Columbus Parent Family Faves

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Viv Gockstetter, 8, (left) and Ellie Brasky, 7, at Graeter's in Bexley

The votes are in and readers have spoken.

It's time to announce the results of our 2018Columbus Parent Family Faves reader survey.

For the eighth year, we asked readers for their opinions on the best family-friendly businesses, dining, activities and events in Central Ohio. There are so many options when it comes to treating yourselves and your families, and sometimes other parents' opinions can help inform that decision-making.

Readers voted online from Jan. 22 to Feb. 26, picking their favorites in 35 categories. Each category had multiple nominees from which to choose, as well as a write-in option for voters. The nominees were selected because they earned at least 5 percent of the vote in last year's survey. (In cases where a previous year's honoree closed, we substituted the next-highest vote-getter.)

In addition to the winners, we also recognize the 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 in alphabetical order.

Here are the honorees:


Favorite Asian Restaurant

Winner: Genji Japanese Steakhouse

2045 Brice Road, Reynoldsburg; 614-864-7888;

Japanese-style steakhouses are always popular with families. After all, what could be better than dinner and a show? Genji Japanese Steakhouse took first place in the category for the third straight year.

Runners-up: Molly Woo's Asian Bistro; House of Japan - Dublin

Honorable mention: Akai Hana Japanese Restaurant; Hunan Lion Chinese Restaurant; Lucky House Chinese Restaurant; Tai's Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar; Thai Grille; Thai Orchid Restaurant; Thai Paradise

Favorite Bakery

Winner: Fantasy Cupcake

9 S. High St., Canal Winchester; 614-524-6914;

Fantasy Cupcake rose to the top again, holding onto its 2017 title. The business occupies a quaint storefront in downtown Canal Winchester.

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 - German Village; The Suisse Shop

Favorite Fancy Family Dining

Winner:Brio Tuscan Grille - Easton

3993 Easton Station, Columbus; 614-416-4745;

This eatery, which is part of the Bravo | Brio Restaurant Group, has a kids menu that runs the gamut from chicken fingers and grilled cheese to ravioli and grilled salmon—all for $5.95 to $6.95. This is Brio Tuscan Grille's third straight category win.

Runners-up: Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Grandview; The Melting Pot

Honorable mention:Bravo! Cucina Italiana - Northwest Columbus; Buca di Beppo - Arena District; Buca di Beppo - Worthington; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar - Gahanna; Lindey's Restaurant & Bar; Marcella's Polaris

Favorite Frozen Treats - Single Location

Winner:Velvet Ice Cream's Ye Olde Mill

11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica; 800-589-5000;

Velvet Ice Cream's Ye Olde Mill, a popular destination for Central Ohioans, was the top vote-getter for the fourth year in a row. Visitors can buy the company's ice cream and take a tour of the facility, which is open seasonally from April to October.

Runners-up: Johnson's Real Ice Cream - Bexley; Coppa Gelato

Honorable mention:Clown Cones & Confections; OH-YO! Frozen Yogurt

Favorite Frozen Treats - Multiple Locations


Cincinnati-based Graeter's scooped up its fourth first-place finish. The company has a food truck and 11 Central Ohio locations, with another shop coming to Hilliard.

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 and Tavern

Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern was another four-peat finisher. The company has 10 Central Ohio locations and a gluten-free menu with numerous entrées and side dishes.

Runners-up: Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers; BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

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, Columbus; 614-473-0794;

Low prices and specialty offerings (think: gluten-free, kosher and vegan) are a couple of reasons for the company's popularity with shoppers. Readers chose Trader Joe's - Easton for the third straight year.

Runners-up:North Market; Whole Foods Market - Northwest Columbus

Honorable mention:Carfagna's Market; Fresh Thyme Farmers Market - Northwest Columbus; Lucky's Market; Trader Joe's - Dublin; Weiland's Market

Favorite Italian Restaurant

Winner:The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant

397 W. Broad St., Columbus; 614-464-0143;

The Spaghetti Warehouse Restaurant, a longtime Franklinton fixture, collected its fourth title in a row. The eatery, which opened in 1978, was the first Ohio location for the Texas-based chain.

