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Saturday, July 17, 2010

...the best of the best!

Finally, a manual for us parents to use in deciding what we can do with and for our children...enjoy!

Kids Crown Awards 2010
By Kyara Lomer, Heidi Perez and Dina Weinstein South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Check out some of the best finds in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Editor's Choice

Most Unique Gallery
Upper Room Art Gallery/Mission Gifts
1200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 104, Fort Lauderdale
You'll get more than just a lesson in beautiful art at the Upper Room Art Gallery, founded by former missionary to the Philippines and mother of two Robin Haines Merrill. An outing to South Florida's first fair trade art gallery and gift shop will teach your kids about real issues in a creative way. The artwork displayed here specializes in organic and recycled materials and is created by artists and designers from around the world who specialize in environmental design, global poverty alleviation and social justice. Mission Gifts, the on-site gift shop, houses items made by rescue and relief centers from around the world. Some of the unique items include mermaid bags made in Cambodia of recycled rice and feed sacks. (The gallery will be closed from June 17 to July 31).
Best Come-to-You Party Entertainment 
Fun Bus
Palm Beach County: 954-698-5835 or; Broward County: 954-969-5666 or, Miami-Dade County: 305-385-9167 or
The Fun Bus seamlessly combines fitness with fun for up to 15 children at a time. Each bus has been completely gutted and outfitted with games, toys and fitness equipment for children ages 2 to 7. Mats, slides, wedges, a balance beam, ladders, a trampoline, a basketball hoop, and a rock-climbing wall are all part of the fun. There are always two certified instructors onboard. The instructors guide the children, play age-appropriate music and keep it safe. At the end of the session, kids slide out the back door down the giant banana slide -- always a highlight.
Best Make-Your-Own Treats 
Multiple locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties
The scales have tipped in favor of Yogurtland -- a new concept in frozen treats. Patrons can make their own creations, and price is determined by weight. So whether you just want a smidgen of sweetness or a full-fledged sundae, Yogurtland's selection of more than 40 flavors and variety of fruit and dry toppings are more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sugar-free and tart selections are also available.
Best Pretend-Play Party Place 
Ooza Palooza 
Waterway Shoppes, 7631 N. State Road 7, Parkland
Shoppes of Sherbrooke, 8918-B Lantana Road, Lake Worth
Both your and your child's fantasies will be fulfilled at this unique party place. If it's your dream to avoid the stress of planning and preparing your kid's birthday party, step into Imagination Fascination, Island of Ooza or Palooza Parlor at Ooza Palooza, and you'll see why we chose Ooza Palooza as the Best Pretend-Play Party Place. All-inclusive theme parties are available for kids ages 3 to 10. Packages are available that include everything from the invitations to cleanup and everything in between, including favors, food and even a Royal Coronation Ceremony.
Best Kids' Furniture Shopping Experience 
El Dorado Kids Department
Multiple locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties
You know a furniture store's got to be good when Miami names a street after its founder. El Dorado has great customer service and a wonderful selection of kids' and teen furniture and accessories. If you happen to leave the house without any snacks for the kids, have no fear because the store has its own snack bar. And the car-shaped carts are bound to be a hit with the little ones.

