Metropolitan Mama presents...Best In The USA

Our family has been through 11 states in 106 days.

Living on-the-road is more stressful and more wonderful than we ever could have imagined. We're meeting outstanding people, interviewing executive directors of non-profits, getting behind-the-scenes tours of businesses, and enjoying an ever-changing outdoor landscape.

I'm putting together an awards program of sorts as we travel. At the end of our 365 days, I'd like to zero in on THE BEST in specific categories.

Metropolitan Mama presents...Best In The USA 1

Nominations will be accepted for:

  • Best Library
  • Best Public Park
  • Best Bakery
  • Best Bookstore
  • Best Grocery Store
  • Best Farmers Market
  • Best Birth Center
  • Best Campground
  • Best Company to Work For
  • Best 'Gently Used' Clothes Shop for Kids
  • Best Hiking Trail for Kids
  • Best Restaurant for Kids
  • Best Family Restrooms
  • Best Public Breastfeeding Room/Area
  • Best Story Hour at a Library
  • Best Master-Planned Community
  • Best Homeschool Co-op
  • Best Public or Private Elementary School
  • Best Family Photographer
  • Best Naturopathic Doctor or Pediatrician
  • Best 5K
  • Best Playground
  • Best Pizza

Leave a comment on this post with your nominations. For example, you might write, "I nominate ABC County Library for Best Library because..."

If possible, include the city and state (plus, a website!). I'd also love to hear WHY you think your pick has what it takes to be the best in the USA. The more details you can provide, the more enticing your nomination will be.

No guarantees, of course - but we'll try to stop in at as many places as we can along our route.

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39 comments on “Metropolitan Mama presents...Best In The USA”

  1. Hi Stephanie,

    My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.

    I was looking for blogs about Sultan to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    Jane

  2. Oye, yoi yoi! So many categories. So many options!

    As far as Best Family Photographer goes, I would nominate Gigglebean Photography. Jessica Hoff is simply the best in the Santa Cruz (CA) area. She is able to capture such special moments...real moments. Moments that are unposed, not calculated, pure, magical. I think you have seen some of her work since I post quite a bit of it but if you want a taste of more, head over to http://www.gigglebean.com. Prepare to be blown away...

  3. I nominate "The Green Dragon Farmers Market" In Ephrata Pennsylvania (Lancaster Country) http://www.greendragonmarket.com/ . The green dragon is a framers market on 30 ACRES!! Lancaster County is famous for the Amish and they come every friday and sell their produce, meat, breads, pies, jams, apple cider, cheese you name it they probably sell it. I lived in Ephrata for over a year and went every friday.There isn't to many places where you can buy a basket of green peppers for 2 bucks!! Its one of the largest farmers markets in the country but I think the best because you get to immerse yourself in a whole new way of life. The simplistic life of the Amish!

    1. We'll be in Pennsylvania (near Amish country) in two weeks. We've heard that the food is ridiculously delicious there. Can't wait to explore the area...and sample all kinds of fresh produce, milk, cheeses, etc.

      1. Yes they have GREAT FOOD there! Your kids will have a blast. If your in Lancaster there is a Amish Farm you can tour and they teach you all about the amish its a lot of fun and a touristy must =) BTW my friend told me she got the POW Jar idea from you =) I thought it was her idea.Guess not!!! =)

  4. I Love this idea Stephanie!

    I'll have to give it some thought... but for now I'll second (or third, or fourth, or...) the Powell's bookstore in Portland nomination - it is awesome and very worth a visit!

    Also in Berkeley, CA you have to go to Cordornices Park - they have an incredible concrete slide, a separate fenced in area for the toddlers to play in, some great trails and it's right across the street from the Berkeley Rose Garden (accessible via tunnel under the road so you don't have to cross the busy street!) Such a great place. http://www.510families.com/content/ride-concrete-slide

    1. Thanks for your nominations!

      Please do come back over and leave more comments as places come to mind.

  5. I nominate Cake Flour on Market for best bakery in Louisville Kentucky.

    http://www.cakeflouronmarket.com/

    It's great because they use all natural, organic ingredients as well as locally produced ingredients whenever available. They have delicious scones, tarts, quiches, and more. One of my favorites, is their Schmuffins - small nutmeg-laced spice cakes, brushed with a thin layer of butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Yum!

