BEST RESTAURANT FOR KIDS 2003 | Hooters | People & Places | Phoenix
Breast-feeding jokes aside, Hooters is a great place to bring the kids.

On Saturdays, children under 12 eat free all day, from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. (on a kid-per-adult ratio). And every day of the week, youngsters are greeted with balloons, crayons and gifts -- like a Hooters cup, beads or a Frisbee. The offer's good at all Valley locations, but we prefer the Ahwatukee Hooters, where the management refuses to show kid-unfriendly pay-per-view boxing and other rough-and-tumble television.

No worries. There's good scenery elsewhere at this establishment. Just keep the kiddies away from the hot wings.

Readers' Choice: McDonald's

Attention, parents. If you're looking to blow that $400 tax credit from George W., head over to This Little Piggy Wears Cotton.

For infants, we're partial to the Fattamano layettes. There's a full line of Baby Lulu dresses and onesies -- with wonderful hats to accessorize -- for the girls, and Lucky jeans for the boys. We also love the Piggy Brand line of comfy cotton dresses, pants, tees and pajamas -- bright, simple colors and fun patterns, just right for playing and snoozing.

If you've got a few pennies left over, the store also features fun, hard-to-find toys, and our very favorite baby-product-for-Mom, a full line of diaper bags by Petunia Pickle Bottom.

Established in 1983, this theater is housed in a beautiful, renovated downtown church. With a repertoire of more than 50 different fairy tales and original puppet plays, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater tours throughout the state, performing shows and teaching workshops for kids and teachers. The troupe serves more than 400 schools and preschools in the state, and offers private parties for groups and birthdays.

We love the theater because of the amazing skills of the puppeteers. Each puppet is meticulously created and manipulated to be incredibly animated and lifelike, often to the point of making us forget that they aren't moving on their own. Our favorite is the Peter Pan series -- the Peter puppet is just about the coolest thing we've ever seen on strings. Yeah, the kids love it, but you'll enjoy it as much as they do.

The theater's on-site gift shop offers a selection of puppets from complicated to simple, as well as how-to videos and books -- in case you get the puppet bug yourself.

So you need to get away from it all, but you're not quite ready to leave the newborn home with a sitter? Escape to the Phoenician.

Bring the baby along, but don't bother to take the diaper bag. In your room, you'll find a mini-bar stocked with milk, juice and zwieback crackers, and a crib with a diaper pail filled with essentials like wet wipes and non-essentials like stuffed plush rattlesnakes, coyotes and other animals reminiscent of the Sonoran Desert. The staff will attach an infant bathtub to the room's marble tub, and they'll spell out your baby's name in colorful sponge letters.

Need a jogging stroller? No problem. A portable playpen? You got it. Leave your room and baby can frolic on the playground, which includes a sandbox, jungle gym and picnic tables. Or feed the ducks and koi in the 11 million gallon Necklace Lake.

Leave the jars of Gerber spinach at home, too. The Phoenician's chefs will create a low-fat, high-vitamin menu based on your child's age and personal tastes.

You and baby will never want to leave.

What better place to buy a baby gift -- heck, any gift -- than from the comfort of your own computer chair? We tracked down the ladies at after a friend sent us a box of velvet-trimmed burp clothes to celebrate a new arrival. Turns out they're right here in the Valley, running one of the best baby Web sites we've seen. We drooled over the selection of blankies -- including the pastel velvet patchwork number -- and fell in love with brands like Little Giraffe, Icky Products (great splat mats!) and Pashmina Baby. Your loved ones and their bundles of joy will adore the Blue Moon and Babycakes Moses baskets and the personalized birth announcement rugs.

If you're not a Web surfer, call the folks and they'll set you up with a private viewing in their Scottsdale showroom. Now that's what we call service!

