Newark. No not Newark, New Jersey ... Newark, California - home of a place that time (and a giant singing rodent) left behind, Kid's Castle.
After parking in the vast, gravely lot, I was immediately intrigued by the dim neon signs in the window that advertised tanning, a fitness gym, and videogames - all under one roof!
The place was massive, with crude walls and curtains separating the fitness gym from the jumpy houses and obstacle courses. Then came the smell of curry wafting through the stale air. I saw the cafeteria and thought 'this is the only place I can conceive of that would offer pizza, stale nachos and Schwarma.'
It's the type of place that is popping up all over the place: a business that exists for the sole purpose of hosting birthday parties so that parents don't have to open up their homes to other parents they hardly know. Kids Castle fits that bill, except you don't want to take your kids to the bathroom there - the holes in the wall reek of a health inspector's worst nightmare.
Don't get me wrong, there was something retro cool about the joint. The arcade games were vintage - not refurbished versions of old games or even throw-backs, these were all original. Kids Castle is like the place that time forgot ... forever trapped in the 1980s. Where else would you find The Simpsons arcade game, or Bust-A-Move? Not at your neighborhood 7-11, I tell ya.
In terms of games for adults to play while your kids are screaming and possibly lost in the vast overhead obstacle course, you can forget about Skee-ball true believers, because it was lit up like a Christmas tree, but oh so Out Of Order.
But let's be real, this place had private rooms for birthday pizza, cake ... and birthday booze! Kids Castle offers discerning adults pitchers of Coors Light and plastic cups. Oh hellz yeah. Did someone say party? Let's go hit up Kids Castle! Don't forget the candles, plenty of Purell, tanning oil and socks for the kids to run around in (because Kids Castle has hygiene standards like a top-flight podiatrist!).
'Nuff said true believers.