  6. I have to nominate the Tattered Cover Bookstore in downtown Denver, CO! I could spend hours and hours there!

    Central Park Playground in the Stapleton Neighborhood of Denver, CO is the best playground I have ever been to, and Stapleton might be the best, friendliest, smartest, greenest, hippest master-planned community ever.

    And last but not least, Adagio Bakery in Park Hill (neighborhood in Denver) is just to. die. for.

    1. I just popped over to the Stapleton website and I think I'm in love. Denver is on my must-see list (Do you like it there? I'd love to hear about your experience in the mile-high city!).

      1. I LOVE living in Denver. The kind of love where every day I think to myself "Wow, we are really blessed to live here." Denver is a city of neighborhoods, so while I live less than a 20 minute bike ride away from almost anywhere I'd like to go, there is still a strong 'small town' feel. I know most of the people in a 4 block radius by name, and have made some incredible friendships with folks I met at our little neighborhood park.

        The weather is fabulous, 300 days of sunshine a year, but we still have 4 distinct seasons. When a new building is being built, the builder focuses on the environmental impact and 'greenness' of the construction, and people actually care about architecture and what a building looks like. When we moved here from Ohio 5 years ago we so pleasantly surprised by the diversity of people that we came in contact with. People of all races and ages and faiths. And people here are in general very friendly and relaxed.

        We live in one of the last not-so-great neighborhoods near the city, but I really love being a part of a wave of young people and families working together to make a small neighborhood better and prettier and safer. It is pretty common here for people to be active in their neighborhood associations.

        I could write forever, but if you have any specific questions I would love to answer them! Hope we get to see you all when you get to the Mile High City!

        1. It is clear that "community" is prized and valued in your city. I think I would like it there.

          300 days of sunshine sounds fabulous too! And have I mentioned that I love living adjacent to mountains? I do.

  7. Off the top of my head I have two best:

    Best Farmer's Market - Downtown Kansas City - City Market - http://www.thecitymarket.org/

    Best Breastfeeding Area - about 4 years ago we were at SeaWorld in Florida and came across a breastfeeding area. We stopped in to use the potty. It was wonderful, a large room with rocking chairs, cribs, changing tables, little kid potties, microwaves. Everything you could ever want in a nursey. It was perfect - I just wished I had a kid with me to nurse!

  8. I nominate:

    Jonathan Dickensen State Park (Hobe Sound, FL) for the best place to work-camp. They really adore their volunteers and it's an amazing park (canoe the Loxihatchee river, swim in the Atlantic ocean, hike or bike the trails, or take the kids to special events on your free time. And you will have free time), and wonderful people. Kayak at the nearby MacArther State Park (free entry for volunteers) and maybe you'll get to paddle with sharks or manatae, if you're lucky, when you're out in the Loxihatchee.

    Assateauge Island State Park (& National Seashore) as best campground. Granted, there's no electricity (and only cold water on the N.S. part) but you've got the roar of surf on the beach right over the dunes, and the wonder of watching wild ponies wander through your campsite, steal your food, and run wild over the beach. If you're lucky, you'll even see dolphins.

  9. Excellent idea Stephanie! I can't wait to see what your choices are. I'm putting on my thinking cap for nominations. ;D

    1. Perfect. I look forward to hearing what companies and places come to your mind. I imagine that there are quite a few "gems" in California.

    1. Yes. Feel free to return to this post to make nominations through February 2012.

      [Obviously the sooner you submit them, the more likely it will be that we will be able to stop and visit in-person.]

  10. I have one more nomination if you are in Chicago.
    Best Pizza: Giordano's stuffed spinach pizza
    If you like spinach, please order this and see if you agree! If you don't like spinach, I would give the stuffed pepperoni pizza a nomination as well. This is Chicago pizza at it's finest. When we want deep-dish Chicago-style pizza, we really only go to Giordano's. Yum.

    1. Tim spent a semester at Trinity International University in Deerfield. I visited him there once and I *think* we ate at Giordano's pizza. It's been over 10 years ago now so the memory isn't strong. I guess we'll have to eat there again to determine if it is indeed the "Best Pizza in the USA." ;)

  11. We have THE best library ever in our city of Elgin, IL, a suburb of Chicago.
    Please, please spend some time checking it out at http://www.gailborden.info/m/
    We are there at LEAST once a week for the children's programs--year-round. We also have a smaller branch of the library about a mile from my home, which is quite a bit smaller but also wonderful and has family storytimes in the evening, a fun play area, a reading room with a fireplace, and tons of windows overlooking a prairie. So, so relaxing. (And this is just the branch. The main library is amazing, really. I am not overdoing that word.)
    I could really, truly go on and on about our library, but I will try to list my most favorite things without saying everything I could say, because I could write a book. I really feel I cannot say enough about this library and feel so lucky to live in this city.

