Illustrations by Jeanne Seagle
Welcome to the annual Memphis Parent Family Choice Awards! Our readers vote in October and we publish the winners every December. The following was featured in the December 2011 issue of Memphis Parent.
It's December, which means it's time once again to learn who you think rocks our city. We know you lead busy lives and appreciate those service providers that really hit your sweet spot. In our Family Choice Awards, we salute those organizations our readers deem go above and beyond the call of duty by providing the best service to families.
This year, we say farewell to several categories that have had their day in the sun, among them Best Bookstores and Best Children's Furniture (both victims of a sluggish economy). And we introduce several new ones, including Best Orthodontist and Best Local Blog. Judging from the initial response, these categories are hot. We hope you enjoy reading about — and visiting — the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners listed here. We also hope you realize what an important role families play in our local economy. We spend a lot of our monthly salaries caring for our families. We're lucky to have business owners and nonprofits that also recognize our value and continue to raise the bar in their service. Congrats to all of our Family Choice Award winners — you're tops in our book.
BEST PLACES TO GO
Best Free Family Outing
Gold: Shelby Farms Woodland Playground
Silver: The Memphis Zoo — tie — Levitt Shell
Bronze: Mud Island River Park
Free is always great when you're on a budget. It's even better when the destination is as creative and fun as Shelby Farms Woodland Playground. With the unveiling of this much anticipated space, children have been discovering a wonderful new place to exercise and use their imagination. Free Tuesdays at the Zoo and the concert series at the Levitt Shell provide hours of entertainment for young and old alike. Finally, Mud Island continues to broaden its special events aimed at families. Having some of the best views of downtown is simply icing on the cake.
Best Family Day Trip
Gold: Memphis Zoo
Silver: Nashville, TN
Bronze: Oxford, MS
The Memphis Zoo continues to have a lock on first place as a favorite day trip. And why not? From the ice skating hut to watching grizzlies and polar bears romp, there's more than enough to fill up an afternoon here. Further afield, Nashville boasts destinations like Adventure Science Center, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Lane Motor Museum, which remind you this is a neighbor you want to stay in touch with. And of course, the vibrant square of Oxford, Mississippi, with its Square Books bookstore, and the Grove at Ole Miss during football season, offers families a welcoming place to explore.
Best Weekend Getaway Without Kids
Gold: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Silver: St. Louis, Missouri
Bronze: New Orleans, Louisana
Whether it's just spending an overnight or a more decadent long weekend, parents know the value of couple time. (This is the category that frequently gets a bunch of “Anywhere” votes followed by many exclamation points.) Time alone gives you a chance to nourish yourself and your relationship, so you return home feeling refreshed. Our Gold this year goes to Hot Springs, Arkansas, because spas translate to ahhs. Of course, catching the nightlife in St. Louis or New Orleans is also a great way to reconnect. Put a coupon in the stocking of your favorite travel partner and make a pledge to escape for a weekend this year. You'll be glad you did.
Best State Park
Gold: Meeman-Shelby Forest
Silver: Chickasaw State Park
Bronze: Fall Creek Falls — tie — Natchez Trace
As fans of Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, we're always happy to see evidence that other families are discovering this wonderful green space. It's close to Memphis while offering 13,000 acres of lush wilderness, perfect for hiking or biking. Chickasaw State Park is also bursting with fun, especially during the summer months when Lake Placid offers a refreshing break from the heat. It was interesting that Fall Creek Falls and the Trace tied for the Bronze this year, since they offer two very different experiences. Regardless, we hope you'll make a point to explore each of these destinations and enjoy time as a family in the great outdoors.
Best Movie Theatre
Gold: Malco Paradiso
Silver: Collierville Malco
Bronze: Studio on the Square
Movies are another great escape when you've got kids. And the Paradiso continues to be the hands-down favorite for families. All three winners screen a nice array of films. Don't forget about the Bartlett Cinema 10, where you can view second-run movies for only $2.50.
