AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Published: June 30, 2018
By: Compiled by Lori Chandler Pruitt & Bethany Adams Hunley
We all have our favorites – favorite beach, favorite frozen yogurt, favorite dentist and doctor, favorite radio station.
But sometimes we rely on friends and family to give us other suggestions about what they know to be good and what THEIR favorites are. You may be introduced to a favorite by word or mouth, or see an ad for a spot, go there and then share with all your friends how great it is.
This is what the Birmingham Parent Family Favorites Awards is all about. The longest running contest of its sort in the Birmingham area, we do it totally with you and for you. You nominate and choose the winners. And we’ve got a few new categories this year!
It’s an open forum – you did the nominating and the voting. We’ve tallied the numbers and following are the results. In cases where voting was really close, there is an “honorable mention” or two. We’ve also grouped the winners into easy categories for you.
We hope you will keep this list all year for great things to do and places to go in Birmingham, and if you have a favorite that didn’t make the list this year, be sure to vote for them in 2019! You can easily access this list all year at www.birminghamparent.com. Be sure you tell the winners that you read about them in Birmingham Parent!
And congrats to our radon prize winner, Jerad Goodwin of Birmingham, who won a terrific trip for 4 to the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Florida, our travel sponsor.
AND THE WINNERS ARE….
Favorite Travel Agent
Providing drivers with peace of mind since 1902, AAA is a repeat family favorite among Birmingham families. Roadside assistance, access to discounts at over 100,000 locations and travel planning are all benefits offered to AAA members. Visit their website to learn more.
Favorite In-State Vacation
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
Why travel out-of-state for a memorable beach vacation, when the perfect beach destination can be found within our own state? White, sandy beaches and fun-filled activities for the entire family can be found in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach.
Favorite Georgia Destination
The Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium is the perfect day trip for Birmingham families. Teeming with underwater exhibits and adventures, as well as animal interactions and an IMAX theatre, families could easily spend more than a day experiencing all The Georgia Aquarium has to offer.
Favorite Tennessee Destination
Always a favorite mountain retreat among families, Gatlinburg is a town brimming with the beauty of nature and family-friendly, outdoor adventures. Whether you prefer hiking through the Rocky Mountains or strolling along the store-lined streets of the town, Gatlinburg is a vacation destination that will renew your spirit and create precious family memories.
Favorite Alabama Beach Destination
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach
This repeat winner has been a favorite among local families for years. New construction has made an incredible beach destination even better, and both adults and children will find plenty to experience and enjoy.
Favorite Florida Beach Destination
Once a quiet fishing village, this repeat winner has become one of the most desired beaches for local families planning their summer vacations. Its white, sandy beaches and clear, blue water make for a perfect day on the beach. Destin also provides its visitors with the perfect balance of family-friendly activities and adult nightlife.
Favorite Mountain Retreat
Rebuilt and better than ever, Gatlinburg holds strong as a favorite vacation destination for families around the country. A town with something for everyone, Gatlinburg offers everything from outdoor adventures teeming with wildlife to romantic cabins for two.
Favorite Family Attraction in Birmingham
Always a favorite among local families, the Birmingham Zoo provides the perfect opportunity to get your family outdoors and up close with animals from all over the world. The zoo provides fun and educational animal exhibits, a train ride, petting farm, animal encounters, splash pad and much more!
Favorite Fair, Festival or Special Event in Birmingham
Trucks by the Tracks
One of Railroad Park’s biggest annual fundraising events, Trucks by the Tracks is a tasty and fun way to give back to the community. As Birmingham’s best food trucks gather downtown, live music and outdoor activities and games are provided for participants. This family-friendly fundraiser is the perfect event for families in Birmingham, with all proceeds going to Railroad Park.
