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Cover Story - Posted April 28, 2017 noon
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

Readers’ Choice Awards 2017

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What do you love about Amarillo? Ask a random person at the park or a coffee shop and you’ll get dozens of answers. The cost of living. The friendly culture. The local business environment. The weather (as long as it’s not a windy day). But ask someone with young children, and you’ll hear a variation of this refrain: “It’s a great place to raise a family.” From kid-friendly retailers and restaurants to the countless available preschools, Amarillo has proven to be an affordable and safe place for parents to bring up their kids.

Our annual Readers’ Choice Awards are dedicated to the products, services and attractions that make the city’s family-friendly atmosphere a reality. The following results are based on a survey of our readers. Some winners are familiar. Others are new … and perhaps a little surprising. All are part of an entertaining, education-rich community that continues to cater to families.

Models: Emmerson Ladd and Kline Hooker


Arts and Entertainment

Art Instruction

Burn Studio
A brand-new winner in this category, Burn Studio has an impressive pedigree. Its founder is Auburn Adams, who taught art for almost a decade at Austin Middle School and painted several local murals before opening this art studio at Western Business Park. Today, she offers a variety of affordable classes for students of all ages, from afterschool arts programs for kids to “fusion classes” that bring children and parents together. 4111 Business Park Drive, 535.4419, burn-studio.com

Runners-up:
Brush With Art 1948 Civic Circle, 355.6565, brushwithartonline.com
Amarillo Museum of Art 2200 S. Van Buren St., 371.5050, amarilloart.org

Dance Program

Amarillo Little Theatre Academy
A repeat winner from last year, the dance program at ALT’s Academy offers classes in ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz and other styles for young performers between the ages of 3 and 18. Dance instructors with the program are led by veteran teacher Lugene Cole and include Reilly Downes, Avonlea Hiltbrunner, Caitlin Izard, Suzi McKee, Caity Thompson, and Shawn Walsh. 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, amarillolittletheatre.org

Runners-up:
Lone Star Dance Academies 3218 Hobbs Road, 372.2463, lonestarballet.org
Amarillo College Kid’s College 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2920, actx.edu/kidscollege

Music Program

Amarillo Little Theatre Academy
Directed by Jason Crespin – a talented performer who was recently named one of the Amarillo Globe-News Headliners of the Year – ALT Academy also steals the show for its vocal department. Highlights of the Academy’s year are always its live productions in conjunction with its parent organization, Amarillo Little Theatre, including this spring’s “Beauty and the Beast”. 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, amarillolittletheatre.org

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

Parties Picnics & Promotions
If you ever see a flatbed filled with a flattened, colorful pile of rubber, follow it down the road. Because it’s probably headed to a party, and that portable pile will eventually transform into bouncers, inflatable slides, and more. In the competitive rental industry, frequent runner-up Parties Picnics & Promotions bounces right to the top for 2017. 5911 Glenoak Lane, 359.7840, partyamarillo.com

Runners-up:
Extreme Inflatables of Amarillo 680.7370
A-Team Rentals 1715 SE 10th Ave., 373.8326, ateamrental.com

Party Place

Don Harrington Discovery Center
A regular champ for favorite party venue, the Discovery Center dominates this category among readers of our magazine. Kids love the fun themes, play areas, and Space Theater shows that are central to every party. Parents dig the stress-free packages, which include everything from themed decorations to cake, party favors, and Discovery Center team members who’ll clean up the messes. 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, discoverycenteramarillo.org

Runners-up:
WTAMU Virgil Henson Activities Center 2620 Russell Long Blvd., Canyon, 651.2323, wtamu.edu
Grasshoppers Bounce & Party House 3201 Wolflin Ave., 803.9318, grasshoppersbouncehouse.com

Party Props

Card & Party Factory
Every parent has been there. You make the mistake of asking your 4-year-old what kind of party he wants, then you scramble to fulfill his wishes. Minecraft? Cat in the Hat? Cheerleaders? Red dinosaurs? Amarillo’s Card & Party factory near 34th and Bell has just about every piece of party decor a demanding 4-year-old – or even a 40-year-old – can think of. And that’s saying something. 3339 Bell St., 355.7340, wallyspartyfactory.com

Runners-up:
A-Team Rentals 1715 SE 10th Ave., 373.8326, ateamrental.com
Parties, Picnics, & Promotions 5911 Glenoak Lane, 359.7840, partyamarillo.com

Theater Program

ALT Academy
You’ve already read how ALT Academy soared to the top as our readers’ favorite dance and music program. So you won’t be surprised to know it’s also the favorite local theater program. Our readers aren’t the only ones who think so: The Academy is regularly recognized by the National Youth Arts Awards, and received eight national awards for its actors, actresses and ensemble during the most recent full season. 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, amarillolittletheatre.org

