How long has it been since you've been to Chuck E. Cheese's? I have memories as a kid of the scary, jerkily-moving puppets at a run-down restaurant on the east side of Tucson, but today's Chuck E. Cheese's is nothing like that. If you are looking for a fun place to bring the family where the kids can play while the adults relax, try the Chuck E. Cheese's on Speedway. Each family group gets a unique stamp at the "Kid Check" entryway, which is manned at all times to make sure kids don't leave on their own or with an unauthorized adult.
Food offerings include pizza, excellent bread sticks, a salad bar and other items you wouldn't expect to find at a pizza place such as chicken nuggets, sandwiches, and a veggie platter. [See slide show below for full menu + prices]. My kids didn't like pizza for quite a while, so it was nice to have some different options. The bbq boneless wings are great and they even appear to be made of real (not ground up) chicken! Our server told us the chicken nuggets are made the same way, just without the bbq sauce. Some people find the pizza a bit lacking, probably because the sauce is milder than most. This may be a plus for your family if your kids are adverse to strong flavors.
The atmosphere of the restaurant varies according to what time you are there. I prefer to go on a weekday right when it opens to avoid the noise and crowd, but I find the noise level manageable almost anytime from Monday to Friday. Going early also makes keeping an eye on the kids much easier. There are several groups of seating available, so you can choose to sit next to the stage (puppets and TV), near the prize area, or near the front door (probably the quietest area.)
One of my favorite things about Chuck E. Cheese's versus Peter Piper Pizza is how easy it is to get free tokens for the kids. You get a few tokens free with each purchase. You can also get 20 free tokens with a military ID. Best of all, you can print out a "reward calendar" online for your kids to fill out, which will net them 10 free tokens - with purchase. Choose from charts such as Potty Perfect, Clean Room, and Terrific Teeth. Kids can also get free tokens on their birthday if you sign up online and for getting As and Bs on their report cards. All games and rides are 1 token to play and include a good variety to entice preschoolers to adults. The only free activity is the climbing tunnel that is suspended from the ceiling. Unfortunately, many kids (especially 5 and under) find the tunnels confusing and get lost. There is only one area to get in/out (by stairs or slide) and it can be hard to hear a crying child in the tunnels when the restaurant is busy. My favorite “game” is the one that takes a picture of the kids and prints out a sketch of them for us to take home as a meaningful memento of the trip.
Overall, I like Chuck E Cheese's as a nice alternative to other restaurants that include play areas for the kids. I expect we will be there quite a few times during the summer months when we are looking for relief from the heat.
Location: 6130 East Speedway Boulevard, Tucson