Monday, January 17, 2011

Galactic Fun Zone (Review)

Yes, I can hear you laughing already….but it’s true.

I went to a place called Galactic Fun Zone, and I loved it.

Many of you know my son James.  At 8 (going on 9…just ask him), it’s getting harder and harder to find places to take him that are engaging, especially in the winter months.

We could go to Chucky Cheese, but we all know that the pizza is horrid there and the games are very very outdated.

Going Bonkers in CoMo was a great solution when he was 5-6.  He could climb and burn energy, but we always ended up back in the arcade, again with dated video games and very cramped quarters.  The food there is a little better, they have more than pizza, but not by much….plus the Birthday party crowd spills out of the three cramped rooms they have and overwhelms the dining area. 

The most telling part of the equation can be had by just looking at the parents.  In 3/4 of the cases, Mom and/or Dad is just sitting there, glazed over look and eagerly checking their watches to see if it’s time to go yet.  There is no consideration for the 10-18 crowd or the adults either.

Enter the Galactic Fun Zone.  You’ve all seen the place the Grindstone Parkway/63 Exchange.  Its’ the old Ice Chalet building.  From the outside, it’s not to awe inspiring, but I don’t think that is the intent.  Instead, you need to go inside to truly appreciate the venue.

Upon walking in, you are greeted by a host/hostess who can answer questions and give you an overview of the place.  You look through the original glass “Fishbowl” into the arcade and see the staging area for Laser Tag.  That’s right, Galactic Fun Zone has Laser Tag (more on that in a minute).  There is a small dining area (We didn’t eat there, and it looks like it is still a work in progress) and a large ballroom on your right.

There are 4 areas for you to enjoy and here is my review of each.

Arcade- I was actually quite impressed with Arcade.  Most often in places like this, the video games are an afterthought.  Broken, dated (as I said before) or just so close together than you cannot really enjoy the experience.  GFZ has none of these problems.  The games are token driven and there is a great variety.  From modern shooting games, the ever present “Ticket Games” that the kids love (Richard played the Deal or No Deal game A LOT, winning enough tickets for two pockets of candy for James) to pool tables and pinball machines….it appeared they hit all the bases.  Very Roomy and Clean….you couldn’t ask for more, least it become crowded. 

Low Lighting Blue Lounge- Sadly, this was not open while I was there.  In speaking with Monte (see the end of the review), it’s just not cost effective to keep two bars open when the students are not in town and it should reopen next week when they get back.  This is a business decision, and I get it…so no points knocked off for that.

Laser Tag Arena – All I have to say is this place is a workout.  We went in for 15 minutes and by the time it was over, I was tired.  The equipment is new, so no worries about your laser not working, and the interior is very low light with lots of glowing florescent painting.  I could see it being a little crowded if there were more than 10 people in there, but then again….that might be fun too.  James TOTALLY loved it, and I have to admit I too had a smile on my face when we came out.  Definitely worth the price Smile

8 Lane Bowling Alley- Richard is the bowler of our group, and when we did our initial walk through, this caught his eye.  Currently 8 lanes with low lighting and 4 GIANT screens at the end (showing playoff games while we were there), you could tell that everything here was new and in good condition.  There were nice rounded couches for relaxing (not hard plastic chairs like some alleys) and you can program the gutter bumpers (I love saying that) to come up for specific people.  This allows you to bowl with both adults and children on the same lane.  Richard even commented that this was the first time he had seen that…..so another plus.  There is also a small bar there next to the lanes that carries the Bud Products on Draft, a few Top Shelf Liquors (I noticed Grey Goose and Patron Tequila, so Debi should be happy) and your regular well liquors as well.  They do not do league bowling here, so you can actually get on lanes, and like I have already pointed out….the establishment is very clean.

I honestly didn’t pay much attention to overall pricing as it was just a fun day with James, but I did want to highlight a few of the specials they have (go to the website for a complete list)-

  • BoGo Mondays- Buy on Game of Laser Tag or Bowling, get one Free.
  • $2 Tuesdays ($2 per game bowling and $2 Laser Tag)
  • Play Pass- 1 Game of Laser Tag, 1 Game of Bowling and 10 Tokens for $15

If you’ve made it this far, you can tell that I liked the place.  But, to be honest, it wasn’t all the above that really won me over…..it was the people.  From the time I walked in, everyone seemed friendly and helpful.  A distinct change from the Chucky Cheeses of the world.  But I also saw something that is a rarity in business today.  Both of the owners doing time in the trenches.

You see, GFZ is owned and operated by former Mizzu Tigers Monte Wyrick and Lorenzo Williams.  I didn’t interact much with Lorenzo, but he was very visable as he worked with employees to make sure everything was running right.  It was Monte (working the bar….of course that is where you will find me) that I spoke with most of the evening. He and I sat for a good 20 minutes or so talking as James and Richard bowled.  As you watched him interact with customers, you could tell he had a real passion for the business to grow (they still have room for expansion and are adding 4 more lanes of bowling) and was fun to talk to.  The highlight of my night was listening to him talk with James, telling him no matter how good you are at sports….education is the key.  I have preached that a million times, but to him…now it is gospel (thanks Monte Smile).  I still chuckle as I see in my minds eye, James making any excuse to belly up to the bar to talk more to him.  It was cute and funny at the same time.

In the end, I think Lorenzo and Monte have found a great niche here in CoMo.  A place where a parent can have a few drinks and maybe bowl while the kids are playing Laser Tag or some video games.  They have a large (8,000 sq ft) ballroom that can be rented out for events and they also handle birthday parties (this is where James wants to go this year).  Now I can see parents being social together while kids play vs just dumping and running.  The crowd evolves during the day, with younger kids during the day, moving on to teenagers in the later afternoon/early evening and finally young adults and older as the night progresses.  There is defiantly something for everyone.

Galactic Fun Zone definitely could become a regular family spot for us, and maybe some of my older friends as well.  It’s not Dave and Busters, nor is it trying to be.  GFZ is just a nice place to relax and enjoy the day.

They can be found on the Web, Facebook and Twitter, so give them some support.

It’s a family spot I HIGHLY recommend.  Great Job Guys.

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