Favorite Pumpkin Patch
Old Baker Farm
Over 200 years old, Old Baker Farm has been owned and operated by a family who values the preservation of history and family traditions. The annual pumpkin patch hosted by Old Baker Farm is a favorite field trip destination among local schools and a favorite fall tradition for local families. Complete with hay ride, farm animals, photo opportunities, swings and much more, it comes as no surprise that this local farm has prospered for over two centuries.
Honorable Mention: Helena Hollow (formerly Griffin Farms), www.helenahollow.com
Favorite Christmas Outing
Zoolight Safari at the Birmingham Zoo
A Christmas tradition for many local families, Zoolight Safari is a must-see event during the holiday season. Zoo by day and winter wonderland by night, the Birmingham Zoo closes off its animal exhibits and covers its grounds with thousands of Christmas lights and fake snow. Complete with a train ride through woods dripping with Christmas light displays and holiday scenes, children and adults will experience the magic and beauty of the holiday season at the Zoolight Safari.
Favorite Museum for Kids in Birmingham
McWane Science Center
Science comes to life within the halls of McWane Science Center, providing children with a one-of-a-kind interactive learning experience that is sure to thrill and delight. Exhibits ranging from prehistoric dino-digs to up-close aquatic adventures are perfect for children of all ages. Itty Bitty Magic City, an intricately built tot-sized recreation of Birmingham, complete with play area for infants, is a must-see for younger children who might not yet appreciate some of the more advanced exhibits.
FAVORITE PARTIES, ACTIVITIES, AND LEARNING
Favorite Field Trip in Birmingham
A repeat winner this year, there is no doubt the Birmingham Zoo is a favorite among Birmingham locals. While some field trips can be less than enjoyable for both students, teachers and chaperones, it is difficult to not have a fantastic time viewing all of the animals housed here, as well as the variety of extra activities offered.
Favorite Summer Program
Odyssey Early Schools
Not only providing top-notch childcare and preschool programs, Odyssey Early Schools also offer Summer Camp Programs for children in kindergarten through third grade. This Summer Program is designed to ensure that kids have fun during their summer break, providing at least four field trips each week. Always academically focused, the program also keeps children learning with educational projects that will prepare them for their upcoming school year.
Favorite Local Gym or Exercise Facility
Always a favorite among adults of all ages, the YMCA offers a clean facility with up-to-date equipment and personalized workout plans for members. Complete with steam room, indoor pool, outdoor pool, basketball court and in some cases, two-story workout facility, the YMCA has worked to earn its popularity among locals. Also offering childcare for members attending a workout class, swimming or working out in the gym, this is the perfect solution for parents looking to stay in shape.
Favorite Birthday Party Place
Let’s Play is a massive indoor facility filled with climbing towers, ball pits, giant slides, interactive games and much more, Let’s Play is the perfect place to have your child’s next birthday party. There is even a section of the facility specifically tailored to toddlers with pint-sized versions of the larger play areas for older children.
GradePower Learning knows that no two children are alike and creates unique programs for each child within their educational programs. Offering assistance in everything from passing a test to earning a stellar ACT score, GradePower Learning strives to help students reach their full academic potential.
Favorite Private School
Briarwood Christian School
This repeat winner prides itself on excellent academics and cultivating a strong Christian faith in each of its students. Available to children in K4 through 12th grades, Briarwood Christian School prepares students both academically and spiritually, equipping them with the knowledge and faith to prosper in the modern world.
Odyssey Early Schools
With two campuses in the Birmingham area, Odyssey Early Schools has quickly become the go-to preschool and daycare facility among local families. Providing age-appropriate learning opportunities and a curriculum tailored to each age, Odyssey Early Schools offers infant, toddler and preschool programs designed to inspire a love of learning in each child, regardless of age.
Favorite Special Needs Service/Program
The Bell Center
An outstanding resource for parents and children with a high likelihood of developmental delays, The Bell Center is a program deserving of both accolades and community support. Available to children from birth to three years of age, The Bell Center creates programs specific to the individual needs of each child, ultimately equipping children and their parents with the tools and resources necessary to provide the best early-intervention for developmental delays.