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
Whether choosing a single week or enrolling for an entire summer of fun, parents love the educational, entertaining summer camp activities at the Don Harrington Discovery Center. Open for kids between age 3 and sixth grade, these camps feature a science-based curriculum led by fantastic teachers. For younger campers in 2017, day camp topics include construction, bugs, superheroes, and simple science. Older kids will enjoy learning survival science, vet technology, forensics, marine biology and more. 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, discoverycenteramarillo.org

Runners-up:
Amarillo College Badger Kids Camps and Classes 1314 S. Polk St., 371.2900, actx.edu/kidscollege
Maverick Boys & Girls Club 1923 S. Lincoln St., 372.8393, maverickclub.org

Financial Education Program

Amarillo National Bank
If explaining to your kids that “money doesn’t grow on trees” doesn’t quite cut it, maybe it’s time to raise interest, so to speak. The student banking program at Amarillo National Bank is designed to help kids learn to manage cash. Known as Plastic, this spending card program teaches them to use a debit card, save money, spend wisely, and even earn extra cash with good grades. As for parents, Plastic lets Mom and Dad quietly monitor spending. Don’t tell. 378.8000, anb.com

Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 358.5100, happybank.com
Education Credit Union 358.7777, educationcu.com

Gymnastics Instruction

Cheer Texas
Local parents are head over heels for Cheer Texas – at least, their kids are. In the wake of another successful Olympic Games for the U.S. Gymnastics Team, Cheer Texas is helping to develop a new generation of tumbling, flipping, landing-sticking young athletes. Guided by former college cheerleaders Jeb and Caroline Harris, Cheer Texas offers more than just gymnastics: Its competitive cheer teams have won more than 30 national titles in the past decade. 9200 Soncy Road, 468.9355, cheertexas.com

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
Nothing helps kids build confidence like the ability to casually toss a bully to the ground in self-defense. Nothing benefits parents more than knowing their little ninja will soon be learning discipline and self-control while burning through endless reservoirs of energy. Guided by chief instructor (and kickboxing champ) Ty Garrett, Extreme Martial Arts is a repeat winner in this category, and loved by everyone in the family. 5740 Canyon Drive, 242.4362, extrememartialarts.com

Runners-up:
Harvey’s Karate & Fitness 908 N. Fillmore St., 350.5425, harveyskaratecenter.com
Kim’s USA 4461 Ridgecrest Circle, 352.8593, kimsusa.net

Mother’s Day Out

Saint Stephen Church
Last year’s winner in this category, Saint Stephen’s Mother’s Day Out is led by Stefani Cook and provides licensed childcare for children between the ages of 12 months and 3 years old. Each of the nurturing classes in this program includes two teachers, with a focus on age-appropriate developmental activities built around monthly biblical themes. Open registration for the popular fall and spring programs, as well as summer registration, is ongoing. 4600 S. Western St., 355.7273, ssumc.net/mothers-day-out

Runners-up:
First Baptist Church 1208 Tyler St., 373.2891, firstamarillo.org/preschool
MDO at Paramount 3801 S. Western St., 355.3396, paramount.org

Preschool

Polk Street United Methodist Church Child Development Center
The Child Development Center at Polk Street UMC earns high marks for its preschool programming. Strategic curriculum materials help prepare kids for reading, writing and critical thinking. At the same time, they enjoy plenty of physical activity and music – and even Spanish lessons! All classrooms are led by a degreed teacher and assistant. 1401 S. Polk St., 374.2891, psumc.com/child-development-center

Runners-up:
Amarillo Montessori Academy 3806 S. Bowie St., 353.3871, amarillomontessori.com
First Baptist Church 1208 Tyler St., 373.2891, firstamarillo.org/preschool

Private School

San Jacinto Christian Academy
A runner-up in this category last year, San Jacinto is the largest private Christian school in the Texas Panhandle, with a history dating back to 1982. More than 400 students attend classes here, from age 3 through 12th grade. Offering an accredited, Bible-based education, San Jacinto is an independent, non-denominational school whose students come from more than 60 different Evangelical churches in the area. 501 S. Carolina St., 372.2285, sanjac.org

Runners-up:
Ascension Academy 9301 Ascension Parkway, 342.0515, ascensionacademy.org
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School 1515 S. Georgia St., 376.9501, standrewsschool.org

Tutoring

Sylvan Learning of Amarillo
Not every child learns the same way. That’s why the certified teachers at Amarillo’s Sylvan Learning franchise refuse to take a one-size-fits-all approach to education and tutoring. Sylvan offers a personalized plan tailored to each child’s needs, whether helping supplement school instruction related to math, reading or writing, or helping students prepare to take state tests or write college application essays. 3440 Bell St., Suite 300, 359.1037, sylvanlearning.com

