We have our favorites, and so do you!
Published: June 28, 2021
By: Compiled by Lori Chandler Pruitt and Carol Muse Evans
We all have our favorites, and so do you.
But if you need a suggestion or a fresh idea, a friend or family member can give us great ideas by sharing THEIR favorites. That’s what our Family Favorites Awards program is all about.
This is the longest-running contest of its sort in the Birmingham area. We have many folks who copy us, but we have stayed true to the original idea – YOU nominate the winners, YOU choose the winners. Voters must cast votes in at least 20 categories to count, and we give away a great random prize to those who take the trouble to vote. This year we have two great prizes – a great getaway to OWA (www.visitowa.com) and a family vacation to Gatlinburg, TN (www.gatlinburg.com.)
For your convenience, we grouped winners in categories, and we’ve got repeat winners and new ones. And we’ve eliminated a few categories and added some this year.
Keep our list and access it all year at www.birminghamparent.com if you need it! If your favorite or your business or service didn’t win this year, be sure you nominate and vote for them in 2022! Voting begins January 2022 online. And when you see our Family Favorites logo in a place of business, know it was loved enough to be voted a “family favorite.”
And special congrats to our OWA giveaway winner, Marie Toffel, who won a terrific trip for 4 to OWA, and our Gatlinburg winner, Holland Woods, who is taking the family to Gatlinburg soon! MANY THANKS to our sponsors!
And the winners are….
FAVORITE GEORGIA DESTINATION
The Georgia Aquarium
The largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere is right here a few hours away from Birmingham. Take a day trip or make it a family weekend.
FAVORITE TENNESSEE DESTINATION
Gatlinburg is known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, and it is an ever-popular destination for Birmingham families wanting a mountain getaway.
FAVORITE ALABAMA DESTINATION
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are special places for those from Alabama and neighboring states. This area boasts some of the most beautiful sugar-white beaches in the U.S
FAVORITE FLORIDA DESTINATION
Home to stunning white sandy beaches, emerald green water and known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin Florida sits in the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico.
FAVORITE FAMILY ATTRACTION IN BIRMINGHAM
The Birmingham Zoo
Who doesn’t love the Zoo? Improvements and additions, along with a few old favorites make the Zoo a repeat family favorite.
FAVORITE FAIR, FESTIVAL OR SPECIAL EVENT
Doo Dah Day
Animal lovers love this event for the whole family to both celebrate their pets and raise money for animals in Jefferson and Shelby counties.
FAVORITE PUMPKIN PATCH
Helena Hollow, Helena, AL
This “entertainment farm” is home to great parties, weddings, events and of course, the popular pumpkin patch in the fall. It is a new Family Favorite.
FAVORITE CHRISTMAS OUTING
Zoolight Safari, The Birmingham Zoo
This is a long-time favorite event among Birmingham families for many years, but in 2020, the zoo changed the event to “Glow Wild: An Animal Lantern Celebration.” Current plans are to bring back Glow Wild this year, including a variety of lanterns throughout the zoo.
FAVORITE MUSEUM TO VISIT WITH CHILDREN IN BIRMINGHAM
McWane Science Center
This repeat family favorite is a science museum and research archive located downtown It includes an aquarium, and 280-seat IMAX Dome Theater.
PARTIES, ACTIVITIES & LEARNING
FAVORITE BIRTHDAY PARTY PLACE
This new winner has locations on Highway 280 and in Hoover. Let’s Play is an indoor soft play center for children aged 0-12 years where they have created a kid-friendly indoor environment that is stimulating and enjoyable for kids for parties as well as free play.
www.letsplayparty.com/birmingham or www.letsplayparty.com/hoover
FAVORITE PARTY RENTALS
You can find just about anything in this store, as well as ideas for parties and all types of celebrations. With three local locations for your convenience.
FAVORITE BIRTHDAY CAKE
Publix is a staple in the Birmingham area, and great service and products has a lot to do with it. You’ll find a full-service affordable bakery here – a family favorite for birthday cakes!
FAVORITE FIELD TRIP
The Birmingham Zoo
The Zoo is more than fun; it is educational! There’s always something new at the Zoo, and it continues to be a favorite for school field trips.
FAVORITE GYM/EXERCISE FACILITY
From a full equipment room and weight for your workout, swimming pool, sports teams and exercise classes to fit just about everyone, the “Y” is a great place to exercise.
The Hoover Library has so much to offer its patrons – books, magazines, videos, learning for all ages, special events and even the Library Theatre. No wonder it is a 2021 family favorite.