Favorite College or Trade School
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
Quickly becoming one of the most highly-regarded and sought-after colleges for potential college students, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a haven of both academic excellence and cultural diversity. UAB has become a pioneer within the medical field, hailing students, staff and hospital patients from around the world. An excellent education within a fast-paced, urban environment, UAB is a favorite among college students of all ages.
Favorite Gymnastics Program
Moving from last year’s Honorable Mention to this year’s winner, Premiere Gymnastics continues to grow in popularity among local families. Offering a variety of gymnastics classes, summer camp sessions, Parent’s Night Out and even private birthday parties, this facility is the perfect place for children to get active and have fun doing it!
Favorite Parent/Child Class
Kindermusik with Michele and Friends
Serving the Birmingham area with a powerful music education for young children, Kindermusic with Michele and Friends is available to children from newborns to 7 years of age. A designated Maestro Top Program from Kindermusik International, children are sure to enjoy singing, dancing, playing instruments and much more!
Favorite Dance Class
Birmingham Academy of Dance
Priding itself on excellence in dance instruction, affordability and parental input, the Birmingham Academy of Dance strives to provide every child with the opportunity to study and learn within its walls. This repeat winner offers over 60 different class options among a variety of dance genres and is available to children age 2 and older.
Favorite Art Class
Available for any occasion, Party Art is the perfect place to plan your next birthday party or Girls Night Out. Choose from a variety of adorable door hangers, and create your very own masterpiece! Parties are available for children and adults, even allowing participants to bring their own appetizers and beverages.
Favorite Theatre Class
Red Mountain Theatre Company
A repeat winner, Red Mountain Theatre Company is the go-to place for a high-quality education in the performing arts. Students not only learn the essentials of theatre within this program but also develop a stronger sense of self-confidence, discipline, hard work and the power of collaboration. Classes are available for children ages 5 through 18.
Favorite Music Class
Another repeat winner, Mason Music offers high-quality music lessons and instrument instruction in piano, guitar, voice, violin, and drums. All instructors are professionally-trained and background-checked, creating a safe and enjoyable environment for students to learn and excel in their musical interests. Multiple locations are available to families throughout the Birmingham area.
Favorite Martial Arts Class
Tiger Rock (all locations)
Tiger Rock Martial Arts have become the go-to martial arts academy in Birmingham. With a 15-step belt ranking program, children not only learn martial arts but also foster valuable life skills such as hard work, goal-setting, and mental discipline. This franchise is constantly growing, with multiple locations available around the Birmingham area.
Favorite After-School Program
Odyssey Early Schools
This repeat winner is certainly a favorite among local families and children. Providing two teachers who design the After-School Program based on the individual needs of each child, participants are given the opportunity to play, relax and spend time completing homework. This program provides the perfect balance of fun activities and academic enrichment.
A repeat winner in this category, the Hoover Library has always gone above and beyond to provide entertaining and educational opportunities for families within the community. Storytimes are scheduled according to age so that each child in attendance is receiving an age-appropriate experience specific to their learning needs and abilities. Craft sessions and theatre performances are often offered for older children, as well.
Favorite Day Camp
Odyssey Early Schools
A winner in multiple categories this year, Odyssey Early Schools offer two convenient locations for Birmingham families. Proving superb teacher-student ratios, certified educators and a unique curriculum that gives children the perfect balance of fun, play and education, it comes as no surprise that Odyssey Early Schools has become one of the most sought-after childcare programs in Birmingham.
Favorite Sleep Away Camp
YMCA Camp Cosby
Camp Cosby has been providing fun and exciting experiences for children since 1922. Accredited by the American Camping Association, this camp strives to support diversity and inclusion, as well as instill values in its campers that will help them to build a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Favorite Party Rental
Fun Source Party Rentals
Fun Source Party Rentals carries everything you need for your next birthday bash or party. Supplying tents, linens, chairs and the largest variety of licensed Disney moonwalks, bouncers, and inflatables in Alabama, it is easy to see why this is a local favorite. Fun Source Party Rentals even offers 25 carnival rides, 300 inflatables, trains, food equipment and staff.
