The key to eating out with small kids is choosing a spot where kid noise is welcome, prices are reasonable, and there’s food on the menu that your kids will actually eat.

Here are the best restaurants for kids, by category:

 

1. Best national chain restaurants for birthdays:

McDonald’s:

$59.99 gets you a party for ten children, with ten Happy Meals, party favors, games, cake and ice cream. Some McDonald’s restaurants also let you use the play area for your private party.

California Pizza Kitchen:

Party packages are $10.00 per child, and that includes behind-the-scenes kitchen tours, interactive pizza-making and chef coat for the birthday child, pizza, a drink, and ice cream for each guest. Every child also gets a paper chef’s hat to decorate.

Uno’s Pizzeria:

Uno’s party packages include a tour of the restaurant and kitchen to see the chefs work and learn about pizza making, and each child gets an apron and supplies to make their own pizza.

Cici’s Pizza:

Rent Cici’s Pizza party rooms for just $25.00, and bring your own party decor and cake. There’s no minimum number of guests, and you pay the regular menu prices for everyone to eat at the pizza buffet ($4.79 per child).

All Cici’s Pizzas have an arcade, so bring some quarters for guests to play games.

Rainforest Cafe:

Party packages cost between $15.00-$20.00 for ten guests, and include a meal from the Wild Bunch birthday menu, plus activity books, crayons, a Wild Safari hat, Wild Bunch collectible kids’ plates, and birthday bash invitations with envelopes.

Chick-fil-A:

A typical birthday party package costs $7.00-$12.00 per child, and your guests get coloring sheets and crayons, a kid’s meal, ice cream cone, gift bag with coupons and favors, a balloon, and a shirt for the birthday child. The Chick-fil-A cow also shows up to say hi and take photos with the children.

Each Chick-fil-A is independently owned, so party packages vary by location.

Cold Stone Creamery:

Kids learn how ice cream is made, then go behind the counter and scoop their own ice cream, making whatever kind they want. Each location varies on pricing, but expect to pay about $6.00 per child with a minimum of 10 guests.

Dairy Queen:

Dairy Queen party packages vary by location, but parties usually include kids’ meals, ice cream, ice cream cake, games and goodie bags. Some DQ stores have teamed up with local locations like baseball fields or skating rinks to offer joint party packages.

Fuddruckers:

Fuddruckers has an entire arcade in the restaurant where kids can play, making it an instant win.

For kids 12 years old or younger, you’ll pay $9.99 per child. Each child receives a kid’s meal, drink, ice cream scoop and cookie plus $5.00 in arcade tokens.

Dave & Buster’s:

Dave & Buster’s party packages range from $19.99-$33.99 per child, with a minimum of 10 guests. The amount of food and play cards ranges depending on price, but all packages will include food, unlimited drinks, a Power Card with set amount of money to spend on games, and tickets for the birthday child. They also offer free online party invitations.

Chuck E. Cheese:

Party packages range in price from $14.99-$24.99 per child, with a four-child minimum. All packages will include pizza, unlimited drinks, Play Cards, star mentions in the Birthday show, and a ticket blaster experience for the birthday child.

Choose between four themes: “Dressed in Pink Party” (includes a light-up headband and bracelet), “Sports, Sports, Sports” (includes a mini sports ball and 2 thunder sticks), “Party Like a Rockstar” (includes an echo phone and light-up wristband), or “Chuck E. SuperFan” (includes a birthday shirt) .

Red Lobster:

Red Lobster doesn’t offer party packages, but most Red Lobster locations have a party room that you can rent for parties. You can bring in balloons, decorations and your own cake. Also score a free birthday dessert by signing up for Red Lobster’s Fresh Catch Club.

Olive Garden:

Just like Red Lobster, Olive Garden doesn’t offer party packages, but they do have party rooms available for large groups or parties, and you can bring in your own party decor. Score a free birthday dessert by signing up for Olive Garden’s rewards program.

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels:

Auntie Anne’s party packages are $5.00 per child, with a maximum of ten guests. The fee gets you a tour of the kitchen where kids learn how pretzels are made and roll out their own pretzel.

 

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2. Best kids-eat-free promos and discounts from national chains:

