Our annual Family Choice Awards gives you, our readers, the opportunity to weigh in on who you think does the best job in our city when it comes to serving families. It’s not an easy task, trying to meet the demands of choosy consumers, especially parents, who are constantly on the go.
But each year, lots of you share your opinions with us, weighing in on everything from your favorite pediatricians and kids clothing stores, to the restaurants that serve the best pizza and barbeque. From thousands of votes, we crunch the numbers to determine the Family Choice Award winners for 2012.
We know you appreciate those service providers that hit your sweet spot. Here, we salute the many outlets that you deem go above and beyond the call of duty by providing the best service, to adults and kids alike.
This year we also introduce several new categories, including Best Parents Day Out programs, Best Afterschool Arts and Sports programs, Best Children's Consignment Store, Best Overnight Camp, and Best Spa for Moms, to name a few. We hope our listings will give you some ideas of places to try when you’re looking for new services for your family.
Finally, congrats to all the winners; whether gold, silver, or bronze, your excellence has been noted.
FUN PLACES TO GO
Best FREE Family Outing
Gold: Woodland Discovery Playground, Shelby Farms Silver: Levitt Shell Bronze: Memphis Zoo, Free Tuesdays
Anything free is hard to beat. But even better are those destinations that provide a quality experience, too, which is exactly what these winners deliver. From the new playground at Shelby Farms to free concerts at the Shell or a stroll through the zoo, these attractions serve up plenty of fun that's free. Salute!
Best Family Day Trip
Gold: Memphis Zoo Silver: Pickwick Lake Bronze: Cedar Hill Farms
Don't you love discovering getaways that don’t require going too far yet still manage to transport you? If you haven’t visited these winners yet, put them on your to-do list.
Best Locally Owned Children’s Store
Gold: Cotton Tails Silver: Chocolate Soup Bronze: Itty Bitty Bella
Whether you want to your kids to look fashionable or just plain cute, you’ll find a great selection at these fine shops.
NEW • Best Kids Consignment Store
Gold: Once Upon A Child Silver: Summer Kids Bronze: TIE • Rhea Lana’s & Children’s Consignment
Gently-worn clothes are just the ticket when your kids are growing like weeds. Readers say these consignment businesses offer both variety and good quality merchandise for tots of all ages.
Best Place to Buy Toys
Gold: Village Toy Maker Silver:Summer Kids Bronze: Trains and Tiaras
Every city needs a few stores that carry quality toys at a reasonable price. The Village Toymaker, their homey shops bulging with goodies, wins gold for good reason: you’ll always find a fabulous selection of interesting toys. The hardest part might just be making a decision. Congrats as well to our new silver and bronze winners. Welcome!
Best Maternity Store
Gold: A Pea in a Pod Silver: Haute Mama Bronze: Summer Kids
Classy, sassy, repeat!
Best Store for Baby Gifts
Gold: Cotton Tails Silver: Itty Bitty Bella Bronze: TIE • Spoiled Sweet & Woman’s Exchange of Memphis
Who doesn’t want to arrive with the cutest item at a baby shower? Thankfully, these destinations provide plenty of captivating possibilities. Who says babies shouldn’t be spoiled?
Best Store for Children’s Gifts
Gold: Village Toymaker Silver: Booksellers of Laurelwood Bronze: Itty Bitty Bella
NEW• Best Place to Buy Baby’s Clothes
Gold: Cotton Tails Silver: Itty Bitty Bella Bronze: Woman’s Exchange of Memphis
Whether you’re looking for traditional christening gowns or trendier togs, readers tell us these shops offer a great selection of layette and baby clothes. Hats off to gold winner Cotton Tails, which continues to be the go-to store for fashion-savvy shoppers. Close on its heels is Itty Bitty Bella, which also carries a great collection of strollers, and the Women’s Exchange, with lots of hand-stitched items.