Best-kept Secrets

Miami-Dade County
Best Beach Cafe 
Morada Bay Beach Café (Upper Key)
81600 Overseas Hwy Islamorada
This bayfront restaurant is replete with Margaritaville-style laidbackness. The dining room is hung with surfboards. Outdoors tables planted in the sand have the benefit of bay views. Entrées for adults and kids plus wide-open beaches for impatient young diners make it family-friendly. There's nightly live music and a monthly full-moon party where tiki torches and fire tricks figure prominently.
Best Sightseeing Tour
Island Queen Cruises sightseeing boat ride out of Bayside Market Place 
401 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Miami on the water is a different way to experience the Magic City. The Island Queen Cruises expose passengers to the city's coastal sites including the downtown Miami skyline, the Port of Miami, Fisher Island, Miami Beach and "Millionaire's Row." Tours on the undervalued Miami River show a working river. Select from dance cruises, speedboat rides and private dinner cruises. Online discounts available.
Best Camp 
University of Miami Mini Canes Camp
UM's Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, 1241 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables
Campers utilize UM's athletic center, exploring a wide range as sports as well as other activities, including healthy cooking, movement and special events. Themed weeks such as "Color Olympics" and traditional camp arts and crafts keep kids excited. This camp fills up fast. A UM connection helps newbies get in.
Broward County
Best Organic Farmer's Market 
Josh's Organic Market 
Harrison Street and the Broadwalk, Hollywood
Open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:31 p.m., Josh's Organic Market has some of the freshest produce around -- some of which is picked the night before. Take the whole family to pick out your produce for the week, and if it's a hot day, hit up the juice bar, which serves drinks in biodegradable cups. Produce bags made out of corn are available if you don't like to use plastic. The prices at this local gem prove that it doesn't always cost a fortune to eat organic.
Best Camping 
Quiet Waters Park camping
401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach
Water is the focus of this more than 400-acre public park. Aquatic and other recreational features include an interactive children's water playground, cable water-skiing, mountain bike trails, a skate park, fishing and a variety of boats to rent. The Rent-a-Tent camping and large playground make the right-in-our-backyard, Broward County getaway economical, rustic, simple and family-friendly.
Best Farmer's Market 
Parkland Farmer's Market 
The Market runs from November through March and features fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, crafts, and homemade cookies and pies. Vendors sell everything from green peppers to sweet cupcakes. Live entertainment performs on the stage along with plenty of children's activities making this a fun, family event. Parking is off of Holmberg Road.
Most Unique Party Experience
Rockstar Recording Studio Parties
548 NE 42nd St., Fort Lauderdale
At the studio, kids can jam on drums, electric guitars and keyboards. They'll learn what to expect during the recording session and studio etiquette. Singers record songs together at the real recording session. After the tracks have been recorded, the engineer will edit, mix and burn personalized CDs. Packages can include a pizza party, cake, photo shoot or a dance party.
Superior Faith-Based Organization
Christian Skaters International (Deerfield Beach chapter) 
5290 NE 14th Ave., Pompano Beach
This is a ministry that incorporates physical exercise on two little wheels, combining balancing on a board and wrestling with life's ethical issues. This group incorporates religion into the skateboarding subculture, and it works to improve skate parks. The ministry is busy keeping fit and helping people in Rwanda and others around the world motivated by the love of Christ.
Palm Beach County
Best Nature Preserve 
Blowing Rocks Preserve 
574 South Beach Road, Hobe Sound
This nature preserve is memorable for a rocky coastline. The rocks look as if they're a dark, cresting wave. But when a wind blows in off the Atlantic, spray flies high off the Anastasia limestone. The part of the beach that's not rocky is known for turtle nests. Park ecosystems consist of beach dune, coastal strand, tropical hammock and mangrove wetlands.
Best Children's Theater
Showtime Boca
503 SE Mizner Blvd., Suite 73, Boca Raton
Showtime Dance & Performing Arts Theatre is a state-of-the-art facility. The school includes five instructional studios for dance, acting, music and vocal recording. A 100-seat theater features high-energy, kid-focused productions. Staff for parties, classes and camps teach drama, dance and music. There also are audition preparation group classes and private lessons.
Best Free Weekend Activity 
Boca Raton Museum of Art --Free Artful Adventure Sunday workshop
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Participants age 12 and younger draw inspiration from the museum's permanent collection, which includes European painting and sculpture, American art, West African and Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art of the Americas and Asian art. Hands-on work can range from Haitian-inspired mixed-media collage to fantasy landscapes in oil pastels. It's a chance to actively enjoy a cultural gem.
Best Need-to-know 
Stroller Doctor
Stroller Doctor, 9334 SW 56 St., Miami
Equipment that helps you get around with your baby and toddler needs to be just right. Boca Raton-based Strolling in Style boasts to be the premier specialty stroller retailer in the country offering buggies, stroller liners, stroller customization, accessories, infant car seats, diaper bags, slings and carriers. But when wear and tear on this useful vehicle takes its toll, check in with Strolling in Style's sister business, the Stroller Doctor, which can fix recalled strollers and other stroller boo boos.
Bi- or Tri-County
Most Fun Way To Go on an Outing 
The Gulf Coast oil spill got you down? Take a break from your oil dependency and the car, and relax on your next family outing. South Florida's commuter rail the Tri-Rail offers service from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, hitting attractions along the way. Traveling leisurely by train takes away the stress of driving, and it send a message to our kids that public transportation is a viable, positive, Earth-friendly form of travel. See schedules and fares online.

