Punch Bowl Social

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IMG_2019What’s to Love:  Punch Bowl Social is not a local company, and it’s located in the Pioneer Place Mall in downtown Portland. To many Portlanders, this may be two strikes against this national brand. I have to admit, the first time I headed over to scope-out the place for a possible article, I was skeptical. On my two visits to Punch Bowl Social, I observed a super clean space that provides indoor activities for a range of ages, and it’s definitely worth checking-out, especially for families.

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Wilsonville Family Fun Center & Bullwinkle’s Restaurant

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Frog Hopper Ride with Kidopolis Indoor Playland Play Structure in the backgroundWhat’s to Love: We’ve been going to the Family Fun Center for the past 8+ years, and it remains one of our absolute favorite destinations. I cannot say enough good things about the place. The staff members are friendly and responsive, the entire place is clean, there are SO MANY options for fun both indoor and outdoor, and they continually upgrade the attractions. Since we first went back in 2007, they’ve added a Sky Trail ropes course, Soaring Eagle Zipline, a new Kidopolis playland, cool new arcade and video games, and the awesome XD Dark Ride. Check out all the attractions here.

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Ultrazone: Portland’s Best Laser Tag

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IMG_1844What’s to Love:  We recently had a birthday party for our oldest son at Ultrazone, Portland’s best laser tag venue. After a delightful experience with their party planner, staff, and facility, I must agree with their moniker. The entire experience from start to finish was well organized and fun for all. Just be warned, if you’re a parent playing with kids, you have no chance of winning a game. The kids will follow you around  and tag you every chance they get! It’s a venue where adults and kids can play safely together.

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Grand Central Bowling

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Grand Central BowlingWhat’s to Love:  Simply stated, this is one of the nicest bowling alleys you’ll ever visit in the greater Portland area. I haven’t been to all of them, but Grand Central is head and shoulders above most of the ones I’ve visited. Your family will certainly enjoy the leather couches, tables and food service right at your lane, upstairs game room, and cleanliness of the entire establishment.

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Interview: Portland Rock Gym’s Anna Rymill

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Do you and/or your kids want to learn to rock climb?  Here is your chance. Portland Rock Gym (PRG) is offering a 2 for 1 “Introduction to Climbing” course just for Portland Family Adventures! Learning in the gym is the best way to get started with the basics, and it’s a great workout as well. Just click the ad, print the coupon, and bring it to the gym. Here is an interview with PRG employee Anna Rymill.


Portland Family Adventures (PFA):  Who are you and what’s your job at PRG?

Anna:  My name is Anna and I’m a manager at the PRG.

PFA:  How did you get started in climbing and what do you find so compelling about the sport?

Anna:  I started climbing a few years ago on a whim.  It was something I had always wanted to try but growing up in Michigan I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get on the rock.  When I moved out to Oregon I made climbing one of my goals and have been trying to push myself and my limits in the sport ever since.  The first time I tried climbing was outdoors and when I reached the top of French’s Dome in the Mt Hood National Forest I was in awe!  It was an amazing feeling and one I want to be able to repeat for the rest of my life.

Climbing allows access to some very beautiful places.  I love exploring new areas and climbing on different types of rock.  Nothing beats spending a beautiful day outside with friends doing what you love!  Climbing indoors is a great way to stay in shape.  Climbing is full body conditioning and after a nice long session you will feel it!  The whole time you’re doing it, most likely with one or more partners, you’re having fun.  You don’t have your headphones on; you’re fully engaged in the activity and with your peers.

Climbing challenges you not only physically but also mentally.  It requires getting out of your comfort zone and seeing how far you can push yourself.  Repeatedly doing that builds self-confidence and self-assurance, among other things.  These are highly valuable traits both on and off the rock!


PFA:  Being originally established in 1988, The Portland Rock Gym is a beloved institution in the NW climbing scene.  While some businesses have been hit hard by the economic downturn, PRG continues to thrive and even expand.  What is the secret to PRG’s success?

Anna:  The secret to the Portland Rock Gym’s success is definitely it’s loyal customers!  The PRG has been part of the Portland climbing community for 25 years and many of our members have been with us ever since.  PRG provides customers with an awesome facility to train and hone skills or create new ones if you’re just starting out.  PRG is always trying to improve both the gym and the benefits to being a member.  All that work goes a long way and is appreciated by our customers who keep coming back.