Runners-up:Carfagna's Restaurant; Marcella's Polaris

Honorable mention:Buca di Beppo - Arena District; 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:Bob Evans Restaurants

Bob Evans Restaurants, a 2017 runner-up, was the victor this year. The kids menu has a variety of breakfast and lunch/dinner offerings, including Piggy Pancakes, grilled chicken and a variety of side dish choices. The Columbus-based company has 500-plus locations in 18 states.

Runners-up:Max & Erma's; Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern

Honorable mention:101 Beer Kitchen; BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse; Cap City Fine Diner and Bar; Northstar Café; The Old Bag of Nails Pub

Favorite Latin Restaurant


3950 Grammercy St., Columbus; 614-337-9006;

The Easton eatery, which opened in 2004, repeated last year's win. Children can choose from a half-dozen Mexican favorites as well as chicken nuggets and grilled chicken.

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;

This local favorite took top honors for the third straight year. Kingy's Pizza Pub also offers salads, ribs, pasta and a kids menu.

Runners-up:Pasquale's Pizza & Pub - Westerville; Plank's Cafe & Pizzeria (Parsons Avenue)

Honorable mention:Amato's Woodfired Pizza; Eagles Pizza; Hounddog's Pizza; Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza and Live Music; Pizza House; Rubino's Pizza; Yellow Brick Pizza

Favorite Pizza - Multiple Locations

Winner: Donatos Pizza

Hometown favorite Donatos Pizza has won this category four years running. The company, founded on Columbus' South Side in 1963, has grown to more than 150 locations in nine states.

Runners-up:Pizza Cottage; Jet's Pizza

Honorable mention:Dewey's Pizza; Massey's Pizza; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers; Mikey's Late Night Slice; Pies & Pints; Tommy's Pizza

Favorite Restaurant with Games and Activities

Winner:Rule (3)

650 Windmiller Drive, Pickerington; 614-864-7853;

Rule (3) scored a solo win this year after tying for the top spot in 2017. The venue offers bowling, arcade games and an outdoor area with patio seating, inflatables and sand volleyball. The business also won Favorite Bowling.

Runners-up:Dave & Buster's - Polaris; Dave & Buster's - Hilliard

Honorable mention:Chuck E. Cheese's - Northwest Columbus; Star Lanes Polaris; Ten Pin Alley


Favorite Art Instruction

Winner:Art & Clay on Main

150 W. Main St., Lancaster; 740-653-1755;

Art & Clay on Main is a first-time winner in this category. It also won Favorite Drop-in Art Studio. The facility is an accessible studio owned by the Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Classes are offered for children and adults on topics including painting, ceramics and clay.

Runners-up: Columbus College of Art & Design and Columbus Museum of Art (tie for second); Delaware County Cultural Arts Center (The Arts Castle)

Honorable mention:Firefly Play Cafe

Favorite Birthday Party Venue

Winner: Sky Zone

459 Orange Pointe Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center; 740-548-4004;

Sky Zone is the undisputed champ, having won the category every year since it was introduced in 2012. The trampoline park offers open jump times as well as party packages. Sky Zone also won Favorite Indoor Play Space.

Runners-up: Rule (3); Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris

Honorable mention:The Glass Slipper; Lazer Kraze - Lewis Center; Star Lanes Polaris

Favorite Bookstore

Winner:The Book Loft of German Village

631 S. Third St., Columbus; 614-464-1774;

Fans of The Book Loft of German Village appreciate the store for its vast selection and quirky, labyrynthine arrangement of 32 rooms that span two buildings. This is the fourth straight win for the business.

Runners-up: Village Bookshop; Cover to Cover (Runner-up Cover to Cover reopened in Upper Arlington under new ownership in January.)

Honorable mention:Fundamentals Children's Books, Toys & Games

Favorite Bowling

Winner:Rule (3)

650 Windmiller Drive, Pickerington; 614-864-7853;

Rule (3) held onto its 2017 title. The business, which offers standard and mini-bowling, also won 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;

Cost-conscious shoppers chose Once Upon A Child - Dublin for the fourth year in a row.

Runners-up: Once Upon A Child - Westerville; Three Bags Full consignment sales (various locations)

Honorable mention:Goodwill Columbus - Dublin; Once Upon A Child - Gahanna

Favorite Children's Clothes - New

Winner: Nicole's for Children

50 W. Olentangy St., Powell; 614-433-0503;

A runner-up last year, Nicole's for Children opened in 2007 and carries newborn to size 12. Last year's winner, Belles & Beaux Children's Boutique, closed in January.

