For your amusement
In Central Texas, places to keep kids entertained during summer abound
this summer, we entered the land of fun and games.
My children — 9-year-old Ben and 6-year-old Ava — and I went on a quest for air-conditioned entertainment complexes. We looked for magical places with arcades, something to eat and something to play — laser tag, bowling, skating, air hockey, etc. And we had to all leave feeling chilled — in temperature and temperament.
Along the way, we ate tons of pizza, earned tons of trinkets with our SkeeBall tickets and had a ton of fun.
Here’s a review of what we found:
Chuck E. Cheese’s
10515 N. MoPac Blvd. 372-4700; 502 W. Ben White Blvd. 441-9681; 401 W. Louis Henna Blvd., Round Rock. 385-2575. www.chuckecheese.com
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Attractions: The granddaddy of the gamesand-pizza phenomenon, Chuck E. Cheese gets it right with little kids. The games are easy to play and ideal for preschoolers and gradeschoolers. The games use tokens, which are easy for kids to handle, and pay out tickets pretty generously. Prizes are geared toward young kids — from candy to bracelets, bouncy balls to stuffed animals.
There’s also a playscape and small rides like Clifford the Big Red Dog and a horse. The animatronic stage show might creep out little ones or it might dazzle them.
The food: You’re not here to eat, that’s what I remind myself. You could easily wait 45 minutes for a pizza that kids will love and adults might pick at. A better choice might be one of the sandwiches or the salad bar.
What we spent: $31.99 for 1 large pizza, 4 soft drinks and 50 game tokens with a coupon in the Sunday coupon section of the AmericanStatesman.
Deals: If you’re not eating, spend $15 and get 85 tokens or $25 and get 140 tokens with coupons online. Eating? Chuck E. Cheese’s has many variations of the pizza, drinks and token coupon online.
9900 S. Interstate 35 (Southpark Meadows). 3017777
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays.
Attractions: Gattitown offers a variety of games skewed toward grade-schoolers and teens. Until last year, my daughter struggled to find enough to do. Now she’s able to play most of the ticket-giving games, ride the bumper cars and the frog jump. Gattitown also has a lot of claw games (those games where you try to get the metallic claw to pick up the stuffed animal you want, then you cry because you didn’t even come close). Both of my kids struggle with the game card instead of tokens. It’s tougher here to rack up a lot of prize points in one sitting, and the prizes are mostly trinkets. My son once got 49 green army men and was thrilled. Mostly we end up with candy, balls and vampire teeth, but they love Gattitown for the food, games and the cartoon theater room.
The food: Yes, there’s pizza, but it’s the variety of food that really makes Gattitown. I make the kids start at the large salad bar. Then we eat some pizza along with pasta. Finally we end in dessert. We’re stuffed and we’ve had vegetables!
What we paid: $54.67 for one adult buffet ($8.69) and two kids buffets each with a $20 game card ($22.99 each)
Deals: Kids eat free Wednesdays (one free kid’s meal per adult meal); Moms eat free Mondays (with the purchase of a kid’s meal) and Teachers eat free Tuesdays (with the purchase of another meal). On other days, the family combo includes two adult buffets, two kids’ buffets and $40 in games for $49.96.
16231 Interstate 35, 670-9600. austinspark.com Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Attractions: It’s easy to spend hours here. Inside games include classic ticket-earners like Skee-Ball and spin-the-wheel types along with Pac-Man, Guitar Hero and shoot-’emups. The games use tokens, and Tuesdays, all the games except the ones that give out tickets are free. We played some games, but there’s so much to do here, you could easily skip them entirely. Inside, kids can climb a rock wall, rocket down an inflatable slide, ride the Little Shot (like the Frog Jump at Gattitown) or play laser tag. Outside, kids can shoot water at each other in the bumper boats, ride the tea cups, drive Go-Karts or junior Go-Karts, ride a train and try to climb a rock wall waterfall. There’s also minigolf and batting cages for an extra charge. We spent five hours here one night and I had to drag them home. It’s the longest we spent at any of the entertainment centers.
The food: The buffet offers a couple kinds of pizza, two kinds of pasta, a small salad bar and a dessert. The kids were happy with the buffet, but it’s not extensive. There’s also a snack bar with ice cream, beer, nachos and pretzels for an extra charge.
What we paid: Normally, its $18.50 to get in. We went on a Tuesday when everyone pays $15.95 for food, all games except ticket-giving games and the rides. (That’s also true Fridays.) I paid $59.95 for two kids at the $15.95 price, me at $7.95 for just the buffet and $20 in game tokens for the ticket-giving games.
Deals: After 7 p.m., pay only $9.95 for all the rides, but no buffet. The best deals are the Tuesday and Friday special.
1701 W. Ben White Blvd. 462-0202, blazertag.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays-Fridays, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturdays.
Attractions: The name says it all: Suit up in a laser vest and play a 20-minute game trying to shoot everyone with your laser gun and not get shot yourself. We went on a rainy Tuesday and waited until a teenage youth group arrived and let us play with them. Luckily, they were gentle on Ava, not so much on Ben and me. Ava ended up No. 7 out of 14. I was No. 13 (thanks to Ava standing behind me and shooting my vest) and Ben was No. 14.
