READERS' PICK: A perennial favorite among families with young children, the Reid Park Zoo is a delightful outing. Located smack-dab midtown, it's affordable (the most an adult ticket runs is $4, with discounts for children, students and seniors) and boasts an impressive census of animals, from its mascot the anteater to the zebras that graze in the savanna area. Attempts to put each animal in an enclosure that emulates its natural habitat is evident and appreciated by the zoo's patrons (and by the animals too, one hopes). The paths are clearly marked and paved with smooth concrete, which makes stroller pushing easy. In fact, most of the animals on display can easily be seen even by visitors taking in the sights from a stroller or wheelchair. There are concession stands for people, and a gift shop with lots of animal-themed merchandise. The Zoo School offers educational presentations, and docents often push carts to specific displays to give visitors a bit more information about the wildlife. If you're lucky, the docent might just rubber stamp your hand with the image of the animal featured at that time. Perhaps one of the best features of the Reid Park Zoo is its size: perfect for an outing with small children, while still being large enough to educate and entertain everyone else in the family.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road (See Best Place To Dazzle Guests, page 13.)
MORE MANIA: Gaslight Theater/Little Anthony's Diner, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. An evening of fabulous fried food followed by more than an hour of melodrama! Sound like just another visit to the folks' house? Actually, we're describing a great night of family fun Gaslight style. Begin your evening with dinner at Little Anthony's Diner, a locally owned, '50s-style diner that serves everything that the Happy Days gang ate at Arnold's. The jukebox blasts Elvis, Gene Vincent, Patsy Cline, and all of the jukebox regulars. The gum-snapping waitstaff will even hop up on the ice-cream counter to hand jive from time to time. Your kids can color on the paper tablecloth with the crayons provided while they wait for their chicken nuggets, meat loaf, or ice-cream sundaes. You'll never feel the need to shush them at Little Anthony's! Afterward, herd the family into the Gaslight Theater to see the vaudevillian musical performance, complete with house band. There's table service in the theater, too, should you need baskets of popcorn or more ice cream to keep the kids happy. The performances are a blast -- sometimes so silly that even your jaded teen will laugh like you haven't heard before. Gaslight's regular talent does it all -- song, dance, drama and comedy with nary a swear word, but with plenty of double entendre to keep the grown-ups amused, too. The audience boos and hisses at the villains, and swoons right along with the romantic scenes. It makes for a fun and memorable night for you and your school-aged children. It's also an excellent way to avoid a dreaded night with the folks -- just bring them to the Gaslight and leave the grilling and melodrama to the professionals!