This year’s sold-out Best of the North Celebration showed, yet again, how much people love the North. From sandwich shops to dry cleaners, nursing facilities to preschools, attendees voted on their favorites to select this year’s winners. The event was held in partnership with the West Chester • Liberty Chamber Alliance. Mercy Health, Great Oaks Career Campuses, Lyons & Lyons and the Sharonville Convention Center sponsored the event. This year’s nonprofit beneficiary was One Way Farm, which provides temporary and emergency housing for abused, abandoned, neglected or troubled children as well as long-term independent housing. Read on to learn more about our winners and some of the hidden gems in the region. — By the Editors


Best Bagel
Bruegger’s Bagels
Bruegger’s Bagels takes the prize again thanks to the company’s 30-year baking tradition of making fresh, New York-style bagels. Lindsey Myers, local bakery marketing manager, says the Mason location won because of its stellar service and, of course, its jalapeno cheddar bagels. 8220 Arbor Square Drive, Mason • 513-770-0451,

Best Bakery
Bluebird Bakery
Since opening 18 years ago, Bluebird Bakery has dedicated itself to making everything on site from scratch, from its soups to its cinnamon pecan coffeecake. Jenny Davis, owner and pastry chef, says that some of the more popular items are the Triple Berry Pie and chocolate chip cookies. 29 Village Square, Glendale • 513-772-5633,

Best BBQ
City Barbeque
Regional Marketing Manager Leda Isenhour says that City Barbeque won because the restaurant is a down-to-Earth joint, has friendly staff and serves up authentic barbecue. The restaurant smokes the meat on-site daily. 7706 Voice of America Centre Drive, West Chester • 513-775-0518,

Best Breakfast
First Watch
For those who want to start their day off with a fantastic breakfast, First Watch offers a breakfast menu packed with flavor. Try the Floridian French Toast for a twist on an old favorite. 9233 Floer Drive, West Chester • 513-942-5100,

Best Burger
Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beers
Flipdaddy’s is all about quality burgers and beers. Founder Bob Dames says, “Our custom grind of beef is comprised of short rib, brisket, and ground chuck.  Fresh, never frozen.” The restaurant also features 36 craft beers on tap, and will even take reservations. 12071 Mason Montgomery Road, Symmes Township • 513-677-2337,

Best Catering
Vonderhaar’s Catering
Vonderhaar’s Catering can take on any culinary challenge, from their standard menus to special requests. President Don Vonderhaar says, “We love what we do. The opportunity to help our guests create memories that will last a lifetime is truly special.” 19 W. Pleasant St., Reading • 513-554-1969,

Best Chef and Best Steak
Mike Nelsen, Tony’s Steak and Seafood
Instead of traveling downtown for an exquisite steak; Tony’s near Loveland and Mason serves aged, all-American beef alongside its fantastic seafood. While the quality can’t be beat, Executive Chef Mike Nelsen makes sure each steak is cooked to perfection. Tony’s also has a truly impressive wine list, so make sure to ask your server for a recommendation to pair with your meal. 12110 Montgomery Road, Loveland • 513-677-1993,

Best Chinese Cuisine
Johnny Chan 2
Johnny Chan 2 at Harper’s Point serves a wide selection of Chinese cuisine that is a touch above the rest. Can’t get there for dinner? They also have a wonderful lunch buffet. 11296 Montgomery Road, Montgomery • 513-489-2388,

Best Dessert
Donna’s Gourmet Cookies
10796 Montgomery Road, Sycamore Township

Cookie baker Donna Phelps tells folks she doesn’t have a great story about how she got started. What she does have are great cookies, brownies and cupcakes.

“They’re not my grandmother’s recipe that came down through the generations,” she says. “My parents were Italian, so they didn’t do desserts. I just had this great sweet tooth and started making cookies from my own recipes when I was in my 20s. That was 45 years ago. It’s just snowballed.”

The chocolate chip is her best-seller. Her personal favorite is the Heath Chocolate Chip with crunched up Heath Toffee bars in the batter. The pecan pie bar is also popular.

“We take it to the Chocolate Fest every year. It has just a drizzle of chocolate on top, but it always wins,” she says.

More than a decade ago, after getting rave reviews for her cookies for years, Donna took a batch to Findlay Market.

