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Cover Story - Posted April 22, 2016 noon
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Photos by Shannon Richardson/ Special thanks to Belmar Bakery & Cafe for providing our Readers’ Choice cake

Readers’ Choice Awards 2016

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In 2015, the personal finance website WalletHub compared the 150 largest cities in the United States, using a set of key statistics to rank them for family-friendliness. Amarillo placed 12th overall on the list, ahead of places like Austin, Fort Worth, Lubbock, and a host of cities outside Texas. It’s just one list, of course – and there are many others – but for most Amarilloans, it confirms what we already know: This is a great place for families. Our Readers’ Choice Awards are the result of our annual survey, asking readers to vote for their favorite local products, services, and attractions geared toward kids and their families. This 2016 edition combines a number of repeat winners and long-time favorites with a fresh crop of new names.

Arts and Entertainment

Art Instruction

Brush With Art 1948 Civic Circle, 355.6565, BrushWithArtOnline.com
Step one: Pick something to paint. Maybe it’s a plate, mug, cup-and-saucer, or something cute and decorative. Step two: Pick your favorite glaze colors, all of which are safe for little artists and even wash out of clothing. Then, paint to your heart’s content. When you’re finished, Jeff and Lillie Farris and the Brush With Art staff will fire your piece in the kiln, and you ‘ll leave a few days later with a fun, hand-painted keepsake. That simple, kid-friendly, step-by-step approach is why our readers have named this family-owned studio their favorite since 2014.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Museum of Art 2200 S. Van Buren St., 371.5050, AmarilloArt.org
Amarillo College Kid’s College 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, ACTX.edu/KidsCollege/

Dance Program

Amarillo Little Theatre Academy 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, AmarilloLittleTheatre.org
A winner for the first time last year, Jason Crespin’s Academy brings an encore performance in 2016 for its multitude of dance training classes (offered in addition to vocal and theater training). Classes in tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, musical theater and ballroom dancing are available, all taking place in a studio at Amarillo Little Theatre’s Mainstage building near Wolflin Village. Want to match your kid step-by-step? The Academy has classes for adults, too.
Runners-up:
Lone Star Dance Academy 3218 Hobbs Road, 372.2463, LoneStarBallet.org
Amarillo College Kid’s College 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, ACTX.edu/KidsCollege/

Music Program

Amarillo Little Theatre Academy 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, AmarilloLittleTheatre.org
ALT Academy gets top billing in this category again this year, with a variety of voice instruction classes for more than 250 students every semester, starting at age 5. The results are visible on stage in well-received shows like this year’s “Godspell” and “Aladdin Jr.” Our readers aren’t the only ones paying attention: Last year, the Academy and its leading performers won several National Youth Arts Awards.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Youth Choirs 203 SW Eighth Ave., Suite 303, 372.1100, AmaYouthChoirs.org
Amarillo Symphony Youth Orchestra 301 S. Polk St., Suite 700, 376.8782, AmarilloSymphony.org

Party Inflatables

A-Team Rentals 1715 SE 10th Ave., 373.8326, ATeamRental.com
It’s a Saturday afternoon. You’re driving through the neighborhood when voices in the back seat suddenly screech for you to slow down, Mom. Why? Because they want to gawk at the huge, colorful bouncy house in the neighbor’s yard. When this happens – and it will – chances are good your neighbors have turned to A-Team Rentals. Last year’s runner-up, A-Team bounced right to the top of the 2016 list. Its lengthy product list of games and inflatables culminates in an inflatable waterslide that might require two yards.
Runners-up:
ABC Inflatable, LLC 4518 S. Georgia St., 654.2180, ABCInflatable.com
Parties Picnics & Promotions 5911 Glenoak Lane, 359.7840, PartyAmarillo.com

Party Place

Don Harrington Discovery Center 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, DiscoveryCenterAmarillo.org
With exhibits like this spring’s “Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Body,” you know the staff at the Don Harrington Discovery Center is finely attuned to the childhood brain. That’s one reason parents are so supportive of DHDC’s slate of party options. A frequent winner for Best of Amarillo Party Venue, they’re also our readers’ choice for all kinds of kids’ parties. Choose a package, pick your theme and science activity, and let the smarties on staff handle the rest. Best of all, every party includes a Space Theater show and access to all exhibits.
Runners-up:
WTAMU Virgil Henson Activities Center 2620 Russell Long Blvd., Canyon, 651.2323, WTAMU.edu
Cheer Texas 9200 FM 2590, 468.9355, CheerTexas.com

Party Props

Card & Party Factory 3339 Bell St., 355.7340, WallysPartyFactory.com
Another repeat winner, the party proprietors at Card & Party Factory are experts at providing all the various components of a proper shindig, from plates and napkins to balloons, piñatas, and other essentials. The all-encompassing selection starts small – Need costume jewelry? Temporary tattoos? Easy-to-apply pink mustaches? – but extends right on up to life-sized inflatable palm trees and more. So. Much. More.
Runners-up:
A-Team Rentals 1715 SE 10th Ave., 373.8326, ATeamRental.com
Amarillo Classic Events 4807 S. Washington St., 331.2444, AmaClassicEvents.com