Family Shopping

Miami-Dade County
Best Kids' Consignment Store
Baby Posh Garage
18060 W. Dixie Highway, Aventura 305-932-9655, Baby Posh Garage specializes in items for kids ages 0 to 7 with an in-house extension store, Tween Posh Garage, with sizes up to 16. The store features a line of new clothing and accessories, as well as an ever-changing used consigned inventory of items for the nursery, playtime, gifts and entertainment, feeding and essentials, health and safety, seasonal clothes, baby clothes, strollers and other child equipment.
Best Kids' Shoe Store 
Little Feet 
7216 SW 57th Ave., South Miami 305-666-9655 This small shop is a neighborhood institution that features old-fashioned customer service combined with fresh merchandise. Staff work hard to get a good fit for their repeat customers. Inventory includes brands such as New Balance, Puma, Hawaianas, Teva, Umi, Kenneth Cole, Keds, Venettini, Sperry Top-Sider, Geox, Pliner Jrs, Umi, Naturino, Steve Madden and Stride Rite. The store is constantly donating new, unsold and customers' used shoes to charities.
Best Children's Clothing
Kidding Around 
The Falls Shopping Center, 8888 Howard Drive, Miami 305-253-0708, A whimsical and eye-catching store that draws shoppers in, Kidding Around at the Falls offers up-to-the-minute designs for boys (sizes 2-12) and girls (sizes 2-16). Designers and brands at the store include Juicy Baby, Juicy Couture, Lacoste and Biscotti. The proprietors are dedicated to keeping up with emerging trends for today's hip kids. Inventory features children's clothing, accessories and shoes.
Best Selection 
Ideal Baby 
143 W. Flagler St., Miami 305-548-3296, With three locations in Miami, one in Hialeah, one in Broward county and an online presence, Ideal Baby aims to cover everything necessary for your little bundle of joy. Inventory includes baby furniture, bedding, bath, safety, room decor and clothing. It even has in-store seminars on how to choose which items are best for you, plus online advice.
Best Store for Special Occasions 
KIDZ Fashion for Children 
Aventura Mall, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura 305-931-3559 Miami is a party town. The owners of this boutique know kids are in a party circuit like the adults here. Clothing for babies, boys and girls is different from department store offerings. It is higher-end, focusing on European designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Armani. The unique store is the place to go, especially when your child is the star of the occasion.
Broward County
Best Maternity Consignment Store 
Expecting You Maternity 
2667 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale 954-338-2229, The owners know maternity clothing can add up. Many name brand items such as Bump Couture, Japanese Weekend and Pea in the Pod can be found at this consignment shop for expecting moms and babies. Shoppers can find brands such as Baby Gap, Juicy and Kissy Kissy in the infant clothing department. Used furniture from Pottery Barn as well as strollers, bedding and slings are featured.
Best Kids' Consignment Store
Kidz Exchange 
12171 Taft St., Pembroke Pines 954-435-5305, The store features clothing for infants, toddlers, girls and boys to size 14. The inventory includes shoes, hats, dancewear, strollers, exersaucers, nursery furniture, toys, books and videos. They're expanding into maternity and juvenile formal attire. The smart owners of this neighborhood institution make it easier to shop by providing a safe play area for your children in the store.
Best Baby Furniture 
Kids 'n' Kribs
1051 NE 45th St., Oakland Park 954-493-8697, Save on equipping your baby with the essential furniture at this consignment store that also sells new baby products. The store stocks a fine line of high-end brands at a fraction of the retail price and offers a high level of customer service. They give discounts to kids in distress and foster parents when shown proof of that status.
Best Specialty Toy Store
Red Wagon 
9715 W. Sample Road, Coral Springs 954-575-7878, The store features one-of-a-kind toys that provide educational value whether it is in the form of a game, craft, puzzle, building system, science experiment, baby present or interactive toy. The multipurpose room is a space available for birthday parties, holiday projects, book signings/readings with local authors, Ready Set Write classes, Book-N-Cookin classes and other events for children of all ages.
Best Children's Clothing
My Turnstyle
Weston Commons Shopping Center, 4571 Weston Road 954-217-8644, Look here for the newest, hottest and latest clothing and accessories for everyone age 7 and older. This store features hip labels with a worldly attitude for camp, school, athletics and parties.
Best Baby Consignment 
A Baby Consignment 
11528 W. State Road 84, Davie 954-916-2229, The children's and maternity consignment shop offers gently used, name-brand clothing, baby items such as cribs, strollers, high chairs and bedding, as well as brand-name maternity wear and pregnancy essentials. They save you the effort and take care of tagging, pricing and selling your items for you.
Palm Beach County
Best Diaper Cakes
The Diaper Baker 
561-439-5163, Not edible but very useful, diaper cakes are tiered creations and resemble an actual cake -- minus the calories. They are made up of premium diapers as the foundation and are filled with all the essentials a newborn would need. Made up of diapers, hooded baby towels, toiletries, rattles, teething toys, a blanket and clothing, they make great centerpieces for any baby shower or birthday and serve as great conversation starters.
Best Children's Clothing
19595 State Road 7, Boca Raton 561-477-2000, Why should children's clothing be drab? Boasting the cutest trends in boys, girls and babies apparel, Denny's Childrenswear carries labels such as Bottlecaps, Random and Bebe-a-go-go. Shoppers can find clothing and accessories suitable for play, camp or hanging out with friends.
Best Place To Buy Flip Flops
Flip Flop Alley
20449 State Road 7 # Aa10, Boca Raton 561-487-1427, Customization is the spice of life. Flip Flop Alley customizes sandals adorning them with embellishments such as crystals, bows, peace signs, butterflies and hearts of the customer's choice. Inventory includes sandals brands Reef, Hawaianas and Nomad. Other accessories and trends including Silly Bandz, hair ties, Kooky pens, Webkins, toe rings, hair bows, necklaces and bracelets make it a great place for gifts and indulgences.
Best Consignment Sale
South Florida Kids Consignment This four-day event takes place twice a year at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. Consigners earn money while getting rid of clutter. Sellers receive up to 70 percent on their sales and can shop the event the morning before it opens. All checks are mailed promptly following the sale. Take your leftover items home, or let the organizers donate them to local charities for you.
Best Personalized Baby Gifts
Bliss Monogramming 
561-395-7048, Lotion bottles, bags, baby gifts and blankets are just some of the things Bliss Monogramming can initialize for that special infant. A personalized sippy cup, polo or hat makes baby and parents feel special. In this manufactured world, a one-of-a-kind blanky may be just the thing to give security at the end of the day.
Bi- or Tri-County
Best Custom Children's Furniture Online
Lil Sprouts Interiors 
954-717-9937, Lil Sprouts Interiors knows how to make a child's room unique. They specialize in hand-painted custom children's furniture from rocking chairs and toy chests to desks and chairs for teens. Colors to calm or motivate can adorn chairs, desks, step-stools or clothes poles. They also custom decorate entire rooms or room decor.
Best Alternative Maternity Clothing Online 
P.O. Box 380, Miami 888-846-0711, Why should maternity be frumpy, prim and proper? One needn't quench the rocker in oneself when in bloom. After all, science has proven the fetus responds positively to musical stimulation in utero. Rock Star Moms offers funky fashions for the pregnant mom-to-be. The clothing is hip, edgy and fun. Baring a little belly or sunburned shoulder in these digs looks glam.

