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Best After-School Hangout
Best All-Ages Gift Emporium
Best Birthday Party
Best Book Selection
Best Catered-To-Kids Restaurant
Best Cheap Chill
Best Clothes
Best Free Thrill
Best Indoor Playground
Best Outdoor Playground
Best Outing (Other Than The Malls)
Best Party Supplies
Best Snow Cones
Best Teen Scene
Best Toys
Best Upscale Kids' Clothes

Best Teen Scene

Tucson Mall
4500 N. Oracle Road

READERS' PICK: Fast-food galore, all the cutest fashions, music stores, video stores, toy stores, a gazillion cute boys, two gazillion cute girls, places to get your ears, nose, whatever pierced, places to play video games, places to feel grown-up, (air-conditioned!) places to hang out where no adults can tell you not to loiter...Like, duh.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP--TIE: Let's be honest. Kids get the shaft when it comes to having cool places to hang out after dark. Most places just don't want people hanging around unless they're good, paying customers at the bar. That's why, for whatever shortfalls and obstacles they have to overcome, we're glad that places like The Fine line, 2520 N. Oracle Road, and Skrappy's, 3710 N. Oracle Road, have been willing to take the risk. The former is the longest-standing under-21 club in Tucson, and is mostly a weekend dance hall/DJ affair, with Goth lately seeming the order of the day.

Before Skrappy's closed its doors a few months ago, it was a bastion for mostly local bands, with a penchant for punk and loud garage rock. Emphasis on loud. Like the long-since demolished D.P.C. before it, Skrappy's presence will be missed until another brave soul steps forward to make the Phoenix of all-ages live music venues rise again, somewhere.

CLUE IN: Video arcades are a dime a dozen in most cities of Tucson's size, yet here in the Old Pueblo they're about as common as saguaros in New York. All good teenagers know that the best way to blow off a little adolescent steam is by dumping a pocketful of quarters into machines that transform even the pimpliest-faced of kids into superheroes for a few glorious minutes. And the most savvy teens will tell you that the best place to accomplish this is Sam's Place, in the basement of the University of Arizona Student Union. Dark and cavernous--as all arcades worth their salt are--the Place is loaded to the gills with gaming devices of all types. For hardcore video junkies, there are up-to-the-minute games like Tekken 3, Surf Planet, and Marvel vs. Capcom; for old-schoolers there's Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, and Joust; for pool sharks there are 19 green-velvet tables--not to mention foosball, ping pong, pinball and surely one of the few remaining air hockey tables in Tucson, along with a jukebox that somehow manages to transcend the constant barrage of game noise. It's a virtual video Valhalla for teens or anyone else with a hankerin' for a little mindless, escapist entertainment.

CLUE IN: The clubhouse-like café has become just that for Tucson's restless youth. Decorated in a manner similar to most teens' own bedrooms, the haphazard, mix-match, fashion of Safehouse, 4024 E. Speedway Blvd., implies that you're sitting among the remains of a raided garage. Each wall is a different color and texture: traffic and street signs hang above doorways, and no two pieces of furniture are alike. Sit along the counters lining the room with the pool table, or take it all in from one of the wooden booths that appear to be lifted from a rest stop. There's even a loft, where you can survey your peers from a detached distance. No doubt teens are attracted to the vintage Atari video games once a staple of pizza hangouts, and the background music of the Violent Femmes. The menu is simple: coffee, pastries and bagels. Because there's no table service, a one-drink minimum is enforced to discourage (what a surprise!) loiterers.

CLUE IN: The building originally known as The Wild, Wild West (on West Ina Road near I-10) has undergone more name changes than the Erica character on All My Children. In its current incarnation, part of the building is devoted to club Gotham (4385 W. Ina Road), and on Monday nights in the summertime, it's the place to be for teenagers. A musical mix of retro-rock, hip-hop and alternative tunes, tons of kids, and a big-club feel that's nonetheless a safe haven of hipness make Gotham a good bet for the under-21 set. A solid group of professionals provide tight security and good traffic control. We wish they'd also enforce the smoking laws (it is Teen Night!) so our kids wouldn't have to come home with their hair and clothes smelling like the inside of John Wayne's lungs, but that's probably asking too much.

Case History

1997 Winner: Tucson Mall

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