Yes, that's right. Ikea. For moms of potty trained kids, Ikea is a summer gold mine. First, there's the cafeteria. If you've never experienced the Ikea cafeteria, you are missing out. Even better than the diet-busting desserts, Ikea offers "kids eat free" deals regularly. However, when there's no deal, kids' meals are $2.49 each, so the food is a steal. Sure, you're not feeding your kids organic and homemade healthy fare, but it beats fast food (at least, that's what I tell myself) and you can order something a little more savory than a double cheeseburger for yourself.
Second, there's the kids' play room. I will acknowledge that we had a bad experience in the ball pit once, but it was an isolated incident so I'm giving it another shot. Where else can you get 30 minutes of free childcare in an air-conditioned store that offers two floors of shopping opportunities for you? Exactly!
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Pizza joint with arcade and rides
There are a few large chain pizza joints that have arcades and a handful of small rides designed specifically for little ones. And they're air-conditioned! Peter Piper Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese are two options. Pop a twenty into the token machine and get down to business. As slow as it seems, the mini carousel is quite entertaining to a two-year-old.
I'm not saying I've ever ordered anything other than a Diet Coke, but I've heard that they offer adult beverages. Ahem. Also, if you use a few of your tokens in the Deal or No Deal game and stretch your imagination, you can pretend you're on an adult-only Vegas getaway.
The pet store
Most kids love animals, reptiles, fish...something that walks, crawls or swims. You might be surprised by how much time you can spend in an air-conditioned pet store with a little one.
I'll admit to becoming a big box pet store regular one summer when we lived in Phoenix, Arizona. My kids were young enough to happily leave the store without a new friend every time we went. I'm not sure they even realized we could have bought something. So, word to the wise: Only venture to the pet store if your kids are young enough to leave empty-handed with smiles on their faces. The meltdown over not buying that new puppy probably isn't worth half an hour of air-conditioned bliss. Or maybe it is...
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The mall might be a dreaded place if you're shopping with a toddler in tow for a little black dress that you plan to wear to girl's night out. (You know, the one you fantasize about having one of these days.) But if there's no shopping agenda, the right mall can be a great place for toddlers.
Most malls have a large play area for kids -- and it's free. Additionally, you can grab lunch at the food court. However, if mall food isn't your thing, you can also bring lunch. Unlike theme parks and some zoos, security isn't going to search your bags and make you throw away "outside food."
Do you have a favorite cheap or free place that you frequent with your kids to beat the heat? Share in the comments section below!
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