Readers voted. Find out who won.
Parenting comes with a lot of tough choices, including where to eat, what to do and how to spend your hard-earned money.
For the seventh year, Columbus Parent has sought the best family-friendly businesses, dining, activities and events in Central Ohio. We’re proud to present the 2017 Family Faves, determined by the results of our reader survey.
From June 2 to July 6, readers voted online, picking their favorites in 35 categories. Each category had multiple nominees, which were the top finishers in last year’s survey. For new categories and cases where honorees had closed, nominees were based on past reader favorites. Voters also had the option to write in their own choices.
In addition to the winners, you’ll find the runners-up (second- and third-place finishers) and honorable mentions. The latter received at least 5 percent of the vote in each category. Runners-up are listed in the order in which they finished. Honorable mentions are listed alphabetically.
Here are the honorees:
Favorite Asian Restaurant
Winner: Genji Japanese Steakhouse
2045 Brice Road, Reynoldsburg; 614-864-7888; genjisteakhouse.com
This Japanese-style steakhouse won this category for the second year in a row. Children will enjoy watching the chefs put on a show as they cook.
Runners-up: Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro; House of Japan - Dublin
Honorable mention: Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant; China Dynasty (Northland); Hunan Lion Chinese Restaurant; Lucky House Chinese Restaurant; Tai’s Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar; Thai Grille; Thai Orchid
Winner: Fantasy Cupcake
9 S. High St., Canal Winchester; 614-524-6914; fantasycupcake.com
Fantasy Cupcake was the readers’ choice, edging out two Central Ohio icons and rising from a runner-up finish last year. The business, which is owned by Leah Dotson, opened in 2011.
Runners-up: Resch’s Bakery; Schneider’s Bakery
Honorable mention: La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro - Worthington; Mozart’s Restaurant, Bakery and Piano Cafe; Pattycake Bakery; Pistacia Vera; The Suisse Shop Bakery
Favorite Fancy Family Dining
Winner: Brio Tuscan Grille - Easton
3993 Easton Station; 614-416-4745; brioitalian.com
Readers chose Brio Tuscan Grille - Easton as their favorite upscale option for the second year. There is a children’s menu that offers a wide variety of choices and portion sizes to please even picky palates.
Runners-up: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Grandview Heights; Lindey’s Restaurant & Bar
Honorable mention: Bravo! Cucina Italiana - Northwest Columbus; Buca di Beppo - Arena District; Buca di Beppo - Worthington; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Gahanna; J. Liu Restaurant & Bar - Dublin; Marcella’s Polaris; The Melting Pot
Favorite Frozen Treats – Single Location
Winner: Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill
11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica; 800-589-5000; velveticecream.com/visit
It’s a three-peat for Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill, which opened in 1970. More than 150,000 people visit annually for sweet treats and tours. The facility is open seasonally from April to October.
Second-place finisher Johnson’s Real Ice Cream had only its Bexley shop at the time of the survey. Another has since opened in Dublin.
Runners-up: Johnson’s Real Ice Cream; OH-YO! Frozen Yogurt
Honorable mention: Clown Cones & Confections; Coppa Gelato
Favorite Frozen Treats – Multiple Locations
Graeter’s took top honors for the third year. The Cincinnati-based ice cream maker has 11 Central Ohio shops.
Runners-up: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Whit’s Frozen Custard
Honorable mention: Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt
Favorite Gluten-Free Menu
Winner: Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern
Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern was the victor for the third year in a row. The company, which has 10 Central Ohio restaurants, previously won in 2012 and 2013.
Runners-up: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
Honorable mention: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar; Local Roots; Marcella’s Polaris; Raisin Rack cafe
Favorite Grocery Store/Market
Winner: Trader Joe’s - Easton
3888 Townsfair Way; 614-473-0794; traderjoes.com
Fans of the 50-year-old chain like the stores for their low prices and quirky finds. Trader Joe’s - Easton was the readers’ top choice for the second year.
Runners-up: Whole Foods Market - Northwest Columbus; North Market
Honorable mention: Carfagna’s Market; Fresh Thyme Farmers Market - Northwest Columbus; Giant Eagle Market District - Kingsdale; Lucky’s Market; Trader Joe’s - Dublin; Weiland’s Market
Favorite Italian Restaurant
Winner: The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant
397 W. Broad St.; 614-464-0143; meatballs.com
The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant has been the top vote-getter for three surveys in a row. It’s been a Columbus institution for more than 40 years.
