Courtesy Charlie's Safari
To the delight of South Sound-area families, Charlie’s Safari family fun center has re-opened in Lacey after an 18-month-long closure. The popular indoor play space closed in 2016 due to lease issues, leaving a void in Lacey's indoor play scene. Charlie's re-opened in a new location last month and its fun features include some new additions and old favorites.
While a little smaller than its former iteration, the 17,000-square-foot family fun center still features two-story laser tag, an arcade, a climbing and slide structure, bounce houses and birthday party rooms. And yes, adults, you can still order beer and wine at the snack bar (whew).
A major change we noticed in the new Charlie's is the absence of Tike's Village, which was a dedicated tot play area.
Now toddlers play alongside older kids. This does make it easier for caregivers like me watching kids of wide-ranging ages. In other words, when my sweaty tween comes plowing down the slides, I can be pretty certain the 4-year-old little brother is not far behind. This is not without challenges however, as I found myself reminding “watch out for the little ones,” more than once.
Another change is that a pair of shiatsu massage chairs has been added to the furnishings. This mom says it’s the best two-dollars-for-six-minutes you’ll ever spend.
My tween and third-grader were both thrilled with the new bounce-house setup. In its own room in the back, the larger-than-life features have a good flow, where kids can blow off steam with non-stop climbing, bouncing and obstacle challenges. We saved the bounce houses for last, and with it nearing closing time, we practically had the place to ourselves.
“I give Charlie’s Safari four-out-of-five stars,” said my 12-year-old. “I miss the super slides, but it's still very cool and very fun.”
My 8-year-old chimed in with this assessment: “Four-point-five stars because they don’t have as many arcade games as they used to, but the bounce houses and climbing are still really good.”
Arcade games are always a hit with the kids, and Charlie’s Safari has a decent selection, with games of skill such as Skee-Ball and claw machines. A small counter for trinket-for-ticket exchange is still an option as well.
We played for about two hours and my kids would have stayed longer had it not been closing time.
We didn't try out Charlie's laser tag, but staff assured us it’s just as fun as at the former location, which means two stories and lots of cool structures to hide behind to mount your attack. Admission to this feature costs extra ($6.95 per game), and is popular for birthday parties for older kids.
Admission prices remain competitive, in my opinion, and now buy you all-day play vs. the scheduled time slots from before. Charlie's now charges for adults ($2) and states it wants grown-ups to actually play along with their kids. So go for it!
The menu at Charlie’s snack bar, called The Watering Hole, looks pretty much the same as before. There's not a ton that pleases the adult palette (other than the chardonnay and nachos, maybe), but there are kid-friendly options such as corn dogs, build-your-own pizza and fruit platters, priced around $7–$10.
Fans of the old Charlie's location will remember the neighborhing movie theater and while that's no longer a close-by option, the new spot is close to a Starbucks for parent fuel, and kids will like browsing the merchandise at Game Stop or designing their own flavor of ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.
All in all, I recommend that South Sound-area families plan a visit — family fun centers are a perfect way to enjoy quality time together while burning off energy, and Charlie’s Safari delivers.
If you go...
When: Charlie's is open Sunday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and Friday–Saturday, 10 .m.–9 p.m. Last entry is one hour prior to closing.
Cost: Weekday prices are $11.95 per youth ages 5–18; $6.95 per child ages 2–4; tots 23 months and younger are free. Adults are $2. Weekend prices are $3 more for children and youth. Admission is for all-day play but there is no re-entry. Laser Tag is $6.95 per game.
Tips for parents:
Parties: Birthday party packages are available and for more informal get-togethers and play dates, there are plenty of tables for visiting and eating. Charlie’s Safari can also now bring the party to you. Check the website for bounce house and party options for your next PTA fundraiser or neighborhood block party.
More South Sound indoor play: Check our guide for lots more play options.