Wow, I started to think about this, and I got really conflicted.
On one hand, Mars 2112 is fantastic. It's a themed restaurant, but they've really gone all out. On the other hand, it sucks, in ways that even a kid can spot.
From a kid's perspective, what's not to like? A motion simulator ride that takes you to Mars (think: "Star Tours"), pretty goofy and silly, entertaining for the smaller kids but probably boring for older ones and adults. Inside, a Mars cave theme, very well done, with a two-level restaurant and all sorts of interesting things to look at. Staff wandering around in goofy costumes. An arcade.
Well, from the kid's perspective, the arcade: "it sucked." Because a lot of stuff just wasn't well-maintained. We've been to Chuck E Cheese in the morning, and watched them test, open, repair, and clean all their games when they open, which our local ones do _every_ morning, which probably explains why they usually work. But even so, they occasionally break. Here, it seems unlikely that they're bothering with any of that. When a normally easygoing kid gets ticked off and walks out in frustration, something is wrong.
From an adult's perspective, I didn't appreciate the $2 "entry" fee, only to discover that the menus were also priced rather steeply. Had the food been outstanding, maybe I could understand that, but it was fairly mediocre-to-average. You could get a better meal at Applebee's, and I think for a fair bit less money.
Service was average to good. That's impressive, considering these poor people walking around in uncomfortable-looking costumes and uniforms and stuff, but then again we did go during a slow time.
Disappointing, though, was that they have a "teleporter" to return you to earth, but it "wasn't running", so you basically just walk out the door and suddenly you're back on earth. Good way to ruin the illusion of being on Mars. It gave a definite impression of "we've got your money, have a nice day, there's the exit."
Overall, the facility is over the top, very well done, a fun place to see. Food is average. Gameroom gets no stars. Exit gets no stars. Service was adequate to good. Overall, entertaining, at least once. A visit with young kids will be enjoyable. Try to make sure they don't see the arcade (and avoid disappointment), and try to visit at a non-prime time, and you'll probably have a better experience.
Situated in the tiny Astor Place Theater, the New York version of the Blue Man Group was something very different from the show we had seen in Las Vegas.
As with the Venetian presentation, the Blue Man Group put on a fantastic and entertaining show, one that obviously shared many roots with the Vegas version, but there were also some differences as well.
As I said in my review of the Venetian, "Rarely do you see such intelligent, imaginative, and visually stunning entertainment that is fun, challenging, and communicative - all without a single word spoken."
However, the Venetian is in a very large venue. By way of comparison, Astor Place is a "tiny" basement venue, 13 seats wide with an aisle down the center, a converted residence, I believe. There's a main level and a mezzanine, with the front row of the mezzanine being fairly close to the stage. The entire theater exudes an air of intimacy that is completely different from the Venetian, and let me tell you, it adds something to the show.
The performers are well known for making the show an immersive, audience-involving experience, but at the Venetian, you kind of have to "luck out" to have them get close to you. We had poncho seats and were located in a way that we did luck out at that show, great for the kids, but I would imagine most of the Venetian crowd missed out on that. Here, however, was very different. Even just walking down the center aisle, they're only about six or seven seats away at most. Further, there are parts of the show where they're walking on seatbacks, and there's something about having a guy negotiating the seatbacks and being close enough to fall on you that really highlights the coziness of the performance.
From a practical point of view, Astor Place Theater is small and cramped. We were in the first row of the mezzanine and found that there was virtually nothing to prevent the bottled drinks we had purchased from rolling or getting inadvertently kicked off the edge. The railing consisted of some basic steel bars. On the plus side, that arrangement also provided an unobstructed view of below, including the audience. The rows and seats are tight, and restroom facilities are minimal at best. We were thankful that we didn't have to try to use them during the performance. I would strongly suggest that you come prepared, visit the restroom somewhere prior to getting to the theater, and make sure you're not going to have a full bladder during the performance. Even though annoying, these minor inconveniences are offset by the superb performance.
Easily reached by subway. Highly recommended.
Hardee's in the Milwaukee area has nearly vanished. There used to be a bunch of them, even with playlands, but we're down to just a few locations now.
This location has a very large playroom, with some play equipment and coin operated video games. The play equipment is suited mostly to smaller kids, and includes some floor-level tubes ideal for the smallest kids. There's a toddler slide, and the upper level is quite small but okay for a few kids. Good for hide and seek.
More generally, the facility is kept in good shape, though it has a feeling of being old, and a feeling of probably having been due for a remodel a few years back.
The food at Hardee's seems to be evolving towards fare that isn't particularly healthy, but you can still eat reasonably well if you're careful.
So, good playland for younger kids.
In recent times, McDonald's has been undergoing something of a renaissance into trying to become some odd upscale Starbucks-a-like, and in doing so, as a parent, I've been disappointed to see a number of nice playlands disappear. McDonald's seems to have forgotten that they have the playland market cornered... so anyways, I've decided to review some and share some hints for other parents.