Runners-up: Buca di Beppo - Arena District; Marcella’s Polaris; Carfagna’s Restaurant (tie at first runner-up)
Honorable mention: Buca di Beppo - Worthington; Carrabba’s Italian Grill - Polaris; Giammarco’s Italian Restaurant; Giuseppe’s Ritrovo; Moretti’s of Arlington; Villa Nova Ristorante
Favorite Kids Menu
Winner: Max & Erma’s
Hometown chain Max & Erma’s, founded in 1972, cooked up a win in this new category. The original German Village location closed in August, but the company still has nine Central Ohio restaurants.
Runners-up: Bob Evans Restaurants; Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern
Honorable mention: 101 Beer Kitchen; BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar; Northstar Café; The Old Bag of Nails Pub; Quaker Steak & Lube
Favorite Latin Restaurant
3950 Grammercy St.; 614-337-9006; abuelos.com
Abuelo’s, which has been dishing up Mexican food at Easton since 2004, is a first-time Family Faves winner. The children’s menu includes chicken nuggets and grilled chicken for kids who prefer more American fare.
Runners-up: El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant - Shawnee Hills; La Fogata Grill
Honorable mention: Chile Verde Cafe - Northwest Columbus; Cuco’s Taqueria; Señor Antonio’s Mexicano Restaurante & Cantina
Favorite Pizza – Single Location
Winner: Kingy’s Pizza Pub
7470 Hill Road N., Canal Winchester; 614-837-5664; kingyspizza.com
Kingy’s Pizza Pub cruised into the top spot again this year. The local favorite has been serving pies and other fare since 1980.
Runners-up: Plank’s Cafe & Pizzeria (Parsons Avenue); Hounddog’s Pizza
Honorable mention: Amato’s Woodfired Pizza; Eagles Pizza; Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Live Music; Pasquale’s Pizza & Pub; Pizza House; Rubino’s Pizza; Yellow Brick Pizza
Favorite Pizza – Multiple Locations
Winner: Donatos Pizza
Donatos Pizza is the readers’ favorite year in and year out. The company won this category for the third year in a row, and dominated Favorite Pizza – Delivery/Take Out for three years before that. This homegrown company, started in 1963 by Jim Grote, now has more than 150 locations in nine states.
Runners-up: Pizza Cottage; Jet’s Pizza; Tommy’s Pizza (tie at second runner-up)
Honorable mention: Dewey’s Pizza; Massey’s Pizza; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers; Mikey’s Late Night Slice; Pies & Pints
Favorite Restaurant with Games and Activities
Winners: (tie) Dave & Buster’s - Hilliard
3665 Park Mill Run Drive; 614-771-1515; daveandbusters.com
650 Windmiller Drive, Pickerington; 614-864-7853; rule3.com
Two family fun spots tied for top honors this year: Dave & Buster’s - Hilliard and Rule (3). Dave & Buster’s has a sit-down restaurant and a separate game area with arcade-style machines and ones that earn tickets to trade in for prizes. Rule (3) also has a restaurant with a game area as well as bowling, outdoor inflatables and a sand volleyball court.
Runners-up: Dave & Buster’s - Polaris; Star Lanes Polaris
Honorable mention: Chuck E. Cheese’s - Northwest Columbus
STORES AND SERVICES
Favorite Art Instruction
Winner: Columbus Museum of Art
480 E. Broad St.; 614-221-6801; columbusmuseum.org
This is the third win in a row for the Columbus Museum of Art, which offers summer art and homeschool workshops. Children also can participate in hands-on studio activities with CMA staff members.
Runners-up: Art & Clay on Main; Columbus College of Art & Design
Honorable mention: Delaware County Cultural Arts Center (The Arts Castle); Firefly Play Cafe
Favorite Birthday Party Venue
Winner: Sky Zone Trampoline Park
459 Orange Pointe Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center; 740-548-4004; skyzone.com/columbus
Sky Zone Trampoline Park leaped over the competition in this category for the sixth time. Party packages include jump time, food and use of a party room. The business also won Favorite Indoor Place Space.
Runners-up: Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris; Rule (3)
Honorable mention: The Glass Slipper; Lazer Kraze; Star Lanes Polaris
Winner: The Book Loft of German Village
631 S. Third St.; 614-464-1774; bookloft.com
Literary offerings at The Book Loft of German Village span two buildings and 32 rooms. The business has long been a Central Ohio mainstay and won this category for the third year in a row.
Runner-up Cover to Cover closed its Clintonville shop in June, but plans to reopen in Upper Arlington.
Runners-up: Village Bookshop; Cover to Cover
Honorable mention: Fundamentals Children’s Books, Toys & Games
Winner: Rule (3)
650 Windmiller Drive, Pickerington; 614-864-7853; rule3.com
Rule (3), a first-time Family Faves winner, offers 14 standard lanes in addition to mini-bowling. The business also tied for the top spot in Favorite Restaurant with Games and Activities.
