12 Places That Kids Love But Parents Hate

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Kids playing in a ball pit
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THE PARENT TRAPS

Going to places that kids love and parents hate is practically a rite of passage for parents everywhere. It's part of the job and the learning curve. Because nearly all kids want to experience Chuck E. Cheese's, Disney World, Six Flags, or the local water park at some point. The key is to figure out how to survive these experiences as a parent.
Chuck E Cheese's
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CHUCK E. CHEESE'S

Kiddie rides, laser challenges, and classic arcade games ranging from Skee-Ball to Whac-a-Mole -- what's not to love? For the adults, however, there can definitely be downsides, says children's book author and parent Cliff Fictor, who has done his time at such establishments. "In addition to being tiring, the loud noises of the equipment and kids screaming can be a nuisance," says Fictor. "However, there are also many rewarding things that come from this social setting. I learned ideas such as using a pizza cutter to chop pasta at Chuck E. Cheese's." In addition to maintaining a sense of humor to survive, Fictor says these experiences have also allowed him to learn from other parents about the latest gadgets they're using to survive. And the Chuck E. Cheese's website touts having Wi-Fi as a perk for parents.
Girl holding up prizes in an arcade
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DAVE & BUSTER'S

Still more sensory overload. Dave & Buster's is a place of children's dreams, filled with endless games. All of which also translates into endless noise for parents to sit through and exorbitant amounts of money being spent on those games. "As a dad, I dread the sensory overload of arcades," says New York parent Jonas Sickler, marketing director at ReputationManagement.com, who suggests making the experience tolerable by bringing noise-canceling headphones and playing zen music, while still keeping a sharp eye on his kids of course.

Little girl begging her mom to buy her a toy
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TOY STORES

Unless you're Daddy Warbucks, a visit to a toy store with a child can be a torturous proposition. It's heaven on Earth for the child: wall-to-wall toys. But as the parent, the challenge is making it out of the store without entirely emptying your bank account. There are various ways to improve this experience for parents, according to What To Expect, one of the world's best-known parenting websites. Start by having an exit strategy (telling your child how long you plan to stay and what you're there to buy). Also consider letting your child pick one small toy, and do it at the end of the visit to make it easier to depart from the store.
View of McDonald's with a playground
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MCDONALD'S PLAY SPACES

Many of these venues aimed at children give parents the same set of worries no matter which particular place it is. "Are they clean? Is my child going to get sick after visiting?" asks Larisha Campbell, creator of the popular blog We're Parents. What's more, depending on how the venue in question is designed, parents feel compelled to keep an eye on their children nearly every second to make sure they're okay, which can be exhausting. Campbell, a work-from-home mom, says she survives the experience by trying "to find places that have gates or doors and free Wi-Fi." The gates or doors help ensure kids can safely play without wandering off, while the Wi-Fi allows parents to work and feel productive.
Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America
Photo credit: NickUniverse/facebook.com

MALL OF AMERICA

What else do you do with kids in Minneapolis when the temperature is 5 below zero, says Andrea Khan, chief travel officer for The Family Backpack, an online guide designed to make family vacation planning easier. Over a recent Christmas break, Khan took her children to the Mall of America, whose size and variety of activities can be daunting for any parent. But Khan approached the day with a detailed strategy. "In order to survive, I had a plan of attack and used their app to locate our path around the mall," says Khan. "I also managed the kids' expectations by letting them know the activities we were doing, which meant we couldn't do some of the other things like ride the amusement rides." Khan also saved some of the mall's most popular activities, such as the Crayola Experience, for later in the afternoon, when the crowds died down. Not to mention coloring provided a peaceful activity at the end of an exhausting day.
View of crowded Cinderella's Castle at Disney World
Photo credit: Cinderella's Castle by Kelby Carr (CC BY-NC-ND)

WALT DISNEY THEME PARKS

There's much to love about Walt Disney. Visiting Disney parks can create unforgettable family memories. But sprawling amusement parks also present challenges. "It's a lot different when it's a smaller, less-expensive venue closer to home. If kids have a meltdown over being tired and dealing with the heat at a smaller attraction near home, you can just head home and try again next weekend," says Brittany DiCologero, author of a book about working at Walt Disney World and creator of a Disney-themed blog. While there's no way to prevent amusement park meltdowns, DiCologero suggests the best coping mechanism is research and planning ahead, identifying the best ways to cut down on wait times for rides, and learning what the parks have to offer. To help with all of this, Disney has vacation planning videos on its website. She also suggests the character dinners, which allow for having a meal with some of your child's favorite Disney names, rather then trying to track the characters down in the park and waiting in line to snap a picture with them. Parents can eat while kids ham it up with the Cinderella or Mickey Mouse.
Kids jumping on an outdoor inflatable castle
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OUTDOOR INFLATABLE PLAY CENTERS