“I sold 180 cookies in an hour and half,” she says. “I thought, ‘OK, maybe we have something here,’ and we started going to Findlay Market every Saturday.”

The secret in Donna’s cookies is butter, lots and lots of butter, and everything is handmade. In 2008, she took the big plunge and leased a closed bakery on Montgomery Road and hasn’t looked back.

“We bake every day and make between 1,000 and 1,800 cookies,” she says.

Donna’s cookies, brownies, bars and cupcakes are available at her store, online or at a number of area coffee shops.

Best Donut
Holtman’s Donut Shop
This family-owned shop has been making donuts the same way since 1960—no shortcuts allowed. According to co-owner Katie Willing, the maple bacon, red velvet and kettle Danish are big favorites. 1399 Ohio 28, Loveland • 513-575-1077,

Best Family Dining
Troy’s Café
This local eatery has the charm of an upscale restaurant and the convenience of a quick-service place, making it perfect for families. With gourmet burgers on the regular menu and a delicious kids menu, everyone can find something they like. 4877 Smith Road, West Chester • 513-860-3206,

Best Farmers Market
West Chester Farmers Market
This farmers market has everything you expect one to have, and more; fresh-roasted coffee, jellies, pork, eggs, salsa and handmade soaps are just some of the products you can purchase. 9100 West Chester Towne Center Drive, West Chester •

Best Fresh Catch
Mitchell’s Fish Market
Good seafood, by definition, has to be fresh. Luckily, Mitchell’s Fish Market guarantees this by having fish delivered daily. The menu changes based on what’s available, so dinner here is always a new experience. 9456 Water Front Drive, West Chester • 513-779-5292,

Best Frozen Yogurt
Freeze Yogurt Bar
Freeze takes guilt-free dessert to another level with its organic frozen yogurt. Delicious toppings includes California almonds, granola and even peanut butter chips. Freeze also offers a vegan option. 7721 Voice of America Centre Drive, West Chester • 513-777-9999,

Best Ice Cream
There’s nothing quite like Graeter’s ice cream. Thanks to the brand’s expansion into gelato and low sugar ice cream, there are even more ways to enjoy this Cincinnati favorite. 5076 Natorp Blvd., Mason • 513-339-0140,

Best Independent Coffeehouse
True West Coffee
True West Coffee has dedicated itself to serving fine coffee, with all coffee fair or direct trade. It also has a large menu, though, which features fantastic sandwiches and salads. Owner Chris Cannon says, “True West is a place for community. We are a local shop that focuses on great products, high-end coffee and friendly service.” 313 Main St., Hamilton, 513-668-1488 • 221 High St., Hamilton, 513-668-5815 •

Best Italian Cuisine
BRAVO! Cucina Italiana
With its authentic and light options, BRAVO! makes sure that everyone gets to enjoy delicious Italian food. Try the Pasta BRAVO!, its signature dish, for a tasty mix of chicken, mushrooms, rigatoni and roasted red pepper cream sauce. 5045 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513-234-7900 • 9436 Waterfront Drive, West Chester, 513-759-9398 •

Best Mexican Cuisine
Cazadores Mexican Restaurant
Open for both lunch and dinner, Cazadores offers delicious Mexican food that uses only top-quality ingredients. The menu is filled with your favorites as well as some surprises, like the Choco-Taco. 4590 Cornell Road, Blue Ash • 513-828-0106,

Best Outdoor Dining
Straits of Malacca
Straits of Malacca’s Malaysian food is even tastier when eaten outside. Housed in the old Mason municipal building, the restaurant lets diners take in the buzz of downtown Mason while enjoying their meals.202 W. Main St., Mason • 513-492-7656,

Best Pizza
Mellow Mushroom
9238 Floer Drive, West Chester


With pies called Kosmic Karma, Magical Mystery Tour and Holy Shiitake, Mellow Mushroom isn’t your typical pizza chain. Started by two former “Dead Heads” in 1974 in Atlanta, Mellow Mushroom has developed quite a following with its mix of eclectic décor, funky vibe and fresh ingredients.

