My daughter and I went to Chuck E Cheese last night!! :) The good news is that with the holiday weekend, when people are going out of town, camping, etc., it isn't so busy. :) That IS good news...because the place can be kind of a mad house. But remember, "mad house" to adults interprets to GREAT fun for the kids! :)
My daughter is to be 5 in a month and a half. Chuck E Cheese is a very safe place - they stamp you as your going in, and so they can't leave or 'be taken out' by anyone but you because they check your hands for the stamps on the way out the door. But a few safety rules are a good idea. One of the cool things about Chuck E Cheese is that, with the safety measures in place of the numbered hands, you don't have to be on top of your kids the entire time you're there. But I definitely don't let her run wild!! I tell her, no running, I give her three tokens so she has to come back to get more when those are gone, so she's constantly checking in with me...and I still keep my eye on her.
I talk to her about being patient and taking turns. And I still tell her not to talk to strangers. No running...just walk...and to be respectful and be sure not to knock into people...and to be careful because there are some two year olds running around and so they could hurt them.
Also...it can be difficult to get them to leave without a fight. So I tell her, when the tokens are gone, it's time to get toys with the tickets you receive...you will want to take the tickets from them each time they return for more tokens so they don't drop or lose them. And I don't let her 'open' the toys until we're back in the car...so she is okay with leaving.
OH...and as far as the drive...it's VERY easy to spend an hour and a half or more at Chuck E Cheese...between eating and playing games, it takes some time to do it all.
There is also a tube playground in most of them that is free and takes even more time...so I think the travel time is fine. My rule is that I want to spend at least 1 1/2 the amount of time there that it takes to get there. With Chuck E Cheese, that will be NO problem! :)
Have a great time!! :)