As a person who lives his life with the mentality of someone still feverishly working his way through the fourth grade, I frequently find myself in a nostalgic mood when partaking in activities such as, for example, a innocent visit to Toys 'R Us or a trip to Chuck E. Cheese with my wife & children. Indeed, many a birthday party throughout my younger days saw yours truly running between a table filled with pizza and any number of games such as the perennials Skee-Ball, Whack-A-Mole and the like. A few dives into the ball pit and a sing-along with the animatronic band usually rounded out what was always a stellar experience.
However, life being what it is, I soon aged out of children's amusement centers and, despite having held employment throughout high school at Brookfield, Wisconsin institutions Fun World (formerly All Seasons Family Fun) and even Chuck E. Cheese at one point, my interests lay elsewhere. As the years went by and my relationship with then-girlfriend/now-wife Kathy grew, we found ourselves spending the occasional evening searching for a place to eat, and on more than one instance the road to dinner took us back to Chuck E. Cheese, where we'd spend a hour winning copious amounts of tickets and washing down suburban Italian cuisine with vast amounts of dispensable soda. It was a moment where we felt like kids again-clearly, the good old days had returned.
In 2008, while on a trip back from Green Bay with Kathy, we decided to stop in the quaint Fox Valley town of Appleton for a visit to Funset Boulevard, a place my wife had been to as a youth. I immediately fell in love with the place, and though it would be another four years before we returned, now with our 10-month old daughter in tow, the feelings upon re-entering were just as rich. The time between visits grew shorter as the years went by, to the point where were found ourselves gracing the hallowed grounds of a middle-Wisconsin amusement center at least once a year.
A walk inside Funset Boulevard feels like a passage into days gone by-a first glimpse might exude the appearance of any number of similar businesses, but that quickly changes once immersed within. A large assortment of arcade games, ranging from the latest racing/shoot-em-up/Dance Dance Revolution variants to a section of Galaga-esque classics, fills a portion of the floor, while nearby exists a wealth of skill games, one of which may or may not be themed after Ghostbusters. Funset Boulevard even has a working Guitar Freaks, an early-2000s precursor to Guitar Hero, and no respectable venue such as this would be complete without the mighty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, arguably the king of all games.
For the actual children, a giant play structure filled with tunnels, nets, slides and the like sits next to a simply adorable train and a soft play area for the smaller patrons, complete with a tiny ball pit, percussion instruments and even a puppet stage adorned with pictures of 1993's beloved adaptation of The Little Rascals and, interestingly, an ancient teaser poster for Home Alone. There's also lazer tag, a scaled-down bowling alley, bumper cars and a carousel. Scattered throughout are a number of themed coin-operated rides as well, from the Batmobile to The Jetsons. Truly, Funset Boulevard has everything.
Feeling winded? Maybe the onslaught of Funset Boulevard's entertainment has taken it out of you, so to speak. Luckily, overlooking the main play area is a fully staffed restaurant with a decent menu and friendly service befitting of such a classy establishment, with photos from classic films and even another Batmobile in which one can consume their meal. In case you're wondering if sitting in a replica Batmobile will make your food taste better, the answer is a resounding yes.
Funset Boulevard is worth the drive, a place that feels like the perfect marriage between the past and present, one that caters beautifully to the very young and the young at heart. It may not seem like much to some, but to a person like myself, to a wide-eyed child ready for a good time, and to anyone looking to spend a few hours surrounded by joy, Funset Boulevard is all of that, and much more.
I'll see you there.