Theater Program

ALT Academy 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, AmarilloLittleTheatre.org
If the words “ALT Academy” look familiar, that’s because they’re all over these pages … and last year’s pages, too. A repeat 2016 winner for both dance and music instruction, the Academy is also our readers’ favorite overall theater program, where Amarillo’s talented young dancers, singers, and actors combine those disciplines to create one fantastic season after another. The Academy is led by director Jason Crespin and a team of kid- and parent-approved instructors.
Runners-up:
Amarillo College Kid’s College 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, ACTX.edu/KidsCollege/
Kwahadi Dancers 9151 I-40 East, 335.3175, Kwahadi.com

Education

Day Camp

Don Harrington Discovery Center 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, DiscoveryCenterAmarillo.org
Your kid could spend all summer enraptured by an iPad, zombified by the TV, or complaining about being bored. Or, they could spend a week (or more) having the time of their lives while immersed in science. The Discovery Center has a full slate of available camps for kids as young as 3 years old up through sixth grade. Among other subjects, summer 2016 camp topics cover insects, dinosaurs, art and construction for younger kids (half-day camps), and outdoor survival, engineering, vet tech, and chemistry for older kids (all-day).
Runners-up:
Amarillo College Badger Kids Camps and Classes 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, ACTX.edu/KidsCollege/
Amarillo Zoo 700 Comanchero Trail, 381.7911, Zoo.Amarillo.gov

Financial Education Program

Amarillo National Bank 410 S. Taylor St., 378.8000, ANB.com
Last year’s winner in this category, ANB again comes out on top thanks to its student banking program. This family-owned bank – an Amarillo institution since 1892 – offers a spending card program called Plastic. Kids love it because they get their own bank account and debit card, plus an extra $10 every six weeks for honor-roll report cards. Mom and Dad love it because they get to track their kids’ spending with texts and emails while teaching basic financial responsibility.
Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 701 S. Taylor St., 373.2265, HappyBank.com
Education Credit Union 358.7777, EducationCU.com

Gymnastics Instruction

Cheer Texas 9200 FM 2590, 468.9355, CheerTexas.com
An Amarillo tumbling institution founded by collegiate cheerleaders Jeb and Caroline Harris, Cheer Texas makes its annual appearance on these pages thanks to a well-equipped 13,000-square-foot gym, USASF-certified instructors, and plenty of springy space for local gymnasts to flip, spring, leap and dismount. Classes are available for all ages, from beginner to elite, at their Soncy Road facility south of Amarillo.
Runners-up:
Amarillo College Kid’s College 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, ACTX.edu/KidsCollege
All American Gymnastics 2909 Wolflin Ave., 355.0671, AllAmericanGymnasticsAmarillo.com

Martial Arts Class

Extreme Martial Arts 3701 Plains Blvd., Suite 16, 242.4362, AmarilloKickBoxing.com
From karate to kickboxing to taekwondo, there are plenty of places for kids to learn martial arts in Amarillo, but our readers’ favorite for the past few years continues to be Extreme Martial Arts. Parents appreciate the discipline, fitness, and all-important energy expenditure their kids receive from International Martial Arts Council Hall of Famer Ty Garrett’s classes. For their part, kids just know they’re having a total blast.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Martial Arts Center 3101 S. Western St., Suite 3, 478.0211, AmarilloKarate.com
Kim’s USA 4461 Ridgecrest Circle, 352.8593, KimsUSA.com

Mother’s Day Out

Saint Stephen Church 4600 S. Western St., 355.7271, SSUMC.net
Led by Stefani Cook, the Mother’s Day Out program at Saint Stephen has just opened registration for its summer and fall classes. Based on the program’s local popularity, parents need to act quickly. This licensed program for kids 12 months to 3 years old has been providing parent-approved Christian care since 1972, complete with daily crafts, music time, rest time, and tons of stories and activities. Last year, Saint Stephen tied for runner-up in our list.
Runners-up:
Polk Street United Methodist Church Child Development Center 1401 S. Polk St., 374.3198, PSUMC.com/ChildDevelopmentCenter
First Baptist Church 1208 S. Tyler St., 373.2891, FirstAmarillo.org

Preschool

Polk Street United Methodist Church Child Development Center 1401 S. Polk St., 374.3198, PSUMC.com/ChildDevelopmentCenter
A return winner after placing first in this category in 2014, the Child Development Center at Polk Street United Methodist Church, led by Karen Smith, is once again our readers’ favorite preschool. Relying on highly qualified, degreed teachers and a low staff-to-child ratio, it provides an active, hands-on curriculum supplemented by regular musical activities and even Spanish instruction.
Runners-up:
Saint Stephen Church 4600 S. Western St., 355.7271, SSUMC.net
Amarillo Montessori Academy 3806 Bowie St., 353.3871, AmarilloMontessori.com

Private School

Ascension Academy 9301 Ascension Pkwy., 342.0515, AscensionAcademy.org
Ascension has ascended to the top of our list for the third year in a row as the top private school in Amarillo. This non-denominational, faith-affirming school is preparing to graduate its 16th class of ambitious college preparatory students. Ascension offers individual attention thanks to a very low student-teacher ratio, and academic excellence is a way of life here: Ascension’s students regularly score above local and national averages on college entrance exams.
Runners-up:
San Jacinto Christian Academy 501 S. Carolina St., 372.2285, SanJac.org
Amarillo Montessori Academy 3806 Bowie St., 353.3871, AmarilloMontessori.com

