As we drove east on I-90, the raindrops smashing against my windshield turned into fat snowflakes, and I was glad we were headed somewhere warm and indoors.
Our destination: the new Family Entertainment Center at Arena Sports Issaquah, which opened last month. It’s located just off Exit 15, and this being the ’burbs, there’s a big, free parking lot. (There’s a sister Family Entertainment Center at Arena Sports Mill Creek that opened pre-pandemic.)
My two boys gladly agreed to be guinea pigs and we went to check it all out.
Play space in a former gym
The massive, two-story building used to house a gym before it was remodeled. Upstairs, the weight room has turned into a sports simulator, the cardio area turned into party tables, and the studios became escape rooms and laser tag. Downstairs, the pool was filled in and replaced by a sprawling arcade.
If you’re regularly hitting the gym these days, power to you. But at this point in my parenting journey, what I could really use is an indoor place where kids will be happily entertained for hours.
Ways to play
The downstairs area holds the biggest draw in the building: the arcade! The flashing lights beckon kids of all ages. There are 100 games to choose from. Some VR, some classic video games, some carnival games: rubber ax-throwing, Jurassic Park, Mario Kart, air hockey, Pac-Man, skee ball, the list goes on and on. Not to mention tons of claw grabber games, for which my 7-year-old harbors a soft spot in his covetous little heart.
You pay for arcade games with credits loaded onto a card. Most of the games in the arcade require 12 to 16 credits. You can buy credits at kiosks, and add credits as needed. A $30 arcade card gets you 280 credits, which means each game costs roughly $1.50.
If you can tear yourself away from the arcade, the other half of this area is an indoor turf soccer field. Soccer classes and leagues run year-round. Zillions of youth soccer players in our region got their start with Lil’ Kickers, a kiddie soccer program for tots as young as 18 months old. Skills classes welcome kids up through age 12. Youth and adult indoor soccer leagues are popular, and accept pre-formed teams or will place individuals on a team as needed.
Vying with the arcade for top attraction bragging rights is the Inflatable Fun Zone. Right next to the soccer field, this paradise of bouncing welcomes kids ages 2–10. There’s one inflatable reserved for kids ages 3 and under, and four inflatables for kids ages 4 and older. Our favorite was the giant slide, which looks very steep and intimidating, but luckily, there’s a soft landing.
The activities upstairs are better suited to older kids. You have your choice of three escape rooms: submarine, zombies and a spaceship ($18 per experience). There’s a Pacific Northwest-themed laser tag area ($13.75 per game), complete with Sasquatch.
In the sports simulator room, you can choose from 16 sports in each simulator bay ($60 per hour). There’s golf, cricket, basketball, soccer … and zombie dodgeball, too!
Word’s gotten out fast about this place. We saw back-to-back birthday parties using the adjacent party rooms. Inflatable Fun Zone parties cost about $350, which is perhaps a fair price to pay for not having your own house trashed.
Spend the afternoon
For drop-in inflatable zone visits, buy a color-coded wristband for a 90–minute time slot at the front desk. Kids are $12, and parents are free. Wear socks. Everything in the inflatable zone is padded, and there’s only one way in and out. Parents, this is your golden ticket to sit back and enjoy the Wifi.
When you get hungry, you can order food using the QR code on the table, or walk over to the restaurant/bar near the entrance. It’s average-priced kid-friendly food, like cheeseburgers ($13) and fries ($5). Kids can sit at any of the tables, but the bar is for 21 and over only. It’s a genius business model, really. Send the kids to the arcade, pull up a seat at the bar and watch a game on one of the big-screen TVs. Everyone’s happy.
The bottom line:
Arena Sports’ new Issaquah Family Entertainment Center is clean, well designed and super fun. The restrooms are immaculate. The food is reasonably priced enough that you can stay for a long time (probably not an accident; it's easy to wile away the dollars along with the hours). It’s a great place to spend a cold and wet afternoon. Just take this tip from me: Agree on a pre-set spending limit in the arcade, because once you start, it’s hard to stop. Have fun!
If you go...
Find it: The Family Entertainment Center at Arena Sports Issaquah is located at 2115 N.W. Poplar Way in Issaquah. It’s about a 15-minutes drive from Bellevue, 25 minutes from Seattle and 45 minutes from Tacoma.
Open hours: Wednesday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.–11 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. The facility is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Cost: Prices vary by activity:
More rainy-day play ideas: