Saturday, May 03, 2008

Monkey Island: 41,000 square feet of madness

Imagine purchasing an enormous warehouse in the middle of a desolate industrial district and filling it with a super-sized McDonald's PlayLand climbing apparatus and a bunch of over-the-top inflatable bounce houses. "Decorate" the place by hanging a handful of second-hand stuffed animals from the ceiling (by their necks!) and painting the walls with unlicensed portraits of Dora and company.

Then charge $8 a kid, $4 per adult and $300 per birthday party. Sounds like a license to print money, huh? Especially if you can reduce overhead by not hiring any staff to walk the floor and ensure no big kids are trampling the small fry.

I'd never heard of Melrose Park's Monkey Island until recently, and we finally made it out there on my friend Stacie's urging today (we met her family there).

Naturally, Z went apeshit. It's a rainy day kid's dream come true. Even with six birthday parties in full swing and a completely full parking lot, there was plenty of space to play. For a while there, we even had one bouncy castle to all ourselves. Meaning Momma got to jump. Aw, yeah! I was a little irritated to see so few parents keeping an eye on their children--the management tell you you must watch them when you enter, but then they offer chairs, tables and free wifi--go figure.

They claim no outside food is allowed, but no one confiscated our crackers. I don't think I'd touch their offerings--warmed over hot dogs, pretzels and movie theatre nachos. Most of the parties seemed to be getting pizza deliveries from a Monkey Island-affiliated pizzeria. The pies did not tempt me.