If you’ve read the paper or watched the news anytime in the past week, you’ve probably heard all of the hype about the new Ikea that opened in the University Area yesterday. Personally, I’d never been to an Ikea, and I was dying to see what it was all about. So this morning, I dropped my son off at preschool and my daughter and I headed on up there. And now, I’m a convert. That place is amazing. It is basically a one-stop shop for your home, from large furniture down to picture hangers and everything in between. The prices are unbeatable, and the designs are super cute. If you’re planning a trip there (and I highly recommend you do), here are a few things to know:
1. Ikea is located at Exit 43 (City Blvd) off of I-85 in Charlotte. You can’t miss it – you can see it from the Interstate. Hours are 10 – 9 Monday through Saturday and 10 – 7 on Sundays. I expected a madhouse, but it was very easy to get in and out. They had a huge team of parking lot attendants (like you would find at a sporting event), but I’m guessing that is just for the opening week crowds. There is a designated parking lot close to the front door for families (more on the family friendliness later).
2. The store is huge, but it is very easy to navigate. When you walk in the front door, pick up a map and a pencil. As you walk through the store, just follow the path and you will see everything. There are posters throughout the store with “You are here” signs, but I never felt lost or overwhelmed. Items fall into two categories: (1) those that you can take with you and (2) those that you pick up in the Self Serve area. If you are interested in a larger item, such as a piece of furniture, write down the Self Serve location that appears at the bottom of the tag. On the first floor, go to the Self Serve area, grab a flatbed cart and find your item. Ikea workers can help you with heavy items, and they’ll help you load your car after you pay (there are parking spaces for loading right by the front door). Home delivery service is also available for a fee.
3. Ikea is very kid-friendly. First, they have childcare! They call it Smaland, and it’s free. If you have children between 37 and 54 inches tall, you can leave them with staff in Smaland, where they have a ball pit, movie area, coloring area and a rock hill. Children must be potty-trained, and you can leave them for an hour. You’re given a pager so Smaland can contact you and let you know when your time is up. If you don’t want to leave them in Smaland, or can’t (my 2 year old is not tall enough), there are play stations throughout the store to keep your kids entertained while you shop. Even the restrooms have child-size sinks and free diaper dispensers.
4. If you’re hungry, there are two places to eat: a cafeteria-style restaurant and a bistro. The prices are, of course, very reasonable. A kids meal is $2.49, including drink, and they have cute kid-sized tables and movies for the kids to watch while they eat. There is even a bottle-warming station with bibs and kid silverware. For grown-ups, they have entrees such as Swedish meatballs, sandwiches and a salad bar.
5. The furniture and decor is adorable. In fact, it was frustrating because it made me wish we had this store years ago when I was decorating my house – especially my kids’ rooms. Everything from cribs and changing tables to playmats and kid-size table and chairs. I got a wooden easel for my daughter’s birthday with a chalkboard on one side and dry-erase board on the other for $24.99.
6. Be prepared to do some assembly. Ikea saves money by selling everything in flat boxes. That means that you may have a lot or a little bit of assembly to do when you get home. A shoe rack I bought for my closet was a cinch – no tools required. But a toy storage unit I bought took well over an hour to assemble. For $79, I didn’t mind.
I’m really excited that Charlotte is now home to the only Ikea between DC and Atlanta! In these troubling times, a practical, budget-friendly store is just what we need.