“We have a great standing in the community. We do a lot with Lakota schools and ours is a unique pizza. It’s a wheat-based dough with fresh-every-day, top-of-the line ingredients,” says Steve Ernstes, regional manager for the West Chester location and two others in Wilder, Ky., and Hyde Park owned by franchisee Kevin Molony.

Ernstes, an Anderson Township native who started with Mellow Mushroom while pursuing a graduate degree in North Carolina, says the two most popular pies are probably the barbecue chicken topped with mozzarella and cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, Applewood smoked bacon and a swirl of barbecue sauce; and the redskin potato: an olive oil and garlic base with sliced roasted red potatoes, smoked bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and garnished with chives and a drizzle of sour cream and spicy ranch dressing.

“It literally tastes like a giant potato skin,” he says.

Top that off with Mellow Mushroom’s selection of 100 different beers. The West Chester location has 24 beer taps and 76 bottle brands to choose from.

Look for a fourth Mellow Mushroom location in Greater Cincinnati sometime in the future, he says.


Best Sandwich Shop
Luigi’s Olde World Market
Luigi’s is an authentic Italian deli that serves the quality food needed for a perfect meal. Owner Luigi Berardo says, “Everything is made from scratch including our very own line of Italian and Marinara sauces. In addition to our made-from-scratch menu items, Luigi’s is a full-service butcher shop featuring premium cuts of USDA choice cuts of meat.” 9480 Cincinnati-Columbus Road, Cincinnati • 513-777-1989,

Best Sports Bar
Thirsty’s Oasis Sports Bar & Grill
There’s not a bad seat in the house at this sports bar; family-run Thirsty’s has 75 flat-screen HD TVs and four large projectors. It also serves 60 draft beers, which includes many local brews. Owner Sarah Jacobs says, “You only have to spend a little bit of time with us to see that it is our people that truly make us different.” 5579 A State Route 741, Mason • 513-492-7105,

Best Sushi
Kyoto Japanese Cuisine
Kyoto has been serving fresh, delicious sushi to the North for 10 years and shows no signs of stopping. Have a roll as an appetizer with a Japanese entrée or make a meal out of it thanks to the restaurant’s large menu. 12082 Montgomery Road, Loveland • 513-583-8897,

Best Vegetarian
The Veg Head
The Veg Head makes eating healthy a tasty experience. Try its black bean veggie burger or Veg Head wrap and you’ll find yourself not even missing the meat. 920 Loveland Madeira Road, Loveland • 513-697-7090,


Best AC/Heating Company
Al’s Heating & Cooling
Al’s Heating & Cooling services all makes, so no matter what system you have, this company can help you out. Need a new product? Al’s can also lead you to the product that best suits your needs and install it. 657 Reading Road, Mason • 513-398-7921,

Best Car Wash
Mike’s Car Wash
With its multiple service packages and self-serve options, it’s easy to get a clean car at Mike’s Car Wash. Special services such as Mike’s Clear Coat, Wheel Bright, Fast Wax and more are just icing on the cake. Multiple locations •

Best Dry Cleaner
Tide Dry Cleaners
Tide Dry Cleaners takes the brand you already know and applies it to dry cleaning. “Our quality sets us apart. Tide Dry Cleaners keeps your shirts looking newer 50 percent longer—and we can prove it! Plus, each garment is hand-inspected and pressed to perfection, ensuring a crisp, clean finish, every time,” says Dave Howard, senior manager of operations and training. Multiple locations •

Best Florist
Oberer’s Flowers
7675 Cox Lane, West Chester • 513-333-7435. 1448 Troy St, Dayton • 937-223-1253

Starting as a vegetable business north of Dayton in the 1890s that happened to also sell flowers, Oberer’s Flowers has grown into the fifth largest florist in the country.

“We are simply the best florist you can find. Our dedication to our customers, our premium presentation and high-end products at an accessible value make us who we are,” says Greg Turner, operations manager of the Dayton location.

The company’s success can be attributed to that fact that it offers items and services for almost anything you need done with flowers. At Oberer’s, you can get romantic, get-well and sympathy gifts; flowers for weddings and receptions; and even interior landscaping and plant leasing.

“Our talented team of designers, our greenhouse professionals and our top-notch customer service team ensure the most enjoyable floral experience available!” says Turner.

Being able to offer this level of service with experience has made Oberer’s Flowers a florist that people visit again and again.

