Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday Travels: Making Memories at Chuck E. Cheese

My niece, Elin, and my nephew, Lucas, are 6 and 4 respectively, and boy are they spoiled! They are fortunate enough to have two sets of grandparents and several sets of aunts and uncles who have bought stock in Hasbro and Mattel since their births, which is why Auntie Cynthia and Uncle Jon have simply stopped buying physical gifts for their birthdays and Christmas. Instead, we prefer to make memories with them by taking them to do things that they don't typically get to do.

For Christmas last year, we promised to take them both to Chuck E. Cheese - a place they had been begging to go to for months.

My husband and I chose a Monday late afternoon, loaded the kiddos in his Tacoma and headed off to the North Dartmouth, MA location on State Road.

Located in a random strip-mall parking lot, the location is easy to miss. Upon entering, you are greeted by a Chuck E. Cheese attendant who stamps your entire party's hands with secretive, invisible ink. I later learned that this is a child-abduction prevention strategy- how cool! Children can only leave with an adult who has a matching hand stamp. The stamped image can only be viewed with a black light machine guarded by the door attendant. Families that enter together must leave together! This stripped me of my worries of losing sight of the kiddos while in the facility. Points for Chuck E. Cheese!

Once safely inside, we headed to the coin machine. There are always plenty of coupons available to discount your trip. I frequently see hard-copy coupons in the weekly inserts, but if you don't get the newspaper, you can also check their website to see if coupons are available for your local Chuck E. Cheese. If you have enough forethought, you could also sign up for the Chuck E. Club to get additional members-only discounts and deals.

We did not have any coupons with us (oh, the horror!) so we dropped $20 into the coin machine and needed two cups (provided for you) just to hold all the game tokens that spilled out. I'm not exactly sure how many tokens came out -- but there were A LOT.  I didn't think our money would get us very far, but twenty dollars lasted two adults, a 6-year old and a 4-year old over an hour and a half.

I'm used to the outrageous prices of the annual carnivals that come around our neighborhood each July - tickets are inexpensive but then each ride or game costs multiple tickets. Not at Chuck E. Cheese. Every game and ride is only 1 ticket. Yes, you read that correctly - 1 ticket.

The facility is conveniently divided into four areas: the dining area where there are a bunch of tables and benches with a great view of the Chuck E. Cheese animated band, a Toddler Zone for the wee ones, a Kiddie Area for our kiddos and a Skill Games and Arcade area for the adults big kids.

Games ranged from old school Whack a Mole to touch-screen based Fruit Ninja. It was an amazing mix of old and new that kept Elin and Lucas wide-eyed and entertained. Most of the games earned you tickets and both kids were eager to add to their growing pile that they could later cash in for prizes.

There were also a handful of photo booths that printed out a variety of photo souvenirs to help you remember your visit. And yes, each of these only cost 1 ticket too! Lucas was obsessed with one photo booth machine that created identification cards on a cartoon background. He insisted on making one for mom, one for dad and one for himself to keep on his dresser. I've never used a photo booth anywhere before, so of course Auntie Cynthia and Uncle Jon had to get in on the action.

And if you are worried about all the sniveling, snotty noses and dirty hands touching every surface in that building, Chuck E. Cheese provides Purell sanitizer at almost every corner. This is especially important if you plan on eating after playing!

Because the kiddos are really picky eaters, we didn't bother trying to eat at Chuck E. Cheese, although I did notice they had a huge selection of kid and adult friendly foods. The pizzas actually looked and smelled really great and they had salad. Yes, salad! I never find food that my nutritionist would approve of at places like this! I was pleasantly surprised at the wide selection of food available and before visiting, I even read that they also have some gluten-free options as well.

Before leaving, we had to feed all of our tickets into a "Ticket Monster," which then gave us a receipt with the tickets counted. This made it so much easier than counting ourselves. The prizes available were like any other game room - cheaply made and probably wouldn't last the car ride home. But the prizes made the kids happy and were a source of a math lesson. Elin knew how many tickets she had, could see what each prize was worth, and figured out herself which ones she could get without "going over."

At the end of the evening, all four of us were tired but happy. And we can't wait to go again!

Lucas's Dad is a police officer so he was psyched to be able to "drive" one like Daddy

Want to visit a Chuck E. Cheese too? Check to find one in your area! But don't be like us, make sure to bring your coupons!

Disclaimer: Chuck E. Cheese did not request that I write this review. We paid for this visit to Chuck E. Cheese entirely on our own. All opinions expressed herein are mine. 

Happy Couponing!
-Coupon Mama Massachusetts

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