Favorite Birthday Supplies/Invitations
Party City has been providing for Birmingham local’s party needs for years. Supplying everything from seasonal decorations, goody bag fillers, elaborate balloons, themed party supplies and much more, it is easy to see why this one-stop-shop is a family favorite.
Favorite Birthday Cake
The Publix bakery has quickly become a stand-out for families looking to find an affordable and delicious birthday cake. Offering a variety of flavors and decorations, Publix can create a custom cake that not only looks amazing but tastes delicious, as well.
BUSINESSES & SERVICES
FAVORITE AUTO REPAIR
Express Oil & Tire Engineers
This leading automotive service provider has nearly 250 locations in 14 states. Families depend on Express Oil & Tire Engineers for many automotive needs.
FAVORITE CAR DEALERSHIP
Riverchase Kia in Pelham is a Family Favorite when looking for a brand-new Kia or a well-maintained, dependable pre-owned vehicle. With everything from sedans to minivans, Riverchase Kia has it all.
FAVORITE HOME/AUTO INSURANCE
State Farm, founded in 1922, is a repeat winner again. It offers a variety of insurance options that include home, renters, motorcycle, life, and car. It’s all you need for every insurance need.
It’s no surprise that Regions Bank is a regular repeat Family Favorites winner. It is a leader in the world of banking. There are many convenient locations in Alabama and other states, along with a staff that is well qualified to help with a full range of banking services. Its online banking is popular, too.
FAVORITE CREDIT UNION
America’s First Federal Credit Union
America’s First, as it’s called, is a repeat Family Favorites winner. Readers love their many services, such as checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, investments, insurance and much more. Several locations make it a great choice, too.
FAVORITE MAID SERVICE
The Maids, a leading residential cleaning company, is a repeat Family Favorite winner again! This locally owned and operated franchise has a 22-step approach home cleaning system. Look for the yellow cars with the blue lettering!
FAVORITE MOM’S SPA
The Spa at Ross Bridge
A repeat Family Favorite winner, The Spa at Ross Bridge in Hoover is a favorite place for moms who need that much-needed pampering. They have an extensive array of custom treatments and services. Book your visit today!
FAVORITE MOM’S HAIR SALON
Between Friends Salon and Boutique
This salon in McCalla wins the Family Favorite this year for a wide variety of great hair services, friendly staff and more!
FAVORITE DAD’S HAIRCUTS
It’s no surprise that this repeat Family Favorites winner is still Dad’s best bet for a great haircutting experience. Sports Clips, with sports-themed decorations and services, convenient hours, walk-in service, friendly stylists and affordable prices can’t be beat.
FAVORITE SHOPPING CENTER/MALL
This Family Favorite also is known as a top tourism attraction, as it is the largest enclosed shopping center in Alabama. With 150 stores, several restaurants inside and around the perimeter and much more, you will find everything you need and want!
FAVORITE KIDS’ HAIRCUT
A repeat Family Favorites winner, Great Clips, with a friendly staff and kid-friendly services, is the choice for an affordable and stylish haircut.
FAVORITE CONSIGNMENT STORE OR SALE
Kids Market and Mom
A repeat Family Favorites winner many times over, Kids Market and Mom, held twice a year, is the largest consignment store in Alabama, dedicated to children’s and maternity items. You can buy or sell items, and find some great deals, too!
FAVORITE STORE FOR KIDS CLOTHES
With a large selection of affordable, trendy, stylish clothes and accessories for infants on up, it’s not a surprise that Target earns the Family Favorite this year. Find a store near you to stock up!
FAVORITE STORE FOR KIDS SHOES
Sikes Children’s Shoes
Sikes Children’s Shoes in Homewood is a repeat Family Favorites winner, not only for their wide selection of practical and special occasion shoes but for the one-on-one attention to ensure your child’s shoe fits perfectly.
