BEST PLACE FOR NON-PARENTS TO ENTERTAIN KIDS 2003 | CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park | People & Places | Phoenix
Just because you're not a parent doesn't mean you don't ever have to entertain little ones. And if you're not used to it, you can go from normal, well-adjusted adult to crazy person with PTSD in about 30 minutes. In that case, a place like CrackerJax is Mecca.

Even if you are used to the supercharged energy of your average under-five-footer, it's nice to get a break every now and again. There are so many things to do in this place, even super-hyperactive kids (or parents or friends of parents) aren't going to get bored for at least an hour or two. The amusement park is 27 acres of bumper boats, pretty serious mini-golf, driving ranges, go-carts, kiddy go-carts, video games (where if you win a thousand little tickets you can buy a plastic parachuting soldier or a Chinese finger trap), batting cages (our personal favorite), volleyball and, of course, food. The staff even plans birthday parties. It's child caretaker heaven -- you never have to leave, except when it closes.

Readers' Choice for Best Kids' Fun at a Price Spot: Castles-n-Coasters

Readers' Choice for Best Kids' Free Fun Spot: Tempe Town Lake

Mom goes to those salons that smell funny, and Dad goes to those boring barbershops. Getting a haircut is such a drag. Isn't there a place for a kid to go?

Cool Cuts specifically caters to the children. The styling chairs are proportional to small bodies and there are even racecar chairs for those who need a little more coaxing. While zooming through a grooming, kids can choose to watch a video like Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Train or play Nintendo. We just wish they had a salon for adults.

Truth be told, most parents get downright sick of seeing their youngsters (more boys than girls, according to what we've seen) numb their brains with video games and Skee-Ball. But when it's too damn hot to even go swimming, we've found a notable step up from the cardboard-pizza chains with those disgusting, germ-infested "play areas." This immaculate, warehouse-size, two-story complex at the Desert Ridge Marketplace has a big sports bar downstairs for big people, a well-lighted billiards room upstairs and -- listen up, kids -- a huge, sprawling, state-of-the-art game room. A restaurant sits in the middle of the game room, where parents can suck down a few cold ones while keeping an eye on the kids and on whatever sporting events happen to be on the strategically placed television sets. This "kiddy Vegas" is replete with every ear-splitting, eye-jolting flashy game that one can imagine. No tokens allowed at this money pit. Instead, you buy a game card, which makes it painfully easy for kids to drop $20 in a north Phoenix second. That makes for a serious lesson in juvenile budgeting or (for those parents who don't recognize these types of establishments as signs of the imminent Apocalypse) the realization that forking over another $20 isn't the end of the world. And so what if it is.

Best Of Phoenix®

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