BEST IN ENTERTAINMENT &
LIFESTYLE 2017: Part I
What is life without a little fun every now and then? We all deserve to blow off steam and enjoy the things we love whenever we can! The Brazos Valley is full of a wide variety of Entertainment and Lifestyle-centric businesses – many of which are family friendly, too. Not only do these businesses provide entertainment and recreation, but also valuable resources for developing your hobbies, getting fit, and receiving top education!
Our community definitely doesn’t take the Entertainment and Lifestyle related businesses for granted – we know how to relax and have fun! What is amazing is that we have new options popping up all over year after year, spanning many categories. And year after year, we let these businesses know who we think are the BEST OF THE BEST during the Best of the Brazos Valley™ competition.
Entertainment and Lifestyle businesses give us the rest, relaxation, fun, and instruction that we need to better ourselves and balance the difficulties of everyday life. Below are the Best of the Brazos Valley™ 2017 winners across four of the Entertainment & Lifestyle categories.
Best Birthday Parties, Family Entertainment |
Grand Station Entertainment
Voted “Best Birthday Parties” 2008-2017
Voted “Best Family Entertainment” 2009-2017
[ grandstationent.net | 2400 Earl Rudder Freeway | College Station, TX 77840 | 979.696.1100 ]
Grand Station Entertainment (GSE) was est. in 2007 by Mike and Deanna Logan. Mike has always had a talent for family entertainment, so of course GSE is owned and operated by family! Mike’s son Scott Logan has worked and managed different departments of GSE since the very beginning. Scott was promoted to General Manager in 2016 – continuing the family legacy.
GSE offers anything and everything you could want for a fun night out with family, friends and co-workers! Choose from bowling, arcade games, laser tag, miniature golf and bumper cars to get the party started. For adults, they also have two FULL-service bars. Stop by their delicious café for a snack; sit out on the patio and enjoy the weather; or utilize their conference and birthday party rooms for your event! GSE has bowling leagues (adults, youth and senior citizens) and a bowling pro-shop in the building, which is owned and managed locally for all of your bowling equipment needs. Whether it’s a child’s birthday party or corporate event – GSE has what you need!
With a new management team, updated façade/logo, renovated café, mini-golf, laser tag, party rooms and MORE – 2017 has been a year of great change for GSE. However, there are still more exciting things to come, such as a new virtual reality attraction planned to open this fall and an updated café menu to include more sophisticated dishes. The only thing not new? GSE’s continued tradition of excellent customer service provided by their 90 employees!
The GSE family helps make every guest’s experience a GRAND, one-of-a-kind experience. “Without them, we would not be the Best of the Brazos and we are truly thankful for them.” GSE is heavily involved with the community, supporting Scotty’s House, BVCASA, the local Cancer Society (and more) by donating packages for their fundraisers and activities. Every year, a portion of their summer Teen Night’s proceeds are donated to local charities, as well.
It humbles GSE to be honored with Best of the Brazos titles for the 9th time, and it is all because of their exceptional management and staff – who work their hardest to make people happy, because that’s what they love and aim to do at GSE!
Best Cheerleading/Gymnastics Instruction, Dance Instruction/Studio | Thunder Elite
Voted “Best Cheerleading/Gymnastics Instruction” 2009-2017
Voted “Best Dance Instruction/Studio” 2009-2010; 2012-2017
[ thunderelitecollegestation.com | 4260 Boonville Road | Bryan, TX 77802 | 979.774.2914 ]
Sounds like thunder at Thunder Elite in their 14,000 square foot state of the art facility! They have competitive and recreational programs including gymnastics, tumbling, cheerleading, and dance. The advantage of taking classes at Thunder Elite is that they have SUCCESSFUL competitive teams. Thunder Elite has proven to compete successfully in cheerleading by being the only gym in B/CS with over 100 National titles. A majority of Thunder Elite’s coaches have a hand in both the recreational and competitive side of the program, so even if your child is in a beginner pre-school class, you are still getting a high caliber coach.
Thunder Elite also offers a “less competitive” version of their cheer program called “Prep.” It is less expensive with fewer weekend commitments. Their “Prep” teams have also received National titles!