The video games are surprisingly good and pay out big for every token. Ava chose a stoplight lamp and Ben got a camouflage wallet.
The food: The pizza here is really good. We paid $3.95 each for a slice of pizza and a drink. We also got popcorn for $1.75 and two more slices of pizza for $2.50 each.
What we paid: $14.65 in food, $20 in game tokens and $8.50 each for a game of blazer tag for a total of $60.15.
Deals: Monday nights, the 8 p.m. game is $1, the 8:40 game is $5. The family fun pack is four games of laser tag and 100 video tokens for $49.95.
Dave & Buster’s
9333 Research Blvd. 346-8015, dave and busters. com
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sundays-Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Attractions: Dave & Buster’s fills a room with games for grade-schoolers and up and surrounds it with a bar and a restaurant. Make no mistake, this is a more mature environment than Chuck E. Cheese’s and you will see bachelor parties here. Games are roughly segregated between kids and more mature players, but there’s plenty of crossover. Games use a card, though some need tokens, which you can use your game card to get. The payout was big here. Ava got a stuffed Homer Simpson, a small soccer ball and a Frisbee.
The food: The best part about Dave & Buster’s is the real food that isn’t a triangle of bread with sauce, cheese and pepperoni. We ate chicken fingers and fries, steak and mashed potatoes, and chicken and pasta.
What we spent: We went on Wednesday when games are half-price. We did two Eat & Play Combos and a kid’s meal. So for $60.33 we got three meals, drinks, a $20 game card and a $10 game card.
Deals: The Eat & Play is the way to go. Deals start at $15.99 for a meal with a $10 game card to $27.99 with a meal and a $20 game card.
Main Event Entertainment
13301 N. U.S. 183. 401-0000, maineventusa.com
Hours: 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays, Fridays-Saturdays.
Attractions: There’s plenty to do: bowling, laser tag, glow-in-the-dark golf, billiards, rock climbing and an arcade. I took Ava and a friend on this trip. They weren’t tall enough for rock climbing or laser tag, so we chose bowling. The girls had a great time, but at $24 for the lane for one hour and $8.50 for three pairs of shoes, it was nothing but an expensive game of bowling with alley-side food service. We also played the arcade games, which use game cards. Both girls struggled to get theirs to work and needed me every time. The games aren’t extensive, but the girls enjoyed playing air hockey and creating an etched charm with their picture on it.
The food: It’s bar food while you bowl. The service was incredibly slow. We waited 30 minutes to get our pizza, and the mozzarella sticks had to be asked for twice. Then we waited 15 minutes and asked numerous people to get our bill. The mozzarella sticks were better than the pizza but not great. We paid $30.33 for food for three.
What we paid: We went on a Thursday after 7 p.m. when there are no deals. We paid $32.50 for bowling, $30.33 for food and $40 for two $20 game cards. Total: $102.83. Yikes!
Deals: Summer Fun pass is $15.95 per person for all-you-can-play bowling, laser tag, golf, billiards and rock climbing, not includ- ing shoes or video games, The pass is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Aug. 22, and there are a limited number available. Monday Night Madness all year offers the same deal for $9.95 from 4 p.m. to close or $9.95 for unlimited video games.
Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex
1156 Hargrave St. 472-6932, www.myec.net
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Closed Sundays-Tuesdays.
Attractions: This is the best deal in town. The complex offers bowling, roller skating, an arcade and a movie theater. The movie theater shows first-run movies, most recently “Toy Story 3.” Adults are $6, kids are $4. We tried our hand at roller skating. On this trip, it was just Ava and me, and this was a great place for Ava to learn to skate. A half an hour in, she got tired of falling and we switched to bowling. The video games here are limited and they don’t give out prize tickets, but she had fun with the candy crane, which guarantees you can keep playing until you get a piece of candy. The game selection hits younger kids as well as teens. There’s even a three-horse merry-go-round for little kids. The Millennium had the best service of any place we tried.
The food: We had a small pizza, two drinks and a corn dog for $11.25. The pizza was extra cheesy, and we ate it with a fork. Everything was made for us after we ordered it.
What we paid: We spent $8 for roller skating with skates, $9 for bowling with shoes, $10 for game tokens and $11.25 for food. Total: $38.25.
Deals: There are so many deals here; check the website for all of them. Friday nights bowling is only $2.99 for adults and kids. Skating on Fridays is $3 instead of $4, but check the times online before you go because there are specific skate times.
Gracie Turner, 6, steers her bumper boat with a little help from her father, Mike Turner, at Austin’s Park. The facility off Interstate 35 can keep children entertained for hours.
Ian Stroud, 4, waves as he takes a spin around the track in one of the junior Go-Karts. The admission price covers the rides as well as the all-you-caneat buffet at Austin’s Park.
Eric Stonestreet from ‘Modern Family’ has been nominated for a Television Critics Association award. The awards will be given out tonight.
J’adore Wright, 3, attends a birthday party at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex. The pizza is made-to-order and extra cheesy.