“We are a customer-based company. We cater to the flower lover as well as the floral novice,” he says. “Whether you have a budget of $20 or $20,000, you receive the same Oberer’s quality, presentation, value and customer service that has kept us a floral leader for so long.”

Best Garden Center
Natorp’s Nursery Outlet & Landscape
With one of the largest collections of plants in the Tristate and professional horticulturalists to answer your questions 24/7 (even in the offseason!), Natorp’s aims to be your go-to place for all of your gardening needs. Marketing Manager Ron Wilson says, “The consistent comment when new customers first walk into the covered area is ‘Wow!’  It’s so big, you really do need to see it to believe it!” 8601 Snider Road, Mason • 513-398-4769,

Best Home Remodeler
Neal’s Design Remodel
When you need to remodel your bathroom, kitchen or even your entire home, Neal’s Design Remodel has the talent and ability to make it happen. Under Project Managers Paul Wittrock (who has been with the company since 1973) and Kevin Dunn, Neal’s is able to do a superb remodel that’s also on time. 7770 E. Kemper Road, Cincinnati • 513-489-7700,

Best Landscaper
Thornton Landscape
Thornton Landscape provides a quality product thanks to its wealth of experience. CEO Rick Doesburg started working with the company in 1969 and purchased the company in 1999. Many of the 35 employees have been with the company for more than 25 years, allowing the company to design, install and maintain quality outdoor spaces. 424 U.S. 22, Maineville • 513-683-8100,

Best Master Stylist and Manicure/Pedicure
Pam Brooks, Statements in Hair
Statements in Hair is summed up well by its tagline: “Beautiful work at an affordable price.” Women want to feel great about their appearance and for a great price, so that’s exactly what Owner Pam Brooks does. She uses her 30 years of experience to make sure every client walks away feeling fabulous. In addition to providing top-notch styling services, all of Statements in Hair’s stylists are trained and experienced in doing nails. It’s easy to get a makeover when all the services are top-of-the-line. 8179 Princeton-Glendale Road, West Chester, 513-942-7262 • 13 Village Square, Glendale, 513-772-7262 •

Best Nursing Facility
Mt. Healthy Christian Village
Mt. Healthy Christian Village provides skilled nursing care and is Medicare-rated five stars, but that’s not the only thing it has going for it. Admissions & Marketing Director Julie Price says, “MHCV provides quality care in a warm environment. Our residents feel at home here even when they may be receiving short-term, post- acute care after a hospitalization. Residents and their families often tell us how happy they are at MHCV and we believe that had a big part to play in … winning our category.” 8097 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati • 513-931-5000,

Best Place to Pamper Your Pet
Mandy’s Dog-O-Mat
According to Owner Mandy Watts, what makes Mandy’s Dog-O-Mat stand out is its fantastic team and transparency. “The staff is very professional, polite, and care about animals,” she says. “Here at Mandy’s Dog-O-Mat, we let the pet owners stay while their Fur Baby is getting groomed. We have always said that we have nothing to hide here and that is why we have everything out in the open.” 6896 Tylersville Road, West Chester • 513-847-1240,

Best Place for a Spa Day
The Village Spa
The Village Spa offers a wealth of spa services to keep clients happy and relaxed. Try a keratin blowout for a new look or the rosemary mint manicure for a rejuvenating experience. 8862 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, West Chester • 513-755-9241,


Best Consignment Shop
2nd Chance Upscale Resale Shoppes
8109 Beckett Center Drive, West Chester, 513-860-3860
11792 Springfield Pike, Springdale, 513-671-7162

For two years in a row, 2nd Chance Upscale Resale Shoppes has won this award because of owner Sue Hater’s commitment to customer service and quality merchandise. Hater and her two daughters only accept items that are in style and in the best condition.

“You don’t have to root through the junk to find the good stuff,” says Hater.

From True Religion and J. Crew jeans, to Dooney & Burke purses and Coach shoes, the racks are color coordinated, organized by size and by type of apparel, such as coats or pants. 2nd Chance also frequently carries Chico’s and White House Black Market, but you never know unless you stop in. And if you see a slash mark on the price tag, that cute Ann Taylor dress is half the price of the lowest price on the ticket.

