At each of Fat Cats' five locations, strikes and spares light up the screens of automatic scoring systems. Bowling balls roll and skip down lanes in normal conditions, against retractable bumpers, or under the fluorescent glow of Thunder Alley, when the facility transforms into a music-filled fusion of a bowling alley and dance club. Each lane's crashing pins echo the softer clacking of putters at the glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course and the ringing lightshow of the arcade. Elsewhere, the scents of pizza and deep-fried bowling balls waft through the fun haven. Each Fat Cats location partners with different restaurants, including The Pizza Factory at its Salt Lake facility and Champzz Bar at the Westminster location.
As one of America's oldest and final bastions of the pizza, arcade, and animatronic-variety-show trifecta, Chuck E. Cheese upholds an important entertainment legacy. Though their core philosophy and slogan, "Where a Kid Can Be a Kid," sounds like a simple-enough mantra to maintain, many years have passed since Atari inventor Nolan Bushnell opened the first location in San Jose.
Despite the ever-changing nature of entertainment consumption, Chuck E. Cheese has done nothing but flourish. Intrinsic to this continuing knack for capturing kids' imaginations is its incorporation of modern entertainment and adherence to the robotic act that got it started in the first place. Chuck, Jasper T. Jowls, and Helen Henny are all still there, suspending a new generation's disbelief in gargantuan singing animals. Their charms, though, have been bolstered for the appetites of modern kids with more immersive games, wilder rides, and sweeter prizes.
Skytubes traverse the ceilings as an oversize human Habitrail, offering fantastical escape for energetic kids above the lights and sounds of the arcade. Staples such as skee ball and hoops now stand alongside sense-saturating simulator rides and the latest video games. At many locations, even the variety show has been modernized for the digital era. In its place is an interactive experience dubbed Studio C, where, thanks to bluescreens and video cameras, kids get to jam with Mr. Cheese himself.
Wiseguyz Pizzeria slings pies across the Salt Lake City area, offering a host of specialty pizzas, hot sandwiches, and crispy golden calzones at five separate locations. The signature pie is coated with barbecue sauce and topped with chicken, cheddar, and fresh cilantro. Classic sandwiches include the Philly steak and cheez, which features meat, alfredo sauce, mushrooms, peppers, and melty mozzarella and Swiss.
A veritable cornucopia of hands-on family entertainment, Planet Play buzzes with laser tag, bumper cars, and more than 100 video games sprawled throughout its 55,000 square feet of indoor space. Miniature-golf decorations illuminate putts under the gleam of a black light, and gamers bask in the electronic glow of pinball machines, skee-ball, or Guitar Hero in the game room. Instead of lugging around giant piles of tickets or paying exorbitant fees to deposit them in an older sibling's pocket bank, gamers can easily cash in their winnings using an e-ticket Play Card. After working up an appetite on go-kart track or the mini bowling lanes, visitors can belly up to a buffet that brims with hand-tossed pizzas, a fresh salad bar, and decadent desserts.
As its name suggests, NY Pizza Patrol specializes in Big Apple–style slices. Each of the four locations slings 8-inch to 18-inch pizzas, ranging from the classic meat lover's pie to the boundary-breaking spicy Marshall masala layered with a foundation of Indian garam-masala sauce. The menu supplements the traditional hand-helds with calzones, heroes, pastas, and other specialties, each of which pair well with cold brews, bottomless fountain sodas, and milk, which grows healthy bones when poured on teeth-planted top soil.
Rock Creek Pizza Co. serves up a menu of belly-filling specialty pies, salads, and sides. With sauces and hand-tossed crust made daily from scratch, the eatery's dough-slingers carefully craft pizzas to suit taste buds of all types. After a trip to the salad bar ($2.59 with a meal, $4.49 for all you can eat), diners can choose from various disk sizes and toppings to customize a pizza or sink canines into one of the many specialty pizzas ($6.15–$18.15). The six-meat special primes its bready floor with red sauce before laying down tiles of cheese, pepperoni, salami, ham, beef, sausage, and chorizo, and the barbecue chicken pizza joins mozzarella, feta, roasted chicken, pineapple, and red onions with Rock Creek’s honey barbecue sauce. Veggie vixens can wrap their laughing gear around the california garlic vegetarian, a white saucer overflowing with three cheeses, an array of garden-grown goodies, and a proven ability to ward off creatures of the night.