Best Birthday Party

by Pia Hansen

Even the people who work there admit the pizza is mostly for the adults. The main attraction is Chuck, or Chuck E., as he's known among friends. This giant, friendly, furry mouse has hugged his way through thousands of kids since he opened a restaurant chain in 1978, and he is still going strong.

"Yeah, isn't that something? He's 22 years old; he really doesn't look that old," says Sam Thompson, who's owned Spokane's Chuck E. Cheese (now located on North Nevada) since 1990. "He just loves to hug the kids, but he doesn't talk a whole lot -- he only likes to sing when he gets on stage."

Kids love the birthday parties Chuck E. throws. When you're the birthday boy or girl, you can reserve your own table and Chuck E. comes over to hang out and sing a special birthday song just for you. And of course you'll get an extra special mouse-squeeze when you turn a year older.

If hugging a mouse isn't high on the list of your favorite things to do on a birthday, consider all the other fun things you can do at Chuck E. Cheese: There are games and rides of all sorts and for all ages, and always lots and lots of other kids to play with.

Just like any hip 21st century mouse, Chuck E. has his own Web site at, where you can get anything from a Chuck E. Cheese Barbie (we are not making this up) to Chuck E. Cheese's own personal Hotwheel.

Chuck E. is always looking for new fun things to entertain his guests with (some guests report that he's a decent skateboarder -- nobody knows if he skis), and we are here to tell you that soon he'll head for the blue spring skies.

"He plans on taking up helicopter flying very soon," says Thompson. "His new helicopter will be coming in any day, and we can't wait to get him going on that."

Second place: McDonald's

Third place: Laser Quest