  • Applebee’s: Kids’ meals are $1.99 (or free) on select days depending on location, but typically Sundays or Tuesdays.
  • Beef ‘O’ Brady’s: Kids 12 and under eat free Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Bob Evans: Kids eat free all day on Tuesdays with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Kids eat free or for $1.99 on select nights (varies by location).
  • Chick-fil-A: Kids eat free on Tuesdays from 5-7:30 PM at select locations.
  • Cici’s Pizza: Kids 3 and under eat free every day.
  • Culver’s: Kids get a free scoop of custard with a purchased kids’ meal every day.
  • Denny’s: Kids eat free every Thursday from 4-10 PM.
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: Kids 12 and under eat free every Sunday, plus score a free ice cream cone every day.
  • Famous Dave’s: Kids eat free all day Tuesday with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Firehouse Subs: Kids 12 and under eat free with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Friendly’s: Kids eat free Wednesdays from 5-8 PM with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Fuddruckers: On Mondays kids 12 and under eat for just $0.99 with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Golden Corral: Kids 3 and under eat free every day.
  • IHOP: Kids eat free every day of the week from 4-10 PM with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Jason’s Deli: Kids eat free (or for $0.99) on Sundays (varies by location) and get free ice cream with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Jersey Mike’s: Kids 12 and under eat free on Sundays with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Joe’s Crab Shack: Kids eat free every Monday with purchase of an adult meal.
  • McAlister’s Deli: Kids 12 and under eat free Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Moe’s: Kids eat free on Tuesdays from 3-9 PM with the purchase of an adult meal. One free kids meal per adult meal purchased.
  • Perkins: Kids 12 and under can eat free on Tuesdays with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Pizza Hut: Kids 10 and under eat free at the buffet with purchase of an adult buffet.
  • Ponderosa: Kids eat free every Tuesday after 4 PM. Two free kids’ meals with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Red Robin: At participating locations kids eat free Tuesdays after 4 PM with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Ruby Tuesday: Kids eat free every Tuesday from 4-10 PM with the purchase of an adult meal.
  • Skyline Chili: Kids eat free on Wednesdays from 4-9 PM with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Sonic Drive-In: Get $1.99 kid’s meals when you sign up for their rewards program.
  • Steak ‘n Shake: Get a free kids’ meal every Saturday and Sunday with every $9.00 purchase.
  • Texas Roadhouse: Kids 12 and under eat free from 4-10 PM every Tuesday with purchase of an adult meal.
  • Tony Roma’s: Kids 12 and under eat free Tuesdays with purchase of an adult meal.
  • White Castle: Kids eat free Sundays from 4-8 PM with the purchase of an adult meal over $4.00.

 

 

3. Best overall kids’ menu:

Red Robin

Red Robin’s kids’ menu offers fun options like meatball lollipops, mini corn dogs, swirly twirly pasta and more. All kid’s menu items come with bottomless drinks and sides, and include fresh veggies and fruits. And, of course, a free birthday sundae!

Kid’s meal prices:

  • Red’s burger with endless drink and side: $4.99
  • Lil’ meatballs on a stick with endless drink and side: $4.99
  • Swirly twirly pasta with endless drink and side: $5.99
  • Grilled cheese with endless drink and side: $4.49

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A has tons of healthy menu items for kids including grilled nuggets, choice of applesauce, waffle fries or a fruit cup as a side, and milk or juice to drink.

Kid’s Meal prices:

  • 4-piece chicken nugget meal: $3.35
  • 6-piece chicken nugget meal: $4.05
  • 4-piece grilled nugget meal: $3.75
  • 1-piece chick-n-strips meal: $3.05
  • 2-piece chick-n-strips meal: $4.09

Jason’s Deli

$3.49-$4.59 gets you a healthy kid’s meal made with organic produce, nitrate-free lunch meat, and whole-grain bread. Kid’s meals also come with free soft serve ice cream, organic milk or apple juice, or a fountain drink.

Kid’s meal prices:

  • Mac & cheese with drink: $3.49
  • Cheese or pepperoni pizza with drink: $3.49
  • J.D. Nuggetz with side & drink: $4.29
  • Ham & cheese sandwich with side & drink: $3.99
  • Kids unlimited salad bar with drink: $4.59

Sweet Tomatoes Buffet

Sweet Tomatoes has a huge salad bar, eight made-from-scratch soups, three pastas and four kinds of salad. The salad bar alone has 30 ingredients to make your own combos. They also serve biscuits, muffins, fresh fruit and frozen yogurt.

Kids’ buffet prices (includes a drink: either milk, juice or a fountain drink):

  • Kids 2 & under: Free
  • Kids 3-6: $2.99
  • Kids 6-12: $5.99

Chili’s

Chili’s kids menu includes Pepper Pals cheesy chicken pasta and Pepper Pals grilled or crispy chicken dippers, which come with your child’s choice of sauce. Each meal has a side item like broccoli, celery sticks, fresh pineapple, kids house salad, and kid cob.

Kids meal prices:

  • Pepper Pals cheesy chicken pasta with side and drink: $5.50
  • Pepper Pals pizza with side and drink: $5.50
  • Pepper Pals chicken dippers with side and drink: $5.50
  • Pepper Pals grilled cheese with side and drink: $5.20
  • Pepper Pals cheese quesadilla with side and drink: $5.20

Cici’s Pizza

Cici’s is an all-you-can-eat buffet that includes pizza, soups, pasta, salad and desserts. Kids can choose from the pre-made buffet pizzas or have any custom-made pizza they want, made especially for them.

Kids’ meal prices:

  • Kids 3 and under: Free
  • Kids 3-10: $3.49
  • Drink: $1.29

 

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IHOP

Kids’ menu options include Create-A-Face Pancakes that let young artists create a face on their pancake using strawberries, whipped cream, a tube of strawberry yogurt and bananas; and, of course, the Jr. cupcake pancake combo.