Tutoring

Sylvan Learning of Amarillo 3440 Bell St., Suite 300, 359.1037, SylvanLearning.com
Sylvan Learning of Amarillo got an A-plus last year in this category, and returns for the highest score again in 2016. One of this tutoring program’s 900 locations nationwide, the Amarillo Sylvan franchise offers personalized instruction in basic subjects like reading, math and writing. Sylvan’s certified teachers are also available for homework assistance, state-test prep, and other help to promote children’s success inside and outside the classroom.
Runner-up:
Club Z Tutoring 352.0199, ClubZTutoring.com

Vacation Bible School

Saint Stephen Church 4600 S. Western St., 355.7271, SSUMC.net
Vacation Bible School is a way of life every summer for most Amarillo kids, and there are plenty of daytime and nighttime options from Amarillo’s countless churches. This year’s VBS favorite is a newcomer to the list: Saint Stephen Church, which transforms every June for its annual weeklong VBS celebration. The summer 2016 theme at Saint Stephen is “Deep Sea Discovery,” evenings the week of June 12-15.
Runners-up:
First Baptist Church 1208 S. Tyler St., 373.2831, FirstAmarillo.org
Polk Street United Methodist Church 1401 S. Polk St., 374.2891, PSUMC.com

Health care

Allergist

Allergy A.R.T.S. 6842 Plum Creek Drive, 353.7000, AllergyArts.com
Blowing dust. Gusty winds. Dry air, cottonwoods, Bermuda grass, and pollen. The Texas Panhandle is home to any number of allergens and sniffle-producers, which is why so many top-notch allergy specialists call Amarillo home. For the third year in a row, the team at Allergy A.R.T.S., led by the award-winning Dr. Constantine Saadeh, tops our readers’ choice for favorite allergist.
Runners-up:
Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, PanhandleENT.net
Quail Creek Ear, Nose, & Throat Center 6826 Plum Creek Drive, 355.9999, QuailCreekENT.com

Audiologist

Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, PanhandleENT.net
A runner-up in this category last year, the team of physicians and caring staff at Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat win top billing in our 2016 survey. Doctors Robert C. McLean, Stacie S. Morgan, Amber M. Price, and Geoffrey L. Wright have a combined 50 years of experience in otolaryngology, and specialize in hearing evaluations, testing, and other auditory services for children and adults.
Runners-up:
WTAMU Speech and Hearing Clinic 2403 Russell Long Blvd., Suite 242, Canyon, 651.5101, WTAMU.edu
Ormson Hearing Health Care 5501 SW Ninth Ave., 553.2771, OrmsonHearing.com

Birthing Suite

BSA Health System 1600 Wallace Blvd, 212.2000, BSAHS.org
Another three-time winner, Baptist St. Anthony’s Hospital has been earning raves from new moms since transitioning to single-room maternity care in the Hazel and Ross Wilson Women’s Center. BSA’s queen-size beds, Jacuzzi tubs, and other progressive amenities offer the ultimate in luxury. That baby’s been cramped up in the womb for nine months. He or she deserves to enter the world in a contemporary, comfortable, spacious environment.
Runner-up:
Northwest Texas Healthcare System 1501 S. Coulter St., 354.1000, NWTexasHealthcare.com

Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, PanhandleENT.net
Also our winner for audiologist, the medical team at Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat is our readers’ choice again in this category. In addition to hearing testing and services, they’re the local favorites for everything from vertigo treatment to nosebleeds to chronic sinus problems and snoring. Physicians Stacie S. Morgan, Amber M. Price, Martin L. Schneider, and Geoffrey L. Wright lead the team of ENT experts.
Runner-up:
Quail Creek Ear, Nose, & Throat Center 6826 Plum Creek Drive, 355.9999, QuailCreekENT.com

Lactation Specialist

BSA Health System 1600 Wallace Blvd, 212.2000, BSAHS.org
Breastfeeding is one of the most meaningful and beneficial things a new mother can do. Unfortunately, it can potentially be one of the most frustrating and confusing – especially for kids who refuse to latch on or for mothers who struggle to produce milk. The lactation specialists at BSA give new moms as much help as possible during a baby’s first days, from prenatal classes to a breastfeeding support group and a 24-7 breastfeeding hotline. The result? Nine out of 10 new moms at BSA elect to breastfeed.
Runners-up:
Northwest Texas Healthcare System 1501 S. Coulter St., 354.1000, NWTexasHealthcare.com
La Leche League of West Texas TexasLLL.org/West-Texas

Mommy Makeover

Awaken Spa 1301 S. Coulter St., Suite 204, 354.8600, AwakenSpa.com
Whether Mom works full time or not, successful parenting means holding down a host of brand-new jobs, from boxing referee to amateur psychologist. Moms need a break every once in awhile (or, let’s be honest, much more frequently than that). When that time comes, our readers turn to Awaken Spa. A frequent winner in this category, Awaken pampers Mom with massages, facials, hydration wraps, cosmetic Botox® and Juvéderm® treatments, and so much more from certified therapists and aestheticians. Which means her skin will be luminous when she breaks up the next fight.
Runners-up:
Proffer Surgical Associates 1611 Wallace Blvd., 352.1185, DrProffer.com
The Spa at Proffer Surgical 1611 Wallace Blvd., 352.1185, DrProffer.com

