Arena Sports Mill Creek boasts a giant Pac-Man, among many other games
Given that my family lives a mere seven minutes from Seattle's Magnuson Park and its large, very busy Arena Sports facility, the news that Arena Sports opened a new outlet in Mill Creek wasn't big news to us. Then my 8-year-old son went to a laser tag birthday party at the Mill Creek facility, and that's pretty much all he talked about for, oh, the next two weeks or so.
So one rainy weekday afternoon when I had two 8-year-old boys to entertain, we ventured up north to explore further. I aimed to answer these questions: Can we escape without spending a small fortune? Can I get work done while they play? And, especially: Can parents enjoy an IPA while watching the kids at the Fun Zone?
Here, in no particular order, are our observations and tips for making the most of the kid entertainment paradise that is Arena Sports Mill Creek.
Just a few minutes off I-5, and only 20 minutes on a good traffic day from north Seattle, Arena Sports Mill Creek is a 90,000 square foot warehouse-like facility with many of the top activities a kid ages 3 to 12 would want to play (or at least, the kind of kid I have). It is the biggest Arena Sports branch yet; Magnuson Park is second in size. Arena Sports also has locations in Redmond, Issaquah and SODO.
As you walk in, you'll see an arcade to your left, with a wide array of new and old-school video games, 80 total. You buy a card for each player at a red kiosk that carries a certain number of credits; kids swipe the card for each game and the credits decrease. Fifteen dollars each lasted my kids for about 45 minutes; older kids would probably go through it more quickly. You can easily add dollars.
Straight ahead, eight gleaming bowling lanes welcome newbie bowlers; 12 people can play per lane and it's first come first serve. On a weekday afternoon, the lanes were totally empty.
To the right of the bowling lanes is the Inflatable Fun Zone, which has similar inflatables to Magnuson Park's, including the pirate ship and giant slides. Once you pay the fee, it's unlimited play at the Fun Zone and adults can watch from a stool at the counter.
In the far left corner of the facility is my son's favorite, laser tag, where a new game starts every half hour. Kids ages 5 and older can put on a vest and step into the "labyrinth of darkness" to divide into teams and, um, fire at lasers each other. It this makes you uncomfortable, focus on the word "tag." Just a game of tag, with guns and infrared beams.
If indoor soccer is your thing, you'll also find a full array of camps and classes for any age, as well as youth and adult leagues. There is also drop-in soccer.
The eats are a solid cut above Magnuson Park's snacks. Moe's Kitchen serves up salads, wraps, pizza and a decent selection of beer and wine. You can grab your nibbles and drink and head to one of the tables in the center of the action with solid viewing of most activities.
During our visit, I pulled out my laptop and was able to get a chunk of work done while the kids easily entertained themselves. And I was happy to see that you could take your beer and sit by the Fun Zone to sip while your kids play (an experience that you cannot enjoy at Arena Sports Magnuson).
Besides the potential to empty your wallet quickly, the only downside of Arena Sports Mill Creek is the atmosphere. It's essentially a warehouse, so it feels like a warehouse: large and echo-ey. The arcade in particular is a sensory-full experience of flashing lights and noises. But none of this is unexpected, so these are quibbles.
The hours and the crowds
The best news about Arena Sports Mill Creek is that the Fun Zone is open seven days of week from 9 a.m.–9 p.m., with expansive hours for other attractions as well.
On the weekday afternoon that we went, the crowds were minimal. Weekends are a different story, especially now that birthday parties are in full swing. We recommend arriving early on a weekend morning.
I'm sure you've figured this one out, but definitely decide before arriving how much you'll spend and what activities the kids will do. It can add up quickly. We did two things — the arcade and the Fun Zone — which worked out well for us, since the arcade dollars went quickly but the Fun Zone is unlimited play.
At the arcade, a dollar buys you 8 credits, and games range from 6 to 32 credits. Make sure the kids know what their limit is before they start playing (or are prepared to open their own wallets).
We didn't realize until we were about to leave that you collect prize points for each game you play, recorded on the same card you use to play the games, and you can trade credits in for small prizes on the way out (think Chuck E. Cheese). It will help your kids' transition back to the regular world — the one without Pac-Man and bouncy pirate ships.
If you go ...
Hours: The Fun Zone at Arena Sports Mill Creek is open seven days a week, 9 a.m.–9 p.m., with more limited hours for other attractions.
Parties: They have a range of party packages. Check the website.