You don't have to travel to a coast anymore to experience the wonder of the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland has dropped its own little mecca right here in the desert--Club Disney. With a location in Chandler and another one opening Saturday, February 13, in Glendale, parents across the Valley have few alternatives to going. But you have to give the Disney folks credit; whenever they do something, they do it with class.
Club Disney is designed for children 10 and under. You will not find groups of preteens hanging around the Club instead of at the mall. All kids must be accompanied by an adult, and all adults must be accompanied by a child.
Safety is foremost in the minds of the Disney staff. As you enter the Club, a staffer attaches a wristband. Upon leaving, that wristband is checked to make sure that all kids are leaving with the correct adult. There is only one way out of the Club, so children will not be able to leave without their parent.
Staff members are at every attraction. Dark corners are surveyed with video cameras and mirrors. At the Club's signature corkscrew slide (probably the longest slide you will ever experience, and it's in total darkness), an attendant watches a small-screen TV to ensure that each child (or adult) is safely down the slide before the next rider is allowed to enter.
There's plenty of variety at Club Disney. A craft activity room begins a new project every half-hour. A movie theater provides a much-needed break from playing. Pooh's Corner is a great place for toddlers. The arcade has all the best games, with no digging for quarters.
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An overhead play area (the only access to the slide entrance) puts any McDonald's to shame. Kids can watch an actual ant farm while waiting their turn on the blueberry bouncer. The computer room is a great place to check out the Internet and the latest Disney software.
The Club Cafe offers value meals, such as hamburgers, salads and sandwiches, as well as pizza. There are also various muffins, cookies and ice cream. The pricing is rather reasonable, considering it's Disney.
It will be interesting to see if the Club corners the market on birthday parties in the coming year. It will surely be the "in" place to go. Birthday packages range from $185 to more than $250 and include playtime, games and cake, held in a special birthday room. Each party receives a visit from Merlin the Magician and has its own staff attendant. Themes include A Bug's Circus, Toy Story, Hercules Hero, Winnie the Pooh and a Princess Tea Party.
Club Disney is located at 6919 West Ray Road (just east of I-10) in Chandler, and 7580 West Bell Road in Glendale. The hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The Club is closed on Mondays. Admission is $8 for kids and $4 for adults. Lockers are available for shoe storage. Once in, there is no need to pay for anything else but food, but you may want to bring some extra cash anyway: The exit is through the gift shop.