Since opening 10 years ago, this toy box has gone from run-of-the-mill geek (Star Wars figurines) to frighteningly specific freak (a 12-inch plastic YS German Anti-Tank Rifle Panzerbchse 39). Combat keepsakes range from historical (Civil War Brotherhood of Arms infantry outfits come in Wisconsin, Georgia, Carolina and Pennsylvania versions) to hysterical (the 21st Century "Armed Terrorist" action figure is deemed appropriate for ages 5 and up). Immortalizing TV heroes from Colonel Klink to Disco Stu, the store boasts a strong retro element (The Lone Ranger, Planet of the Apes, The Twilight Zone), plus plenty of campy charm (autographed Alice Cooper dolls and Monty Python toys). And its collection of matinee idols is truly terrifying: Boris Karloff as The Mummy, a Psycho Anthony Perkins, Charlie Sheen in Platoon, Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands. Valley of the dolls, indeed.

Kids who kick academic butt can learn to kick literal butt -- on the house -- thanks to this martial arts school's Self-Defense for Grades program. Any honor roll student from any Valley school can cash in that stellar report card for a free month of martial arts lessons -- just call and schedule the first session. This program could cause a significant shift in the ages-old schoolyard dynamic -- who'll be taking whose lunch money? Of course, as the dojo's Jerry Laurita points out, martial arts training isn't merely physical. "The martial arts aren't just about self-defense. The ultimate self-defense is to have a positive mental attitude and self-discipline. Keeping up good grades is a huge first step."

Just because you're not a parent doesn't mean you don't ever have to entertain little ones. And if you're not used to it, you can go from normal, well-adjusted adult to crazy person with PTSD in about 30 minutes. In that case, a place like CrackerJax is Mecca.

Even if you are used to the supercharged energy of your average under-five-footer, it's nice to get a break every now and again. There are so many things to do in this place, even super-hyperactive kids (or parents or friends of parents) aren't going to get bored for at least an hour or two. The amusement park is 27 acres of bumper boats, pretty serious mini-golf, driving ranges, go-carts, kiddy go-carts, video games (where if you win a thousand little tickets you can buy a plastic parachuting soldier or a Chinese finger trap), batting cages (our personal favorite), volleyball and, of course, food. The staff even plans birthday parties. It's child caretaker heaven -- you never have to leave, except when it closes.

Readers' Choice for Best Kids' Fun at a Price Spot: Castles-n-Coasters

Readers' Choice for Best Kids' Free Fun Spot: Tempe Town Lake

Mom goes to those salons that smell funny, and Dad goes to those boring barbershops. Getting a haircut is such a drag. Isn't there a place for a kid to go?

Cool Cuts specifically caters to the children. The styling chairs are proportional to small bodies and there are even racecar chairs for those who need a little more coaxing. While zooming through a grooming, kids can choose to watch a video like Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Train or play Nintendo. We just wish they had a salon for adults.

Truth be told, most parents get downright sick of seeing their youngsters (more boys than girls, according to what we've seen) numb their brains with video games and Skee-Ball. But when it's too damn hot to even go swimming, we've found a notable step up from the cardboard-pizza chains with those disgusting, germ-infested "play areas." This immaculate, warehouse-size, two-story complex at the Desert Ridge Marketplace has a big sports bar downstairs for big people, a well-lighted billiards room upstairs and -- listen up, kids -- a huge, sprawling, state-of-the-art game room. A restaurant sits in the middle of the game room, where parents can suck down a few cold ones while keeping an eye on the kids and on whatever sporting events happen to be on the strategically placed television sets. This "kiddy Vegas" is replete with every ear-splitting, eye-jolting flashy game that one can imagine. No tokens allowed at this money pit. Instead, you buy a game card, which makes it painfully easy for kids to drop $20 in a north Phoenix second. That makes for a serious lesson in juvenile budgeting or (for those parents who don't recognize these types of establishments as signs of the imminent Apocalypse) the realization that forking over another $20 isn't the end of the world. And so what if it is.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of