Runners-up:
Club Z Tutoring 352.0199, clubztutoring.com
The Math Tutor 6101 I-40 West, Suite 84, 353.4919

Vacation Bible School

First Baptist Church
A 2016 runner-up in this category, First Baptist Church earns a blue ribbon from our readers as their favorite VBS provider. This much-anticipated week every summer – which may occur during daytime or evening hours depending on the church – offers kids several days of fun activities and spiritual education in a family-friendly environment. First Baptist’s Vacation Bible School this summer is scheduled for June 12 to 16, built around the theme “Galactic Starveyors.” 1208 S. Tyler St., 373.2891, firstamarillo.org

Runners-up:
Polk Street United Methodist Church 1401 S. Polk St., 374.2891, psumc.com
Paramount Baptist Church 3801 S. Western St., 355.3396, paramount.org

Health Care

Allergist

Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat
Last year’s runner-up, the otolaryngologists at Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat have climbed their way to the top of this year’s survey. Led by doctors Robert C. McLean, Stacie S. Morgan, Amber M. Price, and Geoffrey L. Wright, the staff specializes in treating – and decreasing – the itchy eyes, runny noses, and sneezing that often erupt during the Panhandle springtime. 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, panhandleent.net

Runners-up:
Allergy A.R.T.S. 6842 Plum Creek Drive, 353.7000, allergyarts.com
Quail Creek Ear, Nose, & Throat Center 6826 Plum Creek Drive, 355.9999, quailcreekent.com

Audiologist

Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat
Also this year’s winner for favorite allergist, the caring physicians and staff of Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat have been named our readers’ preferred audiologists. Through their Physicians Hearing Center, these doctors offer everything from earwax removal and hearing protection to full hearing evaluations of children and adults – providing hearing aids and other accessories when necessary. 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, panhandleent.net

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
Every year, more than 2,000 babies enter the world at BSA, thanks to the luxurious maternity care offered in the Hazel and Ross Wilson Women’s Center. Enjoying in-room Jacuzzi tubs and queen-size beds, new moms and moms-to-be can spend the entire childbirth process – from labor to recovery and postpartum care – in a single, dedicated birthing suite. The comfortable, roomy atmosphere gives families plenty of space to celebrate new life. This year marks BSA’s fourth win in a row. 1600 Wallace Blvd, 212.2000, bsahs.org

Runner-up:
Northwest Texas Healthcare System 1501 S. Coulter St., 354.1000, nwths.com

Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist

Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat
After being named our readers’ top allergists and top audiologists, it comes as no surprise that Doctors McLean, Morgan, Price and Wright are also the preferred ENT specialists – otherwise known as otolaryngologists – for local families. The practice itself dates back to 1990. When it formed, it became the first group ear, nose and throat practice in a medical culture dominated by individual practitioners. Today, Panhandle Ear, Nose, and Throat serves a full range of patients, from infants to senior adults. 3501 Soncy Road, Suite 140, 355.5625, panhandleent.net

Runner-up:
Quail Creek Ear, Nose, & Throat Center 6826 Plum Creek Drive, 355.9999, quailcreekent.com

Lactation Specialist

BSA Health System
When anticipating the arrival of a child, most mothers focus on the birth. But what happens right after? Breastfeeding not only provides essential vitamins and illness-fighting nutrients for a newborn, but also may have countless other benefits for the child and mother. BSA’s well-regarded lactation services help new moms learn to breastfeed through classes, personal attention, support groups, and a breastfeeding hotline once mother and baby have headed home. 1600 Wallace Blvd, 212.2000, bsahs.org

Runner-up:
Northwest Texas Healthcare System 1501 S. Coulter St., 354.1000, nwths.com

Mommy Makeover

Awaken Med Spa
Newly relocated to a spacious and luxurious environment in Amarillo’s Town Square Village, with a second location inside Verdure, Awaken Spa helps stressed-out mothers unwind with a variety of spa and aesthetic treatments. These include massages, facials, peels, laser treatments, skin resurfacing, and more – all overseen by a certified, professional staff guided by medical director Dr. Clyde Meeks, a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist at Women’s Healthcare Associates. 9200 Town Square Blvd., Suite 1150 354.8600/ 5701 Time Square Blvd., Suite 100, 803.8089, awakenspa.com

Runners-up:
Proffer Surgical Associates 1611 Wallace Blvd., 352.1185, drproffer.com
Bella Luna Aesthetic Center 2483 I-40 West, 463.3200, bellalunaamarillo.com