Important Matters

Miami-Dade County
Best Educational Programs/Classes 
Baptist Health South Florida
This health care system offers classes, events, childbirth classes and support groups that cover wellness from birth through end of life. Topics range from caring for your skin to Cyber Smarts -- Keeping Kids Safe Online. An asthma camp for children focuses on their special needs. In-hospital and online childbirth classes cover natural childbirth and C-sections. Support groups focus on many topics including bereavement and parenting. Presenters teach in both Spanish and English. Eight hospitals and facilities in the region.
Best Children's Support Organization
The Children's Trust
The Children's Trust, 3250 SW Third Ave., Miami
The organization is an independent, dedicated funding source for children and families in Miami-Dade County. It encourages creative approaches to coordinating, integrating and funding services pertaining to health, safety, development and to promote increased parental and community involvement on behalf of children. It stresses outcome measurements for all approved grants in 13 areas, including immunizations, violence prevention and the arts.
Best Urgent Care
Miami Children's Hospital Urgent Care 
17615 SW 97th Ave. (Franjo Road), Palmetto Bay
When minor injuries and illnesses arise after your child's doctor's office is closed for the day or weekend, care is available from pediatricians and nurses of Miami Children's Hospital, the only licensed specialty hospital in South Florida exclusively for children. Find locations at the Dan Marino Center in Weston, Doral, Palmetto Bay and West Kendall.
Broward County
Best Pediatric ER 
Coral Springs Medical Center Pediatric 
3000 Coral Hills Drive, Coral Springs
Whether it's a fall from the monkey bars or a blazing fever in the middle of the night, emergency medicine is always available at Broward Health's Coral Springs Medical Center. The unit is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, staffed with a pediatrician and pediatric nurses. A full complement of medical and surgical consultative services is available.
Best Maternity Ward
Memorial Hospital Miramar Maternity Department 
1901 SW 172nd Ave., Miramar
The hospital calls the maternity department the Family Birthplace. Through every step of pregnancy, staff is dedicated to providing the support, education and high-quality services expectant parents need for a happy and healthy pregnancy, delivery and hospital experience. Laboring moms enjoy a warm, homelike environment with comfortable accommodations with space to share the birth experience with the entire family. The private maternity suites are furnished with medical equipment, allowing labor, delivery and recovery to take place in one location.
Best Parenting Programs
Nova Southeastern University Parenting Place 
3301 College Ave., Davie
The Parenting Place offers answers to challenging parenting questions and concerns. In the facility's indoor and outdoor playgrounds and water-play fountain, participants connect with other families while having fun. Families play and learn with highly trained and enthusiastic early childhood professionals in parent/child classes. Preschoolers learn and are entertained in the Just for Kids programs. New parents interact with baby in free "Amazing Newborn" classes.
Palm Beach County
Best Pediatric ER 
West Boca Pediatric ER 
21644 State Road 7, West Boca Raton
A child coming to West Boca for emergency care is comforted by a separate waiting area just for kids. Staff aim to see your child in 30 minutes or less. Doctors and nurses from the pediatric emergency medicine department work closely with the emergency department to stabilize patients. They look, listen and read the cues to determine what their young patients can't tell them.
Bi- or Tri-County
Best Pediatric Group 
Pediatric Associates
This practice with almost two-dozen locations has a long history of providing primary pediatric care to infants, children and adolescents. Board-certified pediatricians are on staff at most of the area's major hospitals and have relationships with most insurance carriers. They strive to serve as a total resource for raising healthy and happy children by providing on-site services, such as lab and X-ray, sick care 365 days a year, free support groups, chronic disease management assistance, educational and safety classes.
Best Program for New Parents 
Healthy Start 
Family Health Line: 800-451-BABY,
Healthy Start provides for universal risk screening of all Florida's pregnant women and newborn infants to identify those at risk of poor birth, health and developmental outcomes. The range of services available to pregnant women, infants and children up to age 3 include information and referrals, comprehensive assessment of service needs, ongoing care coordination and support to assure access to needed services, childbirth, breast-feeding and parenting support and education, and home visiting.