    1. There are literally programs for children of EVERY age, starting at 9 months to the teenage years. These are not sub-par programs either. They are led by enthusiastic, loving educators and include 20-30 minutes of songs and movement and stories. For tiny children, there is a playtime afterward--so fun for the babies and for the parents. My son has been attending these weekly since he was an infant. He LOVES going to the library. This past year, he went to Rhymes and Rhythms (for 2-year-olds) part of the year and has now graduated to the Picture Storybook program, which had an underwater/ocean theme this season. The librarians make the effort to know the children by name who visit the library frequently. The kids feel so special. I also take the 1-year-old I babysit to the Wonderful Ones program each week.

    2. Children who are learning to read can register for the Read to Rover program. The library brings in fully trained and certified therapy dogs, and children cuddle up with a good book and a dog to read aloud to! This provides a completely unintimidating environment for new readers to read aloud to a captive audience and make friends with a friendly animal in the process. My child is not quite old enough for this, but we are so looking forward to registering him when he begins reading! We have gone in at the end of the program before just to pet the dogs. They are really sweet, gentle, large dogs.

    3. Because of some kind of cooperation with the city of Elgin and the United Way, my child (and any child who lives in our city) gets a free book sent to him every month of his life from birth to age five. All you have to do is sign up. It is so fun getting these books in the mail. My little boy squeals with delight and we read it right away, sometimes before we even get in the house if the weather is nice enough to sit on the porch. They are quality books, too.

    4. The location is beautiful and the library itself is beautiful with large windows everywhere, but particularly in the children's section (overlooking the Fox River) and in the upstairs reading/fireplace room.

    5. Our library has a cafe! We often stay for lunch, because they have affordable and delicious homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and yummy homemade cinnamon protein cookies. I feel that buying lunch there once a week is a small way to help support our FREE library for all they do for us, and I am thankful the food is healthy and delicious.

    6. The kids' section is separate and kids are never "shushed." It is not quiet. It is a FUN place to be. If you need quiet, the library is large, and upstairs you can hear a pin drop--it is that quiet up there. This library is truly for everyone.

    7. More about the kids' section: There is a craft station, with a new weekly craft and supplies to help yourself to. The craft instructions are posted in Spanish and English, and a sample craft is displayed. These are not sub-par crafts either. They are fun (some of my favorites have been snakes made of noodles and construction-paper spiders). We look forward to what each week's craft will be. And again, I can't believe this is free.

    8. The play area is large and fun for all ages. Educational toys and blocks, tons of books, puzzles, games, a fully-stocked play kitchen. Living near Chicago, we are stuck inside a lot, so we spend hours here on cold winter days--and never get bored.

    9. Rocking chairs and benches are placed all around, so mom's with babies can rock/feed their little ones while watching their older ones, and grandma's and grandpa's can curl up with their grandkids and read stacks of books, like my son does with his grandparents.

    10. Their are toy cabinets with all kinds of games and toys to check out. Some of our favorites are the stringing buttons and beads. We almost always have a set around our house from the library.

    11. Reading programs for the whole family. These happen at least twice a year and are theme-oriented. This summer is a medieval theme, and our library foyer has been transformed into a castle already. There will be weekly storytimes starting soon with Sir Readsalot, and kids and their parents both can sign up for the program. If they reach their goal, their names are put in a drawing for good prizes (like e-readers and subscriptions for family symphony tickets). Kids too young to read sign up for the read-to-me program. There are just unending incentives to read, read, read at this library.

    12. There are family picnics in the summertime with some kind of entertainment and dessert/lemonade provided by the library.

    13. Our library cares about our community and about literacy and reaches out to low-income families.

    14. Maybe this is normal, but I can request anything (books, CDs, etc.) from my home computer, and then I can pick it up at the library location of my choice, either inside or at the window, never leaving my car if I'm in a rush.

    15. The MediaBank. This is available at the Rakow Branch and is a free DVD service, open 24 hrs. a day. New releases, children's movies and books on DVD, family films--all for free. We can reserve the movie we want from home and then go pick it up. It's free for three days.

