Several weeks ago, while Boo and I were playing with the toy trains at the Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury after our storytime class had ended, I couldn’t help overhearing some of the other moms talking about this wonderful place where they take their kids all the time. My radar was up. Was I about to get the scoop on the hotest new place for playdates? Would they elaborate before they finished bundling up their kiddos and headed out the door? Would I be forever doomed to wonder about this fabulous destination?
Then I heard it. The word I had been waiting for. And let me tell you, it was not the word I had expected. It was: McDonald’s. What?!
Clearly, this was going to merit a little investigative reporting. First action: the drive-by. Since the McDonald’s is just up the road from the library, I couldn’t help myself. I skeedaddled with Boo to the car for a reconnaissance mission. As I drove slowly past the establishment, no doubt igniting the fury of those traveling behind me, I noticed a sign in the window that I had never noticed before. It said: Ronald’s Play Place. (Don’t worry, there was no snapping and driving; I took this picture later, while standing in a parking lot across the street.)
So it was settled. We would have to go. Soon. To my husband’s chagrin, this meant Saturday morning. Very, very early on Saturday morning. This decision was made for two main reasons: 1. Because I figured the place would be packed later in the day, making it more difficult to get good pictures without other people’s kids in them–not to mention the knitted-brow stares I always engender as folks watch me photograph things like walls and doors and, gasp, restrooms; and 2. I was not going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy an Egg McMuffin and blame it on the blog
This McDonald’s is located in Glastonbury on the stretch of Main Street in between Glastonbury Boulevard and Pond House Grille (or whatever restaurant will be there six months from now when someone reads this post in the future–why does that location have such bad Karma? But seriously, the Pond House Grille just got a pretty decent write-up in Hartford Magazine, so maybe this will be the one ).
The Main Street entrance is actually a little access road that runs between McDonald’s and Pond House Grille (to the right of McDonald’s if you are facing the building as in the photo above). Just be sure to pay attention to the signs that will direct you around the back of the McDonald’s (the first left is the drive-thru; the second left takes you around the building) and to the spacious, and I mean spacious, parking lot. (There is also an entrance to the parking lot on Glastonbury Boulevard, but only if you are heading west, as in away from Main Street; from the other direction, there is a median in the way.)
The lot is so spacious, in fact, that in the summer months this McDonald’s uses it to host “Cruise Night” on Tuesday evenings where the lot fills with shiny old-time cars and golden oldies music.
I’ve never actually been to this event, but I have driven by it countless times, and it looks like fun.
But this morning, the only golden things we’re interested in are pancakes for Boo. We enter through the side door off the parking lot. Just beware of the cars pulling away from the drive-thru window.
We order at the counter, and then Boo and I go off in search of a high chair while hubby waits for the food.
I have to say, this is a pretty spiffy McDonald’s. It’s got lots of spacious, clean seating with faux granite tabletops and even a wall-mounted flat-screen TV that was tuned to what looked like CNN.
I get Boo set up in his high chair. He’s looking a little sleepy. I know the feeling…
Ahhh. Here comes hubby with the food. And more importantly, the coffee.
In case you’ve been living under a rock like I apparently have been, you might be surprised, like me, to discover that McDonald’s now offers an almost dizzying array of coffee beverages. When did that happen? Since I was already indulging in an Egg McMuffin that morning, I managed to pass up the McCafé Iced Caramel Mocha in favor of a plain iced latte. I’m no coffee connoisseur, but I do drink A LOT of it, so I know bad coffee when I taste it. Surprisingly, this was not bad coffee at all. And at $1.79 for a medium, that’s got to be the best latte deal in town.
For Boo, a stack of fluffy “hot cakes” (there wasn’t a kids’ menu option for pancakes, but at $2.79 for the lot of them, I wasn’t complaining).
Just add syrup. Nothing like carbs and sugar to get baby going in the morning
After breakfast, it was time to check out the indoor play area. We actually could have eaten at tables inside the play area, but since I wanted Boo to actually eat, I thought fewer mealtime distractions would be better.
