Okay, if you're going to give in and have a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, the ONLY way to go is to have it first thing in the morning at 9:30. Aside from a quiet family of four, we literally had the run of the place for the majority of the time we were there!
It was worth. every. penny. Eli had a blast, as did the other kids, and you could tell Eli felt very special. Mission accomplished! :)