Outings & Activities

Best Children's Entertainment
5701 Sunset Drive, Suite 355, Miami
305- 446-1686,,
This air-conditioned haven will provide a relaxing day for parents and hours of entertainment for the kids. Cool-de-sac's menu allows parents to enjoy a gourmet meal while the kids hit the play space. After building, climbing and creating, healthy meal options await. Their special "orange puree" (carrots and sweet potatoes) give the children's entrees a hidden healthy twist. If by chance you get distracted by your hummus, seared tuna or chardonnay, matching wristbands will ensure that no one leaves with your child.
Best Theater for Families 
Adrienne Arsht Center
1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami

This beautifully designed facility offers education and entertainment through music, theater and dance. Its interactive Family Fest series (November through May) offers free family-friendly performances, mini-workshops and hands-on demonstrations. You and your family can support the arts by attending its special holiday Broadway musical, Beauty and the Beast, scheduled to run from Dec. 28 through Jan. 2. Though every seat is spectacular, the higher-tiered balconies are only for those with no fear of heights.
Best Local Attraction
Monkey Jungle
14805 SW 216th St., Miami
Monkey Jungle is well worthwhile for families who love monkeys and their crazy antics. Unlike a normal zoo, visitors stroll through a caged walkway while the monkeys run loose overhead. One experience to add to your bucket list is the Rainforest Adventure Tour (additional cost), which takes you beyond this "human cage" and into the monkeys' habitat. Birds and reptiles also have a home within the park, but it's the interactive experience with the monkeys that is priceless.
Best Water Park
Grapeland Water Park
1550 NW 37th Ave., Miami
Newly opened in the spring of 2008, Grapeland Water Park is the only water park in Miami. Children of all ages can enjoy two pools with great slides -- the Pirate's Plunge (6 and older) and Shipwreck Island (5 and younger). Lounge along the lazy river ride, swim at the Captain's Lagoon, or take in one of the "dive in" movie events third Saturday of each month. With a general admission price of $5 per child (ages 4-13), the price is right.
Best Alligator Farm
Everglades Alligator Farm
40351 SW 192nd Ave., Florida City
The best time to visit Everglades Alligator Farm is in the morning if you're trying to miss the crowds. The farm is open at 9 a.m. every day. Snake demonstrations provide an opportunity to learn about native reptiles. For the perfect photo op, visitors can hold a baby alligator at the farm's alligator shows and feedings. Make sure not to turn up in your Sunday best if you plan to take an airboat ride -- you may get wet and muddy.
Best Museum
History Miami
101 W. Flagler St., Miami
History Miami's (formerly South Florida Historical Museum) collections, exhibitions and classes relate to the history, cultures and archaeology of South Florida and the Caribbean. Kid-friendly interactive displays include an old trolley, a Native American hut with play tools and a pioneer porch where kids can simulate washing clothes with a washboard. The second Saturday of each month is "Family Fun Day." This free event includes arts and crafts, music activities and a tour of the museum's exhibits.
Best Play Café
Café Bambini
3073 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach
305-944-1566, 305-944-1565,,
Café Bambini's play space is composed of a building station, library, dramatic play area and an indoor gym. "The café is a place where parents want to hang out," said co-owner Julie Sall. "We serve wine and beer, have music videos playing, and you can see the kids from any table." Although this location is ideally suited for ages 1 to 5, it also offers Wii Sports for the older children. A $5 fee per child makes this an affordable day out.
Broward County
Best Recreation Center
Tamarac Sports Complex
9901 NW 77th St., Tamarac
Tamarac Sports Complex features tennis and basketball courts, as well as baseball, softball, football and soccer fields. The city hosts various special events, programs and classes throughout the year at the Sports Complex, including Springfest, 4th of July, the spring concert series and tennis lessons. Concession stands, a fishing pier, picnic tables, gazebos, restrooms and a covered playground make it a great place to spend the entire day. The main attraction however is the skating rink -- perfect for hockey, in-line skating and roller-skating.
Best Mommy and Me
Mommy & Me Kol Tikvah
6750 N. University Drive, Parkland
Kim Singer: 954-232-7357
The Phylis J. Green Early Childhood Education Center Mommy and Me program provides meaningful ways to connect with your child. The key ingredient to its success is its teacher, Kim Singer, M. Ed., a state-certified teacher and early childhood educator. Each theme-based class features an interactive circle time, followed by creative hands-on art, motor and sensory activities. Classes are intended for babies to preschoolers. Singer is also the owner of Toddler Time Together (, which offers classes throughout the county for private playgroups.
Best Play Café 
A Latte Fun
11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., #3115, Palm Beach Gardens