Kids’ meal prices:

  • Funny Face pancake: $5.29
  • Jr. cupcake pancake combo: $5.99
  • Create-A-Face pancake: $5.99
  • Chicken and waffles: $5.99
  • Chicken nuggets: $5.49
  • Cheeseburger sliders: $5.99

Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill

The “make your own pizza” kid’s meal gets kids their own apron, pizza dough, sauce, and toppings. Other kid’s menu items include chicken pops, chicken tenders on a stick with ketchup and bbq sauce, baked dinosaur nuggets, cheeseburgers and more. Healthy sides like steamed broccoli, carrots and cucumbers, red grapes, side salad, and roasted veggies make parents happy too.

Kid’s meal prices:

  • Create your own pizza with a side and drink: $5.99
  • Create your own pasta with a side and drink: $5.49
  • Chicken on a stick with a side and drink: $5.49
  • Baked dinosaur nuggets with a side and drink: $4.49
  • Kid’s cheeseburger with a side and drink: $4.49

Steak ‘n Shake

Choose from burgers, mini corn dogs and mac & cheese. Each kids’ meal comes with a side, but you can add sides like applesauce, apple slices, baked beans, and mac & cheese for just $1.00. Dessert options start at just $0.50 and drinks are $1.29.

Kids’ meal prices:

  • Steakburger with side: $2.49
  • Grilled cheese with side: $2.29
  • Mini corn dogs with side: $2.49
  • Chicken tenders with side: $2.79

Chipotle

Two options for Chipotle’s “build your own taco or quesadilla” makes every kid happy. Each is served with seasonal fruit or chips, and juice or organic milk. The taco meal comes on a bento-box tray, and the child can then build their tacos themselves.

Kid’s meal prices:

  • Build your own taco with side and drink: $3.75
  • Cheese quesadilla with side and drink: $3.75
  • Quesadilla with meat, side and drink: $4.75

Perkins

Kid meals include a side, beverage and a dessert of your child’s choice. Sides include a cup of soup, fruit, salad, broccoli, corn, fries, mashed potatoes or applesauce, and you can add additional sides for just $0.99.

Kid meal prices:

  • Rainbow pancake with side and drink: $3.99
  • Mini chef salad with side and drink: $3.99
  • Cheeseburger with side and drink: $3.99
  • Chicken strips with side and drink: $3.99
  • Corn dog with side and drink: $3.99
  • French toast tower with side and drink: $3.99

 

4. Best overall environment for kids:

Chick-fil-A:

Play areas with a “toddler zone” and a “big kid zone” for older kids make is easy to keep them entertained while you wait for your food. Chick-fil-A also hosts event nights like princess nights, pirate nights, mom & me and dad & me nights.

Buffalo Wild Wings:

Kids get a free Buffalo Wild Wings paper hat, and there are free tablets loaded with games for kids at each table. Kids also get a small coloring book and crayons, plus each location has arcade games.

Red Robin:

Red Robin entertains kids from the minute they walk in the door. Ceiling-to-floor chalkboards to draw or write on in the waiting area, and chalkboard slate games keep kids busy. Each table also has a tablet with games for only $1.99. The kids’ menu doubles as an activity sheet, and each child gets free crayons. On the way out, your child can pick out a balloon to take home from the “balloon tree” at the front of the restaurant.

Cracker Barrel:

Relax in adult- and kid-sized rocking chairs outside, or play checkers games while you wait. The Old Country Store at the front of the restaurant also has toys and $0.10 lollipops. Kids get an activity book and crayons, and there are peg games at each table for kids to play.

The Rainforest Cafe:

Giant animals, trees, huge fish tanks, waterfalls and jungle “showers” every 30 minutes (including thunder and lightning) and an attached store for souvenirs make it practically impossible for kids to get bored. Each child also gets a free activity book and crayons.

Joe’s Crab Shack:

Some Joe’s Crab Shack locations have playgrounds for kids, and some locations also have sandboxes, swings or slides. Plus each child gets free coloring pages and crayons.

Texas Roadhouse:

Buckets of peanuts in the waiting area and at every table keep kids occupied from the moment they walk in the door. Who doesn’t get a kick out of throwing peanut shells on the floor? Many locations offer a Kids Night with free face painting, balloon animals and games. Plus, every hour on the hour the employees sing and dance in the aisles.

Cici’s Pizza:

After eating as much as they want from Cici’s unlimited buffet options, kids can have more fun playing in the arcade. Every Cici’s has an arcade located in the back of the restaurant for kids to play, with games starting at just $0.25.

Steak ‘n Shake:

Each child gets a menu, which doubles as an activity page, crayons, a Steak ‘n Shake hat to color and decorate, and a paper car with stickers.

Chili’s:

Chili’s gives each child a coloring page and crayons. For $1.99 kids can play unlimited games on the tabletop tablets.

Applebee’s:

Applebee’s gives each child a coloring page and crayons, and for $1.99 kids can play unlimited games on the tabletop tablets!

Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Buster’s and Fuddruckers:

All three of these restaurants have arcades, so no need to worry about noise (or entertainment).

 

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