Ronald’s Play Place is at the very front of the restaurant. Trust me when I say you can’t miss it. The sign that supposedly indicates the play area hours was rubbed blank, but the nice lady at the counter told me that it’s pretty much open during all dining room hours (as opposed to drive-thru hours, which are longer). Sometimes, if you are there super early like we were, it might be closed temporarily while they clean it.
When you enter, there’s this cute little set of cubbies for the kiddos to put their shoes in (socks only for playing on the equipment).
My mom tells me that she remembers a McDonald’s play place like this from when I was little, but I have no memory of a playscape quite this, well, take a look for yourself…
Pretty awesome, huh? The whole thing is fully enclosed with sides and netting so there’s no risk of falling. A child can climb up, around, and through, and then make a speedy exit via the twisting slide. I gathered from some signage that there is also sometimes a ball pit to play in. I’m guessing it’s in that open cage-like area, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. Speaking of signage, the sign above indicates that children must be at least 3 years old (and no taller than 4 feet) to use the playscape. Here’s a closer look:
Although no one gave us any trouble about an underage Boo exploring the playscape, this is one of those times when I think the age recommendation might be pretty accurate. Unfortunately, this was the extent of 20-month-old Boo’s exploration:
Not that he didn’t have a grand ol’ time running around the playscape looking at all the brightly-colored contraptions. It just wasn’t quite the energy-burning activity I had hoped it would be. Of course, every child develops at his or her own pace, and you probably know instantly from looking at these pictures whether or not your toddler or preschooler is ready for this kind of activity.
As I mentioned before, there are tables on both sides of the playscape for eating or just hanging out and watching your child play (ideally while sipping on a delicious coffee beverage).
Even though Boo wasn’t quite brave enough for the giant tunnel maze, it was still an enjoyable morning. Although, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to trying this again when Boo’s a bit bigger. Sipping a latte and sampling one of McDonald’s surprisingly delicious-looking new bakery treats while Boo scampers happily around a totally contained, safe play structure? Now that’s what I call a happy meal
Tell us: Is there a McDonald’s (or other fast food restaurant) with a play place near you? What’s it like?
2915 Main Street, Glastonbury, Connecticut 06033
Get directions here:
Some other Hartford area McDonald’s locations with an indoor play place include: West Hartford (2534 Albany Avenue); Hartford (214 Prospect Avenue); Manchester (144 Deming Street); Cromwell (30 Shunpike Road). Use this link to find other locations near you.
Lobby/dining room: Every day from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Drive-thru: Every day 24 hours.
Check here for the most up-to-date schedule.
Tips & Things to Bring
- Ronald’s Play Place is open to McDonald’s customers only; there is no additional charge for admission.
- Do not bring outside food or drink into the play area; food and beverages purchased at McDonald’s are permitted in the play area so long as they are consumed in the table area and not on the playscape.
- Just to be clear: no food allowed on the playscape.
- Actually, the rules state that children aren’t allowed to bring anything, edible or not, onto the playscape (i.e. toys, etc.).
- Shoes must be removed before playing on the playscape. SOCKS ARE REQUIRED for the play area.
- Also remove any loose jewelry, hair clips, bows, etc. before allowing your child on the playscape.
- Signage indicates that Ronald’s Play Place is for children over 3 years old (but under 4 feet tall); use your best judgement in determining if your child is developmentally ready for this playscape.
- Free WiFi available to McDonald’s customers.
- Got a pancake-lovin’ kid? Full breakfast menu served Monday-Friday from 4:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; Saturday & Sunday from 4:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
- Check out McDonald’s interactive menu that allows you to mouse over any item to display nutritional information.
- Diaper changing station available in the restroom.
Make way for those May flowers. It’s time for the April roundup. Plus, we’ve got another Boundless Playground to explore, and it’s a big one!
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