I can clap and sing to Disney Diva like it’s my favorite CD. I can even chase my son through a germ-infested jungle gym with the appropriate cray-cray laugh. Inevitably, though, the “fun” doesn’t last long before I catch a glimpse of myself and realize that, if I didn’t have the big-ass horsey grin on my face, I would just cry. Like a baby. For days.
Let’s face it, there comes a time in parenthood where everyone pretends they’re having fun, but inside we’re dying. Because, really? Many of the activities we do with our kids are about as fun as standing in line at Ikea with three toddlers on a Saturday afternoon.
So, if you’ve ever felt like strangling a group of moms at Build–A-Bear, or pouring a glass of wine (if you’re lucky enough to get one at a kid’s birthday party) down the shirt of a woman who’s bragging about her kid’s reading level, this article is for you. High-tail it out of those places and get into these:
- The Bookstore Experience. Remember those? Back in the day, you’d linger for hours in some of the most inspiring spots. Now, you either rent from the library, download to a device or buy at your child’s school book fair. Instead, find a cool bookstore and roam the aisles; let your little ones enjoy story time and allow your older kids to find the vintage comic section by themselves. If you live in Los Angeles, you’re blessed with The Last Bookstore. Most cities have their own versions — check out Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company or Strand Bookstore in New York City. No, Barnes & Noble doesn’t count.
Booze or bust: Bust. BUT – if you find a fun, cool new restaurant to try nearby, that’s where you’ll find the booze. Plus, the kids will be so entrenched in their new books, you might even get to have a conversation with a grown-up, if you remembered to bring one.
- Skating Rink. Before you go dissing the roller rink, remember how much you loved Xanadu. The roller rink is the perfect place to unwind, listen to music and get in some exercise. Plus, your older kids will dig the flirting action, light shows and loud music, while your younger kids will enjoy the ridiculous rink games. It’s a win for everyone who’s limbs are up for the task … and even for your kid with a broken toe. You can stick him in the arcade! The best news? Now they have little rolling walkers to help your littlest ones not fall down.
Booze or Bust: Bust. But, bowling alleys go booze. Similar scene, similar smell, different rolling apparati.
- Your Chinatown: If you live near a big city, you have one. Sure, it’s tchotchke overload, but it’s also loads of fun. Kids love playing with all the kitschy jumping frogs, electronic fortune cookies, and adorable tea sets … and you will adore your new pretty pair of silk pajamas. See how that works? Introduce your kids to dim sum (picky kids get white rice) and fun Bubble tea drinks. A word of advice here: roll with the oddness and get your son the hideous dragon lantern he wants. It’s probably less than a dollar.
Booze or Bust? Booze.
- Farmer’s Market. Lift up your spirits while your kids lead the way.
Snag a pretty bunch of flowers, allow little ones to enjoy the bouncy house and let older kids choose a cool bar of homemade soap (they might actually use it). This is the one place you can actually pick up the week’s produce while your kids happily follow (providing they’re enjoying some artisan ice cream). Go early on Sunday and snag breakfast: Portland Farmers’ Market is known for their Mexican breakfast burritos while Seattle’s Pike Place Market houses some of the best seafood ever.
Booze or Bust. Depends.
- Boardwalks. Not all cities are fortunate enough to have boardwalks, but if you live in one that does, you should know that a day by the sea does wonders for rejuvenating your parental mojo. Stroll boardwalks like Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and Ocean City Boardwalk in Maryland. Pick up a bohemian-chic purse, engage with the fun talent, and show your kids what people-watching is really about. Bonus: loud entertainment will drown out any whining that ensues.
Booze or Bust: Booze.
- Museums of Science and Nature. You’re going to learn something new – promise. While your kids are busy playing with electricity and running through hologram tunnels, you’ll be reading amazing facts about the planetarium and wondering how you can get your own green house to look so lush. Slowly meander through and watch curiosity fill your child’s soul. Check out the Denver Museum of Science and Nature; COSI in Columbus, Sci-Port Discovery Center in Louisiana; and San Francisco’s Exploratorium.
Booze or Bust: Depends.
- Movies. Ditch Disney and introduce your kids to the cool-crowd flicks. BIG, Nacho Libre, E.T., The Goonies and Searching for Bobby Fischer are movies from your past that will rope your children in without making you want to choke. Once you get past some of the outdated animation, the stories are just as heartfelt as anything current – if not more. So make it a Netflix day and introduce your kiddos to the movies that made your childhood.
Booze or Bust: Do you have it in the house?
Look, we’re not advocating alcoholism, or getting behind the wheel with a few under your belt. What we’re saying is that fun can be had with kids. And fun is good for everyone– glass in hand, or hand in hand.