A Latte Fun is the perfect place to have some fun and relaxation on a hot or rainy day. The café's treats and free Wi-Fi will pacify the parents, while the indoor playground will entertain the kids. The play area includes an inflatable slide, foam pit, trampoline, tree house, pretend area and separate space for infants. A Latte Fun is most suitable for ages 6 months to 6 years. Open daily; socks must be worn.
Best Nature Center
Long Key Natural Area & Nature Center
3501 SW 130th Ave., Davie
Long Key amenities include picnic tables, an exhibit hall, assembly area and classroom. Long Key offers a monthly nature-themed program for preschoolers at nominal fee -- but be sure to call ahead to reserve a spot. Guided nature walks and educational programs are available upon request. An interactive replica of an archeological dig pit, live animal education displays and nature trails through the beautiful preserve round off the center's myriad kid-friendly activities.
Best Local Beach Resort
Pelican Grand Beach Resort
2000 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
800-525-OCEAN, 954-568-9431,,
If you are looking for a phenomenal place to park your out-of-town guests at a value conscious price, Best Western Pelican Beach Resort will not disappoint. With oceanfront dining, a large pool and a Lazy River tubing ride, we can easily tout this as one of the best family resorts in the tri-county area. One-hundred-six oceanfront balcony suites and direct access to the beach are an invitation for South Floridians to start planning their next staycation.
Best Skate Park
Ramp 48 
6290 NW 27th Way, Fort Lauderdale
Ramp 48 is the skate park ministry of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. This skate park offers plenty of challenging ramps as well as a section for novices. Helmets are required -- and available for rent -- along with pads and skateboards. On Tuesday nights the park hosts a Christian Skaters Bible study. Afterwards, skaters of all ages can stay for free until 8 p.m. Staff members provide supervision, lessons and summer camp options. In-line skaters are also welcome.
Palm Beach County
Best Play Café 
Playtown Café 
19575 S. State Road 7, Units 9-12, Boca Raton
561- 852-2150,, Playtown Café is a 5,100-square-foot indoor playground and cafe offering open play every day for kids ages 6 months to 8 years. "Our dream is to give parents a chance to finish a conversation without interruption, a chance to eat a meal leisurely and to relish every bite," said owner Beth Meirav. "What makes us different are not only the fantastic play centers that inspire children creatively and physically, but also the fresh, delicious food we make to order."
Best Museum 
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a great place to take the family for a tranquil stroll. This summer's exhibitions include "Japan through the Eyes of a Child", with mini-environments familiar to youngsters growing up in Japan. "Kaiju! Monster Invasion!" features vintage toys based on movies/TV shows like Godzilla and Ultraman. On August 14, Morikami will celebrate Bon Festival with Japanese folk dancing and Taiko drum music. The night will end as dozens of lanterns float on Morikami Pond beneath the fireworks.
Best Nature Center 
Green Cay Nature Center
12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach
561- 966-7000,
Green Cay Nature Center has 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalk, which boardwalk features interpretive signs about the 100 acres of wetland that it overlooks. The facility includes a lecture hall, gift shop and an extensive exhibit room highlighting wetland attributes. Kids particularly enjoy the live animals in their life-like homes, the interactive exhibits and the nature videos that can be seen in the mini-theater.
Best Educational Nature Center
Pine Jog Environmental Education Center
6301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach
Pine Jog, celebrating its 50th year in operation, is one of the oldest environmental education centers in the country. Pine Jog works with school and community groups to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world. Its educational programs and free nature trails are open to the public Monday to Saturday. Call or check its website to find out more about its special programs such as Little Tyke Hikes, Night Hikes and residential summer camp options.
Bi- or Tri-County
Best Indoor Play Center
Monkey Joe's 
Sunrise, 3445 N. Hiatus Road, 954-748-4123
Boca Raton, 11411 West Palmetto Park Road, 561- 488-2272
Monkey Joe's is an indoor inflatable-filled play center with open play every day of the week. "Great customer service, cleanliness of the store and safety of the child are the store's core values," said Sunrise store owner Todd Wehn. Parties include two hours in a private suite, but unlike many other inflatable play spaces, party guests are welcome to stay and bounce until close. Toddler areas, video games, concession items and free Wi-Fi all help to make Monkey Joe's a family favorite.
Best Playgroups and Classes 
The Little Gym
Multiple locations throughout the tri-county area
The Little Gym offers classes for infants to preteens. Options include karate, cheerleading, gymnastics and dance. Its noncompetitive programs have been designed to build motor skills and self-confidence in a fun and nurturing environment. The curriculum strives to increase flexibility, balance and coordination while improving listening skills and attention span. Camps and parents' night outs are also offered. With more than 300 locations in 21 countries, it's obvious that that Little Gym has found the right balance.

