Need a break from cooking mac and cheese? (Rhetorical question.) Haul the whole fam to one of these seven stellar culinary destinations, where nutrition is secondary to glitter lollipops, fairy sightings and flip-your-own pancakes.
1. Sugar Factory (New York, New York)
The decadent restaurant chain’s crown jewel is a tricked out, tri-level, 9,000-square-foot, ’Gram-worthy candy land in the heart of Manhattan’s clubby Meatpacking District. It’s open until 2 a.m., but its daytime clientele is more velvet onesie than velvet rope. On offer? Cotton-candy-garnished virgin cocktails, s’mores crepes, couture lollipops, rainbow doughnut ice-cream sandwiches and gold-flecked chocolate fondue fountains. One section of the menu is literally called “Insane Milkshakes.” If you want a vibe that’s Willy Wonka meets Scott Disick, this is your sweet spot.
835 Washington St., New York, NY; 212-414-8700 or sugarfactory.com
2. The airplane restaurant (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Feeding kids at 30,000 feet? Kind of a nightmare. Feeding kids at a restaurant housed inside a grounded repurposed 1953 Boeing military plane? Dream come true. Diners can sit in the terminal downstairs or upstairs in the plane itself, where servers introduce themselves as “flight attendants.” The fare is well-reviewed classic Americana. And kids who can’t stay seated (aka all of them) are welcome to explore the cockpit.
1665 N. Newport Rd., Colorado Springs, CO; 719-570-7656 or theairplanerestaurant.com
3. Firefly (Washington, D.C.)
Meals at this DuPont Circle favorite start with dessert: Each kid is given a personal cookie to decorate while orders are taken. Then, as soon as appetizers are placed on the salvaged barn-wood tables, their creations are whisked away to be baked. Many menu options are local, vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free and garnished with bounty from the rooftop garden. Another nod to sustainability? The giant, twinkly-light-adorned tree in the center of the dining room.
1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-861-1310 or firefly-dc.com
4. Be Our Guest Restaurant (Disney World, Orlando, Florida)
Step inside the Beast’s castle, where the enchanted rose glitters, the suits of armor talk, the paintings on the west wing walls are shredded and the meatloaf is shaped like Mickey ears(because of course it is). One Yelp reviewer even scored a post-dinner selfie with the Beast himself. Lumiere couldn’t have arranged it better.
Magic Kingdom Dr., Orlando, FL; 407-939-5277 or disneyworld.disney.go.com
5. Au Fudge (West Hollywood, California)
Jessica Biel’s culinary kids club makes childhood seem impossibly chic. Menu items include locally sourced cauliflower puree, spinach-ricotta flatbreads and unicorn macarons, but the real draws are the indoor treehouse, zipline, drum circles, robot-building workshops, private tutors to help with homework and on-site au pairs, who whisk your kid away to be looked after upon check-in if desired.
9010 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA; 424-204-9228 or aufudge.com
6. Slappy Cakes (Portland, Oregon)
Like Benihana but for farm-fresh DIY pancakes. Families pick their own batter (flavors range from buttermilk to peanut butter), select their fixins (blueberries, coconut, etc.) and toppings (lavender honey or local goat cheese, anyone?) then flip their flapjacks themselves on personal tabletop griddles. Mocktails for kids include a “Kremsicle” made from organic OJ, vanilla simple syrup and soda water. BRB, booking four flights to Portland.
4246 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR; 503-477-4805 or slappycakes.com
7. Crown & Crumpet (San Francisco, California)
Come for the faerie cakes and scones with clotted cream, but stay for the glitter crown crafting sessions — all delightfully overseen by Trolley Dolleys and Dandies (aka servers). Tiny, fantastical touches include the “faerie door” (be sure to leave a note in her post box). But the tea salon’s winning formula hinges on its mix of tradition and whimsy — there’s not a stitch of stuffiness to be found, despite the Queen Elizabeth portraits on the tablecloths. The menu’s “Nursery Tea” section featuring hot chocolate and bite-size sweets is specifically aimed at guests age 12 and under. A perfect fit for tiny princesses and their loyal subjects.
1746 Post St., San Francisco, CA; 415-771-4252 or crownandcrumpet.com