I remember being a child and getting super excited about the Chuck E Cheese birthday party. My mom was not one for taking my brother and I to visit that party loving mouse "just cuz" so being invited to a posh party such as that was a rare treat. Back then it was Mc Donald's or Chuck E Cheese if your parents were going to spoil you with more than a cake and a couple friends in the backyard. The mouse ruled the birthday party circuit. There was the ball pit. A large urine and feces covered wonderland of color and hours of fun. The giant play area with tunnels and slides that didn't burn your butt as you slid down them because they were made of that new fangled space age polymer we know as plastic and they were indoors! Lets not forget the skeeball. A Chuck E Cheese trademark where a child tested their bowling skills (or ability to cheat when nobody was looking by running up and throwing there ball directly into the 500pt hole) and won tickets to get all sorts of useless crap. Best of all there was sub par pizza served in a theater where our favorite Chuck E Cheese stars performed a bunch of animatronic hits. It was good fun for all.
Well either my memory is completely wrong or times have changed. Twice we have attempted Chuck E Cheese with our kids and twice we have been massively disappointed. The first time we took them to the one in Sacramento. What a frightening experience. Talk about ghetto fabulous. It must have been "Gangsta bring your illegitimate children day" because that is certainly what it looked like. The kids were excited so we got some tokens and checked out a few rides. There wasn't much to do besides a couple rides that kinda shook the kids and sorry excuse for toddler play area. No ball pit. No massively cool play structure. This just didn't seem like a good place to be. The topper for me was when the security guard inside the place walked past me and I saw he was carrying a gun! A gun! Inside Chuck E Cheese! We were so out of there.
The second time we attempted Chuck E Cheese was when we were in Southern California a couple weeks ago. I noticed there was a new restaurant near my mom's and I figured it would be safe and clean since it was in the heart of South Orange County. We still had a ton of unused tokens in our car so I figured it would a good way to entertain the kids for an hour or two. One thing I noticed at both Chuck E Cheese's is they now brand you to your child when you enter. They stamp you and your child with the same number that is only visible under a blacklight so someone can't come in and steal your child. I know it is a good idea but I found it incredibly depressing. What has the world come to? We have to barcode our kids so someone doesn't try to steal them out of a children's entertainment area? What a sad state of affairs.
After we got our secret stamp we checked things out. It was certainly alot cleaner at this C.E.C. And there wasn't a shady character to be seen. I didn't see a security guard, let alone one carrying a gun. All good signs. So we let the kids loose. Ben, being Ben, immediately went for the balls. We decided to put our first token into skeeball. So we drop one in and......nothing. Okay- maybe the token got stuck. I drop another in. Still nothing. Son of a! We got an employee and had them refund our money and get the sucker started.
Finally, skeeball heaven. Ben was happy to throw the balls in whatever lane he felt like and we were happy to let him since they mostly just came right back to him. Mari even gave a couple throws. Do I dare say we were going to have fun at C.E.C?
Well I guess we kinda had fun. In a disappointed, laughing at how horrible the place was, sort of way. We had so many tokens eaten by the machines while were there. The employee told us they checked the machines every morning to make sure they worked but we dropped more tokens into those machines and had absolutely nothing happen then was even close to acceptable. It was so annoying. It got to the point where I didn't bother asking for an employee to come get my token back for me and get the machine running because one less token meant we were one step closer to getting the heck out of there. Once again, there was no ball pit! There was a play structure but super cool is not how I would describe it. It was mediocre at best. And even more upsetting- no animatronic characters whatsoever! How is that acceptable from C.E.C? It isn't. It was enough to convince me to never come back.
Here are some highlight photos of our time at C.E.C.
Ben looking absolutely thrilled with the rides. Evidentially the E in Chuck E Cheese stands for entertainment. I think Ben begs to differ.
Mari did get some enjoyment from pounding things with the mallet but I think the biggest thrill came from pretending to drive the cars in the video game without a token in it. Once again proving the best things in life really are free.
I will say the mini air hockey was pretty cool
but overall I would say this picture Paul took pretty much sums up our opinions of the place.
We ended up giving away the last of our tokens because we just had enough. It was draining to be in that place. The kids didn't even seem to care that we were leaving.
Maybe I am missing something. Maybe we just picked the two worst C.E.C.'s in the country to visit. I dare the mouse to prove me wrong. Until then we stand our ground in declaring the place overwhelmingly lame and a token stealing rip off. Anyone else have similar experiences or are we just special?