Runners-up: What the Rock?!; lilylimes

Honorable mention: Team Chipmunk

Favorite Children's Shoes

Winner:Walker's Shoe Center

737 E. Main St., Lancaster; 740-654-3166;

Walker's Shoe Center, a sixth-generation family business, is a first-time Family Faves winner. The “sit and fit” shoe store dates to 1836.

Runners-up: Nordstrom; Journeys Kidz - Polaris

Honorable mention:Journeys Kidz - Tuttle; Lucky Shoes; Von Maur

Favorite Children's Theater

Winner:Columbus Children's Theatre

Most shows are at Park Street Theatre, 512 Park St.; 614-224-6672;

Columbus Children's Theatre continues its sweep of the category, stretching back eight years to when our reader survey debuted. Each year, it stages a mainstage season plus shows from its Advanced Performance Academy and Theatre for the Very Young series.

Runners-up: Wagnalls Community Theatre; CATCO is Kids

Honorable mention:Abbey Theater of Dublin; Wexner Center for the Arts

Favorite Dance Instruction

Winner: BalletMet Dance Academy

322 Mount Vernon Ave., Columbus; 614-224-1672;

BalletMet Dance Academy returned to the top spot, which it also held in 2012 and 2013. BalletMet's school offers classes in four divisions: children, student, trainee, and teen and adult.

Runners-up: Leap of Faith Dance Studio; NorthPointe Dance Academy

Honorable mention:Columbus DanceArts Academy; Dublin Dance Centre & Gymnastics; Straub Dance Center

Favorite Drop-in Art Studio

Winner:Art & Clay on Main

150 W. Main St., Lancaster; 740-653-1755;

Art & Clay on Main allows customers to paint their own pottery as well as dabble in painting or clay creations. The business, which has won this category three years in a row, also won Favorite Art Instruction this year.

Runners-up: Color Me Mine; Marcy's Clayground

Honorable mention:The Bare Bowl; Clay Cafe - Grandview

Favorite Gardening Supplies

Winner:Dill's Greenhouse

5800 Rager Road, Groveport; 614-836-3700;

It's a three-peat for Dill's Greenhouse. The family-owned garden center, which opened in 1983, hosts a popular annual Fall Fun Festival and a Kids Club where participants learn about plants and create a take-home project.

Runners-up: Oakland Nursery - Columbus; Strader's Garden Center - Northwest Columbus

Honorable mention:Oakland Nursery - Delaware; Oakland Nursery - Dublin; Oakland Nursery - New Albany

Favorite Gymnastics Instruction

Winner:Buckeye Gymnastics

10562 Sawmill Road, Powell; 614-793-1936

7159 Northgate Way, Westerville; 614-895-1611

Buckeye Gymnastics repeated its 2017 victory. The company, which opened its first location in 1983, operates two gyms in Central Ohio and offers classes for preschool age and older.

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, Columbus; 614-840-9600;

Readers put Magic Mountain Fun Center - Polaris atop the leaderboard for the third year running. The venue has two 18-hole mini golf courses as well as other entertainment options.

Runners-up: Westerville Golf Center; Glow Putt Mini Golf

Honorable mention:Galaxy Games & Golf; Magic Mountain Fun Center - East; Putt N Play; SportsOhio

Favorite Music Instruction



WeJoySing, a first-time winner, holds music classes at numerous venues around Central Ohio. Offerings include parent-child programs for babies through age 5 as well as classes for school-age children.

Runners-up: Musicologie - Grandview; Columbus Music and Art Academy

Honorable mention:Columbus Children's Choir; Guitar Center; Music Royale

Favorite Sports Instruction

Winner:OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks

Dublin: 7001 Dublin Park Drive; 614-764-1000

Easton: 3600 Chiller Lane, Columbus; 614-475-7575

OhioHealth Chiller Ice Works: 401 E. Wilson Bridge Road, Worthington; 614-433-9600

North: 8144 Highfield Drive, Lewis Center; 740-549-0009

OhioHealth Ice Haus: 200 W. Nationwide Blvd., Columbus; 614-246-3380

OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks makes its Family Faves debut this year. Five rinks around Central Ohio offer a variety of instructional skating and hockey programs.