This past summer PRG had it’s biggest facelift since being at the current location (2003).  PRG added almost 3000 sq ft of climbing terrain and resurfaced and repainted all the existing walls.  With the upgrade came a TON of new holds for the new walls.  PRG was fortunate and is thankful to be able to provide a whole new climbing experience for its customers.  They give us so much and without them the Portland Rock Gym wouldn’t be possible!

Climbing overall has seen a rise in popularity over the last 10 years and with that brings a new demographic of customers to the gym.  Youth climbing has become enormously popular.  Climbing is no longer seen as a rogue sport but instead something the whole family can enjoy together!

PFA:  There is no doubt in my mind that many kids love to climb, one way for them to get started is to take an introductory course at PRG? Can you tell us a little about the introductory course and what they can expect? 

Anna:  The Introductory Lesson is a great option for kids or families looking to get started in climbing.  This course will teach you everything you need to know to get started top roping indoors.  It will teach you how belay, how to tie in as the climber, rope management, safety skills and various commands.  It also comes with a FREE week of climbing and gear rental!  For a week after the class every time you come in, your day pass and gear rental are all included.

Kids 12 years of age and older are eligible to take the Introductory Lesson.  It’s a great option for either siblings or a parent and child.  If you have two siblings it is something they can learn and continue to come back to the gym and do together.    For a parent and child it’s an awesome activity to do together.  It gives parents a fun and healthy option to do with their child at any time.

PFA:  If kids are under 12 years old, what options do they have at PRG?  What is the minimum age requirement?

Anna:  For kids under 12 years of age there are still plenty of options.  Kids of any age can always come in with their parent or legal guardian and climb either on belay (if their parent has prior belay experience/knowledge) or in the bouldering area.  If their parent doesn’t know how to belay they can use the auto-belays or go into the bouldering area.

However, bouldering can be a bit trickier with young kids since they aren’t attached to a rope to catch them when they fall.  They fall onto big pads but parents need to make sure those pads are there for the kids and positioned in the appropriate spot so they don’t hit a corner and twist their ankle.  I believe climbing on a rope is a much better option for young ones.

For kids 6 – 11 years old PRG offers the Kids Klimb.  Kids Klimb is every Saturday and Sunday and Portland Public School holiday from 1-4pm.  PRG staff belay kids during this time.  Parents just get to watch or take pictures and encourage their children to the top!

PRG also has a Youth Climbing Club that meets every Wednesday and/or Friday afternoon from 4-5:30.  This is also for ages 6-11 and is a fun after school activity to help burn off some energy before heading home.

During the winter, spring, and summer breaks PRG offers Climbing Camps.  These are 4 day long camps that help kids build or improve skills.  We have a huge facility that allows us to set up some really cool activities during the camps.  Kids will climb to the top of the Cargo Net hanging from the ceiling and go for a ride on the King Swing!  They get a lot of climbing time in the camps but again the size of the building allows us to do other really cool activities that aren’t offered locally anywhere else.


PFA:  Certainly, some parents will feel like climbing is too dangerous, and as a climber myself, I’m aware of inherent risks every time I rope up.  However, statistically, I think that I have a far greater chance getting injured in a car accident on my way to the gym or crag.  For parents with anxiety, what can you tell them about safety and PRG?

Anna:  The Portland Rock Gym prides itself on providing an environment where climbing can be done safely.  Before customers are allowed to rope up they must pass a belay check to make sure they are using the equipment properly and tying their knot correctly.  This includes PRG staff!  All of our staff members are climbers and have a lot of experience participating in climbing and teaching.  PRG staff members will always make sure everything is in order before we belay kids or adults.  We’ll also make sure families understand how to properly use the auto-belays.  If someone is interested in bouldering we will explain to them proper spotting technique as well as appropriate crash pad placement.

As I mentioned earlier, ropes climbing is a great activity for young kids because it takes the falling element out of the game.  When a child falls on belay they don’t go anywhere, they just hang in space until they get back on the wall.  Falling while bouldering can be potentially more dangerous because you fall however many feet until you hit the ground.  Although, done correctly you can lessen the chances of having a bad fall.  Proper spotting and using a crash pad, as well as down climbing from routes, will all help keep kids and adults injury free.

I think that is the best aspect of the Portland Rock Gym.  We offer both ropes climbing and bouldering.  It offers the customer more options so depending on what you’re after or where your comfort level is at PRG can accommodate you.

PFA:  Finally, what are some of your favorite places to climb both locally and around the US?