BEST FAMILY SHOPPING
Best Locally Owned Children's Store
Gold: Cotton Tails
Silver: Spoiled Sweet — tie — Village Toymaker
Bronze: Chocolate Soup — tie — Summer Kids
With their wonderful selection of children's clothing, Cotton Tails walked off again with the Gold and continues to be the kids' store to beat. They've got strong competition with Spoiled Sweet and Chocolate Soup on their heels. The appearance of Summer Kids as a Bronze winner also speaks to the strength of a well-stocked consignment store.
Best Place to Buy Toys
Gold: Village Toymaker
Silver: Target — tie — Toys R Us
Bronze: Davis-Kidd Booksellers
Since it's easy to default to the big box stores for toys, we're glad when local vendors make the top of this list. The Village Toymaker, their homey stores bulging with goodies, always feel like a toy store should: dazzling with possibilities. We extend a fond farewell to Davis-Kidd Booksellers, who were a perennial favorite among our readers. And say welcome to the Booksellers at Laurelwood. We hope to see you on our list next year.
Best Maternity Store
Gold: Haute Mama
Silver: A Pea in a Pod
Bronze: Summer Kids
When you're six months along and starting to feel like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade blimp, finding something pretty can be pure bliss. Hats off to Haute Mama in Germantown, our Gold winner, for their sassy selection of pretty — as well as practical — maternity clothes. Following hot on their heels was Pea in a Pod, perfect for the career girl. And budget conscious moms-to-be will be happy to know that Summer Kids, which took the Bronze this year, offers a great selection of gently-worn maternity wear.
Best Store for Baby Gifts
Gold: Cotton Tails
Silver: Itty Bitty Bella
Bronze: Babies R Us
The winners this year offer something for everyone. Our Gold winner, Cotton Tails, has a great array of traditional gift items and clothes for baby. For moms with a more cosmopolitan flair, you'll likely find something fun at Itty Bitty Bella. And Babies R Us is a hands-down must-shop for gathering the nuts- and-bolts nursery items every new parent needs.
Best Store for Children's Gifts
Gold: Village Toymaker
Bronze: Knowledge Tree
Best Mall for Families
Gold: The Avenue Collierville
Silver: Wolfchase Galleria
Bronze: The Shops of Saddle Creek
The Avenue Collierville, with their summer film series and fun special events for families, continues to be the strongest contender in this category, holding on to the Gold. Wolfchase Galleria maintained it's Silver status, but Saddle Creek, with its family-friendly environment, managed to bump off Oak Court Mall this year to win the Bronze. Congrats, all!
Best Restaurant with Kids
Silver: Red Robin
If you want a great burger, these three restaurants serve up the best!
Best Restaurant without Kids
Gold: Ruth's Chris Steak House
Silver: Folk's Folly — tie — BonefishBronze: Jim's Place East
Our readers choose these perennial favorites when they want to go out for a night on the town. Steak and seafood are a winner in our book, too!
Best Healthy Kids' Menu
Gold: Jason's Deli
Silver: Panera BreadBronze: Subway
This new category salutes restaurants that are trying to offer something besides fried foods for kids. We couldn't agree more. Jason's Deli's focus on fresh earned them the Gold, followed by the tasty offerings of Panera Bread and Subway.
Best Pizza Place
Gold: Memphis Pizza Cafe
Silver: Mellow MushroomBronze: Russo's
These three seem to have a lock on the pizza pie world. Congrats, all!
Silver: Central BBQBronze: The Germantown Commissary
Memphis parents love their barbeque, and these three winners have it down to a science. Serve it up.
Best Ice Cream
Gold: Baskin Robbins
Silver: YoLo Frozen Yogurt
Bronze: Ben and Jerry's
Baskin Robbins and Ben and Jerry's often duke it out for first prize in this category. But hats off to YoLo Frozen Yogurt, a relative newcomer that's captured the taste buds of frozen dessert fans.
Best Kids' Party Destination
Gold: Pump It Up
Silver: Incredible Pizza
Bronze: Chuck E. Cheese
Best Kids' Party Entertainment
Gold: Pump It Up
Silver: Incredible Pizza
Bronze: Game Truck — tie — Sweet and Sassy
Best Bakery for Birthday Cakes
Gold: Miss Muff'n Bakery
Silver: Muddy's Bake Shop
Bronze: Gigi's Cupcakes
The choices for decadent desserts have never been sweeter. From lovely muffins and red velvet cake to delectable cupcakes, you can't go wrong with the winners in this category.