Sylvan Learning Centers
Sylvan has long been a name synonymous with learning. With locations in Hoover and Trussville, a Sylvan Center isn’t too far away for your child. Check out their Facebook page for specials at
FAVORITE PRIVATE SCHOOL
The Altamont School
A college prep school for grades 5-12, The Altamont is a small family with socio-economic, ethnic and religious diversity. Altamont offers many opportunities for children to develop multiple talents by participating in arts, world languages, community service, clubs, class projects, science competitions and sports.
FAVORITE AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
Odyssey Early Schools
The Odyssey Early Schools is a repeat winner in multiple categories. With a commitment to education and excellence, it’s no wonder they are innovative in the after-school programs arena.
Odyssey Early Schools
This repeat winner is the platinum for preschool/childcare. They provide an effective, engaging and challenging learning environment for each child.
FAVORITES MOTHER’S DAY OUT
Child Development Center at Asbury United Methodist Church
The CDC provides care in a safe, warm, and nurturing environment that will enable your child to grow and develop through developmentally appropriate activities.
FAVORITE SPECIAL NEEDS PROGRAM
The Bell Center
Since 1984, The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs has provided quality early intervention services in a center-based program in Birmingham.
FAVORITE COLLEGE/CAREER TECH SCHOOL
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
State rivalries aside, UAB is a world-class university close to home, and great for students right out of high school or parents returning to college. This makes UAB a family favorite right here in our backyard.
FAVORITE GYMNASTICS CLASS
Premier’s mission is to provide a fun, exciting and safe environment where children can experience the joys of gymnastics while they develop their physical condition, enhance social skills, learn discipline and strengthen their ability to handle successes and failures.
FAVORITE PARENT/CHILD CLASS
Kindermusik with Michele & Friends
Michele & Friends teach Kindermusik in multiple locations for your convenience. Kindermusik is the world’s leading music and movement program for young children birth to 6 years old.
FAVORITE MARTIAL ARTS CLASS
Tiger Rock Martial Arts
With four convenient locations, Tiger Rock can teach your kid life skills, discipline and a desire to succeed. Great for almost any age!
FAVORITE DANCE CLASS
The Pointe Dance Studio
Instructors at The Pointe work with their dancers to instill healthy habits, a sense of teamwork, and life skills that can be used both in and out of the dance studio.
FAVORITE ART CLASS
You can take a class, have a party and even shop at Party Art – all things art! They are a new Family Favorites winner!
FAVORITE MUSIC CLASS
This repeat winner has a lot to offer to families because Mason Music teaches award winning Music Lessons on guitar, piano, voice, drums and violin to students of all ages.
FAVORITE THEATRE CLASS
Red Mountain Theatre
Red Mountain Theatre is a staple in Birmingham, but their classes are popular, too, and for more than 40 years it has been educating and training area youth in all aspects of theatre and acting.
FAVORITE DAY CAMP
Odyssey Early Schools
Odyssey hits it out of the park in this category by providing fun, engaging and educational day camps for children even beyond preschool.
FAVORITE SLEEP AWAY CAMP
Sumatanga Summer Camps are orchestrated by the Summer Camp Leadership Team, a combination of staff, volunteers and Action Team members, who have come together to work with the Ministry Team, summer staff and volunteers to develop a faith-filled adventure full of wonderful summer camp experiences for your child or youth.
BUSINESSES & SERVICES
With many locations, it’s easy to find the perfect cake or all kinds of yummy desserts for any occasion – or just because. Edgar’s also serves delicious breakfast and lunch, and there is even a gift shop!
FAVORITE KIDS’ SHOES
This repeat winner has everything you need to make sure your child gets the perfect fit and the perfect pair of shoes.
FAVORITE CAR REPAIR
Stop and Start Automotive Center
This automotive repair shop in Hoover wins the Family Favorite for the best place to bring a vehicle in for services.
2262 Rocky Ridge Rd, Hoover, AL 35216
FAVORITE CAR DEALER
Hoover Toyota is a repeat winner for its excellent selection of new and pre-owned vehicles as well as great service. Several generations of customers trust Hoover Toyota.
FAVORITE HOME/AUTO INSURANCE
Families trust State Farm for all their insurance needs. With many offices and hundreds of agents, they’re available around the clock.
FAVORITE CREDIT UNION
America’s First Federal Credit Union
Readers trust America’s First, a repeat winner. Founded locally more than 80 years ago, it has 20 branch locations serving several Alabama counties.