Runners-up: Star Lanes Polaris; AMF Sawmill Lanes
Honorable mention: Columbus Square Bowling Palace; Gahanna Lanes; Ten Pin Alley
Favorite Children’s Clothes – Gently Used
Winner: Once Upon A Child - Dublin
5777 Karric Square Drive, Dublin; 614-761-8488; onceuponachildcolumbus.com
New clothes are expensive, but Central Ohio parents know how to find good deals. Once Upon A Child - Dublin has been their top choice for the last three years.
Runners-up: Once Upon A Child - Gahanna; Once Upon A Child - Westerville
Honorable mention: Columbus Mothers of Twins Club clothing and equipment sale; Goodwill Columbus - Dublin; Three Bags Full consignment sales
Favorite Children’s Clothes – New
Winner: Belles & Beaux Children’s Boutique
1249 N. Hamilton Road, Gahanna; 614-473-2000; facebook.com/bellesandbeauxgahanna
Belles & Beaux Children’s Boutique sells a variety of clothing, accessories and other items for babies and kids. The business, which opened in 2000, also won in 2016 and 2015.
Runners-up: Nicole’s for Children; What the Rock?!
Honorable mention: lilylimes; Team Chipmunk
Favorite Children’s Shoes
4000 Worth Ave.; 614-416-7111; shop.nordstrom.com
Nordstrom at Easton was a first-time winner this year. The upscale department store has 122 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Runners-up: Journeys Kidz - Polaris; Walker’s Shoe Center
Honorable mention: Journeys Kidz - Tuttle; Lucky Shoes; Von Maur
Favorite Children’s Theatre
Winner: Columbus Children’s Theatre
Most shows are at Park Street Theatre, 512 Park St.; 614-224-6672; columbuschildrenstheatre.org
This is one of the few categories that has been part of Family Faves since it began in 2011, and Columbus Children’s Theatre has won every year. The 2017-18 season gets underway with “Junie B. Jones: The Musical” starting Sept. 21. The troupe offers discounted Thursday shows and sensory-friendly performances.
Runners-up: Wagnalls Community Theatre; CATCO is Kids
Honorable mention: Abbey Theater of Dublin; Wexner Center for the Arts
Favorite Dance Instruction
Winner: Leap of Faith Dance Studio
1145 Chesapeake Ave., Unit R; 614-486-1533; lofdance.com
Leap of Faith Dance Studio choreographed a fourth straight win. The school, owned by Crystal L. Boyce, started in a church in 2004.
Runners-up: BalletMet Dance Academy; Columbus DanceArts Academy
Honorable mention: Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics; NorthPointe Dance Academy; Straub Dance Center
Favorite Drop-in Art Studio
Winner: Art & Clay on Main
150 W. Main St., Lancaster; 740-653-1755; artandclayonmain.com
Art & Clay on Main held onto its 2016 first-place finish. Customers can paint their own pottery or take classes.
Runners-up: Color Me Mine; Clay Cafe
Honorable mention: The Bare Bowl; Marcy’s Clayground
Favorite Gardening Supplies
Winner: Dill’s Greenhouse
5800 Rager Road, Groveport; 614-836-3700; dillsgreenhouse.net
This family-owned business, which also won in 2016, continues to be a reader favorite. The nursery grows many of its own plants and has a Kids Club and an annual Fall Fun Festival.
Runners-up: Oakland Nursery - Columbus; Oakland Nursery - Dublin
Honorable mention: Oakland Nursery - Delaware; Oakland Nursery - New Albany; Strader’s Garden Center - Northwest Columbus
Favorite Gymnastics Instruction
Winner: Buckeye Gymnastics
10562 Sawmill Road, Powell; 614-793-1936
7159 Northgate Way, Westerville; 614-895-1611
After a two-year hiatus, we put this category back on the ballot. The winner: Buckeye Gymnastics, which trained Gabby Douglas for her return to the Summer Olympics in Rio. Buckeye previously won from 2012 to 2014.
Runners-up: Columbus Gymnastics Academy; Gym X-Treme
Honorable mention: Central Ohio Gymnastics & Cheer; Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics; Fliptastic! Gymnastics; Integrity Gymnastics; Wendy’s Gymnastics & Fitness
Favorite Miniature Golf
Winner: Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris
8350 Lyra Drive; 614-840-9600; magicmountainfuncenter.com/polaris
You don’t need a great tee shot to play mini golf. Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris, which offers two 18-hole courses, placed at the top of the leaderboard for the second year.
Runners-up: Westerville Golf Center; Magic Mountain Fun Center - East
Honorable mention: Galaxy Games & Golf; Glow Putt Mini Golf; Putt N Play; SportsOhio
Favorite Music Instruction
Winner: Columbus Children’s Choir
760 E. Broad St.; 614-220-5555; columbuschildrenschoir.org
Columbus Children’s Choir gave an encore performance, winning for the second year. The nonprofit ensemble, which began in 1987, has eight choirs representing different ages and experience levels.