This location is on the corner of Bolivar/Cold Spring and 27th, hard to miss. The parking lot is a bit cramped and busy, but is generally accessible.
We used to avoid this location because of poor maintenance. The tubes used to be dirty, and one time, we found a child's sippy drink cup still filled with milk (or something) that had obviously been sitting in the bottom of the ball pit for (at least) days. I'll let you imagine. We didn't visit again for years.
But the ball pit is gone, and that was years ago. The restaurant has been remodeled and is overall very nice, now. The tubes are reasonably clean inside, pads are installed and maintained, and someone periodically cleans the tables in the playland area. The playland itself is a fairly accessible arrangement with a single upper level, which a parent can get to without too much effort. Definitely great for smaller kids.
They don't have a baby changing station in the men's room, which is a bit annoying. More than a bit, actually, I'd probably have given them 5/5. Still, it is a nice location, and be sure to point out to your kid the fry guy sitting up on the McDonald's sign outside.
It's been about twenty years now. Looking desperately for a way to recycle the Allis-Chalmers plant in West Allis, rather than demolishing it, West Allis demolished only part of A/C, and allowed the development of West Allis Towne Center. Originally anchored by a K-Mart, a Kohl's Sav-A-Center Grocery, and a home improvement store whose name escapes me, this consistently underperforming development has watched the block across the way develop a Pick N Save, which ultimately doomed the Sav-A-Center, the home improvement store just tanked on its own, and many other "strip mall" class stores have come and go over the years. The city has been trying to get this redeveloped *again*, going so far as to even suggest that it might condemn the existing development (over 80% occupied!), and as of this year, some progress is being made on that front. However, what is needed is a compelling reason to visit. With the departure of the Sav-A-Center, ultimately replaced by Harbor Freight Tools and a dollar store, it seems like this isn't likely to get much more popular anytime soon.
I guess shopping malls are "on their way out" according to various sources, in favor of smaller developments that can more conveniently place stores on parking lots for even more convenience... if you're driving.
Well, Southridge is still a nice place to shop, even if it's a mall. Greendale has done a lot to make Southridge very accessible, with multiple entrances controlled by stoplights, better turning lanes, and better traffic control than years ago. The mall itself sports a large, 360-degree parking lot, meaning that you can easily pick an area that is close to a store you plan to visit, and park nearby. Inside, the mall is clearly old but periodically refreshed through remodeling and regular cleaning and maintenance. The main problem is that they have some difficulty attracting and retaining stores in the long run, including the southern anchor store, which started as Gimbels, became Marshall Field & Company, then Prange's, Younker's, and which has suffered along since in a variety of non-anchor store configurations (currently partially occupied by a World Market and a Linens N Things, except LNT is now closed).
The location has changed a lot over the years. It used to sport a (semi-)small cinema, memorable as being the other place in Milwaukee that one could see Rocky Horror Picture Show, a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, and lots of other unusual and fun things. These days, it is more or less just a standard mall, not too remarkable, but acceptable.
This Sendik's is in the old Kohl's Food Store building on 124th, and is a nicely laid out store. Sendik's is a relatively upscale grocery store that offers a huge selection in the service departments, including an extensive cheese department, and provides an enjoyable shopping experience. They have good variety within the grocery department, including many healthy selections. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful. The service departments are heavily staffed; at one Sendik's, we counted 11 people on duty in the meat department! This one is a bit smaller, but still well-staffed. Parking is not too bad, though the front of the store gets kind of busy.
Oooops. It looks like I clicked on the wrong Sendik's, and of course it doesn't show the address while you're writing your review. I haven't been to this Sendik's in a very long time, but it was nice when I was there.
I know I panned Renaissance's downtown store, but the airport branch is actually pretty cool and useful, though often more obscure than I'd prefer.
Located conveniently within Mitchell International Airport ("MKE"), this bookstore is a modestly sized library of interesting and eclectic material, and any traveler with an hour to kill would be wise to stop by. You might even find something nice to read on your flight.
Centrally situated in the main terminal building, you are close enough to the security queues for each major concourse so that you can keep an eye out for sudden long lines. Better to spend your plane-waiting time in a bookstore than a seat, I'd say.
I haven't found the staff to be particularly helpful or knowledgeable, but they're mainly there to check out your purchase.
Well. We generally don't go to Old Country Buffet, because the quality of the food has frequently been marginal at best. However, we recently visited this location, and noted with pleasure that the quality of the food is better than it once was.
This location has a fair amount of seating and was in fairly clean, well-kept condition when we visited. Warm food was warm, cold food was cold, and the buffet was being constantly serviced by staff. The food was of typical buffet quality, some things pretty good, others marginal, but enough to have a decent lunch.
The primary annoyance we noted was that there were dishes out where it wasn't obvious exactly what they were, and while many items had little signs above them, most of the one with signs didn't require signs, because they were obvious, while the unmarked items could have used some signs.