The jewelry is also super affordable, with earrings usually from $3-$8 and necklaces from $5-$14, although sterling silver runs higher. Hater is always on the look out for more jewelry, including Stella & Dot and Lia Sophia.

If you have items for 2nd Chance, you can either sell them back that day and leave with cash in hand, or put it on consignment. Just make sure your clothes are clean, in style and good condition.

“[But] if someone brings me something awesome, I’ll still buy it if it’s out of season,” adds Hater. “Some styles just don’t change.”

Best Jeweler
Karaman Jewelers
Karaman Jewelers wants to offer more than simply jewelry; it stocks pieces that have a story and a meaning. The store promises that everything from the jewelry to the chocolate has a story behind it. Featured designers include Belargo, Lisa Robin and its own Karaman. 5948 Snider Road, Mason • 513-204-1693,

Best Gift Shop
Mim’s Off Main
Located in old Mason in a two-story historical house, Mim’s Off Main sells baby and tween lines, jewelry and more so that everyone finds the perfect gift. Owner Lisa Vitek says, “Mim’s is a destination in the Mason area. I have customers who come in just to walk around for therapy. I was told by several customers when they have a gift exchange everyone wants the ‘Mim’s’ bag. We have wonderful, loyal customers who say they can always find something special at Mim’s.” 623 Reading Road, Mason • 513-336-9100,

Best Place for Home Accessories
Sacksteder’s Interiors
With more than 25 years of experience, Sacksteder’s Interiors knows how to transform any room in your home. The company is a seven-time Homearama participant and is an expert in styles as varied as traditional and urban lifestyles. 9797 Montgomery Road, Montgomery • 513-791-5022,

Best Shopping Center
Deerfield Towne Center
Deerfield Towne Center is, yet again, the top shopping center of the North. With stores like buybuy Baby, Altar’d State and Track ‘N Trail, as well as Regal Cinema and restaurants like BRAVO!, it’s no wonder it remains No. 1. 5503 Deerfield Blvd., Mason • 513-770-0273,

Best Place for Antiques
Venice Pavilion Antiques
Venice Pavilion Antiques doesn’t just sell antiques; it feels like one itself! Originally built in 1918, the building has tin ceilings, wood floors and old-time hospitality. Owners Skyp and Jana Harmon say that the store is special for several reasons: “Over 80 dealers, with many different periods of antiques and collectables, reasonably priced, too, a treasure for everyone.” 4299 Hamilton-Cleves Road, Ross • 513-738-8180,


Best Community Arts Center
Sharonville Fine Arts Center
The Sharonville Fine Arts Center is more than a place to hang out. The center contains an acting studio that holds classes every Monday and Thursday, art classes offered by the Art Academy of Cincinnati, an art gallery and more. 11165 Reading Road, Sharonville • 513-554-1014,

Best Festival
Taste of Blue Ash
This delicious local food festival features local, regional and national music acts throughout three days to keep the festival rocking. In 2014, Kellie Pickler and Michael McDonald graced the stage. If you’re not a fan of the music playing, though, you can partake in the more than two-dozen food booths scattered throughout the festival. 513-745-8550,

Best Golf Course
Blue Ash Golf Course
The award-winning, 18-hole, 6,800-yard, par-72 championship course is a favorite among local and national publications alike. After a day of golf, you can also partake in its snack bar, sandwich shop and fully stocked pro shop. 4040 Cooper Road, Blue Ash • 513-686-1280,

Best Happy Hour
Silver Spring House
Silver Spring House’s Happy Hour is 4-7 p.m. daily, but it offers plenty of drink specials throughout the week as well. Bucket Mondays give discounts on buckets of domestic beer, Tuesdays offer half-price martinis and Wednesdays feature half-price bottles of wine. 8322 E. Kemper Road, Cincinnati • 513-489-7044,

Best Live Music
Plain Folk Café
Housed in a two-room schoolhouse built in 1913, the Plain Folk Café is a community-oriented gathering place that offers food, drinks and live music. According to owners John and Vicky Baker, “Plain Folk Cafe is a musician’s venue... we have no distractions, i.e., no televisions, pool tables, etc... We’re known for taking care of the talent we bring in, and we’re huge supporters of the local music scene.” 10177 State Route 132, Pleasant Plain • 513-877-2526,

Best Wine Store/Tasting
O’Bryan’s Wine
8972 Columbia Road, Loveland

O’Bryan’s Wine has always been a spirit shop (even when it was a deli) but when owners Teresa and Steve O’Bryan moved it to its current Loveland location, they dedicated themselves to expanding the beer and wine selection.

