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2005 ParentMap Favorites - Services & More

Favorite public library branch
The new downtown Seattle Central Library, with its 15,000-square-foot children's section and an area designed just for teens, was the top vote getter for ParentMap readers. Runners up: Bellevue Regional Library, Greenwood and Ballard branches in Seattle.

Favorite photographer for family photos
We got many votes for the "in-house" family photographer -- mom, dad, grandma and grandpa. But when it comes to outside photography services, Seattle's Heather Quintans (www.heatherquintans.com, 206-297-2064) was the solid favorite. Runners up: Seattle-based chain Yuen Lui Studio (www.yuenluistudio.com) and Teddi Yaeger (www.teddiyaeger.com, 206-856-7960).

Favorite summer camp
Located on 1.5 miles of Vashon Island beach with acres of forested trails, Camp Sealth got the majority of votes for favorite summer camp. Sponsored by Camp Fire USA, the summer residence camp is open to boys and girls in grades 1-12 (206-461-8550, www.campfire-usa.org). Other mentions were Farrell McWhirter Park in Redmond, which offers summer day camp programs for ages 3-8 (425-556-2300, option 3, www.ci.redmond.wa.us) and Camp Orkila, a YMCA camp on Orcas Island that offers summer resident camps for youth and families (206-382-5009, www.seattleymca.org).

Favorite birthday entertainer

"Weather permitting, my bubbles can attain lengths of 50 feet or more and can be as big as a baby elephant," declares Gary Golightly, aka the Bubbleman. Is it any wonder, then, that Bubbleman was voted as favorite birthday entertainer by ParentMap readers? (206-781-6749, www.bubbleman.com). Runners up: Monroe-based The Reptileman, a favorite visitor to school assemblies who now offers in-home birthday parties (360-668-8204, www.reptileman.com), and two school-bus-converted-into-a-gymnasium offerings: Bellevue-based Dizzy's Tumblebus (425-564-8287, www.dizzystumblebus.com) and Seattle-based The Tumble Bus (206-364-5887, www.tumblebusseattle.com).

Favorite birthday location

For many voters, home is the best place to have a birthday party. But for those who venture further afield, there were three clear favorites. First in the voting was The Little Gym, a national chain with several Seattle area and Eastside locations, which offers parties with movement, music and games (www.thelittlegym.com). Runners up: Pump It Up, a playspace filled with inflatable toys (11605 N.E. 116th St., Kirkland, 425-820-2297, www.pumpitupparty.com) and The Children's Museum in Seattle, offering parties that includes museum admission and a T-shirt (206-441-1768, Ext. 242, www.thechildrensmuseum.org).

Staff Favorites: Services & More

Favorite way to rent baby equipment

If you long to purge your basement of dust-gathering baby gear, yet find yourself hanging onto it for that rare occasion when guests with young kids come to stay, here's a service you should know about: RentBabyGear.com rents clean, high-quality baby and child equipment within the greater Seattle area for short- or longer-term use. Delivery and pickup is free to the Seattle neighborhoods; there's a small fee ($10-$15) for delivery to the eastside or areas north or south of Seattle. Owner Kym Otte tries to accommodate everyone's needs and requests, and says her clients have been tremendously grateful for this much-needed service. 206-227-6466; www.rentbabygear.com. Kid Equip is another popular local option. 425-467-0453; www.kidequip.com.

Favorite year-round swim lessons
The Bellevue Aquatic Center offers private, semi-private, and group lessons year-round for kids of all ages, as well as adults. Lessons for tots and preschoolers are given in the fully accessible Warm Springs Pool, which was designed for therapy and rehabilitation and is heated to a delightful 91 degrees Fahrenheit. An adjacent lounge with viewing windows gives parents a dry place to sit and watch. Lessons for older kids and adults are conducted in the Blue Lagoon Pool, which is also used for lap swimming. The center offers a variety of other programs, including masters swim team, aquarobics, deep water exercise and water therapy. 425-452-4444; www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/page.asp?view=9847425

Favorite place for speech therapy

Unsure whether your still-babbling toddler is speech delayed or is just your basic late talker? Concerned that she's often frustrated because she can't be understood? The Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center (HSDC) is a wonderful local resource for evaluation and therapy. Since it opened in 1937, the HSDC has been providing a broad range of state-of-the-art speech, language and motor services to children and adults of all ages, with a particular focus on young kids from birth to age 3. The therapists and clinicians at HSDC employ play-based therapy that is positive and fun, and encourage parents and caregivers to play an active role in the therapy process. Seattle location: 206-323-5770; Renton location: 425-226-6111; www.hsdc.org

Favorite store for kids' eyewear

Not all optical stores are created with kids in mind. If your little one needs a first or new pair of glasses, find your way to Optical Solutions, located next to Dick's Drive-In Restaurant on North 45th Street in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. From the fun toys in their roomy play corner to the extensive selection of kids' frames (pleasingly displayed against a usable chalkboard), the place exudes a welcoming feeling to child customers. Best of all, the kid-friendly opticians really know how to fit frames to small faces. Optical Solutions also has a Bellevue location, with a somewhat smaller but still impressive kids' selection. Seattle: 206-526-5060; Bellevue: 425-454-2345

Favorite small indulgence for mom
From the clean, minimalist decor to its fabulous location in the heart of Madison Valley, Hoa is the perfect spot for a pedicure getaway that won't break the bank. You'll be treated to bottled water, a comfortable massage chair and an excellent polish and magazine selection. A spa pedicure at Hoa lasts 45 minutes and costs $28. The salon offers the complete range of nail services, as well as waxing. 206-322-3546 -- Allison Dworkin

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