The staff at Thunder Elite prides itself in teaching teamwork and fun – whether it’s in class or participating in the Lunch Bunch/Mother’s Day Out Program, Summer Day Camp, Parents’ Night Out, or Birthday Parties. There is something for EVERYONE! Thunder Elite’s staff is CPR and First Aid certified and has passed a thorough background check.
Owner, Nicole Podraza, is a former competitive gymnast. She trained with Bela Karolyi through level 9. After leaving gymnastics, she was a cheerleader for seven years; and was a member of the 1997 national championship cheerleading team at Sam Houston State University. She has coached competitive cheerleading, gymnastics, and hip-hop dance since 1995.
Thunder Elite takes an active role in the community. This year, Thunder Elite placed 2nd in the nation of ALL small gyms raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The parents and athletes worked extremely hard to raise money. Nicole says “We could not be more proud of our moms and athletes for achieving this goal. It’s so awesome that these girls learned that there is more to life than cheer, gymnastics and dance. They are really learning how blessed they are, and have been able to find a love in helping others that are not as fortunate.” Thunder Elite also participates in Salvation Army’s “Angel Tree” and acts as a collection point for the Junior League’s “Stuff the Bus” program. They have raised money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, for Wounded Warriors and have sponsored community events. Nicole says “Our staff is like a family, we all get along really well. I think that is why many people feel drawn to our program, and feel so comfortable trusting us with their children.”
Best Instrument/Music Store |
The String & Horn Shop
Voted “Best Instrument/Music Store” 2012-2017
[ stringandhornshop.com | 119 North Main Street | Bryan, TX 77803 | 800.613.9954 | 979.779.8548 ]
The business philosophy stays the same but improves with age at The String and Horn Shop in Downtown Bryan. Paul, Aggie class of ‘87, and Susan, an accomplished cellist, are appreciative of their regular clientele, as well as the walk-ins who have not yet fully discovered and explored their store.
“Although we’ve been in the same location for 23 years we still have customers that come in our store and are surprised to see our store”, said Paul. “First Fridays downtown are packed, and inevitably someone will share that sentiment. We love our customers and love to see so many new faces.”
The String and Horn Shop specializes in a core business of new and used band and orchestra instruments and repair, carrying such major brands as Yamaha, Conn Selmer, Jupiter, and others in band. The store imports and private labels many of its string instruments, thereby insuring the quality. “Harold Turbyfill, who has been with us all 23 years, is simply one of the best in the state of Texas at setting up a string instrument or repairing one”, says Susan.
The store covers a significant portion of the “triangle” of economic activity in Texas between the Metroplex, Austin, and Houston. It is uniquely positioned in Bryan/College Station to strategically service a wide area through the use of “road personnel”, who visit schools big and small on a weekly basis. The String and Horn Shop is proud to have had Rob Towell serving as their head educational representative for the last two years. The store also carries a large selection of folk instruments to serve the needs of all musicians.
The repair shops for band and orchestra instruments are still located in-house, maintaining the same high-quality and consistent repair staff as 20 years ago. Thank you to our customers and those that voted for us as the best music instrument store for 2017!
Best Nightclub/Bar | Dixie Chicken
Voted “Best Nightclub/Bar” 2006-2017
[ dixiechicken.com | 307 University Drive | College Station, TX 77801 | 979.846.2322 ]
The Dixie Chicken has a legacy reaching back over 43 years. It’s become tradition for generations of Aggies to walk through the swinging doors for a cold beer, a burger, or to play dominoes with friends. For more than a decade, the Chicken has held the title of Best Nightclub Bar (2006-2017.) History and good times are very important to the Dixie Chicken. Some of the stories that you hear about the original founder, and owner, Don Ganter might be confused with tall tales, but many of them are as real as the rattlesnake by the pool tables. Since Don’s passing, his daughters are proud to carry on the tradition that he created.
A testament to the tradition of the Dixie Chicken can be found on many weekends, but more so during football season when fans of other universities flock to the Chicken. When asked about why they chose to visit the answer is pretty consistent “This is the place we heard represents Aggies the most.” While things around Northgate and College Station have changed throughout the years, the Dixie Chicken has remained a constant. Patrons can often be found with a pitcher of beer in the middle of the table and a pocket knife in hand carving their name or initials into the wooden domino tables to leave their own mark.