    I have posted a long, long post, but I am only scratching the surface of everything our library offers. Please check out the website at the beginning of my post. If you find a better library than The Gail Borden Public Library, please let me know, because I will have to visit it to believe it!! I LOVE our library!

  12. If you get to Ohio, the park where I grew up was the best park I've ever been to. It is in a small town in Tuscarawas County - New Philadelphia. There is a great play ground and pond with ducks. But there is also an old carousel ($.75 except the occasional nickel days) and miniature golf ($1) and some other rides and the pool. It is just the most gorgeous public park I've ever seen. http://www.newphilaoh.com/html/tuscora_park/index.html There is also a very pretty public library but I'm not sure I could say it is the best in the country.

    There are other things to do in the area - there is an old german settlement called Zoar about 10 miles north of New Phila. It has lots of old buildings and demonstrations and beautiful gardens. Bolivar has Fort Laurens - an old war fort. It is a beautiful area of Ohio. (It is central, eastern Ohio.)

    1. I took a peek at the website for that park - it looks like a fun place! I think we're staying at a campground in Wilmington, OH. I wonder if it's near there? I'll have to look it up.

  13. I'm guessing since you blogged about Asheville that you're not coming back to North Carolina, but I'd like to nominate Hilary Mercer Photography of Smithfield, NC as best family photographer. Check her out--http://hilarymercer.com/

    1. I took a quick peek at her website. Fun photos. Very creative. I'm sorry we missed her on our route.

  14. Oooo, yes, I second Powell's bookstore!!! It's amazing!
    Pike Place Market is actually a really awesome farmer's market if you can get over here in the summer! (Seattle)
    We also have to stop every time at a little tiny place called the Sultan Bakery - in Sultan, Wa. It's pretty darn good!
    And I'm trying to remember... I think it's in IKEA - either Seattle or Portland - that they have a private bathroom/nursing room for mom's. It's really really nice. Has a lower potty for the kids, a nice overstuffed chair, and it's big and airy.
    I would also nominate Blue Castle Photography from Corvallis, Oregon for family photographer. I love their style!
    I really loved my birthing center, but I had a friend use on in Portland where they actually let you stay for like 3 days and provide room service meals. Sounded heavenly! ;) Andalucia maybe is the name of it?

  15. I may add back to this frequently, as we are always trying to find these sorts of gems along the way. However, we haven't traveled as extensively with kid(s) yet like you have, so our eyes have not been peeled for such things.

    But, I have to say that Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR is some place worth getting lost in. It's HUGE. It has a Bookman's "recycled" factor, but is even better because they keep record of what used books they have! And they also have new books as well. And, a wonderful cafe...with a very 'granola' feel.

    I also really like Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA (a neighborhood of Boston). It's eclectic and local, and everything good in a bookstore.

    As for farmer's markets, I'd have to say that the Farmer's Market in Portland, OR is one of the best I've been to. Super kid friendly. And, a wonderful selection of delicious produce and meats.

    But...the roadside stands of produce in Wisconsin and Michigan always make me want to stop because of their quaint "lemonade stand" feel.... There are also a lot of great places in WI and MI to stop and pick your own fruit which is really fun to do with kids. Strawberries are probably just starting to be in season, and blueberries will be ready come July (my favorite!).

    Best bakery: Clear Flour Bakery in Brookline, MA. Be prepared for a line around the block on Saturday mornings. YUM!

    I know it wasn't on the list, but given that you are from Tucson...perhaps you'd also be interest in the Mexican food?? The Reg Iguana in Salt Lake City, UT. Great atmosphere. Six (or more) different kinds of mole. I don't even like mole, but I love it there!!

    Ok, that's it for tonight. Happy travels!!

    1. Thank your for all of your nominations! Feel free to come back and leave more as things come to mind.

      I don't think we're going to be able to make it all the way up to Massachusetts this summer, but - if we do, I'll be glancing back at this post to follow your recommendations.

      Something tells me I'm going to fall in love with Portland, Oregon...

  16. When you get closer to the Coasts don't forget Beaches. When we leave our home in the rockies we love getting to a beach and just tidepooling.

    I love the ideas of libraries you can really tell a lot from a community on how they have developed and utilized there libraries. We love the library in down town Salt Lake City.

    1. Thanks for nominating the SLC Downtown Library! I just looked it up and it looks like an impressive place.

      We hope to spend some time along the Virginia beaches in the coming week.

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