Obstetrician

Women's Healthcare Associates 1301 S. Coulter St., Suite 300, 355.6330, WHAOnline.net
A repeat winner in this category, Women’s Healthcare Associates provides obstetrics care along with a comprehensive array of services for local women, including ultrasound, mammography, prenatal care, contraception, and more from a single location. WHA formed in 1996 when physicians Rhodesia Castillo, David Chastain, Brian Eades and Clyde Meeks combined their practices, adding Pamela Chandler, Carin Appel, Amanda Murdock, and Jill Gulizia in the years since.
Runners-up:
Panhandle OBGYN 7620 Wallace Blvd., 359.5468, PanhandleObGyn.com
Carrasco & Carrasco 1911 Port Lane, Suite 2, 359.9100

Orthodontist

Sparkman Orthodontics 7701 SW 45th Ave., 355.9732, SparkmanOrthodontics.com
If kids’ smiles in Amarillo seem straighter and prettier than ever, much of that credit goes to the hard-working team at Sparkman Orthodontics, led by Dr. Kyle Sparkman. This repeat winner has now been our readers’ favorite three years in a row, and serves patients of all ages from offices in Amarillo and Pampa.
Runners-up:
Harwell & Harwell Orthodontics 3420 Thornton Drive, 353.3593, HarwellOrtho.com
Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics 2455 I-40 West, 350.5437, AmarilloPediatricDentistry.com

Orthopedic Surgeon

Amarillo Bone & Joint Clinic LLP 1100 Coulter St., 468.9700, AmarilloBoneandJoint.com
No one wants to break a bone, sprain a knee, or deal with a youth sports injury. But should that happen, local parents know they can trust the orthopedic experts at Amarillo Bone & Joint. Doctors Keith Bjork, J. Brian Sims, Brad Veazey, Toby Risko, Joshua North, Brian Haseloff, Lisa Longhofer and Todd Bradshaw rely upon innovative technology and proven therapies to get student-athletes and others back in the game.
Runners-up:
Barnhill Sports Medicine Clinic 7000 SW Ninth Ave., 350.3500, BarnhillSportsMed.com
High Plains Orthopedics & Sports Medicine 1901 Medi Park, Suite 10, 356.2525, HighPlainsOrthopedics.com

Pediatric Dentistry

Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics 2455 I-40 West, 350.5437, AmarilloPediatricDentistry.com
If you’re going to force a kid to climb into the dental chair – rarely an appealing option, at least from the perspective of childhood – then local parents are more likely to trust Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics than anyone else. Dentists Shane Moore, Duane Tinkler, Eric DeVries, and Tracy Shen (along with their professional and compassionate team of hygienists and assistants) work hard to make cleanings, fillings, and other dental procedures as painless as possible.
Runners-up:
Dental Group of Amarillo 2401 Commerce St./6601 Ravenwood Drive, 358.7633, DentalGroupofAmarillo.com
Kemp Lindsey Pediatric Dentistry 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 129, 376.4770

Pediatrician

Panhandle Pediatrics 1500 S. Coulter St., 354.0404, FMCClinics.com
Now a three-time winner, Panhandle Pediatrics remains local parents’ preferred choice when their little ones are sick. Doctors Mariada George and Sheri Williams understand that fevers don’t wear watches or care what time of day it is. That’s why a member of their staff is always on call to answer questions or reassure worried parents. Another bonus is Panhandle Pediatrics’ relationship with Family Medicine Centers’ CareXpress clinics, providing urgent care after hours or on weekends.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Children's Clinic 17 Care Circle, 468.6277, AmarilloChildrensClinic.com
Children’s Healthcare Associates, LLP 1901 Medi Park Drive, Suite 2001, 468.4350, CHAAmarillo.com

Podiatrist

Amarillo Foot Specialists 1901 Medi Park Drive, 322.3338, AmarilloFootSpecialists.com
As more and more of our readers embrace active lifestyles, caring for their feet becomes more important than ever. That’s why we’ve added this new category for 2016. Our first winner is the team at Amarillo Foot Specialists, led by Dr. Brandon Holloway. An avid runner with a 100-mile ultramarathon on his resume, Dr. Holloway knows how important it is to walk, stand, or run without pain – and will never be intimidated by our readers’ ingrown toenails, high arches, or plantar fasciitis.
Runners-up:
High Plains Podiatry 1900 S. Coulter St., Suite P, 354.8760, AmarilloFootDoc.com
Sicher Foot Center 19 Care Circle, 353.3366, SicherFootCenter.com