Anna:  I’ll climb anywhere!  Locally, I enjoy climbing at Broughton’s Bluff, Beacon Rock or Carver in the summer.  All 3 locations are super close to Portland and offer great climbing.  Of course when I’m able to go a little further like Smith or Leavenworth I’ll take those too!  Smith is a world class climbing destination and there are great routes both sport and trad.

My favorite place to climb is usually the last place I went to (haha).  Right now that would be Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.  It’s a beautiful spot, commonly described as magical.  It’s a very fitting adjective.  I can’t wait to get back!

I’ll be heading to Ecuador to do some climbing over the holidays so I’m sure when I return that will be my new favorite spot.

Thank You Portland Family Adventures!!!

Club Sport Adventure Center

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DSC03884What’s to Love:  For years I’ve been hearing about Club Sport’s giant climbing walls, which are up to 45 feet tall! According to their website, Club Sport’s Adventure Center is the largest climbing facility (11, 500 square feet) in Oregon. The Center offers a nice variety of terrain including bouldering, steep lead climbing, a chimney area, slabs, and some cracks. Until last week, Club Sport’s mega walls have eluded our sending attempts. During our recent visit, we had a pleasant experience highlighted by a clean and open atmosphere featuring outstanding route setting.

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Portland Trail Blazers – 2012/2013

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A Portland Trail Blazer game is fun for the whole family! There are many packages and ticket options for families.

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Big Al’s: Vancouver & Beaverton

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What’s to Love:  If there’s one thing I love, it’s a sparkling clean bowling alley.  You’ll definitely find it at Big Al’s and much more! This entertainment hub features plenty of lanes for public bowling, a private bowling area, a HUGE sports bar and grill, video and arcade games, bowling pro shop, and plenty of space for group events.

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Portland Rock Gym – 2012 Update!

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What’s to Love: Originally opened in 1988, Portland Rock Gym (PRG) has become a cornerstone of the Pacific Northwest climbing scene. When opened, it was one of the first modular climbing gyms in the United States (history).  Many Portland area climbers are affiliated with this gym in one way or another.  Even among competing businesses, I have never heard a negative word about the gym, and it’s reputation is just as strong today as it was 12 years ago when I first climbed there.

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Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark

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Wings & Waves WaterparkWhat’s to Love:  I can’t say enough good things about the entire Evergreen facility, which includes a space museum, aviation museum, digital 3D theater, and the Wings & Waves Waterpark. These are beautiful museums that will ignite your child’s imagination and fascinate the whole family.  The sheer magnitude of Evergreen astounds me.  All of these facilities are on par with anything on the national level, and believe it or not, they are located just 40 miles from Portland.  

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Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park

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IMG_0508What’s to Love:   This is an update to the original Lumberyard article published in May of 2012. In our first article, this awesome indoor bike park wasn’t even officially open. We were some of the first outsiders they let in to preview the terrain. As I stated back then, I was completely awestruck by the genius of the entire place. With the bike culture in Portland, I knew this business would serve the community for a long time. Well into the second year, we took another look, and it remains a place that tests the skills of everyone from toddlers on push bikes to the most advanced mountain bike, free-ride, and BMX riders. If you haven’t been to the Lumberyard, I urge you to check-it-out!

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Ripzu Indoor Skatepark

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Ripzu Indoor SkateparkWhat’s to Love:  On May 2nd, 2012, Ripzu will be reopening!!!  They were able to work things out with their landlord and will be moving the entire space into the side with the mini-pipe.

On our ever continuing 2011 skatepark tour, we managed to find this gem in Vancouver, WA.  Ripzu has been open about a year and a half, but it seems like a brand new facility to me. Everything is in excellent condition with a superior riding surface and one of the nicest layouts for beginning riders in the Portland area.  

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ComedySportz “4” Kidz

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What’s to Love:  ComedySportz “4” Kidz is an improvisational comedy show that will have the whole family laughing.  I’ve seen the regular “ComedySportz” version before, but this was my first time to the “Kidz” version – it did not disappoint!  I can’t say enough about these performers who get up in front of families without a script and pull off such an entertaining show.

Haven’t seen the show?  Luckily, ComedySportz hosts the “4 Kidz” special once per month (3rd Sundays at 2PM).  You’ll want to attend soon with your family, and luckily, ComedySportz is giving away 4 tickets to one drawing winner via Portland Family Adventures.  Make a comment at the bottom of this article or on Facebook by Wednesday, April 25th (12PM), and I’ll enter your name in the drawing.