Obstetrician

Women's Healthcare Associates
In 1996, physicians Rhodesia Castillo, David Chastain, Brian Eades, and Clyde Meeks combined their obstetrics and gynecology practices to form Women’s Healthcare Associates. Eades and Chastain have moved on from the practice, but the team has added Pamela Chandler, Carin Appel, Amanda Murdock, Jill Gulizia, Kathryn Bonds, and two nurse practitioners. In the process this multi-year winner has built a reputation for providing caring, comprehensive women’s health care – including ultrasound, mammography, prenatal care and more – under a single roof. 1301 S. Coulter St., Suite 300, 355.6330, whaonline.net

Runners-up:
Panhandle OBGYN 7620 Wallace Blvd., 359.5468, panhandleobgyn.com
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 1400 S. Coulter St., 414.4650, ttuhsc.edu

Orthodontist

Sparkman Orthodontics
Getting braces may be a rite of passage for many children and young teenagers, but that doesn’t mean they’re excited about it. The professional team at Sparkman Orthodontics makes the process as positive as possible – and proud smiles are the result. Now in their fourth straight year atop this category, Dr. Kyle Sparkman and his staff continue to offer the newest and most effective orthodontic options for Amarillo kids. 7701 SW 45th Ave., 355.9732, sparkmanorthodontics.com

Runners-up:
Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics 2455 I-40 West, 350.5437/3501 Soncy Road, Suite 129, 376.4770, amarillopediatricdentistry.com
Harwell & Cook Orthodontics 3420 Thornton Drive, 353.3593, harwellandcookortho.com

Orthopedic Surgeon

Amarillo Bone & Joint Clinic PLLC
Youth sports are a big deal in Amarillo. Unfortunately, broken bones, sprains and other joint injuries can be a big deal for young athletes. The orthopedic experts at Amarillo Bone & Joint remain local families’ preferred place to diagnose and treat these injuries. Doctor Brad Veazey is a fixture on the sidelines of high school football games, and his veteran colleagues Keith Bjork, J. Brian Sims, Toby Risko, Joshua North, Brian Haseloff, Lisa Longhofer and Todd Bradshaw are the best in the business. 1100 Coulter St., 468.9700, amarilloboneandjoint.com

Runners-up:
Barnhill Sports Medicine Clinic 7000 SW Ninth Ave., 350.3500, barnhillsportsmed.com
Albracht Orthopedic Surgery 8 Medical Drive, 242.6637, albrachtortho.com

Pediatric Dentistry

Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics
Another multi-year winner in this category, Amarillo Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics has earned the appreciation of local parents – and the trust of local kids, not all of whom are particularly pumped about opening wide. Dentists Shane Moore, Duane Tinkler, Eric DeVries, Tracy Shen, William Kemp, and David Harney lead a team of hygienists and assistants who are experts at easing the apprehension of the dental chair. 2455 I-40 West, 350.5437/3501 Soncy Road, Suite 129, 376.4770, amarillopediatricdentistry.com

Runners-up:
Amarillo Children’s Dentistry 7201 SW 34th Ave., 353.2113, amachildrensdentistry.com
Brady Dental Group 2915 S. Georgia St., 353.6422, bradydentalgroup.com

Pediatrician

Amarillo Children's Clinic
A new winner after being last year’s runner-up, Amarillo Children’s Clinic is our readers’ favorite destination when kids are coughing, feverish or otherwise in need of medical attention. Drs. Shari Medford and Rebecca Scott bring decades of experience to treating kids and reassuring worried parents. Even better, Amarillo Children’s Clinic is a partner with Cook’s Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, which allows them to walk alongside parents should a more complex medical condition arise. 17 Care Circle, 468.6277, amarillochildrensclinic.com

Runners-up:
Panhandle Pediatrics 1500 S. Coulter St., 354.0404, fmcclinics.com
John M. Young, M.D. Pediatrics 1500 S. Coulter St., Suite 3, 354.0404, ext. 3, youngpediatrician.com

Podiatrist

Amarillo Foot Specialists
Our readers’ favorite local podiatrist remains Dr. Brandon Holloway of Amarillo Foot Specialists. This new category was introduced last year as more and more readers were beginning to embrace active lifestyles – and experience foot pain. Ultramarathoner Holloway and his staff win again this year, and continue to offer treatment options for heel pain, bunions, sports medicine and more, relying on surgery only as a last resort. 1901 Medi Park Drive, Suite 1030, 322.3338, amarillofootspecialists.com

Runners-up:
Sicher Foot Center 19 Care Circle, 353.3366, sicherfootcenter.com
High Plains Podiatry 1900 S. Coulter St., Suite P, 354.8760, amarillofootdoc.com