This repeat Family Favorites winner is based in Birmingham, and is a full-service bank. It also offers many online services, making it easy to keep track of your financial health.
FAVORITE MAID SERVICE
Two Maids & A Mop
Life is busy, and Birmingham families rely on Two Maids & A Mop to help keep the home front clean and organized. The company offers an array of services, from a one-time clean to deep cleaning.
Aveda offers retail salon and spa services that many readers love. Birmingham is home to the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute, where students learn all the latest about beauty.
FAVORITE SHOPPING CENTER or MALL
This lifestyle shopping center, a creative hub of style and taste in the South, is constantly opening new stores and restaurants of all kinds. Families love the variety!
FAVORITE MATERNITY STORE
Cradle + Bee
Touted as a chic boutique and one-stop-shop for clothing, gifts and home for every stage of life, Cradle + Bee in Cahaba Heights is a Family Favorite for maternity clothing and gifts.
FAVORITE HAIRCUTS FOR KIDS
This salon in Hoover aims to give families an amazing and caring haircut experience. There’s all kinds of fun things to do, as well as “fantasy chairs” on the cutting floor that help put children at ease.
FAVORITE CONSIGNMENT STORE/SALE
Kids Market and Mom
This repeat Family Favorites winner is the largest consignment store in Alabama dedicated to children’s and maternity items with nearly 80,000 square feet of organized shopping space.
FAVORITE TOY STORE
Homewood Toy and Hobby
This repeat Family Favorite, in business for more than 60 years, sells quality toys, games and hobby brands that you may have grown up with, as well as new brands! Families love to come here to find all kinds of fun.
FAVORITE BOOK STORE
With several well-stocked locations as well as a strong online presence for books, toys and tech, families rely on Books-A-Million for leisure activities as well as books for school and all types of learning.
FAVORITE GROCERY STORE
Publix is a repeat favorite for many reasons. It’s the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned supermarket chain in the U.S., and they take great pride in offering the best service and products.
FAVORITE ICE CREAM
The Whole Scoop
This family-owned ice cream shop in Brock’s Gap in Hoover features 32 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, along with sundaes, malts, shakes and ice cream cakes. It’s a favorite for family fun!
FAVORITE FROZEN YOGURT
Our readers have solidly chosen Yogurt Mountain as a Family Favorite every single year! It’s the “ultimate self-serve frozen dessert experience” with more than a dozen rotating flavors and more than 50 toppings.
FAVORITE PLACE FOR DATE NIGHT
Spare Time Trussville
Date night has moved beyond dinner and a movie, with couples wanting more fun in their limited spare time. Spare Time, a repeat Family Favorite, is a family entertainment center with bowling, laser tag, arcade, events and an upscale restaurant/bar.
FAVORITE FAMILY DINNER
Tre Luna Bar and Kitchen
Tre Luna Bar and Kitchen is an Italian-inspired space located in the popular Village at Brock’s Gap in Hoover. It offers an upscale experience with a neighborhood feel.
FAVORITE KIDS’ MEAL
This repeat Family Favorite has run away with the top spot for many years. Families love the delicious food with several healthy options, fast, friendly service and more. Kids’ meals come with an educational toy.
FAVORITE TV STATION
WBRC Fox 6
A repeat Family Favorite, WBRC Fox 6 is the station families trust for reliable news and weather.
FAVORITE RADIO STATION
A repeat Family Favorite, WDJC-FM was one of the first commercial FM radio stations in the U.S. to exclusively feature Christian programming.
Christy Pierce Photography
Families love Pierce, a professional photographer who has earned many accolades for her work from The Knot, Birmingham Parent and more. She’s a wife and mom of three who treats each photography session as if it is her own.
FAVORITE BABY GIFTS/FURNITURE
Buy Buy Baby
This repeat winner offers everything you need for baby – from strollers to furniture to diapers. Parents love the convenience. The store also has a great website to make it easy to get all you need, too.
FAVORITE BOARDING FOR PETS
Altadena Valley Animal Clinic
This year’s Family Favorite has themed, ceramic tiled boarding suites with a TV and webcam! It’s just one of the many services Altadena Valley Animal Clinic offers families’ furry friends.
Dr. Melissa Miller, Altadena Valley Animal Clinic
Miller graduated first in her veterinary class at Auburn University and practiced veterinary medicine in Montgomery and Auburn before moving home to Birmingham.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Dr. Troy Lofton
Lofton is a chiropractic physician whose special interests include degenerative conditions of the spine, but also enjoys working with and educating pregnant moms to alleviate common symptoms during pregnancy; and neurological function for babies/toddlers.