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The Source Climbing Center – Vancouver, WA

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The Source Climbing CenterWhat’s to Love:  For climbers, especially with kids, it doesn’t get much better than here in the Portland area.  We have some world-class bouldering and climbing gyms all within a 15 mile radius of downtown Portland.  Opening November of 2011, The Source Climbing Center in downtown Vancouver, WA is the latest addition to the climbing community.  Beautifully designed, The Source was built from scratch and offers a totally separate area for young children and beginners interested in climbing.

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Parent & Child Yoga

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Before I get into this yoga business, I have to mention Shine Integrative Physical Therapy (SPT). For 20+ years, I’ve experienced chronic neck pain, and I’ve tried about everything to fix it. While most of what I’ve tried did yield positive results (including yoga!), the physical therapy and care I’ve received from SPT has made the pain almost non-existent.  If you’ve experienced the same-old-same-old from physical therapists, you might want to give SPT a call.  You won’t regret it.

Let’s talk about yoga!  As you may or may not know, I have been a yoga instructor myself since around 2002.  If it were up to me, all schools would be required to begin with various yoga practices including breathing exercises, meditative reflections, and simple postures.  I think this would improve the quality of education.  I think it would help focus student attention during long days filled with listening and sitting.

Most likely, your kids are not experiencing yoga at school or anywhere else for that matter. SPT not only offers excellent physical therapy, but to help compliment their care, they offer plenty of yoga classes.  One class in particular (Parent & Child Yoga) caught my attention while waiting to see one of Shine’s therapists.  Instructor Leslie Wilda also has put together a regularly occurring yoga-pajama party.  Here is an excerpt from my interview with her.

PFABefore we get into some specifics for kids and parents, please tell us a bit about yourself and your credentials concerning yoga instruction.

Leslie:  I came to know yoga later in life. I was in my mid thirties and living in Sri Lanka when a friend brought me to a class that was being taught by a Sri Lankan who did not speak English very well but could fold himself into this incredibly small pose. It was interesting, so I went back. It wasn’t until the birth of my son in 2007 though that I developed my own home practice as a way to ease the challenges of being a single parent. I then completed a 200 hr teacher training with Shiva Rea as a way to enhance my practice.

When my son turned two I attended a kids yoga training by Rainbow Kids Yoga because I wanted to learn ways to practice with my son, but instead I had this “aha” moment during the training and I immediately knew that I wanted to change my career path and begin sharing yoga with kids. I’ve been teaching kids for two years now and it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

PFAWhile you run a mobile studio (Yoga Playgrounds), it seems that you have a Parent-Child Yoga class setup with Shine Physical Therapy at their Shine Yoga studio.  As stated in the introductory paragraph, I had such an incredible experience working on a chronic neck problem with their physical therapists, and I noticed they integrated yoga into their therapy.  Can you talk a bit about your relationship with Shine?  What are some of the advantages to working with a reputable group of physical therapists and being part of their structure?

Leslie:  I think yoga therapy is becoming increasingly widespread as research begins to highlight its many benefits. Last year I completed my first generalized kids yoga therapy training and am continuing my studies to broaden the foundation of knowledge and tools I currently have to enable me to work with kids having a variety of specific health issues. I was fortunate to begin teaching at Shine when they opened last November.

Having a great working relationship with physical therapists who are experts in their field allows me to draw on their vast base of knowledge and apply it to what I already know. This association between kids’ yoga and physical therapy also lends credibility for many people who have never heard about yoga therapy. More and more people are learning that yoga can help kids who face a variety of health issues like anxiety, depression stress, constipation, asthma, ADD and much more.

PFAI’m a yoga teacher myself, but I can’t imagine teaching a room filled with kids. Yoga is usually such a quiet and reflective practice.  What does it look like for kids and parents?  Do you let their energy become part of the practice itself?

Leslie:  For one thing, a kids’ yoga class is definitely a lot noisier and more-fast-paced than a traditional adult yoga class.  And as anyone who has been around kids knows….they don’t always do what you want them to do. Many times I’ve had to let go of any preconceived notions about what I thought class would look like and just go with the flow, which is what yoga tries to teach us anyway. My classes offer a balance of structure and spontaneity so that the kids are learning as well as getting the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Classes for very young kids (ages 2.5-5) and their parents, like the ones I offer at Shine on Wednesdays at 9:30 and Fridays at 10:30 are very playful.  Music, fun props, stories, partner poses and giving silly names to poses all help keep the kids interested, and although the energy level in class is always high, kids really love the relaxation time at the end of every class.

