The Perks:

Recently, it seems that every shopping trip I take with my 2 ½ year old son involves bribes -- and plenty of 'em. Faced with a dreary morning of errands on Route 10 one day, I decided to give Chuck E Cheese's a try.

The great thing about this place is there is no admission fee so you don't feel obligated to stay longer than a quick half hour in between Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. What you do pay for are the tokens, which are used for the kiddie rides (actually, they are too tame for my wild-child already!) and plenty of arcade games for toddlers and big kids. There is also a tiny toddler slide structure and a bigger-kid climbing structure that are free of charge.

Another big perk of this place is that it is open nice and early (9 a.m. every day) and stays open really late (10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday). If you want to spend more time you can eat here too. The "specialty" is pizza, but I noticed that they had a decent looking salad bar, as well.

They probably do a lot of birthday parties on the weekends but when we went (twice) at around 10 a.m. on a weekday, we practically had the place to ourselves.

Next time you need a "If you are a good boy/girl while mommy shops for a new vacuum…" kind of bribe, consider stopping in to Chuck E Cheese's. For less that 10 bucks your child can blow off some steam and even collect enough tickets to cash in for a small prize to occupy 5 minutes in the car ride to Babies R Us!

The Poops:

I wasn't overly impressed with this facility as a whole. They are supposed to stamp your hand and that of your child when you enter and check to make sure you match your child on the way out. I noticed that neither the entrance or exit was closely monitored when we went, and I easily left without anyone bothering to make sure I had the right kid with me.

The "Play Structure" for the little guys is kind of lame -- it's really just a slide. Somehow, my toddler managed to get onto the bigger play structure and once he was up there, I couldn't hear or see him at all. After 10 minutes, I started to get nervous and had to recruit some random 6 year old to crawl through the maze of tunnels in the sky and force him down the slide. Trust me -- even if you can manage to squeeze yourself way up there, you don't want to!!

Chuck E Cheese's is located at 145 Route 10 in East Hanover, NJ 07936.  Their phone is 973-887-3020.  Find them on the web at