2016 Boston Besties Guide: Winners 9-16

We asked you to vote for the best family businesses and resources in 24 categories during our Boston Besties contest. You chose from 10 nominees in each category (and four voters were picked at random to enjoy great prizes from our sponsors!). The votes are now in, and our Boston Besties Guide is out. Here are the winners in categories 9-16:

Favorite Place for Animal Encounters: New England Aquarium

We always spend time watching the penguins in their habitat – sometimes even getting to see them during feeding time, which is a special treat – but the Giant Ocean Tank, a four-story coral reef featuring hundreds of Caribbean animals, is the big draw. The aquarium offers behind-the-scene tours, immersive Animal Encounters, and Whale Watch cruises, hands-on programs in schools and the community, and an interactive summer camp.

Best Local Kids' Dentist or Group: The Center for Pediatric Dental Care and Orthodontics

The team of four pediatric dentists, an orthodontist, dental hygienists, and office staff cares for children and their teeth from infancy through the teenage years, with the goal of creating positive dental experiences for every patient. The iPlay Room is a great distraction for kids who are reluctant to visit the dentist, and we give the practice props for a focus on patient education and involvement in community programs like the Jimmy Fund, Rosie's Place, and holiday gift-giving.

Each day of a child’s life at Pine Village is an opportunity for new experiences and new discoveries. Photo credit: Nick LaVecchia.

Best Place to Learn a New Language: Pine Village Spanish Immersion Preschool

Many experts say that the ideal time for a child to learn a new language is during preschool, which may be one of the reasons Pine Village is the language learning place of choice for our readers. All classes at Pine Village Spanish Immersion are taught entirely in Spanish and children can start as early as 1.5 years old in the toddler program. There is also a preschool readiness program, two preschool levels and a pre-kindergarten option. There are eight Pine Village schools in the Boston area and programs vary at each.

Best Sports Program or Class: My Gym

Offering a wide variety of fitness classes – from gymnastics to Hip Hop to cardio workouts – to children starting at 6 weeks and going up through age 12, My Gym's main objective is to ensure that program ingredients are safe, age-appropriate, and optimal for building self-esteem. My Gym offers parties, too: Our own birthday party experience at My Gym earned it a spot on our top five indoor birthday party places in the Boston area.

Best Theater Class for Aspiring Actors: Wheelock Family Theatre

Child development faculty at Wheelock College work with Wheelock Family Theatre artist-educators to create challenging drama and movement games, improvisations, and exercises that help kids learn the how and the why of onstage thoughts, feelings, and actions. If you've always wanted to take a theater class, check out the musical theatre introduction for 3-4 year-olds and their parents. For older kids, WFT takes a specialized approach with classes in acting, improvisation, vocal techniques, comic acting, and auditioning. 

Photo courtesy of Groovy Baby Music, a Music Together program.

Best Place to Learn How to Play an Instrument: Brookline Music School

Brookline Music School offers classes and lessons in piano, violin, ukulele, voice, and many other instruments, plus dance and Suzuki programs. Its mission is to awaken and nurture musical interest, appreciation, and artistic excellence in a friendly and stimulating atmosphere while offering a high standard of comprehensive music instruction to people of all ages and backgrounds from the local community.

Favorite Baby and Me Class: Music Together

Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through age seven. Its classes are based on the idea that all children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning. Parents, grandparents, or other caregivers can start participating in Music Together's Family Classes when their baby is born! Some local Music Together programs include Joyful Music, LouLou's, and Groovy Baby Music (pictured above).

Hands-on Learning at the MIT Museum. Photo by Samara Vise.

Best STEM Program: Mit Museum

The MIT Museum is the place to be during school breaks, especially the Friday after Thanksgiving for the museum's annual F.A.T. Chain Reaction and during National Engineers Week in February, when workshops and demonstrations are offered throughout the week. Of course, the MIT Museum is a great place to visit any time you and your kids are looking for STEM-piration, whether it's to see what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students are currently working on, test the kinetic sculptures, meet Kismet the robot, or get hands on in the Idea Hub on the weekends.

See winners in categories 1-8 l See winners in categories 17-24

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