Ultrasound

Panhandle OBGYN 7620 Wallace Blvd., 359.5468, PanhandleOBGYN.com
A new winner in this category, Panhandle OBGYN is led by doctors George Barnett, Jamie Wilkerson, Cullen Hopkins, Dudley Freeman, and Gregory May, and women’s health care nurse practitioners Sarah Bergeron and Brenna Payne. Seeing their little one for the first time is an unforgettable moment for new parents, and the sonographers at Panhandle OBGYN know exactly what a big moment this is. That’s one reason they offer stunning 4D sonography to allow parents to see their baby in three-dimensional detail, moving inside the womb.
Runners-up:
BSA Health System 1600 Wallace Blvd., 212.2000, BSAHS.org
Women’s Healthcare Associates 1301 S. Coulter St., Suite 300, 355.6330, WHAOnline.net

Lifestyles

Cakes

Belmar Bakery & Café 3325 Bell St., 355.0141, BelmarBakery.com
Kids remember birthdays, and parents can rent any number of clowns, magicians, or bouncers to make a birthday as extraordinary as possible. And those things are great. But the cake will still be the centerpiece of the celebration, because no one sings “Happy Birthday” while staring at a bounce-house. When local parents want a delicious, well-decorated, kid-pleasing cake, they turn to Deana and Richard Zaccardo’s Belmar Bakery – a repeat winner and long-time local favorite.
Runners-up:
The Ruffled Cup Cupcakery & Sweet Shoppe 3440 Bell St., Suite 130, 318.3961, TheRuffledCup.com
The Cake Company 1502 Fifth Ave., 655.8700, CanyonCakeNinjas.com

Cupcakes

The Ruffled Cup Cupcakery & Sweet Shoppe 3440 Bell St., Suite 130, 318.3961, TheRuffledCup.com
If you thought the cupcake craze had come and gone, you obviously haven’t met one of the hundreds of passionate customers who frequent Deanna Hurt’s cute little turquoise-and-pink cakery at 34th Avenue and Bell Street. The Ruffled Cup offers a rotating cast of dozens of delightful flavors, from the Audrey to Zinger. Too many options? Just ask for The Classic. Fans of chocolaty goodness won’t be disappointed.
Runners-up:
Belmar Bakery & Café 3325 Bell St., 355.0141, BelmarBakery.com
The Cake Company 1502 Fifth Ave., 655.8700, CanyonCakeNinjas.com

Day Care

Polk Street United Methodist Church Child Development Center 1401 S. Polk St., 374.3198, PSUMC.com/ChildDevelopmentCenter
Polk Street’s Child Development Center was this year’s readers’ favorite preschool, so it makes sense that this historic church also rates as Amarillo’s top day care. A past winner in this category during our 2014 survey, Polk Street offers transitional hours for early (7:30-9 a.m.) and late care (3:30-5:30 p.m.) alongside their regular hours, with four-day and five-day options available for kids as young as 6 weeks old.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Montessori Academy 3806 Bowie St., 353.3871, AmarilloMontessori.com
Unique Individuals 7701 S. Coulter St., 322.7444, UniqueIndividualsAmarillo.com

Family-Friendly Employer

Amarillo National Bank 410 S. Taylor St., 378.8000, ANB.com
What exactly makes an employer “family-friendly”? For some readers, it’s an atmosphere where employees aren’t made to feel guilty for taking an hour off for their child’s awards ceremony or school play. Maybe it’s a workplace that promotes employee health and community service while giving plenty of opportunities to advance through the ranks. At ANB, it’s those things plus the fact that the bank itself is family-owned. In fact, the Ware family has built Amarillo National Bank into the largest 100-percent family-owned bank in the United States. If that’s not “family-friendly,” what is?
Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 701 S. Taylor St., 373.2265, HappyBank.com
Amarillo Independent School District 7200 I-40 West, 326.1000, AmaISD.org

Financial Planner

Amarillo National Bank 410 S. Taylor St., 378.8000, ANB.com
Financial planning is a multifaceted realm populated by complex financial instruments. Many local families find it hard enough to set aside money – period, full stop – much less understand whether they should be putting that money in an IRA, money market account, college savings plan, private brokerage fund, or under the mattress. The financial experts at ANB understand the importance of securing a family’s future, and put their experience to work making sure our readers are able to meet their future financial goals. Step one, for what it’s worth, is to put the mattress method to rest ASAP.
Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 701 S. Taylor St., 373.2265, HappyBank.com
Edward Jones EdwardJones.com

First-time Home Buyer’s Program

Amarillo National Bank 410 S. Taylor St., 378.8000, ANB.com
A prospective home buyer might look at the expensive new mansions taking shape on the southwest edge of the city and despair that they’ll never be able to afford one. But those are just part of the picture. New construction means veteran homeowners may be upgrading – and putting their older, more affordable homes on the market. These are perfect for first-timers. When new home buyers start dreaming of a place of their own, our readers first turn to Amarillo National Bank, the largest mortgage lender in the Texas Panhandle.
Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 701 S. Taylor St., 373.2265, HappyBank.com
The People’s Federal Credit Union TPFCU.com

Home Builder

Old World Construction 2700 S. Western St., Suite 200, 353.3307, Old-World-Construction.com
New home sales continue to ride a wave of development on Amarillo’s northwest, southwest, and southeast edges. One of the most in-demand custom builders remains Eric White’s Old World Construction, last year’s winner in this category. Some of the most striking high-end homes in Amarillo’s newest neighborhoods are the products of White and his crew, whose reputation is bolstered by a slate of Texas Panhandle Builders Association awards and Parade of Homes acclaims.
Runners up:
Blue Haven Homes 5701 Times Square, Suite 320, 336.7101, BlueHavenHomes.com
N&B Homes 14201 I-27, 681.8198, NandBHomes.com