Runners-up: Musicologie; Columbus Music and Art Academy
Honorable mention: Guitar Center; WeJoySing
Favorite Sports Instruction
6314 Cosgray Road, Dublin; 614-791-3003; sportsohio.org
SportsOhio, which offers classes in numerous sports including baseball, soccer and volleyball, got the win after placing third in 2016. The organization has four separate venues along Cosgray Road and Dublin Park Drive.
Runners-up: OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks; ATA Black Belt Academy - Powell
Honorable mention: AmeriCheer; Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports; Hocking Valley Youth Sport Center; The Little Gym of Polaris; Locker Soccer Academy; Pickerington ATA Black Belt Academy; Westerville Golf Center
Favorite Toys, Games and Learning Products
Winner: Lakeshore Learning Materials
2148 Polaris Parkway; 614-846-1710; lakeshorelearning.com
Lakeshore Learning Materials is a perennial parent favorite, and it took home a third straight win this year. The store has a wide variety of educational toys and instructional materials, including offerings to get kids ready for school or to help with special needs.
Runners-up: Learning Express Toys of Worthington; The Train Station
Honorable mention: Fundamentals Children’s Books, Toys & Games; Learning Express Toys of New Albany; Naturally Curious Kids; Oh, Know! The Knowing Place
Favorite Tutoring Center
Winner: Brain Balance Center of Columbus
116 Dillmont Drive; 614-654-3399; brainbalancecenters.com/locations/columbus
Brain Balance of Columbus claimed the title after placing in the No. 2 spot last year. The center offers an integrated approach to help students who struggle with learning or behavioral issues.
Runners-up: Sylvan Learning Center - Lewis Center; Tutoring Club of Gahanna
Honorable mention: Kumon Math and Reading Center of Dublin-Avery; Kumon Math and Reading Center of Westerville-North; LearningRx Columbus-Dublin; Math Plus Academy - New Albany; Math Plus Academy - Powell
LOW- OR NO-COST FAMILY FUN
Winner: Ohio State Fair
Central Ohio has numerous fairs and festivals that fill the summer months. The biggest, and the three-time category winner, is the Ohio State Fair.
Runners-up: Circleville Pumpkin Show; Columbus Arts Festival
Honorable mention: ComFest; Dublin Irish Festival; Jazz & Rib Fest; Lancaster Festival; Ohio Renaissance Festival
Favorite Indoor Play Space
Winner: Sky Zone Trampoline Park
459 Orange Pointe Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center; 740-548-4004; skyzone.com/columbus
Sky Zone Trampoline Park, which also has dodgeball and a foam pit, was the top vote-getter. The business offers special hours for toddlers and children with sensory issues, and was the winner of Favorite Birthday Party Venue.
Runners-up: Polaris Fashion Place; Recreations Outlet
Honorable mention: Firefly Play Cafe; Graeter’s - Bethel Road store; The Mall at Tuttle Crossing
Favorite Library Children’s Area
Winner: Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library
96 S. Grant Ave.; 614-645-2275; columbuslibrary.org
Main Library reopened in mid-2016 after an extensive remodeling project, and the new children’s division offers a bright, inviting space for young patrons. Numerous programs are offered for both children and parents.
Runners-up: Westerville Public Library; Wagnalls Memorial Library
Honorable mention: Bexley Public Library; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Dublin Branch; Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard Branch; Delaware County District Library, Orange Branch; Pickerington Public Library; Worthington Libraries, Old Worthington Library
Favorite Outdoor Municipal Pool
Winner: Groveport Aquatic Center
7370 Groveport Road; 614-836-2225; groveportrec.com
The Groveport Aquatic Center is a big draw for families, with its tall slides, splash pad, kids area and lazy river—and, of course, swimming. The facility repeated its 2016 win and also won in 2012 and 2013.
Runners-up: Highlands Park Aquatic Center; Hilliard Family Aquatic Center
Honorable mention: Bexley Pool; The Big Splash; Dublin Community Pool South; North Orange Park Aquatic Center; Worthington Pools
Favorite Outdoor Play Space
Winner: Easton splash pad
3900 Easton Station; 614-337-2200; eastontowncenter.com
This hidden gem tucked in the heart of the shopping complex rose to the top for the third year. The Easton splash pad, next to Brio Tuscan Grille in the Town Square area, operates seasonally. The play area is for ages 8 and younger and offers free towel service on select weekends.
Runners-up: Bicentennial Park in the Scioto Mile; Highbanks Metro Park
Honorable mention: John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons; Columbus Park of Roses; Fancyburg Park; Homestead park; Millstone Creek Park