Inflatable play centers are often expensive (some as much as $17 to $23 for children's admission), which is strike No. 1 for a few hours of jumping. But for those living in a hot environment (Arizona, Southern California), outdoor inflatable play centers can make for a scorching experience as parents stand in the blazing sun trying to keep an eye on their toddler, while he or she disappears into one bouncy contraption after another, never wanting to go home. Ever. Coping with these play centers requires a few key survival items including sunblock, hat, sunglass, even an umbrella to keep parents cool. Don't forget plenty of bottled water for both you and your child. Also consider going with a fellow parent, that way the kids can stick together, and when it comes time to leave, two parents saying it's time to go are better than one.
Little boy feeding a goat at a petting zoo
Photo credit: MaggieMarvin/istockphoto

PETTING ZOOS

Who doesn't love adorable animals? It's not that petting zoos aren't fun. They're also good way to expose children to farm animals and to teach them to handle animals gently. But therein lies the challenge of these venues for parents -- running after your child constantly, trying to ensure he or she doesn't accidentally strangle a chicken, bunny, or baby goat. Not to mention the germs. Hand sanitizer is really the only hack to make the second issue less worrisome. As for ensuring that the animals survive -- the best coping mechanism is to visit these places as a team – with another adult that is (Grandma, Auntie, whoever is available). That way you can take turns supervising the child animal interactions and get a breather every so often. Just be prepared to have your child ask for a new pet on the way out the door.
Mall playground
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MALL PLAYGROUNDS

We're not talking Mall of America here, just your average, run of the mill mall tot lot. They have definite pros and cons. The pros -- they give mom or dad a much-needed coffee break. A few minutes of blissful respite from the experience of shopping with a child (which is another challenge entirely). But on the con side, your child will never, ever, want to leave the tot lot and get back to the real tasks at hand. Passing by one of these lots can turn a quick shopping run into a day long experience. Solution -- put a timer on your phone and tell your child in advance how much time he or she will have. And when the alarm sounds, it's time to go. In lieu of that, make sure you've identified where the mall toy store is ahead of time, in order to lure your child there from the tot lot and then see the previous advice about toy-store coping mechanisms.
Kid jumping at an indoor trampoline park
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INDOOR TRAMPOLINE PARKS

Some kids would visit an indoor trampoline park every day if you let them. After all, there's nothing better as a kid than to spend hours bouncing, flipping, and somersaulting, says Penny Reidy, creator of the blog Itchy Feet Family. The best of these venues have considered parents, as well. "If you can find a trampoline park with a good café, preferably in a sound-proofed area, great coffee, and free Wi-Fi, then you're all set for a few hours of guilt-free online shopping or catching up on television," says Reidy.
Two kids at a water park
Photo credit: Imgorthand/istockphoto

WATER PARKS

Nearly all parents have done the obligatory trip to a water amusement park. What at first seems like a refreshing way to beat the heat on a summer day quickly becomes a parent's nightmare, despite the fact that kids absolutely love the places. "In short, water parks stink for parents because it's impossible for the kids not to get a sunburn, no matter how much lotion you apply, and there are slipping hazards everywhere," says family travel blogger Amanda Keeley-Thurman. The food is also usually way overpriced, and then there's the thought of countless kids peeing in the water rides. If you must go, Keeley-Thurman recommends arriving late in the day, perhaps an hour or two before closing. That way you will have a finite amount of time and a definite exit window. Also bring supplies -- sunscreen, a waterproof phone case, and aspirin for the inevitable headache. And eat before you arrive.
Drinks at The Sugar Factory in Las Vegas
Photo credit: sugarfactorybrand/facebook.com

THE SUGAR FACTORY

A place endorsed by all manner of celebrities thanks to its reputation for turning sweets into designer accessories, the name of this place alone is a nightmare for parents. What sane parent wants to load their child up on sugar, future dental bills aside? The Sugar Factory offers everything from couture lollipops to restaurants and cafes serving enormous (like the size of a toddler's head) sugary drinks and bizarre sweet pizza creations ranging from the Ultimate Nutella pizza to Reese's Pieces pizza. And then there are the gourmet desserts. The best way to survive this experience -- don't tell your child about it. Or wait until they can pay their own dental bills.

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