Infant/Child Photographer

Pam Lary Photography 6 Stoneridge Drive, 353.7631, PamLaryPhotography.com
Children’s photography is exceedingly difficult, from the subjects themselves (kids are rarely still and, for some reason, babies refuse to smile on cue) to the heavy competition (it seems everyone with a DSLR has hung out a family-portrait shingle). Pam Lary, though a new winner on these pages, is no newbie-with-a-Nikon. A veteran behind the lens, she’s been capturing sweet memories on camera for years – and our readers are quick to recognize Pam’s expertise.
Runners-up:
Carol McKinney Photography 5715 Mary Dell Drive, 654.6191, CarolMcKinneyPhoto.com
The Photo Store 3706 Olsen Blvd., 358.9616, ThePhotoStore.com

Invitations and Announcements

Et Cetera 2479 I-40 West, 358.2333
The phrase et cetera comes from a Latin expression which means “and other things.” This little shop in Wolflin Square began in 1998 as a boutique specializing in distinctive gifts and upscale home furnishings. In recent years, the store has also begun offering a full spectrum of “other things,” which includes high-end stationery products. Locals love the design and selection of this repeat winner’s baby announcements, graduation announcements, birthday invitations, and more.
Runners-up:
Little Brown House 2600 Wolflin Ave., 352.0321, LittleBrownHouseAmarillo.com
Jones Press 3450 S. Western St., 358.4301, JonesPress.com

Kid-friendly Hair Salon

Sport Clips 2325 S. Georgia St., 467.2547, HairCutMenGeorgiaAmarilloTX.com
3240 S. Soncy Road, Suite 200, 355.2547, HairCutMenSoncyAmarilloTX.com
Remember when every little boy would get a summer buzz-cut just because it was easy and got him in and out of the barber’s chair as quickly as possible? Those days are as bygone as five-cent bottles of Coke. Today, a kid’s haircut is an occasion to watch football, baseball, or basketball replays on high-def televisions, which is why Sport Clips is our readers’ choice for faux-hawks, tapers, edges, or a classic high-and-tight.
Runners-up:
Great Clips 3300 S. Coulter St., Suite 6, 242.5477/6200 Hillside Road, Suite 300, 418.8579/2613 Wolflin Ave., 803.9407, GreatClips.com
Hair Trendz Salon & Day Spa 7402 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2, 355.1974, HairTrendzDaySpa.com

Kid-friendly Nail Salon

Bebe Nail Salon 2319 S. Georgia St., 331.1333
Now a three-time winner, Bebe Nail Salon continues to reign as our readers’ favorite stop for little manicures. Sandal season is upon us, which means the professional staff at Bebe will be scheduling quite a few pedicures as well. Whether painting and polishing fingers or toes, Bebe treats both moms and daughters like princesses.
Runners-up:
Deluxe Nails 3333 S. Coulter St., 457.0225, DeluxeNailsAmarillo.com
Natural Nails 2624 SW 34th Ave., 331.2228

Kid-friendly Restaurant

Gatti's Pizza 4412 S. Western St., 366.5601, GattisPizzaAmarillo.com
There are three ingredients to winning “Kid-friendly Restaurant” praise from our readers. One: Delicious food, preferably pizza, and plenty of it. Two: Large, plentiful television screens. Three: Tons of whirling lights, flashing video simulators, and arcade games aplenty. Gatti’s has all those things (and more), which keep our readers and their kids coming back, year after year.
Runners-up:
Blue Sky 4201 I-40 West, 355.8100/5060 S. Coulter St., 322.3888, BlueSkyTexas.com
575 Pizzeria 2803 Civic Circle/7710 Hillside Road, Suite 700, 322.5575, 575Pizzeria.com

Maternity Photographer

Pam Lary Photography 6 Stoneridge Drive, 353.7631, PamLaryPhotography.com
Also our winner for Infant/Child Photography, Pam Lary has attracted our readers’ attention for her maternity photography as well. Her creative eye catches moms-to-be at their most luminous, capturing moments of joyful expectation that parents will treasure – and remember – for the rest of their lives.
Runners-up:
The Photo Store 3706 Olsen Blvd., 358.9616, ThePhotoStore.com
Portraits by Tracy 3211 SW Sixth Ave., 351.1331, Portraits-by-Tracy.com

Shopping

Children’s Book Store

Barnes & Noble Booksellers 2415 Soncy Road, 352.2300, BarnesandNoble.com
The best way to interest kids in reading is to make books available to them. Short of regular trips to Amarillo’s public libraries, a morning spent browsing the enormous children’s section of Barnes & Noble is the perfect immersion in the written word. Barnes & Noble keeps its shelves stocked with the latest popular series and characters, while remaining committed to parents’ favorites, too. That means young readers are just as likely to encounter the Hardy Boys and Laura Ingalls Wilder as they are characters like Harry Potter, Judy Moody, and Captain Underpants.
Runners-up:
Hastings GoHastings.com
Mardel 2203 S. Western St., 353.2135, Mardel.com