Best Restaurant with Kids
Gold: Huey’s Silver: Chick-Fil-A Bronze: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
When you’ve got a picky eater at home, it always helps to have a go-to place (besides Mom's kitchen) where the food is predictably good. If you haven’t visited these restaurants yet, treat your family tonight. Our readers think they’re tops.
Best Restaurant without Kids
Gold: Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar Silver: TIE • Restaurant Iris & Jim’s Place Restaurant and Bar Bronze: Ruth's Chris Steak House
All parents need an elegant night out on occasion. Our readers tell us these winners offer ambiance, tasty offerings, and a no-bicker zone. Ahh.
Best Healthy Kids’ Menu
Gold: Jason’s Deli Silver: Holiday Ham Bronze: Panera Bread
Memphis is lucky to have a growing number of contenders in this category. These three eateries offer food that not only tastes good, but is good for you.
Best Pizza Place
Gold: Memphis Pizza Cafe Silver: Mellow Mushroom Bronze: Russo’s New York Pizzeria
Whether it's thick crust, thin crust, or something in between, your pizza officianados will leave the table with a smile on their face after gnoshing at these fine pizzerias.
Gold: Central BBQ Memphis Silver: Germantown Commissary Bronze: Corky’s
With their latest downtown eatery now open, Central BBQ leads the pack in smoky deliciousness. When it comes to 'cue, these three know how to serve it up.
Best Ice Cream
Gold: Baskin-Robbins Silver: YoLo Frozen Yogurt Bronze: Ben and Jerry’s
In a word: Yum.
Best Kids’ Party Destination
Gold: Sky Zone Sports Silver: Pump It Up Bronze: Memphis Zoo
Although fairly new to Memphis, Sky Zone has captured the imagination of kids young and old who love to move. Pump It Up follows in their tracks; for a quality outdoor experience, our Memphis Zoo is hard to beat.
Best Kids’ Party Entertainment
Gold: Music for Aardvarks Silver: Sky Zone Sports Bronze: Pump It Up
Kids live to wiggle and Mr. Joe, with Music for Aardvarks, gives them something to sing and shout about. Congrats to the Aardvarks and all our winners!
Best Bakery for Birthday Cakes
Gold: Muddy’s Bake Shop Silver: Miss Muff’n Bakery Bronze: Kay’s Bakery
If you’ve been looking for a new place to pick up something tasty for your birthday boy or girl, your search is over.
Best Salon for Kids’ Haircuts
Gold: Sports Clips Silver: Super Cuts Bronze: Fantastic Sam’s
Looks like the price is right when it comes to finding stylists who will work with squirmy kids. Our readers endorse these fine outlets, which shape bedheads into things of beauty.
NEW• Best Spa for Mom
Gold: Gould’s Silver: Germantown Day Spa Bronze: Pavo
The best way to take care of your family is to take care of yourself. A visit to Gould's will give weary moms a place to relax and rejuvenate. Ahh...
Gold: Dr. Chris Hanson, Laurelwood Pediatrics Silver: Dr. Landon Pendergrass, Pediatric Consultants Bronze: Dr. Aimee Christian, Memphis Pediatrics
This is always a hotly contested category, with many doctors receiving votes. But those who came in on top had the most ardent followers. Congratulations, all.
Best Pediatric Dentist
Gold: Dr. Bradley Wilkinson Silver: Dr. Meade Moore Bronze: Dr. Michael Blen We also had many dentists mentioned in this category, so congrats to these winners for coming out on top.
Gold: Dr. Danny Weiss Silver: Dr. Stanley Werner Bronze: Dr. Gregory Wilkinson
BEST OF THE CITY
Gold: TIE • Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Methodist-Le Bonheur Germantown Silver: Baptist Memorial Hospital Bronze: Methodist Hospital
We are blessed to live in a city that offers excellent medical care.
