My husband had a work conference in Anchorage, Alaska and we decided, let’s make it a family trip!
The first few days in Alaska my husband was summoned to work meetings from morning until night, so I was responsible for entertaining, feeding, and caring for our two little toddlers, ages 3 and 1. We stayed at a beautiful resort outside of Anchorage. The land was wonderfully undeveloped and very few restaurants existed. The ones that did exist were very nice, and in several instances, I had no choice but to eat at nice restaurants with my toddlers due to logistics.
This might sound nice, but as anyone who has experience with small children can imagine, I was worried. What would they do? Would they make a huge mess? Would they ruin other people’s fine dining experience? Would they do something I can’t even think of??
For better or worse, my trip to Alaska taught me a few lessons about how to take a toddler to a fancy restaurant!
To say I was anxious about the dinner was an understatement. While perusing the hotel I’d often bump into one of my husband’s co-workers.
“Are you enjoying Alaska?” they’d ask. “What have you done so far? Have you been to Seven Glaciers restaurant yet?! It’s a 4-star restaurant—you’ve gotta go!”
While waiting in the lobby, the valet would ask, “Have you been to Seven Glaciers restaurant yet? You haven’t gone yet??”
Every time we passed the concierge, she’d ask, “Have you been to Seven Glaciers restaurant yet? You’ve gotta go!”
When I explained that it might be too nice for me and my grubby toddlers, she assured me it was fine. “It’s kid friendly—they even have a KID’S MENU!” she exclaimed.
To get to Seven Glaciers restaurant, you have to take a gondola to the top of a mountain, then some stairs, then an elevator. I attempted the journey with my 1-year-old in the stroller while simultaneously holding my 3-year-old’s hand. (I used my best “mom death grip”.) When the elevator doors to the restaurant opened, the hostess watched me, her jaw dropped wide open.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Yes, I don’t have a reservation, but I’d like to see if I can get a table for 3?” I tried my hardest to say it with confidence.
She quickly broke eye contact and looked down at her seating chart. Her expression was a cocktail of confused and horrified.
“Umm, sure. Let me see what I have available,” she said, quickly disappearing for a minute. For a second, I thought she was going to call the cops.
She seated us at a table near glass windows that extended from ceiling to floor, and when I looked out the window, I couldn’t believe my view. I was staring at lush, green, undeveloped mountains from every which way, and at the top was a striking view of—you guessed it—seven glaciers! The view was truly phenomenal.
For better or worse, my trip to Alaska taught me a few lessons about how to take a toddler to a fancy restaurant! So if you find yourself in a similar situation, hopefully you’ll benefit from my experience. Here we go!
How to TAKE A TODDLER TO A FANCY Restaurant
- Set expectations. “Landon, I’m about to take you to a really, really nice restaurant. While we are in the restaurant, I need you to talk softly, sit in your chair, and eat your dinner quietly. Can you do that for me?” My son replied with an honest “no”, but I hope you’ll get a different answer from your kid.
- Place the highchair far away. As we were seated, I noticed the long, white tablecloths topped with candles and wine glasses. So I put Armin in his highchair and moved him 2 feet away from the table, this way he wouldn’t pull at the tablecloth, creating a fire and breaking wine glasses. Armin, however, outsmarted me and began kicking the tablecloth with his feet, so I had no choice but to place him 3 feet away. He was practically dining with our neighbors, but at least we were safe.
- Order something your kid will eat. I believe that kids should typically eat healthy, and when possible, they should eat the same food their parents are eating. At this moment, my rules flew out the window. I felt nervous and helpless, so I ordered something I thought they would eat without protest. I ordered macaroni and cheese for the kids and salmon and chardonnay for me. When the food came, Armin, (who was teething, fussy, and sans nap), surprisingly refused to take one bite of the macaroni. After several attempts of trying to spoon feed him the macaroni, he looked angry, grabbed the spoon, and threw it at me. I decided not to press the issue, which brings me to my next point…
- Ask for bread or crackers. About ¾ of the way through dinner, the waiter asked if we’d like some bread. “Yes!!” I replied. Low and behold, the boys quietly ate their bread. It wasn’t a nutritious dinner that evening, but this exception was worthwhile. Bread is okay in survival mode.
- Eat as fast as you can, buy Tums later. Anyone with young kids appreciates restaurants where you can “get in” and “get out” before any meltdowns occur. I wanted to eat, enjoy the view, and be on our merry way before anything could go wrong. I scarfed down my food as fast as I could.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Before dinner, I asked Landon over and over if he needed to use the restroom. “No!” he insisted each time. As soon as the waiter brought our food, as if it were timed–Landon yelled, “MOMMY, I NEED TO USE THE POTTY!” We all went to the restroom. Since our stroller was checked by the hostess, I had to watch helplessly as Armin touched the bathroom floor, trash, and walls. (Yuck!) Landon needed my help, and I just didn’t have enough hands for everyone.
- Ask for the check early. Don’t wait for things to spiral out of control…ask for the check right after (or even during) your food.
- Keep them entertained. If we were at home, I would have come prepared with some table-friendly toys, but since we were traveling, I let Landon look at pictures and videos on my phone while I played “name that body part!” with Armin. Everyone was entertained for a ripe 10 minutes.
- Clean up. Be polite. Tidy up a bit and leave the table and floor respectable.
- Tip well and run like hell. If the service was good and your server was pleasant (even though you brought your toddlers along), leave a good tip. Then get the hell out of dodge.
Have you taken your kids to fancy restaurants? How did it go, and what are your best tips for success?
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