Children’s Clothes

Carter's 2804 S. Soncy Road, 358.0501, Carters.com
For some reason, children have a stubborn dedication to getting bigger, which means keeping them in clothes that fit can be a constant chore. When sizes change with every season, Mom and Dad don’t want to put all their money into clothing that’s too expensive. At the same time, you want the best for them – no shoddy workmanship or sketchy fabrics. Enter Carter’s. This American company has been a fixture for decades for selling quality, well-constructed clothing at reasonable prices. That makes Amarillo’s location on Soncy our readers’ favorite family fashion shop.
Runners-up:
Once Upon a Child 3440 Bell St., 354.0071, OnceUponaChildAmarillo.com
The Children's Place 7701 I-40 West, 359.6544, ChildrensPlace.com

Children’s Shoes

Shoe Carnival 3102 Soncy Road, 356.0716, ShoeCarnival.com
When their kids’ little piggies start squishing up against the toes of their old shoes, our readers turn to the vast selection of children’s footwear at Shoe Carnival. One of the largest family footwear chains in the nation, Shoe Carnival operates more than 400 stores across the United States. Forbes Magazine named it one of America’s 200 Best Small Companies. Amarillo Magazine readers call it their favorite place to find top brands and fashionable styles at great prices.
Runners-up:
Dillard's 7701 I-40 West, Suite 300, 358.7771, Dillards.com
Kids Foot Locker 7701 I-40 West, Suite 5, 356.7273, KidsFootLocker.com

Family-Friendly Vehicles

Street Toyota 4500 S. Soncy Road, 355.9846, StreetToyota.com
A leader in this category since we first compiled our Readers’ Choice lists, Street Toyota zooms once more to top position for family-friendly vehicles. From the highly rated Toyota Highlander to the reliable Toyota Sienna, Street Toyota’s inventory is filled with the technology-rich, safety-conscious models parents love. The service offered by owner Joe Street, general manager Mike Good, general sales manager Cory Dupriest and Street’s sales and maintenance staff helps seal the deal.
Runners-up:
Bobby Duby Motors 4215 S. Georgia St., 352.9800, BobbyDuby.com
Brown Buick GMC 4300 S. Georgia St., 318.1083, BrownBuickGMC.com

Gift Shop

The Secret Place 3690 S. Soncy Road, 467.9800
After regular appearances here as our readers’ favorite gift shop, there aren’t too many secrets left to be told about The Secret Place. Founded more than two decades ago by community icons Sharon Oeschger and the late Hazel Kelley Wilson, this boutique is well-known for its high-end merchandise – including home décor, kitchenware, baby toys and products, and other gifts sure to make the recipient smile.
Runners-up:
Silverland 2608 Wolflin Ave., 355.2525
Lizzie Mae’s Merchantile 10101 Amarillo Blvd. West, 331.1710

Infant/Toddler Clothes

Carter's 2804 S. Soncy Road, 358.0501, Carters.com
According to Carter’s, this national retailer sells 10 of its bright-colored children’s clothing products for every one child in the country. With a population of nearly 75 million U.S. children, that’s a lot of adorable socks, undies and jammies. Despite being founded in 1865 – back when kids dressed in petticoats and breeches – Carter’s does a great job of keeping up with the times, offering the latest cozy fabrics, and fun patterns adored by children as well as their parents.
Runners-up:
The Children's Place 7701 I-40 West, 359.6544, ChildrensPlace.com
Once Upon a Child 3440 Bell St., 354.0071, OnceUponaChildAmarillo.com

Maternity Clothes

Motherhood Maternity 2816 Soncy Road, 356.0805, Motherhood.com
Strangers always assure women that they’re positively glowing during those nine months of pregnancy, but Mom doesn’t always feel that way – especially during the discomforts of the third trimester. Thankfully, Motherhood Maternity does its best to keep local women both comfortable and fashionable when they’re expecting. Located in Westgate Mall, this national retailer started in the early 1980s when a 28-year-old professional had trouble finding maternity clothes she could wear to the office.
Runners-up:
Janey’s at 2500 2500 Paramount Blvd., 359.4156, Janeys.com
Clothez Exchange 4515 S. Georgia St., Suite 110, 352.6244, ClothezExchange.com

Specialty Toys

The Secret Place 3690 S. Soncy Road, 467.9800
Our readers’ favorite overall gift shop, The Secret Place is also the top-rated local destination for unique children’s toys – especially the kind you won’t always find at the enormous big-box toy stores and retailers. Whether they’re looking for educational games, developmental puzzles, or the kinds of timeless toys kids won’t hear about in blaring TV commercials, local parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are likely to shop at The Secret Place.
Runners-up:
Et Cetera 2479 I-40 West, 358.2333
Janey's at 2500 2500 Paramount Blvd., 359.4156, Janeys.com

Sporting Equipment

Academy Sports + Outdoors 4400 Soncy Road, 457.2460, Academy.com
It’s hard enough to list the sports and activities Amarillo kids are into, much less find the right equipment for it. But from traditional sports like baseball and basketball to outdoor activities like hunting and camping, Academy Sports + Outdoors has it all. This Texas-based company operates 200 stores across the Midwest and Southeast, known for a competitive combination of low prices and extensive selection. When it’s time to stock their kids’ equipment bags, local parents head to Academy.
Runners-up:
Hills Sport Shop 4021 Mockingbird Lane, 355.7224, HillsSport.com
Gander Mountain 10300 I-40 West, 354.9095, GanderMountain.com

