An indoor playground (the chain is Monkey Joe's) recently opened here. It is chock full o' inflatable playthings for kids aged 0 - 12. We made our first trip today, and I'd like to share what we learned.
1) Take older kids.
Beg, borrow, or steal 'em. Unless you have a burning desire to personally experience the bouncy things (and probably get sea sick) yourself, a couple of trusted older kids will safely shepherd your little ones through the inflatable jungle, so that you can sit back and relax. Befriend someone whose kids are 5 years older than your own, and you can have a MomDate while your kids play together.
2) Timing is everything.
Our local indoor playground is open from 10 am - 6 pm. Lunch and nap fall right in the middle of that time period. We arrived around 10:45 and had planned to eat at the pizza joint in the same building (all you can eat buffet) for lunch, but our plan was thwarted when we realized (after we paid, of course) that they don't allow you to leave and return. Bummer! So we ordered a pizza from the concession stand (expensive!). Fortunately, they forgot to order our pizza, so we were able to negotiate with the manager to eat across the hall at Cici's and then return. You may not be so lucky, though. Plan to either go early and eat there (expensive!), or eat a late (huge) breakfast to see them through. Or, have early lunch and nap, and go from, say, 1 pm to 6 pm if possible to get your money's worth.
3) Don't forget your credit card.
The admission was $8 for kids 3 and up, and $5 for kids 2 and younger. Ouch! You can see why we didn't want to eat at the expensive concession stand ($2.50 for a hot dog! I can buy an entire package of 8 hot dogs and buns for $2 with coupons). They have drinking fountains. Make the kids use 'em. I was able to get an empty cup for water ("My kid can't use a drinking fountain yet...") and keep it at our table for drinks.
4) Don't forget, the park is free.
Monkey Joe's and places like that are nice for rainy or snowy weather, but I would never spend the kind of money we spent today on a sunny day, when I could take the aforementioned hot dogs and buns to the park and let the kids play for free. On the other hand, the park is crowded on nice days, and MJ's will probably be deserted. If you want the place all to yourself, go on a nice day. If you want to save money, hit the park on a nice day and save MJ's for wintertime.
Our Monkey Joe's has a Nursing Room (I'm not sure how I feel about nursing rooms - on the one hand, it's nice that it's available, but on the other I think we need to normalize nursing in public to the extent that specific rooms won't be necessary...) You can't see out from the nursing room - it could really use a one-way window or two-way mirror or whatever those things are called - so if you have kids of a variety of ages, you're going to have to just trust them not to kill themselves or nurse in the open (go for it - I've nursed all over the world for four years and only been hassled once).
There is a smallish area for toddlers with a few toys.
There are video games. Why anyone would pump quarters into machines after paying the outrageous admission is beyond my comprehension, but I guess some people really like video games and don't mind paying for them through the nose. If you really want to do video games, Chuck E. Cheese doesn't charge admission.
There are three or four party rooms that are separate from the main area.
There are nice comfy chairs (reclining glider things) with ottomans for the parents, as well as several tables scattered around. Before lunch we sat at a table, but after lunch we went for the comfy chairs. There were a couple of computers that appeared to be public, also. And a big screen TV tuned to ABC Family Channel with closed captioning. Nice.
They do parties. I did not check the prices. They also offer a "frequent jumper" card. You pay in advance for 9 admissions and get 3 free. I bought one, since I had four kids with me, and plan to use it up this winter.
They really need an on-site Starbucks.
5) Coupons are your friend.
Did I mention that it cost a fortune to get in? Yeah. See if you can't Google yourself a couple of coupons before you go.
You can buy socks there if you didn't plan ahead, but they cost $3.50 a pair!! Bring socks. And be careful because the floor near the bathroom is slick linoleum, and I saw more than one kid wipe out.
What's really ironic about our new Monkey Joe's is that my friend Karen and I were just talking over the past couple of weeks about opening something similar on this side of town. She sent me an e-mail this morning to tell me we were beaten to the punch. Nuts! Oh well, I don't have half a mil to invest, anyway. Although, with the crowd I saw there today, we totally would've made it back within the first year.
Do you have an indoor playground where you live? What are your ProMom tips? Also, if you're local to me and want more specific information, e-mail me.