Family Eating

Miami-Dade County
Best Treats 
Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop
801 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Just east of the pedestrian-only portion of Miami's Lincoln Road, Ghirardelli is the ideal place for that special treat. The standard hot-fudge sundae is the most popular dish. Hand-scooped shakes, malts, floats and cones are also available. The overwhelming aroma of sweets in the air, indoor and outdoor seating, and employees greeting every customer with a free sample make it hard to pass up.
Best Hamburgers
Johnny Rockets
Multiple locations
This kid-friendly oasis offers families an affordable sit-down meal option. Its all-American fare of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and shakes make it a surefire kid-pleaser. Each location has jukeboxes and authentic décor, giving Johnny Rockets the nostalgic feel of an old-school diner.
Best Homestyle Cookin'
Wagons West 
11311 S. Dixie Highway, Pinecrest
This Western-themed, family-owned restaurant has that hometown feel that keeps its customers coming back for years. Pictures of customers' children and grandchildren grace the walls. Wagons West is well known for its breakfast selections, but there are also fantastic selections for lunch and dinner.
Best Latin-American Cuisine
Sergio's Family Restaurants 
Multiple locations in Miami-Dade County
The healthy standards of this fast-food alternative restaurant hit the competition out of the park. Sergio's is dedicated to providing healthy Latin food options, such as baked empanadas, low-calorie tapas and salads. Chefs use trans-fat-free oils and minimize use of sodium. Customers can split meals at no additional charge, and you can place your order online. Also, Sergio's homemade signature sauces are available for purchase.
Broward County
Best Family-Friendly Restaurant
Buffalo's Southwest Cafe
5761 Coral Ridge Drive, Coral Springs
Buffalo's is known for its Southwestern-inspired entrees and appetizers. Kids' meals include Buckaroo Burgers, Cowboy Quesadillas and Little Big Horn Wings tossed in a sauce of their choosing. "We actively support our local schools and sports teams," said General Manager Pam Johnson. "Large groups like coming here because when they come in we have the ability to seat them all together." Kids eat free on Wednesday (two kids per adult), and on Saturday nights a balloon artist is there to entertain.
Best Family Buffet
Port of Call Buffet and Grill 
1651 Bonaventure Blvd., Weston
Upon entering POC, you will immediately be tempted to pass up the salad bar if you have any inclination toward crab legs, ribs, shrimp and oysters. Next comes the fresh sushi -- at least 30 varieties. For those not interested in going raw, there are cooked-to-order Japanese Hibachi-style entrees. POC makes it easy to bring the whole family by offering half-price for children. Surely the kids will eat their money's worth at the dessert bar.
Best Family-Style Restaurant
Ristorante Italiano Acquolina Family Style
2320 Weston Road, Weston
954- 389-1880,
Living up to its "family style" name, this restaurant offers a unique way to come together for a sit-down restaurant meal. Antipastos, salads and entrees can be requested as an individual-sized portion or family-style. "We are a family-owned restaurant, meant for families," said manager Jason Morabito. "We pride ourselves in serving very high-quality food. Meals are made fresh to order, and the family-style portions are large enough to allow everyone to experience variety at a reasonable price."
Best Hamburgers
Jack's Hamburgers
4201 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale
Opened in 1972, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better freshly made burger. Jack's burgers are served plain on a bun. From there it is do-your-own at the fully stocked condiment bar. If the kids finish first, they can entertain themselves by checking out the vintage photos of South Florida that line the walls. Top the meal off with a root beer or shake, and you have yourself an authentic American experience.
Palm Beach County
Best Make-Your-Own Asian Cuisine
Stir Crazy
Boca Raton Town Center, 6000 Glades Road #1015, Boca Raton
If you are looking for a great opportunity to get your little ones to try something new, look no further. Stir Crazy's "Market Bar" allows you to choose from a plethora of freshly prepared meats, noodles, veggies and sauces. Then it's off to the chef where your meal will be cooked to order in front of your eyes. With the all of the cutting, chopping and sizzling, everyone is sure to be dazzled and delighted, making Stir Crazy a family favorite. There is also a Pembroke Pines location.
Best Frozen Treats
Eco Yogurt Lounge
1200 Yamato Road, Suite C5, Boca Raton, 561-443-3335
Modern décor, eco-friendly mindset and healthy desserts make Eco Yogurt Lounge the most unique spot in Boca Raton to enjoy your frozen treat. Eco Yogurt boasts of low-fat flavors containing calcium, protein and live active yogurt cultures, which "help boost the immune system and improve digestion," said owner Danielle Douglas. Eco Yogurt Lounge embraces eco-friendly business practices by using biodegradable cups, spoons and napkins. Gluten-free and kosher flavors are also available, with sugar-free yogurts coming soon.
Best Kid-Friendly Pizza 
Peace a Pizza
1200 Yamato Road, Suite A5, Boca Raton,