NEW • Best Place to Have Your Baby
Gold: Baptist Women’s Hospital Silver: Methodist Germantown Bronze: Baptist
A good birth experience is what these hospitals deliver.
Best Public School
Gold: White Station High School Silver: Crosswind Elementary Bronze: Grahamwood Elementary
This category always yields a lengthy list of schools. But this year, it was White Station High that took the gold, just passing Crosswind Elementary. Grahamwood Elementary nosed out several other strong contenders to remain in the bronze position. But as any parent will tell you, a school is only good as its principal and teachers. Hats off to these educators, our readers voted you number one.
Best Private School
Gold: Woodland Presbyterian Silver: Grace St. Luke’s Bronze: Briarcrest Christian School
Always a horse race, this year was no exception. But Woodland Presbyterian managed to stay out in front again this year, successfully winning gold. Grace St. Luke’s came in a strong second, and Briarcrest Christian fended off the competition to retain their bronze finish.
Best Field Trip for Kids
Gold: Memphis Zoo Silver: Memphis Botanic Garden Bronze: Children’s Museum of Memphis
Field trips are more difficult to pull off these days, which is why having destinations that offer strong programming is so important. The zoo and botanic garden help kids learn about nature and animals, and CMOM, which just edged out the Pink Palace for the bronze, gives kids a glimpse into the grown-up world. Kudos to all, you do a great job educating (and entertaining) young learners.
Best Day Care
Gold: Memphis Jewish Community Center Early Childhood Center Silver: Lindenwood Christian Child Care Bronze: We Love Kids Learning Center
Ask any parent what they need when children are young and quality childcare is often their response. Thankfully, the landscape has improved dramatically since we began this survey a decade ago. This year’s finish highlights some of the best: Memphis Jewish Community Center, which roared back to reclaim gold, followed closely by Lindenwood Christian and We Love Kids with bronze.
NEW • Best Parent’s Day Out Programs
Gold: Mullins United Methodist Church Silver: Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal Bronze: Holy Rosary Catholic Church
Perfect when children are young and mom needs a breather during the week.
NEW • Best After-school Performing Arts Program
Gold: Music for Aardvarks Silver: TIE • New Ballet Ensemble & Playhouse on the Square Bronze: TIE • Briarcrest Performing Arts School & Hutchison Center for Excellence
Kids love to create and these programs give them lots of potential outlets.
NEW • Best After-school Sports Program
Gold: TIE • Briarcrest & Memphis Jewish Community Center Silver: TIE • Grace St. Luke’s & Holy Rosary Bronze: Soccer Ole
NEW • Best Overnight Camp
Gold: Victory Ranch Silver: Camp Bear Track Bronze: Pinecrest
Camp is the place kids can not only make new friends, but discover new talents in themselves. These winners help kids discover a new home away from home.
NEW • Best Recreational Outing
Gold: Shelby Farms Silver: Memphis Zoo Bronze: The Green Line
For health and fitness fun, our readers say these destinations rock.
Best Annual Event for Families
Gold: Zoo Boo Silver: Memphis Italian Fest Bronze: Memphis in May
Zoo Boo continues to bring home the gold in this popular field. An annual Halloween tradition, it's one that's sure to please.
Best Tourist Attraction
Gold: Memphis Zoo Silver: Graceland Bronze: Beale Street
Three destinations that say Memphis.
Best Local Blog
Gold: Eastmemphismoms.blogspot.com Silver: ILoveMemphisblog.com Bronze: diningwithmonkeys.blogspot.com
These informational bloggers talk about the best places to visit, eat, and have fun with your family. Bookmark them — along with memphisparent.com, of course!
Best Local Role Model
Gold: Coach Josh Pastner, University of Memphis Tiger Basketball Coach Silver: Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Bronze: TIE • Penny Hardaway, Minority Owner, Memphis Grizzlies & WMC Weatherman Dave Brown
Sports, weather, and civic leaders are the folks our readers look up to. Kudos to all.