I’ve learned a thing or two in my nearly five years of parenting and being home with my kids, and this is an important one: Know where to go for indoor play.
I’m not talking about museums or art centers, where kids have to contain their energy and use their minds more than their bodies (which is not necessarily a bad thing, just not the point here). I’m talking about places where they can be physical and active and, in some cases, literally bounce off the walls.
It’s essential for those days when the weather is not conducive to outdoor fun, the kids seem to have an exorbitant amount of energy to burn, and the house needs to stay clean for some important reason like guests coming to dinner or, you know, sanity.
Here are some places to keep in mind for those very occasions or any time your child could use some fun out of the sun. And, as always, please feel free to add any good ones I haven’t covered!
PG Sports & Learning Complex
The Gymnastics Center at the PG Sports and Learning Complex is a Mecca of bouncy fun. Whether your child is a Mary Lou Retton in the making or just a kid who likes to jump, climb, tumble, and swing, this place has it covered. Soft mats, balance beams, trampolines, a rope swing and foam pit, and soft climbing apparatus will tire out even the most energized kids. Staff is on hand to help use equipment, but parents are expected to supervise. Walkers through age 12 are welcome to join open play sessions that take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30am – 12:30pm, Fridays from 4:30pm – 5:30pm, and Saturdays from 1:30 – 2:30. Cost is $6/child. Classes are also offered; registration information if available here. (Note: Hours sometimes vary depending on the season. Go here to check the schedule.)
This indoor play center in Bowie, Md, features bouncing inflatables, slides, obstacle courses, and adult seating areas. You can just pop in for Open Play — it’s offered every day at any time for a max of two hours (though they reserve the right to limit to one hour if a birthday party is going on). Even really little ones can enjoy themselves. Admission is $8.50/per child 17 months – 16 years, 5-visit passes are available for $40, and 10-visit passes are $75. Hours are 10am – 7pm Monday – Thursday, 10am – 9pm Saturday, and 10am – 7pm Sunday. It’s closed from 1:30-2:30pm on weekdays, except for PG County school closings.
Jonah’s Treehouse (2015 Update: Jonah’s Treehouse has closed.)
The vibrant playroom is full of soft, colorful equipment for babies and toddlers to climb over, crawl through, jump on, and swing from. Bridges, tunnels, and easy obstacle courses will keep them giggling and active. For open play times, class schedules, and current prices visit the website.
The children’s gym with several locations in Virgina and Maryland offers play experiences for kids from just a few months to 9 years old. A variety of equipment, from soft mats and bouncy balls to small ladders and climbing ropes, challenges different ages and levels in a stimulating environment. Open Gym is offered at various times during the week, depending on the JW Tumbles location. See the website to find one near you, along with open gym times and rates.
Dynamite Gymnastics Center
Adults can’t resist having a blast alongside their kids at Dynamite Gymnastics Center in Rockville (I know this firsthand from an awesome birthday party experience). The huge space filled with tumbling mats, trampolines, a rope swing, balance beam, launching ramps, and more equipment that entices little ones and grown ups alike to bounce around. Open play is offered several times throughout most days, but changes by month. Cost is $6/child, $10/adult for 50 minutes; $10/child, $15/adult for 90 minutes, 12-session passes are $50/50 minutes, $100/90 minutes.
My Gym has over 10 locations in the DC-metro area. Like other children’s play gyms, they offer all the requisite equipment for some good tumbling and energy-burning play. Classes and programs are available for kids up to 12 years old, but their Free Play sessions would probably best be enjoyed by the younger set. Free Play is offered by age at different times depending on the location, so find a My Gym near you to check the schedule.
With locations all over the country, Gymboree is one of the most popular play spots around for little ones. Babies as young as mere months to kids aged 5 can enjoy a variety of activities that focus on different development skills and yield a good time. All Gymboree locations in the area offer Open Gym Time a few times a week, but with a catch–you have to be an enrolled member. So if you are a member or are interested in classes, check out schedules and rates for individual locations. You can take a free trial class to see if you want to sign up; information is available on the website.
Pump it Up
Take the kids to this bouncy nirvana, and you will be guaranteed cool parent status forever. Giant rooms filled wall-to-wall with interactive inflatables produce smiles and giggles like you’ve never seen or heard. Pump it Up is a well known birthday party venue, but they offer pop-in playtime during the week as well. Kids ages 2 and up (that includes the kid in all of us grown-ups) will love the slides, bounces areas, climbing walls, and obstacle courses (all soft and air-filled). There are several locations in Maryland, the closest to DC in Lanham, and one in Manassas, too. Check calendars on individual location websites for pop-in play times and prices, as they vary from place to place.
Sport Bounce of Loudon
At the Ashburn, Va, indoor gym kids can bounce off the walls — inflated ones, anyway. Essentially, it’s a really large room practically stuffed with moon bounces, lofty air-filled slides, and other inflated means for kids to burn energy. There’s also a small ride-on train, a hurricane simulator, and a separate smaller room with soft toys and hoola hoops for little ones. Open Gym sessions are offered Monday through Friday, though times vary by day. Most are an hour and a half long, a perfect stretch to bounce off some energy. Admission is $10/ages 2 and up, $6/8-23 months. Children must be 18 months to use any of the inflatables.
Flight Trampoline Park
The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are… yep, you guessed it, trampolines. Everywhere. There are small squares, longer rectangles, trampolines on inclines in dodge ball and basketball areas. You can jump onto them from platforms, and also from square to square. You can jump just to see how high you can go, do flips, land on your bum and bounce back to your feet, or jump-dance to the blaring pop music. Flight rates vary by time: $11 for 30 minutes, $15 for an hour, $25 for two hours. Kid Flights (jumpers 46″ and under, ages 0-6) are $10 for an hour, $17 for two hours. There is also an upstairs arcade if you want to do some gaming, and they offer party packages. You can purchase tickets and fill out waivers in advance online, which I recommend doing to avoid a wait in line and ensure you get the time slot you want.
SportRock Climbing Centers
Kids can reach new heights at facilities in Alexandria and Sterling. With open belay and open climb hours on weekends and weekdays during the summer, it’s a great way to stay active when the elements aren’t cooperating (or even when they are). Both locations offer thousands of feet of climbing space, that include 30-foot overhangs, a bouldering stalactite, and challenging scaling spaces (but areas or beginners, too). SportRock also offers classes for those who want to take their climbing to the next level. Rates vary depending on what you want to do, so check the website for details.
This indoor rock climbing center in Laurel is all the rage lately. Themed walls offer extra incentive to get to get to the top. Scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a spider web, conquer Mt. Rushmore, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas. Walk-ins are welcome, but booking climb time is recommended. Admission for climbers is $25/ages 6 and up, $12/ages 2-5, free for 2 and under (also free to spectate), and this gives you a few hours’ block to climb. A short orientation covering safety and belaying is offered. Parent supervision is required for all children 12 and under.
And a couple of recommendations from readers that have yet to be KFDC reviewed:
Chinquapin Park Recreation Center in Alexandria has a soft playroom designed for ages 5 and younger. It’s apparently loaded with soft toys and is a good place for playgroups to meet and children to play under adult supervision. Open 9am – half an hour before closing (check schedule, as times vary by day). Admission is $5 per half-hour.
Per a KFDC reader, the Alexandria Coliseum “has 3 bounce houses for bigger kids and a few smaller ones for your tiny kids. Best thing about the place, you buy a pass for the day so you can leave for lunch and come back — without paying again — for the afternoon.” Locations are in Woodbridge and Annandale, and most Open Jump sessions in their bouncy areas are in the afternoons on weekdays ($6), but all day on weekends ($9).