9 Awesome Eating Adventures

These restaurants serve portions of fun alongside good food.

By Heather Larson

At most restaurants, you’re lucky if the staff offers crayons to keep the grandchildren amused. Here are 9 eating establishments where interactive entertainment is the house specialty. These are worth a detour when traveling.

Aquarium
Various locations
There’s always something to watch in these "underwater" dining spots where huge tanks housing colorful aquatic creatures span the restaurant. Your grandchild can sign on to be a marine biologist for a day, working with the divers who feed and take care of the aquatic life and learning about what it takes to work in this field. At the Nashville, Tenn., location, children can touch and feed the stingrays, too.

Bean Sprouts
Seattle, WA and Sausalito, CA
What granddaughter doesn’t enjoy dressing up and attending a tea party with her grandmother? At Bean Sprouts Kids Café, that happens every day. You can have tea, milk or juice plus three courses of tiny treats. These include Sweetheart Sandwiches (shaped like hearts), Melon Flowers with Carrot Stems, Mini Scones, and Mini Apple Pies. Everything is prepared with a healthy twist, with gluten- dairy- and casein-free options available. 

Choo Choo Johnny’s
Frankfort, IL.
Not only does a model train chug along the inner walls in this family-oriented restaurant, but meals are delivered via train to those seated along the counter track. Kids can play with the interactive train display and make a model city come alive. The waitstaff wears engineer gear while train, country, or appropriate children’s music plays in the background. Kids get free ice-cream with their meal on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Giggles N’ Hugs Children's Restaurant
Los Angeles and Canoga Park, CA
Grandchildren won’t suffer from boredom when they see this 3,000 square-foot play area. It’s full of toys, interactive games, arts and crafts, dress-up costumes, a beauty corner with pretend makeup for girls, a clay table with lots of different-colored dough, papers, markers, cars, and ride-along bikes. Some days, Elmo, Spiderman or Princess Jasmine might join the kids for play and dinner. On Fridays, a live DJ leads games like Musical Chairs and Freeze Frame. Saturdays showcase some of the best entertainers in town. Grandparents note: The food served here is healthy.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Various locations
Eating with your hands? Jousting? That’s only part of the allure of this utensil-less eating experience. Swordplay, horsemanship, and falconry also come into play. Knights engaging in intense sword-fighting with sparks flying everywhere will definitely appeal to active grandchildren. Opportunities also exist for children to catch flowers won by the knight they’ve been cheering on from the beginning of the show.

Old World Gondoliers
Indianapolis
Grandparents and grandchildren can dine onboard a gondola while it navigates through the downtown canal during the summer months. Food is available at one of two restaurants inside Buggs Temple near the Old World Gondoliers 11th Street location. Order what you want and it will be delivered to the gondola. When children are on board, the gondoliers serenade them with recognizable songs like "Bella Notte," from Lady and the Tramp. A 30-minute ride with eight passengers works out to about $18 each in addition to the meal costs.

Scoozi!
Chicago
On Sunday nights, kids become chefs and create their own pizzas and eat . From 4:30pm to 6:30pm, the restaurant sets up a station complete with dough where a server helps youngsters put sauce and cheese on the crust. Children don aprons and chef’s hats to choose the other ingredients they want on their pizzas. The actual restaurant chef places the pizza in a wood-burning oven and the kids watch it cook, wondering what their masterpiece will look and taste like. The kids’ pizza is free if the grandparents order at least one entrée.

Sunset Sam’s a Key West Grill
Kissimmee, FL
This restaurant is a 60-foot sailboat docked in an indoor lagoon. Every evening, the Sunset Celebration includes live music, balloon-artists, face-painters, stilt-walkers, fire-eaters and more. Performers visit the tables and entertain children during their meals. Afterward, grandparents and grandchildren can visit Gator Springs, an indoor habitat for live juvenile alligators or Key West Lagoon, which houses live tarpon and stingrays.

T-Rex (pictured above)
Kansas City, KS and Lake Buena Vista, FL
For a hands-on prehistoric experience, T-Rex Café is the place to go. Filled with enormous animatronic dinosaurs, and entrees cooked in the Kitchen of Fire. Grandchildren also have a chance to unearth the past in the interactive Paleo Zone, learn about the dinosaur era through interactive Paleo Screens, and pan for precious stones, minerals or fossils in Discovery Creek. Visit the Build-A-Dino workshop and create your own dino friend to take home.

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