Growing by leaps and bounds, the husband-and-wife team’s stock of wines went from 400 bottles to more than 2,000. From fine European to everyday local wines, and from popular to obscure varietals, O’Bryan Wines has your perfect bottle.

“Whether you’re a novice or a connoisseur, we have a bottle for everyone,” says Teresa.

Each week, O’Bryan Wines also hosts its popular wine tastings led by sommelier Daniel Schmerr in its chic tasting room. You don’t have to make reservations, but expect a crowd as 40-70 patrons stroll in and out for their flight of several wines every Wednesday through Saturday. On Thursdays for $15, get a premium pour from a $25-plus bottle. O’Bryan Wines, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, also has craft beer and spirit tastings.

The store sells more than 400 types of beer from all over the world, and local brews from Jackie O’s in Athens and the hard-to-find Three Floyds Brewing Co.

Although special orders for beer and spirits are a bit more difficult since they have to order by the case, the native Cincinnatians believe customer service is a priority.

“We don’t mind doing that. We do it quite often,” says Teresa.


Best Bike Shop
Loveland Bike Rental
Open March through November, Loveland Bike Shop in downtown historic Loveland aims to provide anything a cyclist would need on the Little Miami Scenic trail. Co-owner Peter Hills says, “We have a large selection of bikes for all ages and also rent tandems, recumbents and trailers. We pride ourselves on providing a great value and outstanding customer service.” 206 Railroad Ave., Loveland • 513-683-0468,

Best Charitable Race
The Shamrock Shuffle
The Shamrock Shuffle brings a strong sense of community to its annual race by doing things a little differently. Event Co-chair Shellie Leder says, “The Shuffle Gives Back program allows each participant the opportunity to form a team or join a team for the cause that matters to them. Unlike other team events, the participants have no fundraising requirement, approximately one third of their participation fee goes directly to their qualifying team charity. Our teams are the heart of our race and we are happy to give as much back as we can.” 513-874-5450,

Best Fitness Class and Best Personal Trainer
Pure Barre, Joni Greene
5939 Deerfield Blvd., Mason

Moving from a career as a criminal defense attorney, Joni Green found a renewed sense of passion at Pure Barre.

“It’s become a way of life and I can pass the passion on to others,” says Green, co-owner of the Mason and Dayton Pure Barre locations. She instructs classes and attends as a student.

Pure Barre is designed to help clients achieve a full-body workout targeting problem areas, such as hips, thighs and arms—strengthening the body, while creating lean muscles.

“The client transforms mentally and physically,” says Green. “They have pride in themselves and their confidence grows.”

Green says that during the 55-60 minute classes, clients can focus on themselves and there is comradery between clients.

“It’s more than a workout; it’s an experience,” says Green. “I live for it.”

Class sizes are capped off at 20 students, which allow instructors to provide more personal instruction. Mason Pure Barre, preparing to celebrate its three-year anniversary, hosts over 30 classes per week, Monday through Sunday.

“I’m thrilled to say the least. We could only hope to get the honor of winning again,” says Green. “I’m blown away.”

Best Health Food Store
Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s sells healthy food, but what makes it stand out is the value the store offers. The company wants to sell the best products for the best price to its customers, guaranteeing you a healthy meal for which you didn’t overpay. 7788 Montgomery Road, Kenwood • 513-984-3452,

Best Place to Buy Fitness Gear
Fleet Feet Sports
Fleet Feet Sports specializes in making sure that people of all ages have the shoes and athletic equipment that’s perfect for them. Co-owner Stacey DeJulius adds, “Most people know Fleet Feet Sports for our shoe and insole fittings, but a huge focus of ours for the ladies is our sports bra fittings. Our female bra fit specialists take band and cup measurements and make recommendations that will keep you comfortable and supported.” 9525 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash • 513-793-8383,