Ultrasound

BSA Health System
Last year’s runner-up is this year’s titleholder, as BSA’s ultrasound department offers moms-to-be the latest technology, administered by compassionate, highly trained personnel. Whether parents are looking for high-quality images of their child in the womb or seeking reassurance that everything’s OK, BSA staff are experts at getting accurate images and comforting patients during the exam process. 1600 Wallace Blvd., 212.2000, bsahs.org

Runners-up:
Panhandle OBGYN 7620 Wallace Blvd., 359.5468, panhandleobgyn.com
Women’s Healthcare Associates 1301 S. Coulter St., Suite 300, 355.6330, whaonline.net

Lifestyles

Cakes

Belmar Bakery & Cafe
There are precisely two ingredients to a quality birthday: presents and cake. While the presents depend on who’s been invited to the party, most parents continue to rely on Deana and Richard Zaccardo’s Belmar Bakery for the birthday’s most delicious element. A repeat winner in this category, the bakery’s designated Cake Land area makes ordering a custom cake easy, whether it’s for a wedding, an anniversary, or any other celebration. Last-minute planners are in luck, too. They can simply pick up a grab-and-go cake. 3325 Bell St., 355.0141, belmarbakery.com

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
There’s a lot more to the cupcake craze than fun toppings and unique flavors, and these days there’s a lot more to The Ruffled Cup than just cupcakes. Deanna Hurt’s bakery now offers everything from wedding cakes to breakfast pastries. But teensy, beautifully frosted cakes are still its foundation – and Amarillo families love them. The rotating menu of 150 flavors changes daily, ensuring there’s almost always something new to try. 3440 Bell St., Suite 130, 318.3961, theruffledcup.com

Runners-up:
Belmar Bakery & Cafe 3325 Bell St., 355.0141, belmarbakery.com
Scratch Made Bakery & Cafe 118 SW Sixth Ave., 731.4477scratchmadebakery.com

Day Care

Polk Street United Methodist Church Child Development Center
A repeat winner in this category from last year – and also our readers’ favorite preschool provider – this historic downtown church is also a beloved day care facility. Deciding who will take care of their children during the work day is one of the most important decisions moms and dads make. Polk Street’s caring, qualified teachers and low child-to-staff ratio make it a relatively easy choice. 1401 S. Polk St., 374.2891, psumc.com

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

Chick-fil-A
A brand-new winner in this category, Amarillo’s four locations of this beloved chicken franchise (and one in Canyon) have become our readers’ favorite family-friendly employer. That’s because the famous Chick-fil-A culture cares as much about its employees as it does selling trays of nuggets or chicken sandwiches. These community-minded businesses close on Sundays as a rule, giving employees a day to catch their breath, worship alongside their families if they choose, and work toward that valuable work-life balance.
2525 S. Georgia St., 358.8055
cfarestaurant.com
4510 S. Coulter St., 468.8885
cfarestaurant.com
7701 I-40 West, Suite 132, 355.1848
5544 Amarillo Blvd. West, 353.1350
2501 Fourth Ave., JBK Food Court, 651.2715
chick-fil-a.com

Runners-up:
Amarillo National Bank 378.8000, anb.com
Happy State Bank 358.5100, happybank.com

Financial Planner

Amarillo National Bank
Raising children may be a temporary responsibility for most, but providing for a family reaches far beyond the child-rearing years. From short-term college savings plans to longer retirement goals, the financial planners at Amarillo National Bank help local families define their needs, save for the future, and take the steps to maximize what they set aside. ANB has now led this category for several years. 378.8000, anb.com

Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 358.5100, happybank.com
Edward Jones edwardjones.com

First-time Home Buyer’s Program

Amarillo National Bank
One of the biggest financial decisions a family ever makes is buying a home – and making that first big leap into ownership can be as stressful as it is thrilling. Young families don’t always have the cash or credit scores to compete with older buyers, so programs like Amarillo National’s help them navigate the overwhelming options and decisions that must be made. It helps that ANB is the Panhandle’s largest mortgage lender, and a multi-year winner in this category. 378.8000, anb.com

Runners-up:
Happy State Bank 358.5100, happybank.com
Amarillo Community Federal Credit Union 358.7561, acfcu.org

Home Builder

Old World Construction, LLC
Eric White’s Old World Construction wins again as our readers’ favorite custom home builder, and the presence of his homes in some of Amarillo’s newest neighborhoods backs up the votes. Now in its 15th year of business, Old World has also garnered multiple awards from Best of Amarillo to the Texas Panhandle Builders Association. Might as well add another Readers’ Choice trophy to the mantle. 2700 S. Western St., Suite 200, 353.3307, old-world-construction.com