This repeat Family Favorite for the last nine years has 11 conveniently located offices in the Birmingham metro area, offering affordable, personalized, individualized treatment plans for children and adults.
FAVORITE FAMILY DENTIST
Dr. Norman C. Guillen
Guillen has practiced dentistry in Homewood for more than 20 years. He was in the honors program at UAB and received his doctorate of dental medicine from UAB. His practice offers several services, and considers patients family.
FAVORITE PEDIATRIC DENTIST
Dr. Lauten Johnson
Johnson has led Pediatric and Adolescent Dentistry in Hoover since its beginning in 2010. He completed his doctor of dental medicine at UAB and is board certified in pediatric dentistry.
This year’s Family Favorite is a ministry of the United Methodist Church, providing faith-based professional counseling for more than 45 years.
FAVORITE ALL-AROUND HOSPITAL
UAB Medicine is one of the top academic medical centers in the U.S., providing health care services for more than 1.6 million patients annually. With many clinics and services, it has earned the trust of many families.
FAVORITE OB/GYN PRACTICE
Henderson & Walton Women’s Center
This Family Favorite has been providing care for more than 30 years. It specializes in women’s health care, and its physicians are board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
FAVORITE WALK-IN/URGENT CARE
American Family Care
Families trust American Family Care for non-emergency patients who still need immediate attention. Founded in 1982, it has several locations and offers convenience and care.
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S WALK-IN/URGENT CARE
Urgent Care for Children
Children don’t pick the best times to be sick or injured. With multiple area locations, Urgent Care for Children is open late and on weekends to provide the care and service that will help your little one feel better in no time!
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S HEALTH FACILITY
Children’s of Alabama
Children’s of Alabama provide specialized medical care for ill and injured children and ranks among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation. It also is one of the largest, offering inpatient and outpatient services of all kinds.
FAVORITE WOMEN’S HEALTH FACILITY
Grandview Medical Center
Grandview cares for women at every stage of life, with doctors and services tailored to each need, from childbirth to imaging.
FAVORITE GYNECOLOGIST & OBSTETRICIAN
Dr. Bill Hudson, Women’s Health Specialists at Grandview
Hudson is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine with a residency at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.
FAVORITE FERTILITY SPECIALIST
Henderson & Walton Women’s Center
Families trust Henderson & Walton, which has been providing care for more than 30 years. It specializes in women’s health care, and its physicians are board-certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
FAVORITE PLACE TO HAVE A BABY
Grandview Medical Center
Moms love Grandview Medical Center when it comes time to have their little ones. Their labor and delivery staff offers the comforts of home in an advanced hospital setting.
FAVORITE BIRTHING SUITES
Ascension St. Vincent’s Hospital Birthing Center, Birmingham
This repeat Family Favorite offers experienced, personalized maternal care before, during, and after pregnancy to meet women’s needs at every stage of life.
Brookwood Baptist Medical Center
This world-class NICU is a Family Favorite for its exceptional care and medical professionals who offer many services.
FAVORITE FAMILY DOCTOR
Dr. Tammy Leong, Hoover
Leong, this year’s Family Favorite, practices at Birmingham Internal Medicine Associates (BIMA) in Hoover. She is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine and completed her residency/internship in the Department of Internal Medicine at UAB.
Dr. Tracey Mercer
Mercer, who practices at Tracey L. Mercer, OD in Hoover, opened her own office in 2015 but has been practicing optometry since 1999. She is a graduate of UAB Optometry School. She and her staff are committed to putting patient care first.
With convenient hours, knowledgeable pharmacists, and other services for the whole family, it’s no surprise that Publix Pharmacy is a favorite.
Alabama Allergy & Asthma Center
This year’s repeat Family Favorite has been committed to providing quality patient care since 1966. All of its allergists are certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. With several locations in the Birmingham area, it’s also very convenient.
Dr. Guy Handley, Brookwood ENT Associates PC
Handley, a board-certified otolaryngologist, treats a wide variety of conditions in adults and children, such as hearing loss, allergy, sinus disease and pediatric ENT care. He is a repeat Family Favorite.
Dr. John Cortopassi, Greenvale Pediatrics
Cortopassi, a pediatrician at Greenvale Pediatrics in Hoover, part of Children’s of Alabama, is a favorite with families. He has been associated with Greenvale since 1980, and is board certified in pediatrics and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.