Best Yoga Studio
Yoga with Pooja
Yoga with Pooja takes the view that yoga is more than an exercise; it’s a lifestyle. Classes focus on a comprehensive mind-body system that includes relaxation, stress reduction and emotional support. To truly make yoga into a lifestyle, founder Pooja Malhotra even offers special programs for young children. 666 Reading Road, Mason • 513-445-4964,



Best Birthday Party Location
Lazer Kraze
Lazer Kraze has won this category again and again because the company continues to add more to its locations, like its indoor trampoline park. Owner Robin Wilcox says, “Whether you’re interested in laser tag or the trampoline park or both, both options offer private play sessions so it’s just your group in a session but still at a reasonable cost. Pair that with a ‘Glow’ party option and you have the coolest party ever.” 7082 Columbia Road, Mason • 513-339-1030,

Best Cheerleading Gym
Midwest Cheer Elite
Midwest Cheer Elite offers classes in cheer and dance, but it is also full of surprises. “We are like one large family and there is literally something for every age and every ability, for those kids who just want to take a tumbling class to those who want to be on a competitive team and prepare for college,” says Owner Tanya Roesel. “There is Daytime Playtime with inflatables and in-ground trampolines where literally for $5 a child can come with their parents and play from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Homeschool classes, open gyms, clinics, literally something for everyone.” 8730 N. Pavilion Drive, West Chester • 513-779-9111,

Best Dance/Theatre Instruction
Mason Dance Center
Mason Dance Center wants to give people of all ages the opportunity to dance, so its class schedule features classes for 3-year-olds and adults. Take a look at the schedule online to find out what ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap or modern dance class works for you. 600 Reading Road, Mason • 513-398-0353,

Best Gymnastics Center
Cincinnati Gymnastics
3635 Woodridge Blvd., Fairfield

Gymnastics basics, technique, form and execution are just some of the skills that students of all ages learn at Cincinnati Gymnastics.

“We maintain a positive environment without sacrificing the skill of gymnastics,” says Valerie Kramer, an instructor at Cincinnati Gymnastics. “Our mission statement is to teach gymnastics through loving discipline while serving and enriching the lives of others.”

Kramer helps teach classes from preschool all the way through high school.

Cincinnati Gymnastics hosts special events such as Sleepovers & Parents Night Out, Special Olympics, field trips, Mini Camps and Firecracker Camps.

During a student’s instruction, they learn vault, bars, balance beam and floor, which are the four Olympic events. Students also work to increase flexibility, body control and coordination as well as confidence and strength.

“It’s incredible that we were voted Best of the North winner. It truly is a testament,” she says.

Best Music Instruction
Buddy Rogers Music
The local Buddy Rogers Music stores, known for selling musical instruments, have a secret; the stores also offer instructional music classes. “Our outstanding teachers and salespeople make our customers feel comfortable and enhance the learning experience,” says Vice President William Harvey. “A great advantage of taking lessons in our stores is the availability of strings, accessories, advanced instruments and the help of other musicians to guide you.” 6891 Simpson Ave., Cincinnati • 513-729-1950,

Best Park
Sharon Woods
Sharon Woods, the oldest of the 21 parks that make up the Great Parks of Hamilton County, has something for everyone. “Since Sharon Woods has such a deep history in our region, generation after generation have shared special moments at the park. It has a nostalgia unlike any other park in our area,” says Marketing Communications Coordinator Kimberly Whitton. From its trails, waterfalls and lake to its golf course, visitor center and harbor, Sharon Woods is full of ways to have a memorable time. 11355 Swing Road, Cincinnati • 513-769-4325,

Best Preschool
Something comes up unexpectedly and the babysitter isn’t available. One option is to drop your child off at this year’s Best of the North winner, Skidaddles. This preschool is also a drop-in childcare center. The preschool stays open until 9 p.m. throughout the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday, easily helping you when you need the hand. 5939 Deerfield Blvd., Mason • 513-204-3482,

Best Summer Camp
Camp Kern
Do your kids just want to get away during the summer? Sending them to Camp Kern is a fantastic way to do just that. Camp Kern offers a plethora of camps to keep them busy such as Ranch Camp, Ultimate Survivor, Rock and Raft and more. 5291 Ohio 350, Oregonia • 513-932-3756,