Runners-up: Hocking Valley Youth Sport Center; SportsOhio

Honorable mention:AmeriCheer; Bo Jackson's Elite Sports; The Little Gym of Polaris; Locker Soccer Academy; Pickerington ATA Black Belt Academy; Westerville Golf Center

Favorite Toys, Games and Learning Products

Winner: Naturally Curious Kids

13 E. College Ave., Westerville; 614-568-8590;

This mom-and-daughter-owned shop in Uptown Westerville is another first-time winner. Naturally Curious Kids carries a wide assortment of educational yet fun toys and boasts an in-store treehouse.

Runners-up: Lakeshore Learning Materials; Learning Express Toys of Worthington

Honorable mention:Fundamentals Children's Books, Toys & Games; Oh, Know! The Knowing Place; The Train Station

Favorite Tutoring Center

Winner:Sylvan Learning - Lewis Center

225 Green Meadows Drive S., Suite C, Lewis Center; 877-842-0446;

Sylvan Learning - Lewis Center reclaimed its 2016 category title. The business offers tutoring, test prep, academic coaching and summer programs.

Runners-up: Brain Balance Center of Columbus; Kumon Math and Reading Center of Dublin-Avery

Honorable mention:Kumon Math and Reading Center of Westerville-North; Math Plus Academy - New Albany; Math Plus Academy - Powell; Tutoring Club of Gahanna/New Albany


Favorite Festival

Winner:Lancaster Festival


A Fairfield County tradition since 1985, the Lancaster Festival is a multiday, music-focused event. The festival, which often garners top-name acts, is a first-time category winner.

Runners-up:Circleville Pumpkin Show; Columbus Arts Festival

Honorable mention:Dublin Irish Festival; Jazz & Rib Fest; Ohio Renaissance Festival; Ohio State Fair

Favorite Indoor Play Space

Winner:Sky Zone

459 Orange Pointe Drive, Suite E, Lewis Center; 740-548-4004;

Sky Zone is a three-time champ in this category. The venue offers trampolines, a foam pit and Ultimate Dodgeball, as well as fitness classes and sensory-friendly hours. Sky Zone also won Favorite Birthday Party Venue.

Runners-up:Recreations Outlet; Polaris Fashion Place

Honorable mention:Firefly Play Cafe; Graeter's - Bethel Road store; The Mall at Tuttle Crossing

Favorite Library Children's Area

Winner:Westerville Public Library

126 S. State St., Westerville; 614-882-7277;

Westerville Public Library was the top choice this year, as it was from 2014 to 2016. The children's area even has a sign built like a movie marquee. The library is working to repair the area and replace books that were damaged in March by a water heater leak. (See Parent Pulse on Page 6 for more information about the restoration efforts.)

Runners-up:Columbus Metropolitan Library, Main Library; Wagnalls Memorial Library

Honorable mention:Bexley Public Library; Delaware County District Library, Orange Branch; Pickerington Public Library Main; Worthington Libraries, Old Worthington Library

Favorite Outdoor Municipal Pool

Winner:Groveport Aquatic Center

7370 Groveport Road, Groveport; 614-836-2225;

The Groveport Aquatic Center floated to the top for a third straight year. Opened in 2013, the venue features a zero-depth-entry pool, children's area, two 30-foot waterslides, a lazy river and a sprayground.

Runners-up:Highlands Park Aquatic Center; The Big Splash

Honorable mention:Bexley Pool; Dublin Community Pool South; Hilliard Family Aquatic Center; North Orange Park Aquatic Center; Worthington Pools

Favorite Outdoor Play Space

Winner:Easton Town Center splash pad

3900 Easton Station, Columbus; 614-337-2200;

The Easton Town Center splash pad, in front of Brio Tuscan Grille, isn't just a pretty decoration. Our readers know it's a great place for the kids to cool down and have fun on those hot summer shopping trips. The splash pad is for ages 8 and younger. Easton has swept the category since it debuted in 2015. 

Runners-up:Highbanks Metro Park; Bicentennial Park in the Scioto Mile

Honorable mention:Columbus Commons; Columbus Park of Roses; Fancyburg Park; Homestead Metro Park; Millstone Creek Park