Things to Do

Arcade

Chuck E. Cheese’s 2500 S. Coulter, Suite 124, 354.8000, ChuckECheese.com
Bored kids? Rainy spring weather? Conspicuous lack of person-sized, rock-star mice at home? When these realities set in, local parents get hungry for the pizza – or maybe the peace of mind – that comes from a visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s. Kids beg for the fun, entertainment and pizza. Parents appreciate the hand-stamp “Kid Check” system, expanded menu, and variety of options for expending pent-up energy.
Runners-up:
Gatti's Pizza 4412 S. Western St., 355.5601, GattisPizzaAmarillo.com
Wonderland Amusement Park 2601 Dumas Drive, 383.4712, WonderlandPark.com

Family-Friendly Excursion

Don Harrington Discovery Center 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, DiscoveryCenterAmarillo.org
Trips to the zoo or Palo Duro Canyon are great ways to get kids outdoors, but when high winds or thunderstorms threaten, those options become less desirable. Good thing local kids also love exploring indoor subjects at Don Harrington Discovery Center. This Amarillo institution offers everything from awe-inspiring Space Theater shows to self-guided exhibits like Critter Row, Planetary Landscapes, and the physics-focused Explorazone. Hurry and you can catch this spring’s well-received “Grossology” exhibit before it closes. (This traveling exhibit’s popularity can be explained in precisely two words: burp machine.)
Runners-up:
Palo Duro Canyon State Park 11450 Park Road 5, 488.2227, PaloDuroCanyon.com
Amarillo Zoo 700 Comanchero trail, 381.7911, Zoo.Amarillo.gov

Family Gym

Amarillo Town Club 4514 Cornell St., 468.0398
7700 Hillside Road, 468.0300, AmarilloTownClub.com
Take a yoga class at Amarillo Town Club and you may see a mom stretching into a downward dog pose with her teenage daughter, or an energetic little boy pounding out pull-ups with his dad at ATC’s functional-fitness Performance Center. With year-round swim lessons, after-school programs, two outdoor pool complexes, and convenient childcare services, the two locations of this local fitness institution offer something for every member of the family.
Runners-up:
Gold's Gym 3000 Blackburn St., 359.5438/3440 Bell St., 356.0933, GoldsGymAmarillo.com
Planet Fitness 3801 Olsen Blvd., Suite 1, 358.8000, PlanetFitness.com

Holiday Programs

Amarillo Botanical Gardens 1400 Streit Drive, 352.6513, AmarilloBotanicalGardens.org
Is there a bigger Christmas story in Amarillo than the sudden popularity of the Joseph H. and Arlene Pool Christmas Garden of Lights at the Botanical Gardens? Over the past few years, this once-quiet institution has become the holiday tradition for thousands of Amarillo families. With a multitude of lights on display across its four acres, not even the cold temperatures of a Panhandle winter keep visitors from flocking to this twinkly paradise for a few weeks every December. Admission is donation-only, and kids 12 and younger are free.
Runners-up:
“Texas” Outdoor Musical Drama 1514 Fifth Ave., Canyon, 655.2181, Texas-Show.com
Lone Star Ballet 3218 Hobbs Road, 372.2463, LoneStarBallet.org

Indoor Play Area

Don Harrington Discovery Center 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, DiscoveryCenterAmarillo.org
When a nice spring or summer day comes along in the Texas Panhandle, it is gorgeous. But when a front moves through and the winds kick up, and the dust starts blowing, and the thunderstorms start forming, and the streets start flooding, and the hail starts pounding … well, the outdoors can turn ugly fast. Unfortunately, foul weather doesn’t keep kids from bouncing off the walls. That makes the Discovery Center’s annual $75 family membership a bargain. Where else can kids learn about nature, do science experiments, or bound around foam blocks under one big, blue, angular protective roof?
Runners-up:
Chick-fil-A 2525 S. Georgia St., 358.8055/4510 S. Coulter St., 468.8885/7701 I-40 West, Suite 132, 355.1848, Chick-Fil-A.com
WTAMU Virgil Henson Activities Center 2620 Russell Long Blvd., Canyon, 651.2323, WTAMU.edu

Story Time

Amarillo Public Library AmarilloLibrary.org
What’s cuter than a messy-haired toddler wearing footie pajamas and dragging her blankie around? Only a room full of those toddlers listening raptly as a librarian reads to them in a soothing, sing-song voice. Story Time at Amarillo’s public library branches has been a local institution for decades, and new parents can’t wait to introduce their kids to this tradition. Check out the Amarillo Library’s calendar for a list of times and branch locations for the Story Time varieties – some now include stretching, crafts, and music in addition to the stories themselves.
Runners-up:
Amarillo Zoo 700 Comanchero trail, 381.7911, Zoo.Amarillo.gov
Barnes & Noble Booksellers 2415 Soncy Road, 352.2300, BarnesandNoble.com

by Jason Boyett

Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.
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