Runners up:
Bedwell Homes Limited 7010 SW 45th Ave., Suite 11, 356.7088, bedwellhomes.com
Blue Haven Homes 5701 Time Square Blvd., Suite 320, 803.8110, bluehavenhomes.com

Infant/Child Photographer

Chriselda Photography
If it seems like Chriselda Reyes is everywhere these days, that’s because she is. This local wedding and portrait specialist maintains an uplifting, creative presence on social media and is known for her work with non-profits like Amarillo Little Theatre, Susan G. Komen West Texas, and Children’s Miracle Network. Her radiant photos – and instant rapport with kids – have also earned her a top place as our readers’ favorite photographer for capturing those fleeting childhood moments. 318.3480, chriseldaphotography.com

Runners-up:
Davy Knapp Fine Portraiture 1703 S. Tyler St., 371.9210, davyknapp.com
Portraits by Tracy 3211 SW Sixth Ave., 351.1331, portraits-by-tracy.com

Invitations and Announcements

Et Cetera
This Wolflin Square boutique is known for offering “gifts of distinction.” That distinction also applies to its high-end stationery and invitations. Offering custom design and countless styles of paper and envelopes, Et Cetera helps its customers announce baby showers, engagements, weddings, parties and much more. The thoughtful service and two decades of experience make Et Cetera our repeat Readers’ Choice. 2479 I-40 West, 358.2333, etceteraonline.com

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
Few parents would probably describe Sport Clips as a “hair salon.” But that’s the key to its appeal. Gone are the days where bored little boys waited in boring beauty shops so they could get boring haircuts. This high-octane national franchise keeps them entertained with sports-tuned TVs, keeps them on point with stylists who know how to craft the latest styles, and keeps Mom on schedule because walk-ins are welcome. That’s why Sport Clips wins this category year after year.
2325 S. Georgia St., 467.2547, haircutmengeorgiaamarillotx.com
3240 S. Soncy Road, Suite 200, 355.2547, haircutmensoncyamarillotx.com

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 Day Spa 7402 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2, 355.1974, hairtrendzdayspa.com

Kid-friendly Nail Salon

La Belle Nails, Spa & Salon
“Paint mine, too!” If your little diva has been saying that every time you pull out the nail polish, then maybe it’s time to make her an appointment at La Belle. A new winner this year, La Belle combines luxury and safety to keep Mom happy, relying on the creativity and artistry of its nail techs to make sure little fingers and toes end up fabulous. 1900 S. Western St., 355.6500

Runners-up:
Bebe Nail Salon 2319 S. Georgia St., 331.1333
Princess Salon LLC 6204 W. Hillside Road, Suite 700, 457.1257, princesssalonllc.com

Kid-friendly Restaurant

Chick-fil-A
It used to be that kid-friendly restaurants required an entire room of video games or a stage filled with creepy, animatronic singing rodents to keep kids happy. Those days may be behind us, because today’s kids only demand two things of their favorite restaurant: a play zone and an unending supply of chicken nuggets. Amarillo’s Chick-fil-A locations gladly supply those things, and everyone wins. Mom and Dad are happy, the kids are happy, and those “Eat mor chikin” cows are happy.
2525 S. Georgia St., 358.8055
cfarestaurant.com
4510 S. Coulter St., 468.8885
cfarestaurant.com
5544 Amarillo Blvd. West, 353.1350
chick-fil-a.com

Runners-up:
Gatti's Pizza 4412 S. Western St., 355.5601, gattispizza.com
Blue Sky 4201 I-40 West, 355.8100/5060 S. Coulter St., 322.3888, blueskytexas.com

Maternity Photographer

Chriselda Photography
Our readers’ favorite infant/child photographer, Chriselda is also the city’s top maternity photographer. Her clients and fans know her by her unique first name, but Chriselda’s true calling card is her ability to capture mothers-to-be at their most gorgeous – and most gorgeously lit – moments. Whether that glow is maternal or from the beautiful Panhandle light that factors so prominently in her work, that’s up to the viewer to decide. 318.3480, chriseldaphotography.com

Runners-up:
Davy Knapp Fine Portraiture 1703 S. Tyler St., 371.9210, davyknapp.com
Heather Ladd Photography 584.4843, heatherladdphotography.com

Shopping

Children’s Book Store

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
When mobile apps and a steady stream of videos are constantly clamoring for kids’ attention, do children’s books still matter? If the answer is yes, then the proof is the kids’ section of Barnes & Noble, where every colorful spine and cover hides a world of pirates, wizards, elves, green gables, unfortunate events, and big red dogs. Amazon may have a bigger selection, but there’s something about a fully stocked bookshelf that helps a kid’s imagination run wild – no smartphone necessary. 2415 Soncy Road, 352.2300, barnesandnoble.com