PFAThere might be some parents who might not want to go because they do not practice yoga.  They might imagine some of the common stereotypes associated with yoga:  a dark room, chanting, people meditating, being bent into a pretzel, etc.  However, they might think yoga is beneficial for their child.  What can you tell these parents to alleviate some of their concerns?

Leslie:  For some adults, that is what their yoga looks like. But yoga is a personal activity that looks different for everyone, and I would encourage anyone who has never experienced it to give it a try, especially at Shine where the first class is free. They will find those stereotypes just don’t hold true for my kids’ classes…although many kids do enjoy bending themselves into pretzels with seemingly no effort at all!

PFAWhy should kids do yoga?  What are some of the gains you’ve seen with kids who practice regularly?

Leslie:  I could go on and on here. The movements, the focus on breath awareness, and the relaxation inherent in a yoga practice all help kids develop better body awareness and improved self-esteem….both very powerful components of a healthy body image. Yoga can also help kids regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves….tools that will be useful to them their entire lives. Yoga also encourages better posture, coordination, focus, strength, self-discipline and self-control…plus it’s non-competitive and encourages positive peer to peer interaction. And it helps kids set the foundation for lifelong wellness…in both their
body and their mind.

PFAIf this sounds interesting to parents, how do they get started with the class at Shine? What do they need to bring to class?

Leslie:  The first class at Shine is always free, and parents can sign up for class ahead of time on the website or they can just drop in. I recommend comfortable clothing, but nothing else is needed. Classes for kids ages 2.5 and a grownup meet Wednesdays at 9:30 and Fridays at 10:30, and every other month I offer an evening yoga pajama party at Shine for kids ages 5-9. Kids come dressed in their pajamas and we go on a magical yoga journey while parents enjoy a night out on their own. It’s great for both the kids and their parents.


Stoneworks Climbing Gym

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Stoneworks GymWhat’s to Love:  This is our third update to our first visit way back in 2007. Stoneworks continues to grow by adding  bunch of new climbing, auto belays, and a “highball” bouldering area with walls up to 20 feet high. This is perhaps the friendliest gym you’ll visit on your quest to get pumped up. In addition, Stoneworks offers excellent instruction, unpretentious, and no attitude whatsoever from fellow climbers.  If you and your kids have never climbed before, Stoneworks Gym is an excellent place to learn the basics!

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Curious Comedy Theater

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What’s to Love:  My band for kids and families (The Toy Trains) recently had a show at The Curious Comedy Theater with other local “Kindie” artists Johnny & Jason and Mo Phillips.  Check-out the video clips below in the text of the article.  I wanted to do a short write-up about this wonderful little (non-profit) theater that provides a wide variety of comedy shows and special shows just for kids and families.

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Bouldering at The Circuit Gym

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What’s to Love: I’m republishing this article because The Circuit now has a Northeast location (410 NE 17th Ave.) as well as their SW Macadam location (6050 SW Macadam Ave).  The NE location is EVEN BIGGER than their Macadam spot, which is hard to believe.  Also, the NE location has more kid-friendly climbing with a cool slide and bridge structure.  I’ve included some pictures and a video clip.

Over the years, The Circuit has been one of my absolute favorite indoor places to take my oldest son (now 7). We were going so often that I had to get a yearly membership, which can be paid monthly via automatic debit (nice!). This is an amazing experience for young children, and we started our first son here when he was around two years old. Bouldering is a form of climbing where there is no need for a rope due to the fact that you’re never very far off the ground. The emphasis is practicing and mastering hard sequences of moves.

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Revolution Parkour

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IMG_0547What’s to Love:  “Functional Fitness” is a trendy term these days.  What does it mean?  I’m sure I could gather many definitions from practitioners, teachers, and students.  To me, it means exercising in dynamic/non-linear ways like rolling, tumbling, climbing, twisting, turning, jumping, leaping, grasping, etc.  Most importantly, the movements have to be done with a mindful intent on the technique.  Oh yeah, it MUST be fun!  It’s the type of fitness that makes you feel like a kid again.  Revolution Parkour houses one of the first Parkour Academies in the country, and after experiencing a course first-hand with my son, I can certainly attest to the “having fun” aspect.

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John’s Incredible Pizza

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John's Incredible PizzaWhat’s to Love:  Open just a couple of weeks now (Grand Opening on Tuesday, March 29th, 3PM to 9PM), we spent nearly 3-hours at John’s Incredible Pizza playing games, enjoying the rides, and eating.  This place is HUGE (46,000 square feet) with over 110 games, but it’s the little things that actually make John’s worth a visit.

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