For your amuse­ment

In Cen­tral Texas, places to keep kids en­ter­tained dur­ing sum­mer abound

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com; 912-5900

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.

Gat­titown

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.

austin’s Park

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.

Blazer Tag

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.

ron tom

Eric Ston­estreet from ‘Mod­ern Fam­ily’ has been nom­i­nated for a Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion award. The awards will be given out tonight.

Thao Nguyen

J’adore Wright, 3, at­tends a birth­day party at the Mil­len­nium Youth En­ter­tain­ment Com­plex. The pizza is made-to-or­der and ex­tra cheesy.

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