Runners-up:
Mardel 2203 S. Western St., Space 500, 353.2135, mardel.com
Lifeway Christian Store 201-B Westgate Parkway West, 353.5521, lifeway.com

Children’s Clothes

Carter's
With frequent sales, a huge selection, and plenty of room for all those strollers, Carter’s continues to dominate this category among parents hoping to find quality clothes for reasonable prices. (It’s also a great place to purchase baby gifts.) Carter’s is an American company that dates back to 1865, and has 654 locations across the U.S., including one on Soncy, west of Westgate Mall. 2804 S. Soncy Road, 358.0501, carters.com

Runners-up:
Once Upon a Child 3440 Bell St., 354.0071, onceuponachildamarillo.com
Old Navy 2710 S. Soncy Road, 359.6565, oldnavy.com

Children’s Shoes

Dillard's
Don’t get us started on children’s shoes. Those tiny, colorful sizes are so, so cute. But kids’ feet grow. And grow and grow and grow. Which means you’re paying $30, $40 or $50 for something they’ll wear for approximately six months – if even that long. Thankfully, the kids’ section at Dillard’s offers the most in-demand styles, from Nike to Converse to UGG, and frequently marks them down with sale pricing. Adorable footwear at a discount? Yes, please. 7701 I-40 West, Suite 300, 358.7771, dillards.com

Runners-up:
Shoe Carnival 3102 Soncy Road, 356.0716, shoecarnival.com
Journeys Kids 7701 I-40 West, 353.8450, journeys.com

Family-Friendly Vehicles

Street Toyota
There are plenty of places to buy a vehicle in Amarillo, but our readers prefer Street Toyota for its line of safe and thoughtful vehicles. The Toyota Highlander is a fixture on “Best Family Car” lists for its reliability and convenience features, and the Toyota Sienna is way more stylish than a minivan has any right to be. Street offers award-winning service and a vast selection of new and used vehicles from its dealership at 45th and Soncy. 4500 S. Soncy Road, 355.9846, streettoyota.com

Runners-up:
Bobby Duby Motors 4215 S. Georgia St., 352.9800, bobbyduby.com
Brown Subaru 4310 S. Georgia St., 352.5055, amarillosubaru.com

Gift Shop

Silverland’s Hallmark
A regular runner-up as our readers’ favorite gift shop, Silverland earns gold this year for its eclectic collections of jewelry, bags, wall crosses, toys and more. Todd and Karra Hill opened their shop in 1999 and have built a reputation for outstanding customer service and a faith-based approach to retail. Now that they’ve merged with the Hallmark store next door, Silverland has even more to offer. 2608 Wolflin Ave., 358.9524

Runners-up:
The Secret Place 3690 S. Soncy Road, 467.9800
Lizzie Mae’s Merchantile 10101 Amarillo Blvd. West, 331.1710

Infant/Toddler Clothes

Carter's
Kids are cute already. It doesn’t take much to make them look cuter. As a beloved children’s clothing brand, Carter’s doesn’t have to work too hard on patterns or design. The Atlanta-based company just produces high-quality clothing, year after year, which parents have come to know and trust. Whether selling it through branded retail stores (like the Soncy location) or through special collections available in Target or Walmart, Carter’s has a huge command of the baby clothing market – and according to our readers, a huge command of this category. 2804 S. Soncy Road, 358.0501, carters.com

Runners-up:
Once Upon a Child 3440 Bell St., 354.0071, onceuponachildamarillo.com
CB Boutique 2819 Civic Circle, 356.5068

Maternity Clothes

Motherhood Maternity
Is it possible to be fashionable during the last months of a pregnancy? Moms-to-be may not always feel that way, but Motherhood Maternity – a national retailer located on Soncy Road – has found a way to complement that motherly glow with comfortable, stylish clothing. Thankfully, it offers reasonably priced outfits for every situation, body shape, and all three trimesters. 2816 Soncy Road, 356.0805, motherhood.com

Runners-up:
Janey’s at 2500 2500 Paramount Blvd., 359.4156, janeys.com
Clothez Exchange 4515 S. Georgia St., Suite 110-117, 352.6244, 352.9600, clothezexchange.com

Specialty Toys

Unique Toys of Amarillo
Locals have bemoaned the lack of a fun, independent, dedicated toy store since the legendary Great American Toy Co. store closed in 2009. That’s why you heard so many squeals of glee when owners Mike and Virginia Nowak returned to the toy business last year. The couple opened Unique Toys in late 2016 and are again selling the best selection of specialty toys in Amarillo from their new shop on Hillside. Kids can’t get enough of the place, and neither can their parents. 7820 Hillside Road, 418.6186