Best Salon for Kids' Haircuts
Gold: Fun Cuts
Silver: Sweet and Sassy
Bronze: Sports Clips — tie — Super Cuts
Finding a good stylist for your child is no small feat. If you're looking, check out these fine salons, who clearly know how to make their squirmy clients look great.
Gold: Dr. Chris Hanson, Laurelwood Pediatrics
Silver: Dr. Lelon “Bubba” Edwards, Pediatrics East
Bronze: Dr. Noel K. Frizzell, Pediatric Consultants
When you've got a feverish kid, you want a doctor you can trust. Thanks to these professionals for providing excellent care.
Best Pediatric Dentists
Gold: Dr. Bradley Wilkinson
Silver: Dr. Michael Blen
Bronze: Dr. John Acosta
We had many dentists mentioned in this category, so congrats to our winners for coming out on top.
Gold: Dr. Danny Weiss
Silver: Dr. Stanley Werner
Bronze: Dr. Gregory Wilkinson
Getting braces for your child is a big (and costly) event. Hats off to orthodontist Danny Weiss, whose handy work has led to dazzling smiles for more than 20 years. Kudos, too, to Drs. Werner and Wilkinson for the work you do. Our readers think you're the bomb.
BEST OF THE CITY
Gold: Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown
Silver: Baptist Memorial Hospital
Bronze: Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
Hats off to Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, which pushed aside Baptist to land the Gold award this year. Le Bonheur also deserves hearty recognition for the beautiful job they did with their new hospital (now a year old). They are now the largest children's hospital in the state of Tennessee.
*Best Public School
Gold: Crosswind Elementary
Silver: Richland ElementaryBronze: Grahamwood Elementary
Crosswind Elementary snatched the top position from White Station in this annual horse race. Richland and Grahamwood Elementary round out the list. All three schools have solid reputations academically, and lots of parental involvement, the hallmark of a strong school.
Best Private School
Gold: Woodland Presbyterian Silver: Holy Rosary – tie – St. Francis of AssisiBronze: Briarcrest Christian School
Independent schools work hard to serve their families and in return, families acknowledge their schools with pride. This is always a crowded category, but Woodland Presbyterian managed to get a lock on the Gold this year, followed by a tie for Silver between Holy Rosary and St. Francis. Briarcrest Christian rounds out the list with a Bronze. Congrats all.
Best Day Care
Gold: Roulhac's Preschool and Childcare
Silver: Kingsway Childcare and Learning Center
Bronze: Christ United Methodist Day School
Finding quality day care is one of the first significant hurdles new parents face. Thankfully, Memphis' day care scene has steadily been improving over the past few years. Roulhac's Preschool, a perennial favorite, made a jump from Bronze to Gold this year, upending Memphis Jewish Community Center in the process. Kingsway also made a jump to the Silver award this year.
Best Field Trip for Kids
Gold: Memphis Zoo
Silver: Memphis Botanic Garden
Bronze: Memphis Pink Palace
Best Annual Event for Families
Gold: Zoo Boo
Silver: Delta Fair
Bronze: Memphis Italian Fest — tie — Germantown Festival
Hats off to the ever-popular Zoo Boo for reclaiming first place. Nearly 4,000 people a night visit during this annual October event. And we can vouch for the cute and clever costumes children don as they visit exhibits around the zoo.
Best Tourist Attraction
Gold: Memphis Zoo
Bronze: Beale Street
Three destinations that say Memphis.
Best Sporting Event for Families
Gold: Redbirds Baseball
Silver: Memphis Tiger Basketball
Bronze: Memphis Grizzlies
Best Local Blog
We've got a number of blogs that weigh in on parenting in Memphis. But the three blogs noted here go the distance, providing awesome insights into ways to save money, information on happenings around the city, and where to eat with kids in tow. Take a read, we think you'll like what you find.
Best Local Role Model
Gold: Mayor AC Wharton
Silver: Coach Josh Pastner
Bronze: Shane Battier
City Mayor AC Wharton continues to embody what many readers believe is the stuff we want in a role model: fairness, consideration, passion, and smarts.