FAVORITE STORE FOR MOM’S SHOES
DSW has a huge selection of shoes, from sandals to wedges and boots. Moms love the selection and the great prices on name brand favorites!
FAVORITE TOY STORE
Learning Express has a large variety of quality, educational toys that kids love and families approve of. The expert staff is ready to help you find the best toys for your child. Learning Express also offers a Skill Building catalog for children with special needs.
FAVORITE EDUCATIONAL TOYS
Learning Express is a repeat winner in this category for its attention to the kinds of toys kids need to enjoy and learn from. The staff is able to help you find the best toys for your child, no matter what age.
This repeat Family Favorites winner has several locations in Birmingham and the Southeast and has books, toys, movies and more for all ages. Families love the selection and prices!
FAVORITE GROCERY STORE
This repeat Family Favorites winner is no surprise – everyone loves Publix! Clean stores, friendly and helpful staff and a huge selection of great items, along with the pharmacy, deli and bakery make it a one-stop shop for everything you need!
FAVORITE ICE CREAM
Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
Bruster’s makes the list again for Family Favorite! With quality ice cream, frozen yogurt, shakes, ice cream cakes, sundaes and more, it’s no wonder our readers love it. With walk-up or drive-in services.
FAVORITE FROZEN YOGURT
When it comes to the best frozen yogurt, our readers have made Yogurt Mountain a repeat Family Favorite! It’s known as the “ultimate self-service frozen dessert experience,” where you can choose from more than a dozen rotating flavors and 50-plus toppings.
FAVORITE KIDS MEALS
Parents and children love Chick-fil-A! A repeat Family Favorites winner, families love the delicious food – including several healthy meal options – and the fast, friendly service in a clean, family-friendly dining area. Kids’ meals come with an educational toy!
FAVORITE PLACE FOR FAMILY DINNER
Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ
Jim ‘N Nick’s wins the Family Favorite in this tough category, as there are many places in Birmingham to catch a great meal with the family. With several locations in the Birmingham area, there’s sure to be one near you.
FAVORITE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHER
Christy Pierce Photography
A repeat Family Favorites winner, Christy Pierce is known for quality photography for all ages and occasions – from births, graduations, weddings, family photos and more. Contact her at
FAVORITE BABY FURNITURE/GIFTS
Storkland, locally owned and operated, is still the choice for quality baby furniture, bedding and accessories. With a showroom featuring more than 7,000 square feet of items, plus personalized service, parents count on Storkland to help create the perfect nursery!
FAVORITE MATERNITY SHOP
The Swanky Stork
This repeat Family Favorites winner has what you need to feel elegant, trendy and comfortable while expecting! Treat yourself to some quality, fashionable outfits at reasonable prices.
Hope Animal Clinic
Hope Animal Clinic is a repeat Family Favorite for providing the best care for families’ furry family members! Veterinarians are well qualified to meet your pet’s every need, from routine checkups and care to doggie day care, surgery and more.
FAVORITE BOARDING FACILITY FOR PETS
The Pawms Pet Resort
Offering boarding, training, grooming, daycare and more The Pawns Pet Resort, with two locations, will make your pet feel “at home” as much as possible. This Family Favorite has a location in Avondale and is relocating its Vestavia Hills location to Patchwork Farms this summer.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
FAVORITE PEDIATRIC DENTIST
Dr. Clark Thomas
Thomas, of Thomas Pediatric Dentistry, wins this Family Favorite for his expertise and care in treating children of all ages. Board certified in pediatric dentistry, he is a graduate of the UAB Pediatric Residency Program, where he developed expertise in treating patients with special needs.
FAVORITE FAMILY DENTIST
Vital Smiles, with locations throughout the Birmingham area, is this year’s Family Favorite. Vital Smiles accepts most insurance and provides affordable, quality dental care for families.
