We joke about it in our (too small) house, but one reason for not moving (to a bigger place) is because we're within walking distance of our favorite ice-cream stand.

Quite apart from the quality of Dairy Depot's ice cream, its very existence has served as a benchmark for our kids' growth - when they were old enough to not go there in a stroller, when they were old enough to go there by themselves and, coming up far too quickly, when they can stop there on a drive home from somewhere else.

I also owe my sanity during the last trimester of my pregnancies to "D.D.'s" Oreo Flurries, and many's the time we've dazzled dinner guests by announcing we're "walking to dessert." It's our own personal best place to get ice cream (not that we don't also love trips to Graeter's or Jeni's!).

In putting together Columbus Parent's first-ever Best of Columbus awards, I realized that, for myself and our voters, it's the personal histories we each build with eateries, stores, parks, pools and playgrounds that make them our personal bests. Just to be nominated means that each of these Central Ohio establishments truly means something to families. They're not just places to spend our money and time - they're a part of our lives and they're a part of the memories that our children will cherish all of their lives.

In writing the descriptions for our Best of Columbus award winners (along with fellow writers Melissa Kossler Dutton and Debbie Angelos), I got a glimpse into some of those personal histories because I had to visit a few places I had never been to before. For example, Resch's Bakery in Whitehall. I almost had to pull the car over after the first bite of the glazed twist I purchased during my fact-finding visit, that's how good it was. And it had never been a part of my life until then!

Memory building also figures into a wonderful story I coaxed out of the Chenoweth family. You may know them best from dad Doral's recent brush with "Golden Voice" viral-video fame, but I've known the Dispatch videographer and his writer wife Robin much longer as people whose favorite jobs are as parents.

When Robin told me last year about the trip they had coming up - with their children Cassie and Kurtis - to a Tanzanian orphanage, I stored that bit of info away in my brain and then pounced when they returned. I am sure you will find their story and photos to be an inspiring but also practical guide to how families can take "volunteer vacations" together.

Maybe it's not a trip that every family can make, but maybe it will inspire you and your family to give the best of yourselves to the place where you live!