2. The San Antonio Museum of Art , 200 W. Jones Ave., (210) 978-8100,

3. The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., (210) 824-5368,

Best Place to Take Your Dog for Playtime

McAllister Park
13102 Jones-Maltsberger

While we have yet to discover the joys of poop-sniffing, our dog’s enthusiasm for the endeavor suggests we’re missing out on something supreme. Thankfully, we don’t have to cut “Mutton” loose on the inner-city streets for a satisfying dose of digestive evidence; we can lead him through the hidden bluebonnet fields north of San Antonio International Airport to San Antonio’s second official dog park. For those who want to keep things natural, McAllister Park’s 1.5-acre bit of fenced-off doggie heaven has healthy piles of pre-scented mulch for impromptu play times. At the other end of the spectrum, there is honest-to-dog playground equipment for those more adventurous paws. Oh, and for the bipedal deodorizing androids who want to keep a couple feet above the odorama, there are plenty of park benches for safer sitting.

2. Pawderosa Ranch, 923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941,

3. Brackenridge Park, 3700 N. St. Mary’s,

Best Place to Adopt a Pet

Humane Society SPCA of Bexar County
4804 Fredericksburg
(210) 226-7461

Good-tempered canines and cuddly kittens — rows and rows of them — just waiting for the right sucker, we mean “owner,” to come along. In many ways, the Humane Society of Bexar County is just like a bazillion shelters across the country struggling to keep pace with a tsunami of unwanted cats and dogs, kicked into the street by a collective failure to spay and neuter our pets. Humane distinguishes itself not only by its immaculate grounds, nice facilities, and caring staff, but in its innovative programs — like a partnership with prison inmates to rehabilitate emotionally troubled animals to ready them for adoption — that drive home the importance of companion animals in our lives.

2. Animal Defense League, 11300 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-1481,

3. Animal Care Services, COSA, 4710 State Highway 151, (210) 207-4PET,

Best Pet Boarding

Pawderosa Ranch Doggie Play-and-Stay
923 Clydeville Rd.
(210) 404-9941

It’s a good thing these varmints ain’t aggressive, you think as you stroll past the weathered clapboard of the Lucky Dog Hotel at Pawderosa Ranch. By the caterwauling inside, you half expect a pile of woolly beasts to come wheeling out of the swinging “saloon” doors in a rump-and-tail-biting stew. But, no dice. That’s simply the sound of free-roaming canines enjoying time away from the folks. They’ve all been screened for aggression and kennel cough and stripped of their sidearms before being grouped by size and turned out. Don’t believe me? Just slap your mouse and check the “wag-cam” yourself. And if you’re looking for a place your Rey Fido can blow off some steam while you’re at work, Pawderosa does doggie daycare, too.

2. Lucy’s Doggie Daycare and Spa (tie), 2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 495-3647,

2. Cowboy Kennels (tie), 5207 McCullough, (210) 822-1166,

2. Rob Cary Pet Resort (tie), 14824 Bulverde, (210) 494-7787,

Best Pet Groomer

Sabrina Frugia of Classy Canines Grooming
5123 N. Loop 1604 West
(210) 479-0000

For a jittery bichon frise, squirms are second nature. And nothing sets ’em to vibrate more quickly than a trip to the scissor shop. But San Antonio dog owners swear that 10-year coat adjuster Sabrina Frugia, who launched Classy Canines Grooming last January, has the patience vibes and heavy petting to put even the jumpiest lap warmer into chill mode. In fact, it’s these undersized companions she enjoys serving the most: difficult cuts for (sometimes) picky owners add that welcome element of challenge to her experienced scissor hand. Think about that next time your designer accessory’s eyes disappear behind a wave of booger-crusted curls.

2. Lucy’s Doggy Day Care & Spa, 2250 Thousand Oaks, (210) 495-3647,

3. South Bark (tie), 1115 S. Alamo, (210) 557.3747,

3. Pawderosa Ranch (tie), 923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941,