A six-time Family Favorites winner in this category, PT Orthodontics wants everyone to have a beautiful smile. That’s why they offer free consultations in 11 convenient locations. PT Orthodontics provides high-quality orthodontic care for all ages at an affordable price.
Greenvale Pediatrics has three locations across the metro area and is part of Children’s of Alabama. This Family Favorites repeat serves patients ranging from newborns to college age. It wins for its dedicated, caring and professional physicians and staff.
Honorable Mention – Growing Up Pediatrics
CVS again wins this Family Favorites category with readers, offering convenient locations and a great selection of medicines, gifts, food, health and beauty items and more. Readers love the Extra Care rewards card with its extra coupons and weekly sales. Many locations are open 24 hours every day. Photo services are popular, too!
Dr. Calah Ray, Vestavia Eye Care
Ray, who practices with Vestavia Eye Care, is this year’s Family Favorite. She has provided eye care for pediatric and adult patients, vision therapy services and eye care for special needs children and adults.
FAVORITE FAMILY DOCTOR
Main Street Urgent Care
With more than 15 locations in the Birmingham area and Central Alabama, Main Street Urgent Care is a Family Favorite for its convenient, affordable services. Committed to “helping you heal better and feel better, fast!”
FAVORITE BIRTHING SUITES
St. Vincent’s Health System
Readers have chosen St. Vincent’s for the fifth consecutive year in this category! Parents love the birthing suites at St. Vincent’s.
FAVORITE PLACE TO HAVE A BABY
Brookwood Baptist Medical Center
Brookwood Baptist, this year’s Family Favorite, has a full range of mother and newborn care facilities, amenities and services.
FAVORITE FERTILITY SPECIALIST
Honea, Houserman and Long
This practice, offering the ART Fertility Program of Alabama, is this year’s Family Favorite. With four locations in central Alabama, physicians are board certified specialists in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Services include IVF and advanced reproductive techniques for more than 31 years.
Dr. Allison Heaton
Heaton is the Family Favorite winner in this category, offering her patients “whole person care” with Women’s Health Specialists in Birmingham, an affiliate of Grandview Health. She earned her medical education from the University of South Alabama, with a residency at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Dr. Allison Heaton
Heaton is a repeat Family Favorite for this category, practicing with Women’s Health Specialists in Birmingham, an affiliate of Grandview Health.
FAVORITE OB/GYN PRACTICE
Henderson & Walton Women’s Center, P.C.
This year’s Family Favorite has provided care in the Birmingham area for more than 30 years, with several locations. With board-certified physicians, Henderson & Walton offers state-of-the-art diagnostic services, a full service laboratory and much more.
FAVORITE ALL-AROUND HOSPITAL
St. Vincent’s Health System
This repeat Family Favorites winner offers comprehensive medical services, professional, compassionate care and has excellent facilities to treat patients with all types of health care needs.
FAVORITE WOMEN’S HEALTH FACILITY
Brookwood Baptist Medical Center
Brookwood Baptist, this year’s Family Favorite, has a full range of mother and newborn care facilities, amenities and services. Families trust the care at Brookwood.
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S HEALTH FACILITY
Children’s Health System
A repeat Family Favorite, Children’s Health System includes Children’s of Alabama medical center, as well as several pediatric and specialty services at several locations in the area. It is ranked among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation and is the third largest pediatric facility in the U.S.
FAVORITE HOSPITAL NICU
UAB Women & Infants Center
The only Level IV NICU in Alabama, this NICU at the UAB Women & Infants Center is a Family Favorite for the comprehensive care it gives to babies born too soon or who are ill.
OUR READERS ALSO LIKE…
FAVORITE RADIO STATION
This repeat Family Favorites winner provides Christian music for the entire family and has stayed popular with local radio listeners since its beginning.
FAVORITE TV STATION
WBRC Fox 6
Readers trust WBRC Fox 6, a repeat Family Favorites winner, for its emphasis on breaking, national and local news, weather, sports, entertainment and more.