The down-home feel remains the same for Old Ags to New Army. The music that plays through the speakers hasn’t changed much through the years. You can still hear the classic and progressive country sounds from Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walker, but now it’s mixed with modern Texas and Red Dirt from Pat Green, Whiskey Myers, and Shane Smith. It all flows together as smoothly as a pitcher from the tap.
The menu hasn’t changed much either. T-Fries are a staple at many tables, but if you’re looking for a little more, the Freddy burger is enough to really fill you up. If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe add a little death to your burger. If your mouth is on fire from the death, it can easily be cooled down with some great Texas craft beers or classic domestics. Beer comes in all sizes from pints to a full pitcher!
Next chance you get, stop by the Chicken for a great bite to eat and to take a look at over 43 years of Aggieland history.
Best Private School, Daycare/Preschool |
Voted “Best Private School” 2013-2017
Voted “Best Daycare/Preschool” 2017 TIE
[ allenacademy.org | 3201 Boonville Road | Bryan, TX 77802 | 979.776.0731 ]
For the fifth time in a row, Allen Academy was voted “Best Private School” in the Brazos Valley! We’re also pleased to have been voted “Best Daycare/Preschool” in the Brazos Valley in 2017 (tie)!
Founded in 1886 as a coeducational day school in Madisonville, Texas, Allen Academy continues to be the preeminent day school in the area serving 340 students from surrounding counties. From Pre-K (three-year-olds) to 12th grade, the learning opportunities are endless for every student. Allen is a school where learning from failure is celebrated, obstacles are viewed as opportunities, and growth is a mindset that is championed relentlessly.
More importantly, we are a school where meaningful relationships are sought because we believe that those are the seedbed from which everyone grows. As a result, families participate actively, faculty engages passionately, and students are challenged intellectually. With a commitment to small teacher/student ratios, Allen’s ability to differentiate, adapt, and seize teachable moments are unique compared to most other schools. Allen offers a wide variety of athletics, fine arts and several robust student life programs throughout the year. There is also a school-wide focus on emotional intelligence and cultivating adaptive expertise.
Allen Academy invites you to come see the difference an independent school can make in the life of your child. The 40-acre campus located on Boonville Road and Briarcrest Drive boasts four academic buildings, a science wing, two gymnasiums, a cafeteria, two performance stages, a turf football field, baseball field, community playground area, and a school store.
Visit their website at AllenAcademy.org, “like” them on Facebook,
or schedule a time to visit campus by calling (979) 776-0731.
Best Tourist Attraction | George Bush Presidential Library & Museum
Voted “Best Tourist Attraction” 2008-2017
[ bush41.org | 1000 George Bush Drive West | College Station, TX 77845 | 979.691.4000 ]
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is once again honored to be recognized as the 2017 “Best Tourist Attraction” in the Brazos Valley. The Bush Library and Museum provides quality informational and family-friendly educational programs, hosts annual events and exhibits that are fun for all ages, and gives the public access to archival holdings. In addition to being an incredible resource and source of pride for the greater Brazos Valley Community, the Bush Library and Museum is committed to being a positive community partner by providing their visitors and neighbors with the best possible museum experience, education programs, events and lectures.
The mission of the Bush Library and Museum is to preserve and make available for research the official records, personal papers and artifacts of President George H.W. Bush, to support democracy, promote civic education and increase historical understanding of our national experience through the life and times of George Bush.
On September 7, 2017, The Bush Library and Museum will be celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, and the exhibits continue to be new and exciting as they change on a yearly basis. Beginning on March 6, 2017, The Bush Library and Museum became home to the exciting exhibit, “Legacy of Ranching: Preserving the Past, and Embracing the Future”. Through a partnership with the Department of Animal Sciences at Texas A&M University, this exhibit celebrates the historic ranches of Texas and their ability to adapt through changing natural and business environments. The commitment and innovation of the families who built these ranches have helped them to preserve their legacies. This exhibit will be open through January 8, 2018. Look forward to another exhibit coming in February 2018, “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion”.
“We are pleased to have once again been recognized by our neighbors as “Best in the Brazos” for best tourist attraction,” said Warren Finch, Director of the George Bush Library and Museum. “We have a very dedicated staff who work hard to be the best, and this award is a testament to their public service. For all those who voted for us. Thank you!”