Runners-up:
The Secret Place 3690 S. Soncy Road, 467.9800
Et Cetera 2479 I-40 West, 358.2333, etceteraonline.com

Sporting Equipment

Academy Sports + Outdoors
Baseball. Basketball. Football. Soccer. Golf. Tennis. Running. Hunting. Fishing. Those may be seasonal activities in some parts of the world, but for many Amarillo families, they have become year-round pursuits. Based in Katy, Texas, Academy Sports + Outdoors remains the favorite local supplier to help families get ready for the next game, the next match, the next round, or the next weekend. 4400 Soncy Road, 457.2460, academy.com

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

Gatti's Pizza
At-home, high-definition gaming systems and ubiquitous smartphones may have diminished the once-dominant draw of arcade games. But that doesn’t mean dark rooms lit by colorful consoles have lost all their appeal. Exhibit A is the constant crowd of children dashing away from the Gatti’s buffet in order to enjoy the plentiful arcade games of its midway. How many tickets can you win? 4412 S. Western St., 355.5601, gattispizza.com

Runners-up:
Chuck E. Cheese’s 2500 S. Coulter St., Suite 124, 354.8000, chuckecheese.com
Sports World Family Fun Center 9400 Canyon Drive, 331.7223, sportsworldtx.com

Family-Friendly Excursion

Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Spring is an ideal time to visit the red-walled jewel of the Panhandle, when cooler temps allow families to beat the summer heat and avoid the summer crowds. This natural wonder offers everything our readers love about the outdoors: hiking, camping, biking, picnicking, climbing, horseback riding, exploring, and more. The low $5 per-person entry fee – with kids 12 and younger admitted free – gives us even more to love. 11450 Park Road 5, 488.2227, palodurocanyon.com

Runners-up:
Don Harrington Discovery Center 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, discoverycenteramarillo.org
Amarillo Zoo 700 Comanchero Trail, 381.7911, zoo.amarillo.gov

Family Gym

Amarillo Town Club
A long-time favorite in this magazine, the Amarillo Town Club wins again as our readers’ favorite family gym. Generations of young Amarilloans first learned to swim in the pools at ATC, and today you’ll see kids joining Mom or Dad with jump ropes or yoga mats on the Performance Court. The local fitness industry is an increasingly competitive one, but ATC’s years-long winning streak may be hard to beat.
4514 Cornell St., 468.0398/7700 Hillside Road, 468.0300, amarillotownclub.com

Runners-up:
Gold's Gym 3000 Blackburn St., 359.543/3440 Bell St., Suite 203, 356.0933, goldsgym.com
Planet Fitness 3801 Olsen Blvd., Suite 1, 358.8000, planetfitness.com

Holiday Programs

Amarillo Botanical Gardens
These lush indoor and outdoor gardens are a wonderful place to explore in the warmer months, but they draw even more locals in late November and December. The annual Christmas Garden of Lights exhibit decorates its trees and pathways with hundreds of thousands of lights. Like the popularity of holiday yard-decorating itself, the event has grown spectacularly over the past few years. Today, it has become a central part of many families’ Christmas traditions. 1400 Streit Drive, 352.6513, amarillobotanicalgardens.org

Runners-up:
“Texas” Outdoor Musical Drama 1514 Fifth Ave., Canyon, 655.2181, texas-show.com
Amarillo Little Theatre 2019 Civic Circle, 355.9991, amarillolittletheatre.org

Indoor Play Area

Don Harrington Discovery Center
From the faithful expanse of Westgate Mall to the trampolines of newer attractions like AirU, local families have plenty of options when wind, rain, or cold disrupt outdoor play time. But for several years in a row, our readers’ favorite destination is also the most educational one. The hands-on learning stations and Imagination Playground at the Discovery Center accomplish two necessary things at once: They stimulate kids’ creativity while also expending their energy. Moms and dads are big fans of both. 1200 Streit Drive, 355.9547, discoverycenteramarillo.org

Runners-up:
WTAMU Virgil Henson Activities Center 2620 Russell Long Blvd., Canyon, 651.2323, wtamu.edu
Chick-fil-A
2525 S. Georgia St., 358.8055, cfarestaurant.com
4510 S. Coulter St., 468.8885, cfarestaurant.com
5544 Amarillo Blvd. West, 353.1350, chick-fil-a.com

Story Time

Amarillo Public Library
When a group of women founded the Amarillo Public Library a century ago, they probably couldn’t imagine a room full of toddlers singing and dancing at a “Books and Boogie” class. Things have changed, but the written word can still enrapture little kids, whether they’re reading it themselves or not. That’s why the varieties of daily story times across the five branches of Amarillo’s Public Library system are still a wonderful, productive way to spend a half-hour – for parents and their kids. amarillolibrary.org

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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