Even the pickiest eater may try a bite when served on one of Peace a Pizza's 32 tasty gourmet pies. Alternatively, kids can make their own pizza for $5 (including a drink and a cookie). After a few minutes in the oven, they can take their entrée, kick back in one of the child-sized booths and watch a movie. For parents looking to curb their carbs, nine premium salads are also available.
Best Hamburgers 
Doc's All American
Delray Beach, 10 N. Swinton Ave., 561- 278-3627
Boynton Beach, 1797 N. Congress Ave, 561-733-0997
If you're looking for a great place for a good old-fashion juicy burger, foot-long hot dog or soft-serve ice cream cone, look no further. Doc's is the epitome of an old-school beach-town diner, nestled in the heart of ritzy Delray. With a walk-up counter, outdoor seating and cash-only policy, there is no need to leave the dog at home. After being in the same location since 1951, a second Doc's has finally opened in Boynton Beach.
Best Family-friendly Mexican Restaurant
Uncle Julio's Fine Mexican Food
449 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Music and a bright colorful atmosphere are the first things that greet you at Uncle Julio's. The next thing you'll notice is the centrally located tortilla-making machine. Here the dough is cooked between two plates that press together, and kids love to sit where they can watch the process. Every entrée is then served with a hot side of tortillas. Kids can request their own dough ball to play with while they wait.
Bi- or Tri-County
Best Kids' Entertainment at a Restaurant 
Bru's Room Sports Grill
235 S. Federal Highway, Pompano Beach
Bru's is the place where your kids can get noisy without being a bother. On Tuesdays, kids eat free (two kids per adult). On Thursdays, kids eat half-off. On both days, each location hires an entertainer -- such as a magician or balloon artist -- to keep the troops occupied. The game room is a bonus, helping out while parents finish up their wings or a game. Seven-dollar pitchers for Mom and Dad sweeten the deal.
Best Fast Food 
Multiple locations in the tri-county area.
According to its corporate office, Chick-fil-A's menu contains no trans-fats. Using meat from natural, whole chicken breast, it may easily have one of the country's healthiest chicken nuggets. It offers a variety of sides that kids can choose from in lieu of fries, including fruit, carrot raisin salad and coleslaw. Each kids' meal comes with an educational toy, book or CD, making it easy for moms and dads to keep their kids healthy and smart on the run.
Best Coal-Fired Pizza
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
Multiple locations throughout the tri-county area
Born in New York, Anthony's owner brings a bit of the Upper East Side to South Florida. Anthony's offers a simple menu, including focaccia sandwiches, oven-roasted wings, salads and cheesecake. Its simplicity allows chefs to focus on its "well done" pizzas, which clearly take center stage. Cooked in an 800-degree coal-burning oven, each pie is done in just less than four minutes, resulting in a unique flavor that has become Anthony's trademark. Fresh, high-quality toppings and a crispy coal-fired crust make Anthony's a pizza lover's dream.
Best Gourmet Pizza
Pizza Rustica 
Multiple locations in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties
Here you will find gourmet pizza at a reasonable price. The dough is made fresh daily, and Pizza Rustica's extensive list of exotic topping choices can't be beat. Choose the whole-wheat crust for a healthy spin. There are selections on the menu for large parties and free delivery for a three-slice minimum order.
Best County Cookin'
Cracker Barrel 
The wait at a restaurant has never been so fun -- play checkers, shop in the country store or just relax in one of Cracker Barrel's signature rocking chairs. The menu is extensive and reasonably priced, and the food does not disappoint. Have loud kids? No problem. Since most Cracker Barrel locations are filled with families most of the time, chances are the parents at the table next to you are too focused on their own kids to be worrying about how loud yours are.
Best Custom Ice Cream Creations
Multiple locations throughout the tri-county area
Coldstone's ice cream is considered "premium" because it's made fresh -- in every store -- daily. Your first option is to go with one of its Signature Creations, such as the "Pie Who Loved Me" or "Berry Berry Good." Customers can also think outside of the box by choosing their own mixture of ice cream flavors, cookies, brownies, nuts, fruits and candy. Your hand-picked combination is then mixed to order on a frozen granite stone. After a flamboyant series of chopping, cutting and swishing, your creamy creation is ready to admire and enjoy.


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Raquel is wifey to her high school sweetheart and a mommie to two beautiful divas. She is completely devoted to her “e4” and enjoys quiet evenings at home. By day she is a 7th grade Civics teacher who LOVES what she does. Some of her favorite past times include listening to music, cooking and couponing. Raquel proudly holds a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is very passionate about her profession and thoroughly enjoys making a difference in people’s lives.

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